September, 1968: Chaos on Campus
Currently the University of Illinois is the most diverse school in the Big Ten. How did it become this way? The assassination of Martian Luther King Jr. in April of 1968 prompted the University to increase its efforts to recruit underprivileged minority students, focusing on African Americans. The Special Educational Opportunities Program (SEOP), which came to be known as Project 500, was created to help make higher education at Illinois a possibility for those who did not have the means to attend. During the summer of 1968, through the recruiting efforts of the Black Students Association, the University of Illinois changed from a campus where one could go for days without seeing a minority student to a school with a freshman class where one in ten students was African American. However, the minority students on campus soon found themselves unsure of the University’s commitment to the program. Items in this collection outline their resulting protest on the night of September 9, 1968 that ended up putting the future of the program in jeopardy.