On April 19, 1969, dozens of members of Cornell’s Afro-American Society and several Latino students occupied Willard Straight Hall for 36 hours to call attention to what they perceived as the university’s hostility toward students of color, its student judicial system and its slow progress in establishing an Africana studies program.
Fifty years later, the university community will examine the event’s significance in the university’s history and its part in the broader civil rights movement.
A series of events are being coordinated by a steering committee consisting of faculty, staff, students and alumni. For a full list of events and details, visit the 50th Anniversary of the Willard Straight Hall Occupation site.
The featured events, which are free and open to the public, are:
- A film screening of “Agents of Change,” by filmmakers Frank Dawson ’72 and Abby Ginzberg ’71, April 16 at 7 p.m. at Cinemapolis in Ithaca. The film delves into the student strike at San Francisco State College in 1968 and the Willard Straight Hall occupation at Cornell in 1969. Dawson and Ginzberg will be in attendance for a Q&A following the screening.
- A keynote event, “Social Justice: A Conversation With Harry Edwards,” April 18 at 8 p.m. in Bailey Hall, will feature Dawson, who participated in the occupation as a first-year student, in conversation with Edwards, Ph.D. ’73, who at the time was a sociology Ph.D. student who supported the occupation and played a prominent role in the Barton Hall teach-in that followed.
- Students and alumni will lead a commemorative walk and reception, “A Cultural Remembrance of the 1969 Occupation of Willard Straight Hall,” April 19 at 5 p.m. at the Africana Studies and Research Center. The narrated walk will stop at the nearby Wari House and the former site of the Africana Center before proceeding to Willard Straight Hall. At the Straight, music and dance pieces will be performed, photographs will be on display, and participants will be invited to share their reflections on a community banner. Alumni who participated in the 1969 events will share stories at a “fireside chat” in the International Room; refreshments will be served.