UF's Black Campus Movement
On April 15, 1971, the Black Student Union (BSU) organized a sit-in at Tigert Hall. Seventy students marched into President Stephen O’Connell’s office with a list of demands. They wanted the University to address the shortage of Black faculty and students at UF. The demonstration led to the arrest and suspension of 66 Black students.
BSU’s demands came 13 years after UF’s desegregation. It was also shortly after civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer visited. Their peaceful demonstration was influenced by the Black Power Movement and Vietnam War protests. The day became known as Black Thursday and led to the founding of the Institute for Black Culture (IBC) and the Office of Minority Student Affairs at the University of Florida.
Along with Black students across the country, BSU members were at the forefront of social and racial justice activism in the US. Today, they continue to be important change-makers for educational equity.
images: (top) BSU supports leaving demonstration to free David Horne at Alachua County Jail. Photo by Terry Walters. (middle) Black students prepare to enter Tigert Hall in Thursday morning's encounter with UF President Stephen C. O'Connell. Photo by Kevin Moran. (bottom) Sylvia Marion begins the withdrawal process as Black students prepare to leave. BSU: "Florida has failed us." Photo by Terry Walters.
April 15, 1971
O’Connell refuses to meet; threatens to suspend students if they do not leave
Students leave, and later re-enter for 2nd attempt to meet
Students are suspended
BSU student, Sam Taylor, meets with O’Connell; Says “nothing was accomplished,” because O’Connell believed BSU’s demands were “irrational” and “insincere”
Students re-enter the office for a 3rd time. O’Connell threatens suspension and arrest
Police arrest students for booking at the Alachua County Jail
Student Government gathers students in the Plaza of the Americas to raise bail money for arrested students
Over 1,000 students march on Tigert Hall
Sit-in protest grows to 1,500 participants
O’Connell addresses the protestors, demands they leave the building or be arrested and suspended
Students surround 2 UF buses used to transport arrested students to the jail; deflate tires
Police attack the peaceful protestors with tear gas and arrest more students
Sit in continues in parking lot
Judge John Connell orders release of BSU students on $100 bond
Students gather at Tigert Hall and march to O’Connell’s home, as he holds a press conference on WUFT
1,000 students sit on O’Connell’s front lawn, demanding his resignation
O’Connell confronts students and later leaves in a UPD car
1. A commitment on the part of the University to recruit and admit 500 Black students out of the quota of 2,800 freshman and a continuance of the critical year freshman program.
2. Establishment of a department of Minority Affairs under the direction of a full Vice President, and the immediate elevation of Mr. Roy Mitchell to this Vice Presidency.
3. Hire a Black administer in Academic Affairs with the advise and recommendation of department of Minority Affairs to coordinate the recruitment of Black faculty.
4. The hiring of a Black assistant manager in personnel.
5. Intensification of recruitment and hiring of Black faculty so as to reflect the ratio of Black students admitted under the proposal in number 1.
6. The fair and equal treatments of our Black brothers and sisters, who are employed by the University.
Thus far; even though we have pleaded, begged, and worked diligently with the administration, our cries have been ignored. This University has consistently denied us these basic needs we deem necessary. We are the voice of the Black student, the Black worker, and the entire Black community. And for our full participation as students, employees, and citizens of this state, these needs must be met.
Curated by Stephanie Birch and Jana Ronan. Designed by Lourdes Santamaría-Wheeler.