To read about Beloit’s Fall 2020 plans, visit our Back at Beloit information site.

The History

Beloit’s journey toward becoming better— toward being an inclusive, equitable, and anti-racist institution— didn’t begin with this initiative, or this website. 

Beloit’s first Black students enrolled in the late nineteenth century; those early pioneers are the beginning of a story that has continued through the civil rights era to the events of 2020, and will continue via this roadmap long into the future.

No webpage could do service to the full history of race relations and anti-racism at Beloit. Our work to become better is a story that includes every generation of Beloit students. Here are just a few of the notable moments in this history that are important to us in the context of our current work.

The Pioneers

Beloit’s first Black students

Our first Black students embodied all the qualities that Beloit and its students are known for today. They were resilient, accomplished, hardworking, and determined. Each has left his or her unique mark on the College.

Charles Winter Wood's, class of 1895, senior photo. Charles Winter Wood

Class of 1895

Charles Wood entered Beloit College Academy in 1887 and joined the college in 1891. Although he played left end on Beloit’s popular football team, he became best known for his public speaking and acting; after graduating in 1895 he attended divinity school at Chicago Theological Seminary, and went on to teach at Tuskegee University, among other colleges and universities. “Don’t be surprised at any time,” he wrote in 1931, “to see me on Beloit Campus, living once again over the dear days of Charlie Wood in the making at Beloit College.”

Learn more: Fridays with Fred: Charles Winter Wood

Daniel Webster Brown, late 1800s. Daniel Webster Brown

Enrolled at Beloit in 1887

Daniel Webster Brown escaped a racist attack as a university student in the South, and quickly migrated north, in his words, “by a sort of underground railway.” He arrived at Beloit in 1887, using an assumed name for his protection. In 1889, Brown and other pioneering students founded the college’s first football team; in their first intercollegiate game, the new Beloit footballers beat Madison 4-0.

There isn’t much we know about Brown’s life path after leaving Beloit. But his words from an unidentified newspaper suggest that there’s much more to the story than we know: “It is an interesting story, but I haven’t told it all. I am afraid to tell the most interesting part. A colored man never knows what he is going to get in the South. I have been back to the old country, and in and about and all through the places where the mob once hunted for me with guns and knives, and it is all forgotten now. But a colored man is never safe and I cannot tell the whole story, even up here in the North.”

Learn more: Fridays with Fred: Daniel Webster Brown, founding member of the football team

Laurence Ousley, one of Beloit's earliest African-American students. Laurence Ousley

Enrolled at Beloit in 1890

One of Beloit’s earliest African-American students, Laurence Ousley entered Beloit Academy in the fall of 1890 and studied and worked for three years in the Scientific Division.

The “way out and up” proved to be a financial struggle, and he had to quell his academic ambitions in order to work to support his family (including his sister Grace, who entered Beloit in 1900).

Learn more: Fridays with Fred: The Ousley Family

Grace Ousley, the first African-American woman to attend and graduate Beloit College. Grace Ousley

Class of 1904

Grace Ousley, Laurence’s sister, (pictured below) became the first African-American to graduate from Beloit High School in 1900. Laurence helped her through four years at Beloit College, where in 1904 she became its first African-American woman graduate, just nine years after the college embraced coeducation.

Learn more: Fridays with Fred: the story of two of Beloit’s earliest African-American students

Velma Bell Hamilton's freshman identification photo, 1926 Velma Bell

Class of 1930

The daughter of a Mississippi laborer whose family emigrated to Wisconsin to find factory work, Velma Bell was one of Beloit’s most accomplished and brilliant scholars.

On June 16, 1930, after only three years of study, Bell graduated from Beloit College magna cum laude.

Learn more: Fridays with Fred: Velma Bell and Beloit

 

The Fight for Civil Rights

Beloit students on the front lines

Like countless citizens throughout the United States, many Beloit students were active participants in the struggle for civil rights and equality in the 1960s. 

In 1961, Beloit College student Jim Zwerg’62 attended Fisk University in Nashville on exchange and became involved in movie theater protests. Zwerg made national headlines that May after an angry white mob nearly beat him to death for participating in the famous Freedom Rides through the Deep South.

The following year, the college’s chapter of the Delta Gamma sorority pledged African-American student Patricia Hamilton, resulting in suspension by the national organization. Beloit’s chapter stayed true to their ideals and went local, and Theta Pi Gamma is still going strong today.

Detail from the Day They Marched poster/magazine cover depicting the 1963 March on Washington.

Beloit residents, including students and alumni of the College, traveled cross country by car, bus, and airplane in order to participate in the history-making March on Washington in 1963. 

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Collection

On April 10, 1968, six days after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., Beloit College Library Director, H. Vail Deale, wrote to President Miller Upton offering to the college his vast personal collection of books, pamphlets, and memorabilia dealing with non-violence, conscientious objection, and world peace.

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Collection on Non-Violence is one of Morse Library’s “Special Collections” housed with the Beloit College Archives. The collection includes rare and seminal works by and about pacifists and civil rights leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. as well as countless books on non-violence and the peace movement in the United States. Among its many treasures are items concerning the March on Washington.

Learn more: Fridays with Fred: Beloiters, civil rights, and the March on Washington

 

The Black Demands, 1969

Beloit’s Black students stand up for equal opportunities

In 1969, 35 Black students created a list of demands they thought would make Beloit College more inclusive and affirming of their race. The Black Demands, as they were called, were announced on the front page of the Beloit student newspaper:

The Round Table's front page announcing the Black Demands

The demands themselves were included in the paper and printed for campus distribution:

The original 1969 “Black Demands”

The full text of the 1969 Demands:

1. Full credit course offerings in the African & Afro-American History, Art, Music, Philosophy, Economics, Government, Literature and Languages taught by Black professors.

2. Mandatory courses on the concept of Blackness for student body, faculty, and administration.

3. Admissions program aimed at increasing the percentage of Black students to 10% of the student body.

4. Hiring program aimed at increasing percentage of faculty members to 10% Black.

5. Sections of dorms reserved for Black students.

6. Inclusion of relevant contributions by Black experts in each field of our current curriculum.

7. A Black financial aid consultant.

8. Establishment of a Black cultural center and meeting place.

9. Institution of the High Potential Education Program as approved by the Beloit College faculty.

10. Revision of Area Exams to allow Black students to relate the required courses and readings to their cultural and social environment and that these be read and judged by Black professors.

11. Revision of Upper and Under Class Common Courses to include sections focused on Blackness.

12. End of harassment of Black students by maintenance men, receptionists, security guards and other college personnel.

CAN YOU DIG IT?

Learn more: Link

 

The New Demands, 2020

A call for justice with fresh urgency

On June 17, 2020, Black Students United (BSU) sent a letter to the college with contemporaneous demands, based on those from 1969, that are listed below. 

Since that time, the Beloit Anti-Racism Liaison Group has been working with members of our community to organize our anti-racism efforts around BSU’s demands. 

We consider Beloit’s ongoing antiracist work to be fundamental to our educational mission and to building a stronger campus community.


Beloit College Administrators, this document is highlighting what Black students and Alumni need from this campus. Please read closely and respond swiftly.

Opening Remarks:

Black Students United (BSU) and our Black alumni are coming together to reiterate the original Black Demands from 1969, with a few additions. These demands were put together by Black students on campus of what they required from Beloit. It is disappointing and frankly embarrassing that an institution that aspires to be anti-racist has failed to meet these demands by 2020. In this document, we are publicly requiring that Beloit College revisits our demands and demonstrates with full transparency how they plan to make sure that these issues are fixed.

Black people at Beloit College have to carry the weight of state violence outside of school and continued racist psychological violence everyday on our campus. This psychological violence manifests in many ways. First, Black students are framed as subjects of learning, rather than students who deserve equitable learning environments. Second, hate crimes and hate acts occur annually and the College lacks long term solutions to disrupt and ultimately end the violence. The recurrences are frequent because of Beloit’s inability to reprimand individuals and legitimize our pain. Finally, there is a culture of tolerating anti-blackness for the sake of ‘professionalism’ that needs to be addressed. Examples include, publicly condoning coded and racist statements/ideologies of students, faculty, alumni, and coaches, in fear of social and financial retaliation. The culmination of these factors is compounded by the fact that Beloit is a residential campus. Black students are expected to move on to a small residential campus where the majority of the students are white and make it our home. The residential nature and size of Beloit College forces that more responsibility be placed on the college to protect Black students so that we can feel safe in our home.

Racism didn’t begin three weeks ago, and this cultural movement is entirely led by black youth. There needs to be a reconciliation, so that we may move forward to being an anti-racist community, by recognizing the complicity of all individuals at Beloit up until this point. Not being racist isn’t something that can be done passively. In order to actually not be racist, we need to be actively fighting against racism. 51 years later Beloit College has still not fulfilled these demands, continuously proving to their Black students, faculty, staff, and the world that Beloit College is complacent to the anti-black racism that occurs on our campus. Until the following demands are met, Beloit College cannot claim to be an aspiring “anti-racist institution”.

Original Demands

Updated Demands:

We would like to maintain these demands because they still have not been met, but we will be making additions. To show the adjustments, the demands will be listed in chronological order, with the adjustments below.

1. Full credit course offerings in History, Critical Identity Studies, Art, Music, Philosophy, Economics, Political Science, English taught by Black professors.

a. The College does not have a Black professor in the majority of these departments, and of the ones that do, there is only one professor.

2. Mandatory courses on the concept of Blackness for student body, faculty, and administration.

a. Require Sex, Race, and Power as a required course for graduation for ALL students. It is imperative that this course is taught by a Black body, preferably a Black woman.

b. Required race training for faculty, staff, all athletes and coaches, campus club leaders and their executives, Greek Life, Residential Life (Director, Residential Life Coordinators (RLCs), Residents Assistants), Financial Aid, SEAL, Food Services, and all other offices that come into contact with students.

c. In the case of student athletes, if a student is caught engaging in racist behavior and/or behavior that violates the current outline of the hate and bias protocol, the following actions should be taken: student is suspended for the remainder of the season, they must attend classes on Race in America and the History of Race in Beloit, the classes will be graded with papers and exams, until all steps are completed the student will be unable to practice or play for the College.

3. Admissions program aimed at increasing the percentage of Black students to 10% of the student body.

a. The current percentage of Black students is only ~5%.

b. We also understand how integral students are to admissions. For questions about how to increase this percentage, please reach out to BSU members.

4. Hiring programs aimed at increasing the percentage of faculty members to 10% Black

5. Sections of dorms reserved for Black students.

a. ResLife needs to be more diligent when pairing first years with roommates, for the safety of our Black students. Here is an example of what could occur when these considerations are not made.

b. In addition to roommates, Black RAs need to be placed in safe areas that will not negatively affect their mental health. Preferably with other Black RAs and students.

6. Inclusion of relevant contributions by Black experts in each field of our current curriculum.

7. A Black financial aid consultant.

a. In addition to the consultant, grants and scholarships need to be put in place specifically for Black students.

8. Establishment of a Black cultural center and meeting place.

a. Although Black students have the BSU house, the location is secluded and is inaccessible. Language students have WAC, art/dance students have Hendricks, Smith and art/dance house, international students have International House, etc. Black students need a space where we can study, hangout, and not feel like we are intruders on our own campus. Options include: the Powerhouse or Pearsons.

9. Institution of the High Potential Education Program as approved by the Beloit College Faculty.

10. Revision of Area Exams to allow Black students to relate the required courses and readings to their cultural and social environment and that these be read and judged by Black professors.

11. Revision of Upper and Under Class Common Courses to include sections focused on Blackness.

12. End of harassment of Black students by maintenance men, receptionists, security guards and other college personnel.

a. Security guards and their receptionists are constantly rude to Black individuals and never held accountable. Reach out for detailed examples and ways to address this problem.

Additional Demands:

In addition to those specific updates, we would like to introduce a few new demands that reflect the current political climate and will dramatically enhance the quality of life for Black students at Beloit.

1. Secure a permanent Black counselor in the Health and Wellness Center, give Black students priority when scheduling appointments with said counselor, and alert students when the counselor arrives.

a. Black students struggle with the stigmas around mental health, as well as connecting with white counselors. Reach out for more detailed examples.

b. Black students should be given resources to be able to pursue counseling during the space in time that it takes to find a permanent Black counselor outside of Beloit College. There are Black counselor networks available to those who are in need, and with our current worldwide situation of the COVID-19 pandemic it is an increasingly available resource virtually.

2. Update the website so the hate act policy reflects the revisions that Students for Inclusive Campus (SIC) developed in 2017. In doing so, be sure to include racial slurs as hate acts instead of bias incidents.

a. Being called the N-word is a hate act not bias incident and is an act of violence within itself. Bias incidents “do not involve violence or other conduct violating college policy” displaying a gap in the understanding of racial slurs as an enactment of psychological violence.

3. Complete compliance with the Native American Graves and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) in relation to artifacts in the Logan Museum.

Closing Remarks:

BSU needs to see changes by Fall 2020. We understand that some things will take longer to implement, such as: hiring new faculty and staff members, raising the percentage of Black students, and shifting our campus culture. However, it should not take another 50 years. For Fall 2020 it is the expectation that the following demands will be met: implementation of mandatory race training for the parties mentioned, graduation requirements are updated to include Sex, Race, and Power, ResLife must DEEPLY consider the procedure for placing Black students, the Hate Act Policy MUST be updated, and we NEED a space for Black students outside of our house to congregate. As stated in the document, if anyone has any questions or concerns about any of the demands do not hesitate to contact BSU at beloitbsu@gmail.com or Aryssa Harris at harrisad@beloit.edu. It is never too late to educate yourself, the issue occurs when you do nothing, and refuse to acknowledge the shortcomings of your past.

Now is the time to do better and realize that we cannot truly Be All In until ALL of your students and alumni feel safe and proud to come from this institution.

Sincerely,

Black Students United Members, Exec, and Alumni

1 https://beloit.edu/offices/student-success-equity-community/bias-incident-policy/

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