Remembering a 1969 Protest by a Few that Opened Doors for Many at Rutgers University

Rutgers in Newark Will Mark the 40th Anniversary of Conklin Hall Takeover


The media are invited to cover these events; please call Carla Capizzi, 973/353-5263 to register.

(Newark, N.J., Jan. 30, 2009) — Forty years ago next month, a single act of courage by a group of committed students forever changed Rutgers University.  On Feb. 24, 1969, young men and women from the Black Organization of Students, along with some supporters, occupied Conklin Hall at Rutgers University in Newark, protesting the scarcity of black students, black faculty and minority-oriented academic programs on campus.  The event lasted only 72 hours – but the new programs and policies that it triggered are responsible for transforming the whole of Rutgers University into a multicultural institution, with the campus in Newark cited as the most diverse national university in the United States (U.S. News & World Report, July 2008). 

Next month Rutgers in Newark will pause to reflect on those 72 hours, and publicly recognize and thank the people who braved expulsion and arrest to stand up for their beliefs. A series of free public events are planned to look back, reflect, and celebrate the courage of the few who paved the way for opportunity for many

A keystone of remembering the event is a digital archive, preserving documents, photos and both video and audio memoirs concerning the student protest.  During the February commemoration, a DVD will be screened, featuring a series of video interviews with both participants and witnesses. Among those featured in the DVD  are Black Organization of Students (BOS) alumni, including Richard Roper, first president of BOS and George Hampton, a participant in the  1969 takeover;  and Junius Williams, a Newark activist during the era of the takeover, and now director of Rutgers’ Abbott Leadership Institute in Newark.

A complete schedule of events follows. For more information, please contact Carla Capizzi, 973/353-5262, or email:







Feb. 5, “We Only Know What We Can Remember” Exhibit, Robeson Gallery, Paul Robeson Campus Center, 5-7 p.m.

Opening reception for Conklin Takeover exhibit in Robeson Gallery featuring photos and documents from the John Cotton Dana Library Archives Digital Preservation Initiative. Exhibit will be displayed in Orbit II Gallery through July 2009.  


Feb. 12, “Inside the Conklin Hall Takeover,” Bradley Hall Theatre, 4 – 6 p.m.

A DVD Screening, Reception & Discussion with Special Performance by Unity Theatre

A brief documentary of interviews and reflections with Chancellor Steven Diner;  professors Clement A. Price and Norman Samuels; Junius Williams, director of Rutgers’ Abbott Leadership Institute; current Rutgers students; Black Organization of Students (BOS) alumni including Richard Roper, first president of BOS; George Hampton, a participant in the  1969 takeover;  and guest speaker, Dr. Robyn Spencer, Lehman College.


Feb. 23, JUKE JOINT POETRY JAM (11:30 a.m. – 12:50 p.m.), Essex Room, Paul Robeson Campus Center

Celebration of diversity in verse and rhyme featuring students and alumni from various cultures. Multi-cultural refreshments will be served.


Feb. 24, “A Look Back, A Leap Forward,” a panel discussion hosted by Dr. Clement A. Price, with performance by Unity Theater, 1-5 p.m., Essex Room, Paul Robeson Campus Center.   

This program commemorates the 40th anniversary of the protest actions of Feb. 24, 1969, by BOS and other students which opened the doors to forever change the cultural makeup of Rutgers-Newark, today the most diverse university in America. Special guests include: President Richard McCormick, Chancellor Steven Diner, ‘69 Liberators.


Feb. 27, 40 Years: Liberation of Conklin Hall Reunion, 6-10 p.m., Essex Room, Paul Robeson Campus Center

Closing ceremonies of the celebration of the historic 1969 Conklin Hall Takeover. Awards honoring the ‘69 liberators with special guest speakers. Opening remarks by  the Rev. Dr. Howard, Chair, Rutgers Board of Governors.


Events are co-sponsored by the Office of the President, the  Office of the Chancellor, Black Organization of Students, Black Organization of Students Alumni Association, Organization of Black Faculty & Staff, African-American Studies Department, and the Rutgers Institute on Ethnicity, Culture and the Modern Experience, Women’s Studies and the Office of Student Life and Leadership.


The Paul Robeson Campus Center and Bradley Hall Theater are wheelchair-accessible, as is the Rutgers-Newark campus. Rutgers‑Newark can be reached by New Jersey Transit buses and trains, the PATH train and Amtrak from New York City, and by Newark Light Rail. Metered parking is available on University Avenue and at Rutgers‑Newark’s public parking garage, at 200 University Ave.  Printable campus maps and driving directions are available online at:






Media Contact: Carla Capizzi