Throughout its early years, AASU directed its student activism on behalf of Africans Americans at HBS and beyond. "[W]e the Black students did take a self–determined, moral act in organizing ourselves to address such societal issues of racism, poverty, neglect, exclusion and tokenism," AASU co–founder A. Leroy Willis (MBA '69) wrote.21 In December 1969, AASU students voiced their concerns about the hiring of minorities on Harvard construction sites, and in May 1970, they held a strike protesting the killing of two Black students in Jackson, Mississippi. AASU invited speakers such as civil rights activist Rev. Jesse Jackson to campus. Working groups within AASU also addressed issues like discriminatory recruiting practices and Harvard's investment policies. The activist efforts of AASU inspired the formation of other clubs including the Hispanic Club, Latin American Club, and Women's Club (later the Women's Student Association).

HBS responded in part to growing student unrest by organizing Black Power Day in November 1968. The full–day program included presentations and discussions with African American leaders from Boston and Cambridge.
The AASU Black Sensitivity Committee was formed to encourage the self–examination of "white members of the HBS community . . . essential for interracial dialogue and understanding."22 Suggested activities included faculty outreach and student exposure to AASU demands, required readings, and seminars. Students who believed they had been subjected to discriminatory hiring practices by companies recruiting through the HBS Placement Office could file a grievance through the AASU Placement Grievance Committee. AASU supported the activities of the Pan–African Liberation Committee (PALC), organized by Harvard students, in demanding the University support the Angolan struggle for independence from Portugal by divesting its stock in Gulf Oil, a supporter of the colonial government.
A. Leroy Willis, “Return to Harvard: To Build Upon a Legacy,” a speech commemorating 25 years of services to America by HBS Black graduates (1968-1993), September 1993. AASU Records, Baker Library, Harvard Business School.
John Casey and Mike Studley, student proposal for HBS Black Sensitivity Committee, 1970. AASU Records, Baker Library, Harvard Business School.