African American Studies


African American Studies strives to be a leader in its outreach programs and desires to directly impact the scholarly and community service activities of Western Illinois University, the Macomb community, west central Illinois and others parts of our immediate and global world.

The United Voices of Western Inspirational Singers

The United Voices of Western Inspirational Singers (UVOWIS) was organized under the advisorship and direction of Dr. Alphonso Simpson, Jr., Professor of African American Studies. The core group was predominantly students and also included faculty and staff. In 2007 Dr. Simpson met with the Executive Boards of UVOW and WIS (Western Inspirational Singers), a smaller more exclusive group of auditioned singers who were formed under the leadership of Ms. Ashley Davis ('07) to propose the merging of the two organizations for greater visibility and purpose on campus. When the choirs merged, the choir grew to a 35+ voiced organization. Today, under the advisorship of Dr. Simpson and a very active Executive Board, the choir has reached a membership of 75+ voices. The choir has performed numerous times at local churches, on and off campus, as well as engagements out of the Macomb area. To mark the end of every semester the choir hosts a concert. Membership is open to any student, faculty or staff member at WIU and there are no auditions.

The choir has sat under the direction of Percy E. Gray, Jr., a 2005 Stellar Award Winner and a Grammy and Dove Award Nominee, from Chicago, IL. He is considered to be one of the nation's most outstanding gospel music producers and songwriters. The choir interacted with other gospel choirs from across Illinois and had the opportunity to sing in a 350+ voiced choir under the leadership of Mr. Gray. The choir has also performed at workshops with Darius Brooks and Minister Rose Harper of Shekinah Glory Ministries. The choir also performed during Homecoming Weekend for the Family Weekend Breakfast at the University Union.

If you are interested in having the choir perform at an event, please contact Dr. Alphonso Simpson, Jr. at Please allow at least 2-4 weeks notice before your scheduled event.

Student Recruitment

African American Studies organizes visits and cultural programs in community colleges, high schools, and other venues as part of its desire to recruit more students into the African American Studies degree program. It collaborates with alumni, the AAS Department Club, The Gospel Choir, and active historical black fraternities and sororities on campus such as Alpha Phi Alpha, Alpha Kappa Alpha, Zeta Phi Beta, Phi Beta Sigma, Omega Psi Phi, and Kappa Alpha Psi in organizing its student recruitment events.

Western Illinois University Black Alumni

African American Studies has built a strong relationship with WIU black alumni and collaborates in ventures that will bring immediate and long-term benefits to communities in Illinois, the United States and the world. The department also partners with alumni in recruiting students with outstanding potential who will become leaders in shaping our global society.

African American Studies looks at its alumni as its ambassadors to the immediate and larger world communities and alumni are regularly updated on the progress of the department and are invited to send ideas and suggestions that will strengthen the department's offerings and support extra curricular activities for students and faculty. It also encourages its alumni to further their education with an AAS post-secondary education that will give them the tools to become leaders of their communities and to prepare them to be relevant in the social, economic and political arenas of our global community, ensuring a strong and satisfactory career.

Western Illinois University Foundation

Through the WIU Foundation, African American Studies provides its alumni opportunities to support the it's educational and community outreach endeavors. AAS alumni and others interested in supporting a strong AAS discipline have opportunities to support the general operations, institute scholarship programs, support current scholarships and student recruitment, or other areas of interest.

African American Studies Lecture Series

African American Studies presents annually a lecture series to provide a forum through which students can interact with faculty members and learn more about their areas of research. The series is held each month during the academic year. This program was organized by Dr. Jo-Ann Morgan in 2008, with AAS faculty giving presentations. The series also features lecturers from other disciplines who speak on topics related to the benefits of studying African American history and culture.