A large metal ash tray is hurled out a window of the Straight after the black students inside ejected a dozen white students, primarily members of the Delta Upsilon fraternity, who had entered the building. (Photo Credit: Richard A Shulman / Sun File Photo)
This is the second in a series of four interviews with people involved with the Willard Straight Takeover of 1969, in which black students took over the Straight to demand greater equality for minority students at Cornell. The interviews, along with a newspaper supplement and panel discussion in April, will commemorate the 40th anniversary of the takeover.
When Renee Alexander ’74 first set foot on campus in 1969, she was unaware that she would become part of an unbroken record at Cornell. Alexander’s graduating class had the highest number of black students to date — about 250 people.
“Back then we didn’t realize how significant that was,” said Alexander, who is director of Cornell’s Alumni Minority Programs.
As with many cases in history, it is difficult to pinpoint an exact date when black student leadership at Cornell began to take root. Alpha Phi Alpha, which was established at Cornell in 1906, was the first black fraternity in the nation. In more recent memory, the takeover of Willard Straight Hall in 1969 also goes into Cornell’s history books as a defining moment of the University’s black history.