Black Students & Entrepreneurship

In 1964, twin brothers Samuel O'Bryant and Manuel O'Bryant, both of Roxbury, graduated with Master's degrees in Business Administration from Northeastern University.

In 1964, Northeastern University instituted a pilot program to expand career opportunities for its Black students. The program was funded by a Ford Foundation Fund for the Advancement of Education grant. The program is discussed in an article from Industry magazine published in March 1964. Northeastern University President Dr. Asa S. Knowles collaborated on the program with Black community leaders such as Melvin King, Director of the United South End Settlements; Paul Parks, NAACP Education Committee; John E. Verson, Director of Education and Youth Incentives for the Urban League of Boston; and Reverend Gilbert Avery III of St. John's Episcopal Church in Boston.


In 1968, there were approximately 100 Black students attending Northeastern University. Inspired by the Civil Rights Movement and Stokely Carmichael's establishing a SNCC chapter in Boston, Black students at Northeastern founded the Afro-American Association in February of 1968. The preamble of their constitution read, “Believing that Black people who are interested in Black solidarity, Black pride and Black self-determination should work together in order to approach these ideals, we have incorporated ourselves under the name of the Afro-American Association.” Following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the AAA presented 13 demands to Northeastern University President Knowles. This led to increased representation of Black students on campus and in the curriculum. The demands led to the development of the African American Institute in 1969. By 1970, there were approximately 500 Black students attending Northeastern University. Programming continued to develop to support Black students at Northeastern. In 1972, a Black student newspaper called ONYX was established. An ONYX article from 1974 discusses students establishing the Black Engineering Society. A 1975 admissions handbook specifically for Black students discusses the cooperative education program. By 1976, there were over 1,000 Black students attending Northeastern.

Today, Black students continue entrepreneurial pursuits in student organizations like the Northeastern Black Business Oriented Student Society (BBOSS) and the Black Engineering Student Society. The John D. O'Bryant African American Institute offers leadership and mentoring opportunities as well as grants supporting student programming and experiential learning.