Emotions ran high as people gathered in Dempsey Hall Feb. 25 for the unveiling and dedication of the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh’s first-ever historical marker, commemorating “Black Thursday.”
The historical marker was placed at the site of the Black Thursday protest, outside the office of former President Roger Guiles and the Counseling Center on the second floor of Dempsey Hall. It includes the names of 94 students who were expelled from the University in 1968 after their list of demands, including more fair treatment by faculty and administrators, new African-American history and literature courses and better housing options, triggered protests.
“Looking back on the University’s 140-year history, it is hard to imagine an event that has had a deeper and more lasting impact than the African-American student protest of November 21, 1968,” said UW Oshkosh Provost Lane Earns. “As a result of what has come to be known as Black Thursday, and other similar protests across the region on behalf of civil rights, University officials here and across the state began to re-examine their policies concerning not only African-American students, but all students of color.
UW Oshkosh faculty, staff, students and alumni; leaders and members of the Black Student Union; and members of the Oshkosh 94 joined to witness the unveiling of the historical marker as well as listen to speakers touch on the significance of the event and what the historical marker means to the University, the community and to them.
Juanita Moore, member of the Oshkosh 94, said that for her and others, the “Black Thursday” historical marker is a symbol of hope and recognition—a piece that is to continue moving the University forward.
“On behalf of the Oshkosh 94, I want you to know that it is a privilege and honor to stand here,” Moore said. “The historical marker is important to all of us and to you. This event recognizes and validates the past and promotes ideas for the future.”
“All of us should never forget the sacrifices that others have made for us—our parents, our ancestors—we should never forget those sacrifices because we are who we are today because of the people who came before us.”
Additional speakers included UWO student and member of the Black Student Union DJ Johnson, Oshkosh 94 member Milton Mitchell, Alan Baylor ’97, Director of African American Studies Norlisha Crawford and Associate History Professor Stephen Kercher.
Kercher said the historical marker represents a key chapter in history, one that has affected the Oshkosh 94 and one that will continue to affect future black students at UW Oshkosh.
“Although many of the Oshkosh 94 acknowledged the loss and lingering private pain as a result of what happened at this spot 42 years ago, they take solace in the fact that their sacrifices were not made in vain,” Kercher said. “Despite the fact that the process of integration has been slow and in truth incomplete, members of the Oshkosh 94 have never given up hope that the legacy of their struggle will not been forgotten.”