Caption: In this flyer, which is often referred to as “The Five Demands,” student protesters at City College listed the changes they wanted to see in their university, and why.
Student protesters at City College (CCNY) explained why they organized a strike on their campus and what changes they wanted to achieve.
City College was located in the Black and Puerto Rican neighborhood of Harlem - yet very few Black and Puerto Rican students attended. City College’s admissions policies excluded them. And their curriculum also did not represent the histories and concerns of students of color.
To make the changes demanded in this document, student protesters occupied several buildings on the CCNY campus from April 22, 1969 until the end of the semester. They also organized marches and strikes. Some faculty members, including Audre Lorde, moved their classes off campus to support the protest. The police and some students responded to the student activists with violence. Student protest led to a new open admissions policy in the City University of New York system, providing any student who graduated from high school in New York City with admission to a two- or four-year college.1
To see more documents and oral histories from student activism in the City University of New York system, visit the CUNY Digital History Archive.
Iemanjá Brown and Miriam Atkin, “Introduction,” in Audre Lorde, “‘I teach myself in outline’: Notes, Journals, Syllabi, and an Excerpt from Deotha,” Contributors Iemanjá Brown and Miriam Atkin, https://cuny.manifoldapp.org/projects/audre-lorde-i-teach-myself-in-outline-cuny-lf; Martha Biondi, Black Revolution on Campus (Oakland: University of California Press, 2012); Tahir Butt, “You are Running a De Facto Segregated University" in The Strange Careers of the Jim Crow North: Segregation and Struggle outside of the South, ed. Brian Purnell and Jeanne Theoharis with Komozi Woodard (New York: New York University Press, 2019). ↩︎
Watch a close reading of this document
Date: May 1969
Source: CUNY Digital History Archive
Copyright: Public domain. Courtesy of the CUNY Digital History Archive.
How to cite: “We Demand,” in New York City Civil Rights History Project, Accessed: [Month Day, Year], https://nyccivilrightshistory.org/gallery/we-demand.
Questions to Consider
- What kind of education are the student protesters hoping to receive? What passages in the text show you what the students imagined education should be like?
- What passages in the text show criticisms of what education - in elementary, high school, or college - had been like for students? What are the student protesters’ criticisms?
- Who do the student protesters think should make decisions about what happens at City College? Do you agree or disagree with their ideas?
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