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On May 3, 1968, a group of black students at Northwestern University made headlines when they occupied the University’s main financial building and announced that they would not leave until their demands were met.
Their demands, which had been submitted to University officials the month before, focused on issues such as campus conditions and the racism they faced. Over the course of two momentous days, the whole world watched as events on the campus unfolded.
Although to many observers the takeover seemed to come out of nowhere, it was connected to a long history of both discrimination and activism on campus.
It was also a response to the complicated efforts to integrate Northwestern, a process that had begun just a few years earlier.
The takeover took place within a wider movement for student power and political and social change across the country that marked the 1960s, and its outcome had far-reaching results.
Jenny Thompson, Evanston History Center’s Director of Education, has written a book that explores this critical action and its larger context: “The Takeover 1968: Student Protest, Campus Politics, and Black Student Activism at Northwestern University.”
Published by the Evanston History Center Press, the book pieces together the events of May 3-4, 1968, as they unfolded, and also takes a broader view, stepping back from those two crucial days to examine what led to the takeover and what transpired in its aftermath.
“The particular story of what was happening at Northwestern at the time and what lay behind the students’ action is a fascinating chapter of the student protest movement of the 1960s,” said Ms. Thompson.
“I was honored to be able to talk to some of the participants in order to explore the story in-depth. And I was fascinated to examine the wider story, both the takeover’s prelude and its aftermath.
“I wanted to present this history in a way that revealed the takeover’s background and its broad reach. It’s really quite an extraordinary story.”
“The Takeover 1968” draws from archival and primary sources and interviews with several of the takeover’s key players, including Kathryn Ogletree, undergraduate leader of the takeover; Eva Jefferson Paterson, takeover participant and later president of Northwestern’s student government; John H. Bracey, Jr. and James Turner, graduate student leaders of the takeover; and Jack Hinz, former Northwestern vice president for student affairs and dean of students, who served as the chief negotiator for the University during the takeover.
It also draws from interviews with Roger Friedman and Ellis Pines, two former Northwestern students who both played prominent roles in progressive politics on campus in the late 1960s.
The book is now available at Lulu.com. Copies of the book go on sale at the Evanston History Center July 16.