In April 1969, Cornell University turned into a battleground for racial equality and justice. This was a true event, by the way.

The black students of Cornell University held an event called the "Afro-American Student Assocation". Part of this group of students had a house off in North Campus. On Thursday night, there was a cross burning in the lawn of the house. Immediately they blamed white supremicists. However, the next week, rumors floated that they staged the whole thing to have a reason for the takeover.

Early Friday, eight black students took over Willard Straight Hall, the student union hall. This weekend happened to be Parents' Weekend. The blacks forcibly removed the parents of other Cornellians who were spending the week there. At this time, they appeared to be unarmed.

They held the hall the entire night. On Saturday, members of the fraternity Delta Upsilon tried to charge the hall through the windows to remove the black students. It failed. They then started waving their weapons out of the windows of the hall. On a personal sidenote, that was probably a stupid thing. See also my node on frats.

After many threats and demands, on Sunday afternoon, the administration finally negotiated a truce. The deal was that they leave their weapons and return to North Campus and in return they would not be prosecuted. The students emerged from the hall, brandishing machine guns and semi-automatic weapons. They proceeded to march across the Arts Quad and back into North Campus. A photograph of the defiant students won the 1970 Pulitzer Prize.

They caused over $20,000 in damages to the hall as well as threatening the lives of all the whites in the college. Their maxim was: "If we die, you are going to die." They got off scot-free. No charges.

That day, Cornell became a battleground for the clashing forces of racial justice, intellectual freedom, and the rule of law. Cornell University, in 1969, was already a stronghold of radical liberalist thought. University President James A. Perkins saw the end of his career due to his willingness to surrender. The faculty, originally against concessions, gave way as the crisis wore on.

Fearing national criticism, Cornell did not call the police. The events on that weekend of April 1969 posed questions that are still asked today by American colleges. Racism, affirmative action, almost any race relation issue, and the dispensing of justice. Should those students have been charged for their actions? I'm not too sure myself. However, I respect the rule of the law.

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