DePaul University has embraced diversity since its founding in 1898. From those early days, students representing different faiths, nationalities and ethnic groups were welcomed. However, prior to 1968 there was never a recognized student group that represented the interests and concerns of African American students.
Through the efforts of James Hammonds, Flemmie Wilson and others, the Black Student Union was formed in order to provide a cohesive voice to demand more inclusiveness in decisions impacting their culture, as well as their education. Their efforts eventually led to the peaceful takeover of the ‘brand new’ Schmidt Academic Center in May 1969.
And since this event, there has been more open and productive dialogue between the Black students and the university administration. In addition, significant changes were implemented in the overall university curriculum to ensure that there was greater and more visible representation of the contributions of African Americans in all courses of study.
While these actions of the students drew local attention and some support of organizational leaders like Fred Hampton (Black Panthers) and ‘Chi-Chi’ Rodriguez (Almighty Saints/Lords), it was the determination of this group of young Black students that paved the way to a truly higher and richer education. DePaul, indeed, was shown the way to wisdom.
The composition featured here represents two main elements. An African mask, and a tree that illustrates the overall growth of the DePaul’s Black Student Union. Starting at its roots, and flowering into the leaves above that represents what the current Black Student Union advocates in service for the DePaul community. The African mask which memorializes individuals who were significant in the May ’69 protest at SAC.
Historical yearbook photos below used on the pillar itself or found in research leading to the creation of the composition in question include:
- Fred Hampton (Black Panther Leader)
- Jim Hammonds (BSU Founder)
- “Closed” BSU sign posted in SAC, May ’69
- Steve Berry reading BSU demands
- Protesters outside of SAC
- J. R. Courtelyou, C.M., Francine Steward and Bob Schwane, C.M., voices of peace in ’69