“We Shall Overcome,” Again: A Case Study of Beloit College’s 1969 and 1994 Black Demands
Meg Kulikowski ’21, Garner, North Carolina
Majors: Literary Studies; Creative Writing
Between the Civil Rights Movement and the end of the 20th century, the United States saw the end of Jim Crow segregation laws, the passing of monumental civil rights acts and amendments, and growing hope for a post-racial society. Black students, in many ways, were at the forefront of institutional change, including at Beloit College.
The college’s Afro-American Union presented a 12-point list of demands to the college faculty and administration in the spring of 1969. Their demands included creating courses centered on Blackness, hiring and recruiting Black faculty and students, and making living spaces for Black students on campus. Despite initial reluctance from College President Miller Upton’s administration, the majority of the Black Demands were said to have been met. This period has been thoroughly researched by students and well-documented in the Beloit College Archives.
But only 25 years later, in 1994, the campus organization Black Students United created an eerily similar list of student demands for greater representation across campus—without knowing that the 1969 demands existed until after the fact. Although much had already changed on paper, these demands show that Beloit’s Black students faced similar institutional problems to those on campus during the Civil Rights era.
This project aims to narrow the gap in knowledge of student protest after the Civil Rights Movement at Beloit College. I will identify the similarities and tension between the institutional strides said to be made between the 1969 and 1994 demands and what actually changed for students over this period. By combining archival college resources, oral histories, and scholarly research, I hope to highlight the contradictions and limitations of racial reform at Beloit College—against a backdrop of what’s seen as a period of great national change.