Southern University to Award Degrees to Black Students Slain on Campus in 1972

On November 16, 1972 Leonard Douglas Brown and Denver A. Smith were murdered on the campus of Southern University in Baton Rouge. The killings followed a tense month of student protests about unequal funding for the historically Black university. Police were called to campus to remove Black student protestors from the president’s office. Tear gas was used and during the ensuing melee, the two students were shot dead from shotgun blasts. No one was ever charged with the murders.

Now 45 years later, Southern University has decided to award the two slain students posthumous degrees at this spring’s commencement ceremonies. In 1992, the student center at the university was renamed to honor Brown and Smith.

Below is a video of spoken word poetry inspired by the incident at Southern University.


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