Rutgers University Remembers Student Protests, Celebrates Black History Month

Rutgers-Newark: Remembering a 1969 Protest by a Few that Opened Doors for Many at Rutgers University

Forty years ago, a single act of courage by a group of committed students forever changed Rutgers University.  On Feb. 24, 1969, young men and women from the Black Organization of Students, along with some supporters, occupied Conklin Hall at Rutgers University in Newark, protesting the scarcity of black students, black faculty and minority-oriented academic programs on campus.  The event lasted only 72 hours – but the new programs and policies that it triggered are responsible for transforming the whole of Rutgers University into a multicultural institution, with the campus in Newark cited as the most diverse national university in the United States (U.S. News & World Report, July 2008). 

Rutgers in Newark will pause to reflect on those 72 hours, and publicly recognize and thank the people who braved expulsion and arrest to stand up for their beliefs.

The University will be celebrating Black History Month with a number of programs that are free and open to the public

  • Feb. 21, 8:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m., 29th annual Marion Thompson Wright Lecture Series, New Jersey’s largest and oldest Black History Month observance. Paul Robeson Campus Center, 350 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Essex Room East and West, Newark NJ. Info: Marisa Pierson, 973/353-1871, ext. 11, mpierson@newark.rutgers.edu, http://ethnicity.rutgers.edu
  • Feb. 25, 6 – 9 p.m., “Repatriation of African Art,” a panel discussion. Rutgers Center for Law and Justice, 1st floor, Baker Trial Courtroom, 123 Washington St., Newark. Co-sponsored by the Art Law Society. Free and open to the public (non-Rutgers visitors must check in at front desk.) Information: Rebecca Esmi, resmi4mail@yahoo.com
  • A Celebration of Diversity: The 40th Anniversary of the Conklin Hall Takeover (contact: Gerard Drinkard, 973/353-3824, or drinkard@andromeda.rutgers.edu)
    • Feb. 5, 5-7 p.m., “We Only Know What We Can Remember” Exhibit, Robeson Gallery, Paul Robeson Campus Center,.  Opening reception for Conklin Takeover exhibit in Robeson Gallery featuring photos and documents from the John Cotton Dana Library Archives Digital Preservation Initiative. Exhibit will be displayed in Orbit II Gallery through July 2009.
    • Feb. 12, 4 – 6 p.m., “Inside the Conklin Hall Takeover,” a DVD Screening, Reception & Discussion with Special Performance by Unity Theatre. Bradley Hall Theatre. A brief documentary of interviews and reflections with Chancellor Steven Diner, Dr. Clement A. Price, Dr. Norman Samuels, Junius Williams, current Rutgers students, Black Organization of Students (BOS) alumni including Richard Roper (1st president of BOS), George Hampton (participant in the 1969 takeover) and other noted faculty.
    • Feb. 23, 11:30 a.m. – 12:50 p.m., JUKE JOINT POETRY JAM Essex Room, Paul Robeson Campus Center. Celebration of diversity in verse and rhyme featuring students and alumni from various cultures. Multi-cultural refreshments will be served.
    • Feb. 24, 1-5 p.m., “A Look Back, A Leap Forward,” hosted by Dr. Clement A. Price, with performance by Unity Theater,., Essex Room, Paul Robeson Campus Center.  This program commemorates the 40th anniversary of the protest actions of Feb. 24, 1969, by BOS and other students which opened the doors to forever change the cultural makeup of Rutgers-Newark, today the most diverse university in America. Special guests include: President Richard McCormick, Chancellor Steven Diner, ‘69 Liberators.
    • Feb. 27, 6-10 p.m., 40 Years: Liberation of Conklin Hall Reunion, Essex Room, Paul Robeson Campus Center. Closing ceremonies of the celebration of the historic 1969 Conklin Hall Takeover. Awards honoring the ‘69 liberators with special guest speakers Dr. Clement A. Price and the Rev. Dr. Howard, Chair, Rutgers Board of Governors.

Author: Ken Walker

Husband, Father, Newarker, PCA Elder, Business Analyst. In a glass case of emotion since 1978.

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