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Black Organization of Students Records (1967 - 1973)
RepositoryRutgers University, Special Collections and University Archives
Size4 boxes
Collection Description
The Black Organization of Students (BOS) was founded by Rutgers University-Newark students Richard Roper and Joe Browne during the academic year 1967-1968, in the wake of the riots/rebellion that had broken out in Newark in July 1967. Both students were politically active in the city and called upon the University to "recognize that it must serve the black community in Newark." After learning that of the first one thousand applicants for the following academic year only twenty-seven were Black, the BOS felt that Rutgers-Newark, under University Vice-President and Acting Dean Malcolm Talbott, was perpetuating the bias and repression against the Black community that characterized public life Newark.

Members of the BOS attended an April 1968 session of the Rutgers Board of Governors, where Richard Roper presented nine "proposals" of the BOS including increased recruitment of Black students and faculty; the establishment of several new departments; a scholarship fund for Black students from Newark, etc. Over time the BOS refined and expanded these demands. On February 6, 1969 the BOS interrupted a meeting between Malcolm Talbott, faculty, and administrators and presented Talbott with their new list of twelve demands. They gave Talbott two weeks to respond.

On February 24, 1969 a group of Rutgers students took over Conklin Hall on the Newark campus, renaming the building "Liberation Hall." The occupation of the building, organized by BOS, lasted 72 hours. The action was supported by some white students, notably by Michael Immerso, who later became the 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. Joseph Browne, a sophomore from Newark, became a leading spokesman for BOS during and after the Conklin Hall occupation. 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, now included the creation of a Black Studies Program at Rutgers, support for BOS, and, most controversially, the dismissal of two Rutgers-Newark Admissions Office employees, Robert Swab and C. T. Miller, who were accused of discriminatory attitudes and practice. 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 the following years the University took steps to implement the major demands of BOS. In 2004 the Rutgers acknowledged the role of the protest in initiating changes in race relations on campus 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
Most items in the collection relate 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. Contents of the collection are as follows:

Box 1, Folder 1: Admissions Office and Policies (1968-1969). Includes correspondence showing how the University will recruit Black students, and how admission standards have changed.

Box 1, Folders 2-6: Conklin Hall Takeover, Demands and Negotiations (Feb 1969). Included is "Rutgers University (Case for Dramatic and Immediate Change)," by Roy L. Jones, with an essay, "Black Feeling," by Myrna Williams.

Box 1, Folder 7: General Correspondence (1968)

Box 1, Folders 8-10: Letters and Articles Opposed to University Response to BOS Demands (1969)

Box 1, Folders 11-12: Letters and Articles Approving University Response to BOS Demands (1969)

Box 2, Folder 1: Admission of Minority Students (1968-1969)

Box 2, Folder 2: Admissions Office Response to BOS Demand to Remove Robert K. Swab and C. T. Miller (1969). Includes lawyers' correspondence and a memo (dated Feb 18, 1969) from Admissions staff and work-study students re: their resignation at the Rutgers-Newark campus.

Box 2, Folder 3: Alumni Relations Office (1963-1968). Includes summary of an alumni meeting on Admissions of Minority Students (May 7, 1968), information on Black Alumni of Rutgers Colleges (1931-1964), etc.

Box 2, Folder 4: Black Faculty and Staff Association (1971)

Box 2, Folder 5: Bond Issue Allocation: Newark Protest against Distribution (1969). Includes a press release and clippings, among other material.

Box 2, Folder 6: BOS (Feb-Mar 1969), with statements of faculty, clergy, and community groups; meeting agendas and proposals; clippings; and a copy of a letter from Professor Hilda Hidalgo, commending Mason Gross and Malcolm Talbott's handling of the crisis (Mar 7, 1969)

Box 2, Folder 7: BOS (Apr 1969-1971), with clippings; correspondence; a statement of "People for Unified Leadership," claiming to be a sub-group of BOS [1971]; and "Proposal of Black Organization of Students," written by Joseph Browne and Robert Curvin. Also present is a BOS "Proposal for Drug Policy."

Box 2, Folder 8: BOS (undated)

Box 2, Folder 9: Brandeis University Black Student Protests (Jan 1969)

Box 2, Folder 10: Dungan: Split Off of Newark from Rutgers (1969). Material re: 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. This suggestion met with widespread opposition.

Box 2, Folder 11: Martin Luther King Scholarship Fund (1968-1969)

Box 2, Folder 12: McLeod vs. Rutgers (1971). This lawsuit was filed by a white student, Robert E. McLeod, protesting the existence of BOS and the Puerto Rican Student Organization as racially segregated political organizations, and objecting to the creation of University facilities "for the exclusive use of minority students."

Box 2, Folder 13: Newark College of Engineering newspaper (1969 ff.). Material re: a confrontation regarding publication of a "sharply critical" photo and caption in the Newark College of Engineering student newspaper, "The Orbit." Apologies were issued by NCE administrators, faculty, and students.

Box 2, Folder 14: NJ Legislature's Hearings on Rutgers, June 1969, including a transcript (Jun 9, 1969)

Box 2, Folder 15: Puerto Rican Student Groups (1969). Includes "University Response to Puerto Rican Organization Demands."

Box 2, Folder 16: Search Committees: Dean of Student Affairs and Associate Dean of Student Life

Box 2, Folder 17: University Policy on Disruptions (1967-1973)

Box 3: Folder 1: Black Studies Department (1969-1973), including material on the inauguration of the Afro-American or Black Studies Department

Box 3: Folder 2: Board of Governors (1968-1969)

Box 3: Folder 3: BOS Funding, "Observer" Incident (1970). Included are clippings, BOS correspondence, etc. on the ransacking of the office of the Rutgers-Newark student newspaper, "The Observer" in October 1970, in protest against the Student Senate's denial of funds to BOS, including flyers, bulletins, clippings, etc.

Box 3: Folder 4: Minority Students' Demands (May 1971). Includes material on the Association of Black Law Students, the Third World Organization, BOS, the Organization of Black Evening Students, Black Experience, and the Puerto Rican Student Organization.

Box 3: Folder 5: Miscellaneous (1968). Includes correspondence; "A Call for Action" from the Law School; a proposal for "A Summer Program for Participation of Black Student Association Members in Urban League Programs," "How Black Is Black," reprinted from the Wilmington People's Pulse (Aug 1968); and "In Behalf of Black Studies," by Phillip Thigpen

Box 3: Folder 6: NJ Dept. of Higher Education (undated). Includes a statistical report, "Minority Representation on Governing Boards of New Jersey Public Institutions of Higher Education."

Box 3: Folder 7: University Agreement (Mar 1969).

Box 4 contains miscellaneous items (correspondence, flyers, memos, clippings, etc.), arranged chronologically; they were originally housed in two large binders. The material has been placed in folders, in original order, as follows:

Binder I, part 1, February 1969

Binder I, part 2, February 1969

Binder I, part 3, March 1969

Binder I, part 4, March 1969

Binder II, part 1, March 1969

Binder II, part 2, March 1969-Apr 9, 1969
FormatTextual materials
SubjectsAfrican-American History / Civil Rights; Education; Latinx American History
Time Period20th Century
Access policyOpen for research
Finding AidYes
Finging Aid URL