Just 50 years after the historic Bursar’s Office Takeover, students and alumni came together for a retelling. They utilized first-person accounts of the Takeover to commemorate the 38-hour sit-in in which about 100 Northwestern students demonstrated to protest racial insensitivity on campus and a lack of compliance with the demands of the Afro-American student union.
The Northwestern University Black Alumni Association (NUBAA) and For Members Only (FMO) continued their commemoration of the Bursar’s Takeover on Friday in Alice Millar Chapel. Alumni and students gathered to hear more about the Takeover and the Black experience at Northwestern.
“Seeing all of the alumni come back and sharing all of their experiences was very powerful,” said Communication freshman Nolan Robinson, who participated in a retelling of the Takeover.
Many at the commemoration noted how important the Bursar’s Takeover was to Northwestern, and how its effects can still be seen on campus today.
“Northwestern would not be the quality, comprehensive university that it is today if the Takeover had not taken place 50 years ago,” said Wayne Watson (SESP '69), who participated in the Takeover. “Northwestern has grown, it has improved itself, because it has allowed the diversity of the Black students to be brought into and considered.”
Ahead of the release of Voices and Visions: The Evolution of the Black Experience at Northwestern (a collection of first-person anecdotes from Black alumni) NUBAA decided to focus the alumni panel on the Black experience at Northwestern and how it will evolve in the future. Organizers acknowledged that “the struggle continues” to make Northwestern a more equitable university for black students.
Preserving the Black House is crucial to that goal, according to several panelists. As the university becomes more diverse, reserving a space for black students to learn and grow is essential.
“That message has come across loud and clear, that the Black House needs to become a cultural center for black students on campus,” Watson said. “It needs to become the epicenter of social, educational and cultural activity for African Americans.”