|Black student Geoff McCreary relates his experience as a member of the 1968 WSU-O football team. - 1MB mp3|
|Sandra McCreary discusses her struggles at WSU-O. - 688k mp3|
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One of only two black students on the WSU-O football team, Geoff McCreary faced much resistance from his teammates and coaches. He quit the team out of frustration several weeks prior to Black Thursday.
Photo by The Quiver.
Sandra McCreary speaks out at a campus meeting.
Siblings Geoff and Sandra learned about the challenges of growing up black in the United States at a very young age. Like the great majority of black students who attended WSU-O in 1968, their parents had moved to Milwaukee from the Deep South after World War II and settled into a neighborhood inhabited by ethnic (typically Eastern European Catholic) whites. The McCreary’s white neighbors did not hesitate to make their displeasure with the McCreary family’s arrival known; one of the first things Sandra recalls speaking as a young girl was in response to being called a “nigger.” In their father, a veteran of WWII, they saw an “intellectual giant” with an inquisitive mind but a man who had been beaten down by a lifetime of defeat. In her mother, Sandra found a model of assertiveness and pride, a woman who participated in the Milwaukee civil rights movement and dressed her children in tee shirts bearing the slogan “We want freedom.” When their parents divorced, Geoff and Sandra were separated and, for a time, homeless.
After graduating from Lincoln High School, Geoff found employment at the Milwaukee manufacturing giant A.O. Smith but was drafted into the army soon thereafter. While her brother was serving in the 1st Air Cavalry in Vietnam, Sandra graduated from Riverside High School. Since she received no guidance on how to obtain a college education, she was fortunate to pass by the Third Street storefront of the Milwaukee Equal Opportunity Center and learn of the educational opportunities available at WSU-O. Soon after enrolling at WSU-O in the Fall 1967 semester, Sandra began to realize her potential as a student, thriving in literature courses, writing for the student newspaper and engaging in campus activities. When Geoff returned from Vietnam and decided that he could not face the prospect of working on the A.O. Smith line for the rest of his life, he joined Sandra at WSU-O. His eloquence and intelligence won him the admiration of white students and professors and landed him (reluctantly) into the position of Black Student Union spokesman only months after he first stepped foot on campus.