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Springfield College Records: Civil Rights Oral History Collection (RG 182)

Two people are standing on the left side at a window inside a Springfield College building. A sign in the window on the right reads, "We're yours forever! You'll have to pay to have us hauled away!"

Springfield College Civil Rights Oral History Collection

Amid a national movement of Black student activism and after a series of racist incidents on and off campus in 1968-69, a group of Black Springfield College students sent a memorandum to College President Wilbur E. Locklin in February 1969. In that memorandum, they stated that they felt displeased with the prejudices suffered by the Black community at the school. They go on to list nine demands of the college, such as the enrollment of 200 Black students into the incoming freshman class of ‘73, the addition of a Black staff member to the admissions office, and the hiring of a Black coach for one of the athletic teams. After several months in which Black student leaders grew dissatisfied with the lack of progress on the list of 9 demands, more than two dozen Black students protested the administration’s conduct by taking control of the Administration building on May 16, 1969. Dr. Jesse Parks eventually helped to escort the students from the building. All students involved in the May 1969 Administration Building takeover were placed on probation and required to perform 300 hours of community service, a punishment that drew criticism in the fall of 1969. Amid ongoing Black student activism and a perceived lack of sufficient action on the part of the college administration, a group of 49 students took control of the Massasoit Hall dormitory. The protesting students would remain there for two days, until the college obtained a Superior Court civil injunction and the Sheriff’s Department led all the occupiers out of the building and onto a motor coach bus to bring them directly to court. While none of the students was prosecuted criminally, the college suspended for one semester those students who had been involved in the Administration Building takeover in May 1969 and placed on strict probation the remaining student activists involved in the Massasoit Hall takeover. Many of the Black student activists who were disciplined as a result of their involvement in the Massasoit Hall takeover chose not to return to the college. Nearly two years after the first incident, student protestors again seized the Administration Building on April 6, 1970, this time by white students in protest of the perceived “double jeopardy” placed on the Black students in that they were punished by both the Superior Court and the College. The students were arrested by police, charged with trespassing, and later expelled from the school. The students sued the college in Probate Court because the college judicial system offered no due process to students. The court agreed and prevented the college from proceeding against any of the occupiers until a new judicial system was in place and approved by the court. During the Collegium that took place over the summer of 1970, college officials determined that the students that were removed from campus should be invited back by the President, and, if they chose to return, participate in a series of workshops with a group of College representatives to improve Black-white relationships on campus. President Locklin declined the collegium’s recommendation to readmit the suspended students. Throughout these two years and for a period after, the Locklin administration worked to meet some of the original 9 demands while deeming others to be impractical.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

Materials in the Springfield College Civil (SC) Rights Oral History Collection contain audio files, video files, written transcriptions, biographical documents, signed release forms, and materials used in preparation for the oral histories. The materials are divided into three different series: Series 01: Making History Public Class (Hist. 201), 2019; Series 02: Oral Histories, 2021-2022; and Series 03: Council for Independent Colleges (CIC): Making History Public Grant Oral Histories, 2021. Found within these series are audio recordings done over the phone & in person, video recordings done using Zoom, class directions & materials guiding students on how to conduct interviews, signed release forms guiding use and access, interview questions, biographies of interviewees, and the oral history transcripts. All the oral histories in this collection are of individuals who were on campus leading up to or during the SC Black student protests that took place from 1969-70 except for the interview of the Springfield College clubs conducted in 2021. Participants were interviewed about their involvement and their thoughts/views of those involved in the Black student action on campus.

Series I: the Hist. 201: Making History Public Class contains materials from oral histories conducted by Springfield College students taking the Hist. 201: Making History Public class in the fall of 2019. The materials in Series 2: Oral Histories, 2020 to 2021 contains materials collected and created for oral histories conducted by Professor Ian Delahanty and student researchers, including Kris Rhim, Aniley Morales and Kevaughn Hill. All the alum who were interviewed were Black students that took part in the protests in 1969-1970 and were a part of the Legacy Alumni of Color group. And Series 3: CIC Grant Oral Histories, 2021 contains materials created for the CIC Grant during the fall of 2021 conducted by Sabrina Williams, an intern involved in the grant. Three interviews were conducted. Video and audio files, transcripts, signed releases, and materials used in preparation of the interviews are contained. Interviews include an interview with leaders of the Springfield College BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of color) clubs: Student Society for Bridging Diversity (SSBD), Men of Excellence (MOE), Women of Power (WOP), Black Student Union (BSU), and Latinx Student Organization (LSO); and with two Legacy Alumni of Color.