Founded on April 4, 1968
Members and advisors of GTAAA spearheaded various efforts to increase and retain Black enrollment on campus. Some of those efforts included creating the concept for the dual degree program with the Atlanta University Center, reaching out to the US Department of Health, Education, and Welfare to demand immediate availability of loans and scholarships, and establishing Black Students Entering Tech (B-SET), a support program to help students transition into life at Tech.
Since its inception, GTAAA continuously worked to improve the everyday lives of current students. Within its first year of existence, GTAAA’s leadership began discussions with Tech administration to establish a safe, social atmosphere for Black students, which ultimately resulted in the 2nd Black house on campus. GTAAA also hosted numerous social events including the annual Black Awareness Week and a series of homecoming celebrations.
Each new cohort of African-American students approached the Administration requesting change. In 1977 GTAAA organized the Minority Affairs Task Force (MATF) , which worked alongside President Joseph Petit to create solutions to issues plaguing Black students. After 2 years of rigorous negotiations, the significant outcomes of MATF was the establishment of the Office of Minority Educational Development (OMED).
In addition to addressing campus concerns, GTAAA advocated for issues facing Black students everywhere. For example, in 1977, GTAAA organized a protest against the Supreme Court case concerning reverse racism in the context of affirmative action, Regents of the University of California at Davis v. Allan Bakke. The protest was attended by over 600 students, which at that time represented nearly 95% of the Black student population.
Late 1990’s - Present
In 1993, student groups that were not chapters of a national organization were forced by the Institute to remove “GT” from their names, which lead to the renaming of GTAAA to its current name, the African American Student Union (AASU). In 2004, AASU created a constitution and defined the Eight Pillars of Unity that govern the organization today.
Much like its GTAAA predecessors, AASU has been at the forefront of issues across college campuses. For example, in 2015, after an alleged incident of racial harassment at an on-campus fraternity house, AASU organized a silent protest and a community town hall, which lead to the formation of the Black Student Experience Task Force. The task force proposed 11 recommendations, including the expansion of the Challenge Summer Program and mandatory cultural inclusivity training for campus leaders; all recommendations were approved and are currently being implemented.
Aligned with the community service pillar, AASU established itself as a service organization as well as social organization. Following Hurricane Katrina, AASU started Project HONOR to organize student volunteer trips to New Orleans. In 2014, AASU hosted its inaugural Super Science Day, an annual STEM outreach event for K-12 students, in collaboration with Fernbank Science Center and Dekalb County Schools. This past year, the event won the 2018 Burdell’s Best Award for Best Recurring Service Project. AASU has organized a number of other service projects including mentorship programs at youth detention centers, food drives with the Atlanta Community Food Bank, SAT prep tutoring with Tomorrow’s Luminaries Foundation, and disaster relief for the Flint Water Crisis.
AASU has been committed to creating programming that raises awareness across the entire Georgia Tech community. In 2004, AASU organized the first Black Leadership Conference, which has featured a number of prolific speakers over the years including former Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin, Dr. Maya Angelou, and Dr. Cornel West. In partnership with the College Democrats of Georgia Tech, AASU coordinated a 20,000 person rally featuring President Barack Obama in 2007. AASU also expanded the annual Black History Week to an entire month of events, which includes the annual Black History Month keynote sponsored by the Office of Institute Diversity, Movies with a Mission with the LGBTQIA Resource Center and Counseling Center, and the Onyx Ball semi-formal dance. Impactful events and community service efforts helped AASU win the 2007 Burdell’s Best Award for Organization of the Year.
Lastly, while the campus climate and the priorities of this organization have evolved over the past fifty years, the mission has remained the same: to support Black students academically, socially, and financially.