2 Weeks, 17 Buildings, and 5 Demands

Previously published by The Campus

In the Spring semester of 1969, on the heels of the civil rights movement and the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., around 200 Black and Puerto Rican students locked the gates around the North campus and took over 17 buildings. This Black History Month, The Campus wants to highlight the brave activists who participated in these protests.

During those next couple of weeks, various demonstrations occurred as negotiations took place between representatives from the administration and the occupiers. During which, both sides agreed that the college would remain closed as long as the talks progressed. While some fervently called for the college to reopen as usual, the activists persisted. Often entitled the “5 Demands Protest,” the Black and Puerto Rican students stood strong and unwavering in the following requests:

1. A School of Black and Puerto Rican Studies

2. A Freshman Orientation for Black and Puerto Rican Students

3. That the SEEK Students Have a Determining Voice in the Setting of Guidelines for the SEEK Program, Including the Hiring and Firing of SEEK Personnel

4. That the Racial Composition of the Entering Freshman Class be Racially Reflective of the NYC High School Population

5. That All Education Majors Be Required to Take Black and Puerto Rican History and the Spanish Language

In a time where the racial composition of Harlem was grossly underrepresented at CCNY, the 1969 protests served as a turning point for the university. Due to the activists’ tenacity and boldness in both the demonstrations and negotiations, they pushed CCNY and CUNY to open their doors to thousands of Black and Hispanic students, who earlier would not have qualified for admission.

Not only did their actions change the landscape of City College, they shifted the national narrative concerning higher education and race and ethnicity. While we remember their courage and power, it is vital to note that they were up against media, government, and law enforcement that wished to dismantle, belittle, and terminate their efforts. Their stories, and the legacy felt at CCNY, is an apt reminder that revolutionary movements are not wrapped in ribbons and bows as they take ground. When looking at activism on campus today, let 1969 be at once an example of how far we have come, and how much fighting there is still to be done.

Design by Loretta Violante