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Since the first class moved into Afrikan Heritage House in 1972, it has been a place of black cultural expression and tradition. This gallery is a small representation of life inside this inspirational house.

Students study at two round tables in Afrikan Heritage House.
Students gathered in the lounge.


The largest Program House on south campus is Lord-Saunders, also known as Afrikan Heritage House, A-House, and The House. This contemporary building overlooking South Bowl is a designated safe space for students of the African Diaspora and other students interested in learning about Africana culture. A-House is the center of activity for students of all levels who want to heighten their understanding of cultures, traditions, and issues among African, African American, and Afrikan Caribbean societies.

Students have a picnic on the patio of A
Students in South Bowl attending an outdoor show in the 1970s.
People dancing in Lord Saunders lounge.j
Students dance of the patio of Afrikan H
A boy and girl eating in Lord-Saunders dining hall in 2014
A boy and girl eating in Lord-Saunders Dining Hall in the 1970s
Students eating at Lord-Saunders dining hall in the 1970s
A crowded dining hall in Afrikan Heritage Housein in 2015

house guests

soul session

A tradition that has been around since the 1970s, a soul session is an opportunity for individuals to express themselves creatively through spoken word, dance, music, poetry, or song. Sometimes audience members are so moved that they toss shoes at the feet of the individual giving the performance to show respect and appreciation. 

A girl holds her hand out, finger pointed, with her eyes closed.
A student stands at the podium during a Soul Session. A pile of shoes surrounds her on the floor
An audience member uses a cell phone to record a person at the podium during a Soul Session


Kwanzaa, traditionally celebrated from December 26 to January 2, is a nationally recognized holiday started in the 1960s. The holiday is aimed at uniting black families through heritage and cultural tradition. 

A student lights candles at a Kwanzaa celebration.
A student stands at a podium during a Kwanzaa celebration in Afrikan Heritag House.


Umoja, Swahili for "unity," is one of seven principals of Kwanzaa that greet visitors as they enter the Afrikan Heritage House lounge. These words, carved in word, surround the walls of the lounge. They are: Imani (faith), kuumba (creativity), nia (purpose), ujima (collective responsibility), ujamaa (cooperative economics), and kujichagulia (self-determination).

A wooden plaque with the Swahili word for unity on it.

house prayer

The House prayer is said in unison before dinner. A plaque that hangs on the wall of both dining spaces reads: "One hand to give. One hand to receive. As we eat in umoja. May our minds, bodies and spirits grow stronger to enable us to build a better world for African people."

constructing a-house

In the late 1960s, Oberlin allocated spaces on campus for those with an interest in African heritage. The house moved to its present location in Lord-Saunders in1972.


Thomas Abeyta

Erik Andrews

Ben Garfinkel '14

Yvonne Gay

Michael Hartman

Zachary Jamieson '15

Derek Mahone '22

Dale Preston '83

Tanya Rosen-Jones '97

John Seyfried

Oberlin College Archives

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