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The Black Experience at Northwestern University: Bursar's Office Takeover

Bursar's Office Takeover

On May 3-4, 1968, over 100 black Northwestern students held a 38-hour building takeover of the Bursar's Office, the business office, as a method for getting the administration to change discriminatory campus policies and practices and to heighten the awareness of black student’s experiences of racial insensitivity on campus. The protest ended successfully with a commitment from the university to offer equitable housing options, recruitment of black students, counseling, establish Black Studies, and a Black student union, today called the Black House.




Friends DisappearFriends Disappear: The Battle for Racial Equality in Evanston, by Mary Barr 

Barr discusses school integration and fair housing in Evanston, Il from the 1960s-1970s. There is a brief inclusion of Black student life at Northwestern University and of the Takeover in relation to the city's changing demographics.


The Black Revolution on CampusThe Black Revolution on Campus, by Martha Biondi

Biondi offers a historical overview of the Black freedom struggle as it played out on college campuses. Chapter three focuses on the 1968  Takeover at Northwestern University and the creation of the African American Studies Department.


Where I Must Go

Where I Must Go: A Novel, by Angela Jackson 

Chicago poet and Northwestern University alumna, Angela Jackson, tells the story of the fictional midwestern Eden University, loosely based on Northwestern University. The story follows 17-year-old Magdalena 'Maggie' Grace as she leaves her African American Catholic family for the predominantly white school. Maggie experiences being a participant in the Takeover and recalls key figures and events associated with the event. Jackson enrolled at Northwestern University in the fall of 1968.

The End of Black Studies

The End of Black Studies: Conceptual, Theoretical, and Empirical Concernsby Clovis Semmes

In chapter three, Semmes "explores the problem of legitimacy facing Black Americans by analyzing the perceptions, experiences, and coping strategies of Black students at a White, elite university who sought careers as artists." This sociological study focuses on students at Northwestern University students. The author was a Takeover participant and an officer in FMO.


A Redlight Woman A Redlight Woman Who Knows How to Sing the Blues, by Mary Sisney

In this memoir, Sisney discusses her experience as a Black woman attending white institutions. Sisney, an alumna of Northwestern University and Takeover participant, also describes the events of the Takeover.


A History NU Northwestern University: A History, 1850-1975, by Harold F. Williamson and Payson S. Wild 

A history of Northwestern University was written in 1975 by Payson Wild, Northwestern Provost, and a key figure in the Takeover, and Harold Williamson, Professor of American and European economic history at Northwestern University. This history of the University briefly discusses the Bursar's Office Takeover and related events.

The Sit-In: Campus Politics, Student Protest, And The Experiences of Black Students At Northwestern University, 1969-1969, by Jenny Thompson

A history of the Bursar's Office Takeover. It features interviews with Eva Jefferson Paterson, James Turner, and Jack Hinz.


Voices and Visions: The Evolution of the Black Experience at Northwestern University

Voices and Visions: The Evolution of the Black Experience at Northwestern University, by Jeffrey Sterling and Lauren Lowery

A history of the Black experience at Northwestern University, including interviews with Takeover participants.


Black Experience ReportThe African American/Black Experience Final Report, Summer 2016, by Black Student Experience Task Force.

"A thorough review of existing Black satisfaction data and reach an understanding of its contributing factors and generate recommended strategies and systems Northwestern can employ to improve the satisfaction of the Black undergraduate student community." The report contextualizes its analysis with the history of the Takeover as it also responds to the fall 2015 demands presented to the University by Northwestern University students.



Blackbeat, 1984-2003 (Not complete)

Blackbeat is a biweekly newsletter aimed to supplement the quarterly Blackboard magazine, the official publication of For Members Only (FMO). It includes editorials, poetry, cartoons, and announcements to Black students at Northwestern University.


BlackboardBlackboard, 1971-2011 

Blackboard is the official publication of For Members Only (FMO). It provides Black students at Northwestern University with news and relevant campus editorials. Currently, the publication is digitized up to 2011. However, publications from 2012 to the present are available in print at University Archives.


Black Student Handbook

Black Student Handbook, 1973-2009 (Not complete)

The Black Student Handbook includes on and off-campus resources for Black students at Northwestern University. It also has a brief history of the Black experience at Northwestern and the leadership structure of For Members Only (FMO). Additionally, it features a calendar of events for the academic year, a list of contact information for Black faculty, administrators, staff, and offices, Black businesses and churches in Evanston.


DN05041968Daily Northwestern

This database has digitized issues of The Daily Northwestern to 2016. To locate articles related to the Bursar's Office Takeover, search keywords, names, and specify the dates to narrow your search. For those who are not affiliated with Northwestern and do not have a campus ID, visit the Guest NETID  to access the newspaper articles

New Sense New Sense, 1974-1989 (Not complete)

A quarterly literary newsletter.



Pamoja People

Pamoja People, 1972-1973

Publication of For Members Only (FMO).



Syllabus, 1969Syllabus, 1969

The 1969 edition of Syllabus, Northwestern University's yearbook, has a spread on the Bursar's Office Takeover. It includes a description of the Takeover, photographs, and poetry.


Voices and VisionsVoices and Vision, 2006-2011

Voices and Vision is a quarterly literary magazine to celebrate Black artists, poetry, photography, paintings, and drawings. The digitized collection represents the publication's resurgence from an earlier 1970s magazine called New Sense. 



First official publication of For Members Only (FMO), a precursor to Blackboard.



Umoja Circle, 1997Umoja Circle

The newsletter of The Office of African-American Student Affairs. The mission of the publication is to expose undergraduate Black students to African American role models, Northwestern faculty, staff, alumni, and graduate students and support their personal and professional development of futures Black leaders.

Online Exhibits

They Demanded Courageously: The 1968 Northwestern Bursar's Office Takeover

They Demanded Courageously is an online exhibit that tells the story of the Bursar's Office Takeover. It includes an overview of the trajectory of the reasons students of For Members Only (FMO) and Afro-American Student Union (AASU) presented demands to the University, to the legacy of the Takeover. It also features key documents found at Northwestern University Archives, a timeline, participant biographies, photographs, and bibliographic resources. All images and documents featured on this site live at Northwestern University Archives.


Place of Protest: Chicago's Legacy of Dissent, Declaration, and Disruption

by Rachel Boyle, Chicago Collections Consortium 

Explore fifteen case studies of protest in Chicago spanning nearly 150 years of the city's history. Whether approaching familiar stories or uncommon accounts, the perspective of place illuminates evolving strategies of dissent among labor, civil rights, and antiwar protesters as well as recurring responses of police to social disruption. A spatial analysis also reveals how local declarations uniquely expressed national tensions and the ways in which memories of protest shape Chicagoans' responses to urban conflict. It features the history of Northwestern University's 1968 Bursar's Office Takeover,