The Forgotten Demands: A Look at Beloit College’s Black Activism in 1994 and 2015
Eva Laun-Smith ’21, Beloit, Wisconsin
The 1960s were a period of great change, socially and politically, for many Americans. This activism did not end after the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but rather increased as conditions stagnated, despite legislation being made to create “equal” conditions. Students in particular operated within a microcosm of national incidents, whether consciously or subconsciously, which forced Black students to become activists and demand change on their seemingly unchanging campuses.
Notably, in 1969, Black students at Beloit College released a set of 12 Black Demands. These demands contained the frustrations of these students, who were operating within an institution that was built on catering to white academics and students. Black students demanded increased representation amongst faculty, spaces for Black students to gather, as well as more recruitment efforts for Black students.
Although these demands were thought to have been “won,” subsequent demands were released in 1994, 2015, and more recently 2020; however, when discussing Beloit College’s Black Demands, most of the attention is drawn to the 1969 Demands. The lack of research and preserved documentation of both the 1994 and 2015 Demands creates the illusion that student activism at Beloit was momentary when, in actuality, it is a continuous aspect of Black student life.
This project will interrogate why the 1994 and 2015 demands may have been side-lined in the historic record at Beloit College, and it will identify factors that contribute to continued Black student activism despite the issuance of successive demands, allegedly met by Beloit College.