Before 1968


Before 1968


The University of Illinois was founded in 1867. Its initial charter only provided for the education of white students. This language was removed before the actual founding but the legacy of all white education was very strong as the first African Americans would not graduate from Illinois until the turn of the century. Throughout the 20th century African Americans would slowly have a larger presence on campus although they would never exceed 1% of the student population. African American students also faced discrimination and exclusion for many campus activities. These students found other ways to enjoy their college experience and did participate in some prominent campus activities including Greek life and athletics. However, external events, most importantly the Civil Rights movement, would create the tense environment of 1968 in which the University made the decision to launch Project 500 to drastically increase the presence of minority students on campus. The items in this collection help to tell the story of what life was like for African American students in the century before Project 500 and what national factors helped to prompt Project 500 in the 1960's.


Mariano Nava
Ned Rooney
Jake Hamilton

Collection Items

Video: Claude "Buddy" Young Scores a Touchdown Against Pitt (1944)

Racist attitudes were prevalent on campus and in America in the 1940's but sports fans were willing to make exceptions to cheer for exceptional black athletes. This video shows…
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