Module IV: “The Black Campus Movement”: Black College Students Reinvent U.S. Colleges (1965-1972)

“Wherever there was a group of black students, there was the Black Campus Movement.” ~Ibram Rogers


Black Student Protest at Rutgers

At this point in time, it is not strange to see  black professors on college campuses, though there are still very few outside of the HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities).  It seems safe to say that it is rather unsurprising to see a black person with a college degree from a state university, though those places still do not welcome enough of us there.   There seem to be offices of multicultural affairs or diversity/inclusion on every college campus.  Even though you will have to look far and wide at many colleges, you can still find courses that include non-white people’s histories and perspectives in the curriculum. Before 1965, none of this was imaginable.  What is especially worth knowing and understanding here was that these changes were designed by college students… by black college students!  You need only go back and see what it was like for James Meredith when he tried to attend the University of Mississippi to see exactly the kind of challenges these students were up against  (Meredith’s story pertains to the south but the north, despite its reputation, was not welcoming either).  We will call this important history the Black Campus Movement, a name coined by Ibram Rogers who you will find in the playlist below.


Black Student Protest at Rutgers (Conklin Hall)

Although there was no one organization across the country that connected all black college students, it is remarkable that protests and stated demands were very similar: 1) that more courses emphasize African peoples; 2) that libraries be stacked with culturally relevant material; 3) that more black trustees be included in university procedures; 4) that black teachers’ salaries be commiserate with the neighboring white land grant colleges or the in-house system; 4) that more black radical faculty and staff be hired, especially in admissions and financial aids offices; 5) that there be outreach programs to area youth and strong teaching preparation programs for people to teach those youth; 6) that the campus be connected to the community.  Despite not having a national organization, there seemed a cohesive idea for what students were creating for American universities and colleges.  The Black Campus Movement at Rutgers will be a good case example and case study with materials that have been publicly archived.   Below is the list of 24 demands from the Black Student Unity Movement at Rutgers University.  These demands paved the way for Rutgers today to represent the most diverse national university in the country.

We, the Black Student Unity Movement of Rutgers the State University, are exacting that the following demands be made operative with respect to the following date, February 17, 1969. We will not rationalize nor verbalize the non-compliance of these demands. Our demands are as follows:

  1. We demand that all racist faculty be removed from the university.
  2. We demand that an Urban Education Department be established.
    1. Brother Michael Edwards to be made assistant to department chairman.
      1. His job must be that of course selector, curriculum instructor, and lecturer.
    2. Establishment of an urban Community Board
      1. Purpose–to study urban problems and make proposals for change.
    3. Degree Program
      1. B.A. or Associate Degree
  3. We demand that a Black Studies Department be established.
    1. Black Students and Faculty Controlled.
      1. Students are to determine grading system, faculty personnel, and firing system.
      2. Financial control by students and faculty.
      3. Black education Courses
        1. African Languages
        2. Philosophy
        3. History
        4. Politics
        5. Economics
        6. Literature
        7. Art
        8. Music
      4. Degree Program
        1. African Languages
  4. We demand that this University hire more Black personnel other than faculty.
  5. We demand that Brother Charles (Poppy) Sharp be assigned three lecture seminars
  6. We demand that an Afro-American be made Director of Admissions for Black Students.
    1. Matriculated Black students are to inform a committee to review applicants and choose director.
      1. Objective–the recruitment of 250 Black students
      2. Establishment of a Stewart Shelton Memorial Scholarship Fund to pay tuition fees and books for each student
  7. We demand that an Afro-American be made Dean of Black Students.
  8. We demand that a Black Financial Director be immediately installed.
  9. We demand that a Black dormitory and recreation building be completed within the next year and a half.
  10. We demand that graduate schools be established in other fields of scholarship besides Law and Education.
  11. We demand that an Educational Cultural Center be established for the community and university itself.
  12. We demand that the community be granted access to existing University facilities.
  13. We demand that Rutgers here establish a community foundation with the initial reserve of $50,000.
  14. We demand that this institution embark on an extensive program of recruiting Afro-American and Hispanic high school seniors.
  15. We demand that student teaching be done within Camden City proper.
  16. We demand that a Board of Academic inquiry be set up for Blacks students.
    1. Composition
      1. Black students and faculty
      2. Official recognition by the University
      3. representation to be decided by the Black students
  17. We demand that classloads are to be reduced for professors.
  18. We demand that a course in racism be instituted.
    1. This course is to be taught by Brother Charles (Poppy) Sharp.
  19. We demand that the existing grading system be revised so that emphasis be placed on:
    1. Field Work–this is to apply in fields such as:
      1. Sociology
      2. Political Science
      3. Education
      4. Psychology
    2. Outside Outreach–this is to be given credit.
    3. We demand that course requirements be revised in order to allot more time to field experience.
  20. We demand a pay increase for professors and non-professionals.
  21. We demand that the new library addition be named after Brother Paul Robeson. Livingston College to be renamed Robeson University.
  22. We demand that college credit be granted for black life experience.ex. Waive certain irrelevant courses
  23. We demand that a night preparatory division be set up to accommodate high school drop-outs and any interested persons.
  24. We demand that a Black section be set aside in the now existing University Library and name it after Dr. Ulysses Wiggins.
    1. Composition
      1. Books
      2. Filmstrips
      3. Records
      4. Tapes
      5. Periodicals

In this part of the workshop, we will work with the language and rhetoric of some sample lists of written demands that students used in their protests.