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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Students Seize Admissions Building at Howard University- March 1968

In March of 1968, students took over the admissions building at Howard University. This was a month before the infamous take over at Columbia University and Liz had never seen anything quite like a take over before. This was aggressive protesting and before '68 there was little of that in Liz's circle of protesters. Yes, she had seen aggressive protesting in her early days at Berkeley but even that was not quite like this:
'Howard University students seized the admissions building. This was a startling thing, a new thing to me. I had never heard of students taking over a part of a university in protest. I watched the news of it and the clips from it and I was awed. I didn’t necessarily agree with it but I didn’t disagree with it either. It was simply a new realm to me, one that had not been explored until that moment. The peaceful protestors were tired of being nice. They were tired of trying to use words to reason with unreasonable fools. They were sick of being pushed around for trying to make a difference. I felt that same way deep in my bones. Things were moving along the way we wanted them to but for how long? And if it all came crashing down again would we go about doing things the way we had for years?'
This is a first hand account that I found while searching the take over on yahoo search. It comes from a fellow blogger and the direct link to it is I followed this blog upon reading this account because to me, this person must be pretty fucking groovy to have been involved in such a thing and while I have not read through other posts on it, I would assume that if you like this blog, you might like this cat's blog as well:
"I was a freshman at Howard University when 1,200 of us entered the Administration building on March 20, 1968, sitting-in in protest over the threatened expulsion of 38 of our classmates who had been accused of disrupting Charter Day.

Four days later we marched back out, having shut down the University and having saved those students from expulsion, successful in having prevailed in all our demands save one: the removal of President James M. Nabrit, which would come to pass two years later when Dr. James Cheek took office.

While we were the first United States university closed down by student activism, Columbia University (which had supported our efforts) followed our protest with one of their own and because of better media coverage is generally assumed to have been first. I am happy to set the record straight.

Among the protest leaders, Michael Harris, the Freshmen class president would later become a lawyer in the Howard University Office of General Counsel. Howard University Student Association (H.U.S.A) president Ewart Brown, M.D. is currently Premier of Bermuda, and Tony Gittens, Ph.D. is executive director of the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities."

Here is some information about why students occupied Howard University taken from
'About 350 students and union workers crowded the plaza outside Howard University's administration building Friday morning, protesting a long list of grievances including problems with on-campus housing, delays in financial aid payments and labor practices, and at one point threatening a sit-in before they were turned away from the building's doors.

"We love Howard," said Corey Briscoe, 20, a junior and the director of student advocacy for the Howard University Student Association. "But this impinges on academic freedom."

The crowd, many wearing black T-shirts as a sign of protest, waved colorful signs and chanted "Students first!" and "We want answers!"

Students described long lines at the financial aid office and loan and aid payments that were still missing nearly two weeks after the school year started.

"I live off-campus. On September 1st I was supposed to pay my rent," said sophomore Jecika Merzius 19. She said that she turned in her forms in June but was only approved Thursday. "Everyone is having the same problem."

Another student said she had had similar problems last year.

"I wasn't even sure I could afford to come here until the first day of school," said Tahir Alberga, 19, a sophomore.

Students also complained of a shortage of on-campus housing and called for the resignation of the interim vice provost of student affairs, Charles Gibbs, who they said had censored an article about disciplinary actions against students in the Hilltop, the student-run newspaper.

Members of a service workers union protested the school's employment practices.

Though the students were advocating press freedom in part, organizers asked participants not to speak to media unless the student organization's public relations director was present. Students who did speak to one reporter were repeatedly hassled by others present.

And at least some students watching from across the street weren't convinced that the protest would be effective.

"I don't think this is the right way," said junior Dexter Williams, 21. "There have been many protests on campus before, and nothing's changed."

As the crowd dwindled, a minor scuffle broke out at the door as Joseph Smith, 25, a divinity school student, tried to open a door and was kicked in the leg by a Howard security officer. But the doors locked as the protest organizers asked the crowd to remain calm. By 1:30, 2 1/2 hours after the protest had started, organizers asked the crowd to move to a university chapel, where they would rest and wait as organizers met with university administration.

A university spokeswoman said the Office of the Provost met with student leadership Friday. A follow-up meeting is planned for early next week, with the president and senior leadership present to discuss student concerns and possible solutions.

"We take the concerns raised by our students very seriously, and the university is committed to providing a high-quality education and first-rate student support services," she said in a statement.
Sources: '

At this point I would post a picture but alas! I could find none. So, instead I will leave you with this...although this take over lacked the notoriety that Columbia's achieved in history, it certainly had its place. It paved the way for Columbia and it was, in a way, a new face of protesting that would start out as more aggressive but still mostly harmless (Well, harmless for the public at large...not so much for the protesters that got their heads bashed in for trying it...) and would, in time, evolve in some cases into aggression that tore apart the image of the anti-war movement. 

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