On This Day in IUPUI History: September 19, 1970

September 19, 1970 

On this day, the Black Student Union of IUPUI met for the first time. The meeting took place in the Union Building roof lounge, a popular gathering spot on the IUPUI campus. The organization quickly became the most important and vocal student organization at IUPUI.

The Black State Union (BSU) emerged at a time when African-American citizens were vocal in expressing disappointment and frustration at the slow progress being made in reducing racial discrimination and improving opportunities in the United States. Across the country, the decades-long Civil Rights Movement had raised expectations among minority groups determined to attain equality. The 1968 assassination of civil-rights leader, the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., a champion of non-violent social change and an advocate for peace, fair-housing, and living wages for workers, had set off violent demonstrations in many US cities. But, as historian Richard B. Pierce points out in his study of African-American politics in Indianapolis, Polite Protest: The Political Economy of Race in Indianapolis: 1920-1970 (2005), the city's black community avoided violent confrontation with the city's white political leadership. The city remained quiet in the aftermath of King's murder.

Nonetheless, many in the black community were suspicious of IUPUI's growing ambitions. They had witnessed the piecemeal purchase of housing and lots in the the near-west side neighborhood where first the IU Medical Center and later IUPUI campus took root. They had seen houses demolished to build university buildings for a largely white student body which commuted from other areas of the city.

Beyond representing African-American student issues, the BSU soon became a mouthpiece for residents of the neighborhood. In the coming years, members of the BSU led demonstrations on campus and presented demands to campus administrators to correct social injustices. The student organization served as the leading voice for social justice and positive change at IUPUI.

Black Student Union demonstration near University Library, ca. 1970 UA24-005101s

To study the relationship between the BSU and university leaders, please visit the IUPUI Special Collections and Archives speccoll@iupui.edu.

Updated Sep 19, 2018 by Editor Name Missing