Thursday, March 20, 2008

40th Anniversary of Howard 'A' building takeover

I was a freshman at Howard University when 1,200 of us entered the Administration building on March 20, 1968, sitting-in in protest over the threatened expulsion of 38 of our classmates who had been accused of disrupting Charter Day.

Four days later we marched back out, having shut down the University and having saved those students from expulsion, successful in having prevailed in all our demands save one: the removal of President James M. Nabrit, which would come to pass two years later when Dr. James Cheek took office.

While we were the first United States university closed down by student activism, Columbia University (which had supported our efforts) followed our protest with one of their own and because of better media coverage is generally assumed to have been first. I am happy to set the record straight.

Among the protest leaders, Michael Harris, the Freshmen class president would later become a lawyer in the Howard University Office of General Counsel. Howard University Student Association (H.U.S.A) president Ewart Brown, M.D. is currently Premier of Bermuda, and Tony Gittens, Ph.D. is executive director of the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities.

For further information, reference the 1968 NET (Public Television) documentary on the protest “Color Us Black.”
Also read Tom Myles’ 1969 book “Centennial Plus 1: A Photographic and Narrative Account of the Black Student Revolution: Howard University 1965-1968.”


karen said...

Dr. F
I enjoyed reading this remembrance. I was one of the 38 and I have a question for you: Do you have a copy of Centennial Plus 1?

Dr. F. said...

Yes I do, thank God, have a copy of Centennial Plus 1. It's been out of print for years.

Former Dean Bill Keene told me that he found a case of them a few years back and gave them out to incoming Freshmen so they would know of Howard's history of resistance. Wish he had kept a few for posterity. Can't even find them on eBay.

Still, its registered with the Library of Congress so they should have a copy.

Pleased to make your cyber-acquaintance. Would love to communicate with you via email, if you feel comfortable posting an email address.

We're in the process of starting an archive of the '68 protests and 'A' bldg. takeover at Howard in the Moorland-Spingarn Reasearch Center at Founders Library.

Mya said...

I really enjoyed this post. I am a sophomore at Howard University now and I watched the documentary that you mentioned in your blog. What you all were fighting for seems to fit my concerns and agitations at the University. I would just like to ask that alumn do not forget us...and do realize that Howard is still in this terrible cycle of selling its soul. Howard is not a black university, but a university with black people in it. We have the power to demand change, but we still need you all to support us.

Best Wishes.

Mya Aaten-White
political science/philosophy
Howard University 2012

FranniM said...

i am working on a documentary that involves the student protest at Howard in the late '60's. I would love to hear from people who were involved.

Thanks for the post.

Anonymous said...

Hey Tom,

I kept two copies of Centennial Plus 1, distributed hundreds to the incoming frosh of 1971 - trying to inspire them. In addition, I gave several copies to the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center for posterity.

Bill 'Damani' Keene

Justin Nickelson Howard University Architecture 2013 said...

Hello Dr. F,

My name is Justin Nickelson and I am a senior Architecture student at Howard University and I am in the midst of researching the history of Howard University student activism with the hopes to create a documentary that will inspire the current student body to speak out on the issues of mis apropriated funds, lack of resources, among other things troubling our campus today. This forum is very helpful and I would love to contact you directly to get your personal accounts and more information on the matter. I would greatly appreciate it if you could contact me at Thanks