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Black Organization of Students Records (1967 - 1973)
RepositoryRutgers University, Special Collections and University Archives
Size3 boxes
Collection Description
On February 24, 1969 a group of Rutgers students took over Conklin Hall on the Newark campus. They renamed the building "Liberation Hall" and presented a list of demands to the University administration. The occupation of the building, organized by the Black Organization of Students (BOS), lasted 72 hours. The action was supported by some white students, notably by Michael Immerso, who later became a historian of Newark's Italian-American community, and by non-students such as Newark political activist and CORE leader Robert Curvin, who acted as an advisor to BOS. The leading spokesman for BOS during and after the protest was Joseph Browne, a sophomore from Newark.

At the time of the protest 75 percent of students in the Newark public school system were African-American, and only 2 percent of the student body of Rutgers-Newark was black. The students' demands, reworked over time, included recruitment of more minority students and faculty, creation of a Black Studies Program at Rutgers, support for BOS, and, most controversially, the dismissal of two Admissions Office employees, Robert Swab and C. T. Miller. The removal of Swab and Miller, eventually acceded to by Rutgers University President Mason Gross, was later the subject of a lawsuit against the University.

In 2004 the University acknowledged the role of the protest in initiating changes in race relations at Rutgers by dedicating a plaque at Conklin Hall and hosting an exhibit and symposium on the events of 1969 and other student protests of the period.
Collection Contents
Almost every item in the collection relates directly to Newark. Among the many administrators, faculty, alumni, political leaders, and community activists represented in the files are Maria DeCastro Blake, Alvin Puryear, Richelle Walmsley, Junius Williams, Earle W. Clifford, Msgr. Patrick McGrath, Manuel Delgado, George Richardson, LeRoy Johnson, William Wright, Jr., Richard Bregstein, Walter Weiker, Myrna Williams, and Phillip Thigpen. The following is a selected list of material illustrating the range of topics and issues covered. A paper inventory of the collection is available in the Reading Room.

Box 1, Folders 1-5: contain material on the dismissal of Swab and Miller, and on recruitment of black students and faculty

Box 1, Folders 7-10: contain materials, including statements, position papers, a meeting transcript, and correspondence regarding BOS demands and negotiations with Rutgers administrators (1969)

Box 2, Folder 1: "Black Organization of Students - General, 1969-1971," includes correspondence (much of it to/from Malcolm Talbott); BOS statements; a statement of "People for Unified Leadership," claiming to be a sub-group of BOS [1971]; statements of faculty, clergy, and community groups; meeting agendas, resolutions, and proposals; clippings; a copy of a letter from Hilda Hidalgo, Rutgers professor and Hispanic community activist, commending Mason Gross's and Malcolm Talbott's handling of the crisis (Mar 7, 1969); a document headed "Proposal of Black Organization of Students, Joseph Browne, Chairman, Robert Curvin, Advisor"; and proposals from BOS regarding their request for adequate off-campus space for their organization

Box 2, Folder 2: material on the ransacking of the office of the Rutgers-Newark student newspaper "The Observer" in Oct 1970, in protest of the Student Senate's denial of funds to BOS, including flyers, bulletins, clippings, etc.

Box 2, Folder 3: material on a confrontation regarding publication of a "sharply critical" photo and caption in the the Newark College of Engineering student newspaper "The Orbit" (Oct 1971). Apologies were issued by NCE administrators, faculty, and students.

Box 2, Folder 10: documents a statement by NJ Chancellor of Higher Education Ralph A. Dungan suggesting that it might be beneficial if Rutgers-Newark were separated from Rutgers University to become a stand-alone institution (1969). This suggestion met with widespread opposition.

Box 2, Folder 12: contains material on the court case McLeod vs. Rutgers (1971). The suit was filed by a white student, Robert E. McLeod, protesting the existence of BOS and the Puerto Rican Organization as racially segregated political organizations, and objecting to the creation of university facilities "for the exclusive use of minority students"

Box 2, Folder 17: "Puerto Rican Student Groups" contains material on Puerto Rican students' demands, correspondence, and lists of PR community leaders (1969-1970)

The rest of Box 2 consists of general information on campus protests, BOS demands, legislative hearings, university responses, student protests at other campuses, etc.

Box 3: contains two binders of miscellaneous material (correspondence, flyers, memos, clippings, etc.) arranged chronologically (Feb-Apr 1969, and one clipping dated Jun 25, 1969)
FormatTextual materials
SubjectsAfrican-American History / Civil Rights; Education; Latinx American History
Time Period20th Century
Access policyOpen for research
Finding AidYes