Ebony Ball

When did Ebony Ball start?

Abe

If you think you missed it, you’re in luck! The 2020 Ebony Ball isn’t until later this spring. Or maybe you meant, “When did it start as a tradition?” Then the answer is, “Quite a while ago.” The earliest reference to Ebony Ball we could find in the UW’s records is February 25, 1984, when a university press release notes that a “Cultural Extravaganza — Ebony Ball” would culminate that year’s Black History Month. Ebony Ball is put on by the Wisconsin Black Student Union (WBSU), which rose to prominence on this campus after the Black Student Strike of 1969. In the early 1970s, WBSU began putting on cultural events. In 1971, campus had its first Black Arts Festival, which included music. By the 1980s, these celebrations included a formal dance: Ebony Ball, in Memorial Union’s Great Hall. Over time, the event moved around campus and down the calendar: into March in the 1990s and April in the 2000s; to Union South and then, last year, to State Street’s Overture Center. WBSU president Jared Biddle x’20 says he wants the event to honor its tradition, “I hope we can embody that same communal feel,” he says. Each year’s event has a theme — this year’s is “Paris in Springtime.”