Take Back the Mic, 1968

Black Student Union statement, 1968
Black Student Union statement, 1968

At a University convocation held in Memorial Auditorium on April 8, 1968, four days after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., 70 members of the Black Student Union (BSU) took the stage and the microphone from then-Provost Richard Lyman and an all-white male panel, and read off a list of 10 demands for better support for Black students and faculty at Stanford, and the broader community, including East Palo Alto, a predominately Black community near the university.

The Administration agreed to nine out of ten demands, including the founding of the Black Student Volunteer Center (precursor of the Black Community Services Center, affectionately known as "Black House"), with a focus on community service and outreach programs to East Palo Alto; and the founding of the first program in African and Afro-American Studies (later the Program in African and African American Studies) at a private institution in the United States, headed by St. Clair Drake.

More broadly, these events laid the groundwork for the founding of the other Centers for Equity, Community, and Leadership at Stanford: The Gay People’s Union (precursor of the LGBT Community Resources Center, later Queer Student Resources) and Women’s Collective (precursor of the Women’s Community Center) were founded in 1971, the Asian American Resources Center (precursor of the Asian American Activities Center) opened in 1972, the Native American Cultural Center was established in 1974, and El Centro Chicano was founded in 1977. The most recent Stanford community center, the Markaz, opened in 2013.

Dr. Frank Omowale Satterwhite Ph.D. ’77 discusses the Black Student Union's Taking of the Mic in these excerpts from his interview with the Stanford Historical Society's Oral History Program. In 2018, on the 50th anniversary of the Taking of the Mic, Dr. Satterwhite and Dr. Joyce King ’69, Ph.D. ’74, accepted induction into Stanford's Multicultural Hall of Fame on behalf of the entire 1968 Black Student Union.

Explore the history and impact of the Taking of the Mic, Browse the complete exhibit, or learn how you can help Build the archives.

For more information about the Taking of the Mic in the context of other student activism at Stanford, please see the Timeline of Stanford Activism.