Rutgers University Honors Black Students Who 40 Years Ago Took Over a Campus Building

Forty years ago a group of about two dozen black students took over Conklin Hall on the campus of Rutgers University in Newark. At the time the city of Newark was 65 percent black but the student body at the Newark campus of the state-operated Rutgers University was 95 percent white. The black students demanded that the university hire more black faculty and greatly increase African-American enrollments.

During the three-day siege white students threatened to retake the building. At one point white students tried to ram a telephone pole through the chained doors of the building. Government officials urged the university to call in the state police to end the protest. But the university ended the confrontation by agreeing to increase racial diversity.

Today the Newark campus of Rutgers University is generally considered the most racially diverse college in the nation. Blacks, whites, Hispanics, and Asians all make up between 20 and 25 percent of the student body.

Recently the university invited the black students who took over Conklin Hall back to campus. At a ceremony honoring the 40th anniversary of the takeover, current Rutgers University president Richard McCormick called the black students “heroes” and added, “We are deeply proud of you.”