Black Liberation 1969 Archive

1969 Sit-In

In the fall of 1968, black students were concerned by their dwindling enrollment numbers. After they approached the administration with their concerns, Admissions Dean Hargadon published a report on black students at Swarthmore, which he placed on general reserve in the library and encouraged students to read. The report did not address black students’ concerns; on the contrary, it violated the privacy of black students and treated them as an object of study rather than as full members of the College community. SASS responded by demanding that the report be removed from the reserves and issued a series of demands to be met in order to win SASS’s continued collaboration with the Admissions Commission and to encourage the increase of black enrollment.

At the end of a semester of administrative unresponsiveness, SASS provided a deadline for the administration to address their concerns. When President Smith failed to respond within the deadline period, SASS entered the Admissions Office on January 9, 1969. They remained there for eight days, during which time most activities of the College came to a halt. The faculty met almost continuously to reach resolutions regarding black admissions; classes were cancelled; and students held meetings and drafted statements regarding the sit-in and black admissions.

SASS ended the sit-in on January 16 due to the unfortunate death of President Courtney Smith from a preexisting medical condition, but they continued pressuring the administration for their demands with some success. Black enrollment increased dramatically for the following school year, Dean Hargadon left, and the College hired a Black Admissions Dean.