A crowd of about 30 students, university faculty and Black Affairs ambassadors stood shoulder to shoulder and lined the walls of the Institute of Black Culture on Friday.
This day marks the 45-year anniversary of “Black Thursday.”
In April 1971, a group of black students presented a list of demands to the University of Florida administration, asking for a support system for black students on campus. Once these students were denied their demands, they organized a protest on the steps of Tigert Hall, outside of the university president’s office.
Sixty-seven students were arrested on that day and were later denied amnesty for their actions.
Over the next few days, more than 100 black students and supporters decided to withdraw from the university. It was after the actions of the student body that the administration created the Institute of Black Culture (IBC).
“Would you be willing to withdraw if it came down to it?” university professor Vincent Adejumo fervently asked the crowd.
Adejumo teaches African American studies at UF, which he said is the university’s fastest growing major. During his speech he encouraged the crowd to be selfless as they advocate for more campus inclusion.
Susan Ajayi, a UF Multicultural and Diversity Affairs ambassador, also addressed the crowd. She emphasized the importance the IBC has had for the student body all these years.
“It’s a place to study, a place to microwave your food, feel included and relax,” she said. “It was established as a home away from home.”
Latosha Jackson, a UF student and ambassador for Black Affairs, expressed gratitude for the students who protested on Black Thursday.
“If it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t even be here right now. If it wasn’t for them being selfless and just putting their all into it, making sure that they have their demands met, there wouldn’t be a black UF — period,” she said.
In his speech Adejumo also emphasized the needs that the community and the university still have even after 45 years.
In 1971, 2 percent of the university’s student body was black, but today, just 6 percent of the student’s are black, according to Adejumo. The crowd clapped and nodded their heads in agreement as he called for the university to aggressively recruit a more diverse faculty and student body.
“Little things like that make the students feel welcome,” he said. “UF is a great place, but when you feel good, you learn better.”