EXTRA! February 21, 1969

[Note: Every once in a while a significant story comes to our notice after the date for it has passed. When this happens we will post is as an EXTRA.–Editors of Middletown 366.]

Fisk Hall Takeover

On the morning of February 21, 1969, a group consisting of members of Wesleyan’s Afro-American Society, Wesleyan University students, and Middletown residents barricaded Fisk Hall and demanded the Wesleyan administration’s attention. This group demanded that the university keep to its promise of commitment to the black student population.

The students in this protest had previously requested that classes be cancelled on February 21st in honor of a memorial service for Malcolm X, who had been assassinated on that day in 1965. After the request had been ignored, the Black students and members of the Wesleyan faculty began to rally. The group presented the following statement to the Wesleyan administration on February 21, 1969 as they barricaded the doors of Fisk Hall:

“In occupying Fisk Hall we seek to dramatically expose the university’s infidelity to its professed goals and to question the sincerity of its commitment to meaningful change. We blaspheme and decry that education which is consonant with one cultural frame of reference to the exclusion of all others. As Black students we recognize the dialectical relationship which exists between the educational system which devalues and dehistoricizes Black people by consciously ignoring the accomplishments and contributions of their forbearers to the American tradition, and the political and social system which rejects and oppresses them by depriving them of their rights as American citizens.”

The list of demands included fourteen items concerning the welfare and educational rights of the Black students of Wesleyan University.

The events of this day and the show of civil disobedience were recreated in a short film named “FISK TAKEOVER” by a group of Wesleyan students in 2014.  [Note: there is occasional strong language in this film that may be offensive to some.]

Story contributed by Kimberly Singh.

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