Remembering Race at Brown

Inspired by Brown’s 250th anniversary, the sophomore seminar Race and Remembering collaborated to critically examine race at Brown University. This digital exhibit highlights University legacies of erasure and histories of resistance. This is a call to REMEMBER.

Tag: Protest

The Day of the Black Walkout

The Black men of the Afro-American Society at Brown University and Black women of Pembroke College walk out December 5th, 1968.

The Black men of the Afro-American Society at Brown University and Black women of Pembroke College walk out on December 5th, 1968. [1]

The student-administration efforts had so far not produced the desired results of increased Black enrollment. In addition to the administration lacking in urgency, they misrepresented the demand of having 11% Black students in the incoming class as a racial quota system and undermined student power. This act of resistance became known as the 1968 Black walkout.

The Afro-American Society stated, “We, the [B]lack men at Brown University have therefore decided to dissociate ourselves from the University as of 12:00 noon…”[2]

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[1] From 1968 to Now | Brown 250. December 5, 1968. Imagine 250+, Brown University, Providence. Accessed December 1, 1968.

[2] The Black Men of the Afro-American Society at Brown University. Letter to the editor, Brown Daily Herald, December 5th, 1968.

The Public Sphere

The Evening Bulletin newspaper article titled, “Perplexing,” published December 4th, 1968. [1]

This article justified the Brown administration’s resistance to the demands of its Black students. By highlighting the administration’s attempts to keep communication open, the writer attempted to subvert the reasons for the walkout, and draw negative attention away from the administration. The demands were further characterized as irrational when the writer appraised administration and questioned student demands.

“I’m puzzled by their action…I feel that there has been real progress made this fall, especially among the black students here.”

Brown President Ray L. Heffner, December 4th, 1968. [2]

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[1] “Perplexing.” The Evening Bulletin. December 4, 1968, Ray Lorenzo Heffner files, Box 35, U.A.

[2] Ibid.

The Events of October 29, 2013

On October 29, 2013, Brown University students and Providence community members from groups Direct Action for Rights and Equality (DARE) and Providence Youth Student Movement (PrYSM) protested a controversial lecture on campus. Protestors were outraged by the Taubman Center for Public Policy and American Institutions’ decision to select Raymond “Ray” Kelly, New York City Police Department’s Commissioner, as the speaker for the lecture.[1] Protestors held cardboard signs that read “(RAY)CIST KELLY” and chants such as “Ray Kelly you can’t hide, we charge you with homicide!” were heard. The event was cancelled when protestors in the audience continually silenced Kelly. Despite criticism from President Christina Paxson and Brown community members, Kelly’s silencing was inevitable due to tensions on and off campus.

Although it seems that conflict tensions arose when Kelly was announced as speaker, conflict between the University and student activists actually began after President Paxson’s announcement that Brown would not divest from companies that use coal despite student outcries.[2] This announcement came a day before Director of the Taubman Center, Marrion Orr, informed a protest leader that the lecture would continue as planned regardless of cancellation demands.[3] This decision intensified feelings on campus and provoked students to protest.

Aside from the issues on campus, there were also off-campus issues that provoked students to protest Kelly’s lecture. Promotional materials advertising the lecture did not mention controversial policing strategies such as Stop and Frisk, which is known to perpetuate racial profiling against minorities.[4] Kelly’s lecture was announced two months after a Florida jury acquitted George Zimmerman for the killing of Trayvon Martin, which combined both off-campus racial tension with on-campus frustrations that climaxed when Kelly was silenced by student protesters.

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[1] Committee on the Events of October 29, 2013, Report of the Committee on the Events of October 29, 2013, February 2014, 3.

[2] Christina Paxson, “Coal Divestment Update,” October 27, 2014.

[3] Committee on the Events of October 29, 2013, Report of the Committee on the Events of October 29, 2013, February 2014, 4-5.