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50th Anniversary

Bursar's Office Takeover

May 3, 1968

In 1968, more than 100 Northwestern students peacefully occupied the Bursar’s Office to protest the black student experience. The occupation lasted 38 hours, ending with a negotiated resolution in which the administration responded to a list of eight student demands. Charla Wilson, the Archivist of the Black Experience for Northwestern Libraries tells the story. 

The “May 5th Agreement,” as it is popularly known, had a lasting and major impact on the course of the University. Although work still remains to be done, the consequences of the students’ actions were striking and productive, from increasing black student enrollment and financial aid, to revised housing policies, to the expansion of “studies of black history and black culture,” among others.

Timeline text versione

Explore the history

Learn more by reading about the takeover, viewing archival images and documents and watching the trailer for a documentary created by the Northwestern Black Alumni Association (NUBAA). To find out more about NUBAA 50th anniversary events, visit the NUBAA website.

NUBAA Documentary

NUBAA Documentary

Watch the trailer for a documentary created by NUBAA
View the Trailer

Commemoration and events

To honor this significant event, University faculty, staff, students and alumni are coordinating a series of commemorative events that will take place throughout the 2017-2018 academic year. If you are planning an event in partnership with the commemoration and need funding support, visit the Funding Request page.


Group of Students occupying the Bursar’s Office
Northwestern commemorates 50th anniversary of Bursar’s Office Takeover
Students occupying the Bursar’s Office in May 1968. Photo from University Archives.


Frederick Douglass Now

7:00 PM - 8:00 PM, Wirtz Center for the Performing Arts, 1949 Campus Drive; 10-30 Arts Circle Drive

FREDERICK DOUGLASS NOWBy Roger Guenveur Smith Two hundred years ago Frederick Douglass was born into slavery. Likely the son of his slavemaster, Douglass liberated himself at twenty years old and began a new life using his exceptional skills as an orator, writer, journalist, and politician to fight for the abolition of slavery, women’s suffrage, and an end to racial discrimination. He died arguably the most recognized abolitionist in the world. In this poetic remix, acclaimed artist Roger Guenveur Smith lifts up the legacy of this great man, weaving his story through a modern constellation of American power, politics, and promise. Lead Sponsor: Political ScienceHosted by: Performance Studies and TheatreCosponsored by: African American Studies, Black Arts Initiative, History and the Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion

Beverly Daniel Tatum lecture

4:00 PM - 5:30 PM, James L Allen Center, 2169 Campus Drive

Beverly Daniel Tatum, author of the acclaimed book, Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together In The Cafeteria?: And Other Conversations About Race, will be in conversation with Professor Celeste-Watkins Hayes.

Conference on “Resistance in History: From Transgression to Transformation”

All day, Harris Hall, 1881 Sheridan Road

CCHS conference on “Resistance in History: From Transgression to Transformation” (convened by Breen Fellow Bonnie ERNST)--Friday, APRIL 20. Keynote speaker: Paul Ortiz (History, U of Florida), author of Emancipation Betrayed: The Hidden History of Black Organizing and White Violence in Florida from Reconstruction to the Bloody Election of 1920 (2005) and the forthcoming An African American and Latinx History of the United States (January 2018) A graduate conference under the auspices of the Nicholas D Chabraja Center for Historical Studies at Northwestern University.