The following is a guest post from Stefan M. Bradley, the author of Harlem vs. Columbia University: Black Student Power in the Late 1960s.

“Racist Gym Must Go!”: Remembering the 1968 Columbia University Student Rebellion.

Any story involving Alexander Hamilton, Malcolm X, Frederick Law Olmsted, Harlem, and the Ivy League is worth remembering.  This week, Columbia University in the City of New York commemorates the student and community uprisings that occurred on campus in 1968.  The major issues of the 1960s fueled the rebellion.  Students demanded power and an end to the Vietnam War.  Along with their black neighbors in Morningside Heights and Harlem, students also wanted to fight racism while checking the momentum of urban renewal.  Conflict arose over gender roles and generational divides, as young activists struggled to operationalize their ideals of leadership.

The Columbia crisis was technically a local controversy, but it was no small matter.  Activists took over five buildings, university officials called 1,000 police officers onto campus to evacuate the buildings, students engaged in a six-week strike, and neighborhood residents rallied to check the physical expansion of the university.  Richard Nixon, whose campaign of “law and order” propelled him into the White House, knew what it meant to the nation.  He called the campus disruption “the first major skirmish in a revolutionary struggle to seize the universities of this country and transform them into sanctuaries for radicals and vehicles for revolutionary political and social goals.”  Many students then and now wish Nixon had been right.

That the university is now sponsoring and promoting events concerning the fiftieth anniversary of the demonstrations is remarkable.  For many years afterward, there was no official recognition of the protests that provoked acrimony on the campus among the administration and faculty that lasted for decades.  As time went on, however, the institution has learned to commandeer some of the history as part of its own narrative.  Indeed, history forced Columbia to confront the implications of the 1968 crisis.

Postwar policies provided a build-up for the campus demonstrations that occurred fifty years ago.  No different than the University of Chicago or the University of Pennsylvania, Columbia University took advantage of the Housing Act of 1949 as part of a group called Morningside Heights, Incorporated (MHI).  The university sought to make the neighborhoods surrounding the institutions more comfortable and safe for their patrons, who happened to be almost exclusively white.  Regarding the neighborhoods surrounding the university, one Columbia official remarked “We are looking for a community where the faculty can talk to people like themselves . . . we don’t want a dirty group.”  The faculty was nearly all white.  As part of its Morningside Heights General Renewal Plan, the university, along with the fourteen other institutions, made use of government subsidies and policy to expand.  That directly led to the displacement of 10,000 mostly black and Puerto Rican residents from the neighborhood. 

The Black Freedom Movement expanded as well.  In the postwar era, African continentals fought for independence and against colonialism abroad.  Local black activists like Victor Solomon of Harlem CORE claimed that he battled colonialism domestically.  Black Power took hold of Harlem, as leaders like Malcolm X implored black residents to not allow white imperialists to control their neighborhoods.  His word inspired freedom fighters who struggled in the urban terrain to help the black people that President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society missed.

 On April 23, 1968, students arrived at an on-campus rally that the mostly white Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) had planned.  SDS had been pushing against Columbia’s ties to defense research and the Vietnam conflict.  The university had even punished six members for a previous protest regarding the university’s standing with the Institute for Defenses Analyses IDA.  Another campus organization, the Students’ Afro-American Society (SAS) was there as well.  Its members had conflicted with some athletes (mostly white) who supported the university’s plan to build a new gymnasium in the Frederick Law Olmsted designed Morningside Park, which is the only eastern land mass separating Columbia’s main campus from the historic neighborhood of Harlem. 

Considering it was just weeks after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., the nerves of hundreds of students who came to protest or observe were raw.  To the young activists, who had been in communication with Harlem organizations, the gymnasium became a symbol of institutional racism and rich powerbrokers’ control of working-class and poor black people. As planned, the gymnasium allowed the community to take advantage of only 15 percent of the floor space and to enter through separate doors from Columbia affiliates.  It was reminiscent of the institutional racism of the past, and they cleverly called it “Gym Crow.”  In the congested upper westside, everyone coveted affordable housing and green space.

“To the young activists, who had been in communication with Harlem organizations, the gymnasium became a symbol of institutional racism and rich powerbrokers’ control of working-class and poor black people.”

After a failed attempt to take over a building in the way that students at Berkeley had done during the Free Speech Movement or how students had done at historically black Howard University a month earlier, Columbia students walked to the nearby gym site to impede construction.  At Morningside Park, they physically confronted police and construction workers before returning to campus and eventually taking over Alexander Hamilton Hall.  In the process, the student activists captured a dean and his staff in his office.  He eventually left, thereby releasing them from kidnapping charges. 

The night of April 23, at the invitation of SAS, famed revolutionary H. Rap Brown arrived, boldly announcing:  “Thank you for taking the first steps in the struggle . . . . The Black community is taking over.”  Months earlier, Rap Brown had encouraged Harlem residents to either blow up, burn down, or takeover the gymnasium if Columbia tried to take any more space in the park.  Within hours of his arrival in Hamilton, the white members and followers of SDS were leaving to take over four other buildings in the name of the struggle. 

The building occupations lasted a week, confounding university and municipal officials alike.  Hamilton Hall presented a special problem in light of the uprisings and destruction that occurred in Harlem after King’s violent death.  When SAS faced a media blackout, it invited Stokely Carmichael, the world-renowned leader of SNCC and the Black Panther Party to read aloud their demands to end gym construction.  Carmichael had been charged with inciting a riot in Washington, D.C. weeks prior.  With his announcement of SAS’s demands, the world became aware of the campus struggle.  The black students in Hamilton renamed the building Malcolm X Hall and invited guests from the community, including the Black United Front, Revolutionary Action Movement, the Harlem Mau Maus, and black mothers. 

After finding that neither the liberal NAACP nor alumni like psychologist Kenneth Clark could get the students to leave, officials had to recognize that momentum was working in the favor of student and community activists.  New York City mayor, John Lindsay, and Columbia’s president, Grayson Kirk, did not want to incite more violence in a confrontation with the all-black occupants of the building, so they negotiated to end construction of the gymnasium.  Even though it received assurances that the gym would be suspended, SAS maintained the demonstration to be in solidarity with the mostly white students in the four other buildings, who also demanded amnesty and the cessation of ties to defense research.

To end the week-long occupation, Columbia’s president called the notorious New York Police Department to extract the students.  The mostly working-class white officers brutalized students who sometimes resisted as they exited.  Incidentally, professors and onlookers were not immune from the violence; more than 700 people were arrested.  Notably, black students exiting Hamilton did not experience violence during the arrests.  Without hyperbole, the whole world watched as Columbia became ground zero for the problems of postwar America.  The police actions on April 30 radicalized enough students to spark a six-week strike and another student-community demonstration in Hamilton that ended again in violence.  The university had lost control; it had to change course.

“As Columbia University graduate students implore the university to recognize their union, the students should recall that fifty years earlier young people believed they could stop a war and prevent a prestigious white American institution from expanding into black spaces at the same time, and they did.”

Elements of the 1968 Columbia rebellion are inspiring and instructional for today’s students, activists, and community residents.  As some in Harlem continue to fight Columbia’s expansion into Manhattanville, they should study the unity of neighborhood groups like the West Harlem Community Organization and Morningsiders United that represented the varied interests of residents.  As Columbia University graduate students implore the university to recognize their union, the students should recall that fifty years earlier young people believed they could stop a war and prevent a prestigious white American institution from expanding into black spaces at the same time, and they did. 

Without question, the coalition that formed around the singular issue of the gymnasium was the most instructional element of the uprisings of a half century ago.  Columbia’s agreement to end its participation with the IDA and to terminate construction of the gymnasium was atypical of history.  Predominantly white institutions historically have their way in poor black and brown spaces.  Not, however, in this case.  Black and white students, politicians, community activists, park preservationists, and working-class people came together on one issue, and they claimed victory.  In the midst of today’s tumult, perhaps it is again time to call for “two, three, many Columbia’s.”

-Stefan M. Bradley, Saint Louis University



Call for Papers for the 2018 NWSA/UIP First Book Prize

The University of Illinois Press and the National Women’s Studies Association (NWSA) are pleased to continue the annual competition for the best dissertation or first book manuscript by a single author in the field of women’s and gender studies. Applicants must be National Women’s Studies Association members. The Press and NWSA seek nonfiction manuscripts that exemplify cutting-edge intersectional feminist scholarship, whether the area of focus is historical or contemporary. The competition is open to scholars from all disciplinary backgrounds, but the sponsoring organizations especially encourage work that speaks effectively across disciplines, and projects that offer new perspectives on concerns central to the field of women’s and gender studies.

Possible topics may include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Activism
  • Colonialitypostcoloniality and neo-imperialism
  • Cultural production (media, film, music, literature)
  • Feminist knowledge production
  • Feminist pedagogy
  • Feminist politics
  • Feminist science and environmental studies
  • Feminist theory
  • Gender and disability
  • Gender and globalization
  • Gender and labor practices
  • Gender and militarism
  • Gender and queer sexuality
  • Gender and violence
  • Gendered experiences of people of color
  • Girls studies
  • Global and transnational feminisms
  • Institutions and public policies
  • Intersectionality
  • Theories and practices of coalition
  • Transgender studies
  • Women of color feminisms

If a winner of the competition is selected, he or she will receive a publication contract with the University of Illinois Press and a $1,000 advance. Runners up may also be considered for publication with the University of Illinois Press. Submitted dissertations must have been completed and defended within the three years prior to submission. All submissions must be must be electronically submitted and timestamped by 11:59pm (central time) on June 1.

For submission instructions and to learn more about the NWSA/UIP First Book Prize, click here.

Please direct all questions and submissions to:

Dawn Durante
Senior Acquisitions Editor
University of Illinois Press

Past Book Prize Winners:

2017 Winner: Nicosia M. ShakesGender, Race and Performance Space: Women’s Activism in Jamaican and South African Theatre

2017 Honorable Mention: Elizabeth VerklanObjects of Desire: Feminist Inquiry, Transnational Feminism, and Global Fashion

2016 Winner: Michele EggersEmbodying Inequality: The Criminalization of Women for Abortion in Chile

2015 Winner: Erin L. Durban-AlbrechtPostcolonial Homophobia: United States Imperialism in Haiti and the Transnational Circulation of Antigay Sexual Politics

2014 Winner: Ethel TungohanMigrant Care Worker Activism in Canada: From the Politics of Everyday Resistance to the Politics from Below

2013 Winner: Christina Holmes, Ecological Borderlands: Body, Nature, and Spirit in Chicana Feminism







2012 Winner: Sophia Richter-Devroe, Women’s Political Activism in Palestine: Peacebuilding, Resistance, and Survival







2011 Winner: Erica Lorraine Williams, Sex Tourism in Bahia: Ambiguous Entanglements








We are pleased to announce that Beyond Respectability: The Intellectual Thought of Race Women by Brittney C. Cooper has won the Organization of American Historians Merle Curti Intellectual History Award. The award was announced at the OAH’s annual meeting in Sacramento, April 12-14. The award committee said:

“Brittney C. Cooper’s, Beyond Respectability: The Intellectual Thought of Race Women (University of Illinois, 2017) is a theoretically-sophisticated intervention in United States intellectual history in the post-emancipation era. Through close readings of the work of Anna Julia Cooper, Fannie Barrier Williams, Mary Church Terrell, Pauli Murray, and Toni Cade Bambara, Beyond Respectability challenges readers to examine their assumptions about who counts as a “thinker” or a “public intellectual.” Though Cooper’s subjects are well known as activists and doers, Cooper’s careful probing constructs an “intellectual genealogy” that uses their thought to challenge the Great Race Man paradigm, as well as the rubrics of “respectability” and “dissemblance” so prevalent in African-American and African-American women’s history. Cooper argues instead that black women intellectuals have deployed an “embodied discourse” to argue for their inclusion. Cooper’s work thus not only disrupts theoretical models in African-American women’s histories, but also a masculinist model of intellectual history that privileges disembodied discourse. The committee was particularly impressed by her insistence on using the ideas of black women themselves as tools of analysis – using an Anna Julia Cooperian mode of analysis; outlining the National Association of Colored Women as a “school of thought”; articulating “listing” as a mode of intellectual genealogy. Rather than importing theory in order to interpret ideas, Cooper constructs her theories of black women’s intellectual production using modes of analysis informed by the work of her subjects themselves. The result is a bold work that is sure to change the conversation across many fields within our discipline.”

Congratulations Brittney!

EveSolbergS18n the discerning reader may not associate an academic press with sports. But what occurs in a sports venue—whether stadium or gym, track or sandlot—contests far more than results on a scoreboard. Race. Gender. Money. Politics. Power. Triumph. Tragedy. Each plays a part no matter what the game and no matter when it happened. The University of Illinois Press’s award-winning list of books explores these matters to offer a deep, thoughtful perspective on all things sports.

Winton U. Solberg’s Creating the Big Ten revisits the first fifty years of the storied college sports gigaconference to show how a loose alliance of schools became today’s billion-dollar behemoth—and taught the rest of the NCAA how to do the same.

In Walter CamTamteS18p and the Creation of American Football, Roger R. Tamte focuses on the figure most responsible for transforming the incomprehensible scrum of rugby into America’s Real Game.

Jesse Berrett’s Pigskin Nation deciphers how our politics adopted the language and tools of the National Football League to present candidates, ideas, and myths in irresistibly potent ways. Finally, the Journal of Sport History brings it with articles that range from Josephine Rathbone’s introduction of yoga to America’s physical education classes to the lost story of Earle E. Liederman, the mail-order strongman who mentored Charles Atlas.





And just to be clear: we can handle the fun stuff, too. Mike Pearson’s Illini Legends, Lists, and Lore puts 130-plus years of University of Illinois sports facts at your fingertips while Steven Gietschier and a roster of experts provide the greatest Replays, Rivalries, and Rumbles.  And this Fall, we’ll be publishing a global history of hockey!

This post is from our new newsletter. Read more in The Callout and sign up to stay up-to-date on UIP news.

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Are you headed to the 2018 Organization of American Historians conference in Sacramento? We are! Stop by our booth during the OAH Opening Reception Thursday, April 12, 6:00 p.m.–8:00 p.m. to meet our authors and editors, and sign up for our iPad giveaway!

Here are 6 books to look out for at #OAH18




Before Rosa Parks and the March on Washington, four African American women risked their careers and freedom to defy the United States Army over segregation. Women Army Corps (WAC) privates Mary Green, Anna Morrison, Johnnie Murphy, and Alice Young enlisted to serve their country, improve their lives, and claim the privileges of citizenship long denied them. Promised a chance at training and skilled positions, they saw white WACs assigned to those better jobs and found themselves relegated to work as orderlies. In 1945, their strike alongside fifty other WACs captured the nation’s attention and ignited passionate debates on racism, women in the military, and patriotism. Sandra M. Bolzenius presents the powerful story of their persistence and the public uproar that ensued.



9780252082825A permanent political class has emerged on a scale unprecedented in our nation’s history. Its self-dealing, nepotism, and corruption contribute to rising inequality. Its reach extends from the governing elite throughout nongovernmental institutions. Aside from constituting an oligarchy of prestige and power, it enables the creation of an aristocracy of massive inherited wealth that is accumulating immense political power. In a muckraking tour de force reminiscent of Lincoln Steffens, Upton Sinclair, and C. Wright Mills, Ron Formisano demonstrates the way the corrupt culture of the permanent political class extends down to the state and local level.



Graham A9780252041365. Peck meticulously traces the conflict over slavery in Illinois from the Northwest Ordinance in 1787 to Lincoln’s defeat of his archrival Stephen A. Douglas in the 1860 election. Douglas’s attempt in 1854 to persuade Northerners that slavery and freedom had equal national standing stirred a political earthquake that brought Lincoln to the White House. Yet Lincoln’s framing of the antislavery movement as a conservative return to the country’s founding principles masked what was in fact a radical and unprecedented antislavery nationalism. It justified slavery’s destruction but triggered the Civil War.



Louis MooMooreF17re draws on the life stories of African American fighters active from 1880 to 1915 to explore working-class black manhood. As he details, boxers bought into American ideas about masculinity and free enterprise to prove their equality while using their bodies to become self-made men. The African American middle class, meanwhile, grappled with an expression of public black maleness they saw related to disreputable leisure rather than respectable labor. Moore shows how each fighter conformed to middle-class ideas of masculinity based on his own judgment of what culture would accept. 



Sarah M. GGriffithS18riffith draws on the experiences of liberal Protestants, and the Young Men’s Christian Association in particular, to reveal the intellectual, social, and political forces that powered this movement. Engaging a wealth of unexplored primary and secondary sources, Griffith explores how YMCA leaders and their partners in the academy and distinct Asian American communities labored to mitigate racism. The alliance’s early work, based in mainstream ideas of assimilation and integration, ran aground on the Japanese exclusion law of 1924. 




Beyond RespectCooperS17ability charts the development of African American women as public intellectuals and the evolution of their thought from the end of the 1800s through the Black Power era of the 1970s.  Brittney C. Cooper delves into the processes that transformed these women and others into racial leadership figures, including long-overdue discussions of their theoretical output and personal experiences. As Cooper shows, their body of work critically reshaped our understandings of race and gender discourse. Cooper’s work, meanwhile, confronts entrenched ideas of how–and who–produced racial knowledge.



Joseph Vogel is an assistant professor of English at Merrimack College. He is the author of Man in the Music: The Creative Life and Work of Michael Jackson. He recently answered some questions about his new book, James Baldwin and the 1980s: Witnessing the Reagan Era.


Q: Over the course of his career James Baldwin became increasingly attuned to popular culture. How was this engagement reflected in his writing?

He just became much more interested and invested in pop culture in his work – to the point, for example, that he dedicated an entire book, The Devil Finds Work, to grappling with movies. We see constant references to popular artists, from Ray Charles to Stevie Wonder to Michael Jackson. Particularly as black culture became increasingly mainstream – and as his own celebrity grew –he was deeply concerned with how representation functioned – and what these representations and narratives revealed about us as a nation.

Q: What was the significance of Baldwin’s multimedia project, Nothing Personal?

Well, for me, it seems to represent a turning point where you see Baldwin experimenting with different forms. It wasn’t a traditional literary form – like a novel or collection of stories or essays. It was multi-media: evocative photos by legendary photographer Richard Avedon and a four-part essay that, to me, represents some of Baldwin’s most thoughtful work. So, it represents a different experience for the reader with both the text and the visuals, and how they interact with each other.

Q:  What impact did cinema have on Baldwin’s life and writing?

Baldwin loved movies. He was absolutely mesmerized by the magic of the screen. But he was also among the most searing critics of Hollywood. I think because he realized how powerful it was as a medium, he couldn’t help but be disappointed about what so many of its stories and representations suggested about race and gender and America’s many blind spots and delusions.

Q:  In what ways did Baldwin see the 1980s as a crossroads for people of color?

I think he sensed a certain splintering: where, on the one hand, you had unprecedented breakthroughs and triumphs, but on the other hand, there was a large portion of black America that was worse off than it was in the 60s. When he wrote about Atlanta in the early 80s, that was his focus: the darker version of Reagan’s America, where many inner-cities were dealing with unprecedented poverty, violence, and despair.

Q: How does Baldwin’s work in the 1980s resonate with our current cultural and political situation?

He speaks to our times in so many ways, which is why he’s emerged as such a powerful influence and inspiration for this generation, including the Black Lives Matter movement. We also shouldn’t forget that Donald Trump first rose to fame in the 80s, and embodies so much of what Baldwin was critiquing in that decade – its excesses and greed, its demonization of the other, its manipulation of white insecurity, its obsession with spectacle. And, of course, the backlash to progress – the attempted return to some previous golden era, which is implicit in Trump’s slogan, “Make America Great Again” (which was stolen, incidentally, from Reagan). Reading Baldwin in the 80s, in many ways, is like reading a prophecy about our times.


kincaidIt’s a great day for science fiction at the University of Illinois Press. We’re pleased to announce that Iain M. Banks by Paul Kincaid has been nominated for the 2018 Hugo Awards in the Best-Related Work category!

The Hugo Awards are one of speculative fiction’s most prestigious prizes. Named for Amazing Stories editor Hugo Gernsback and first handed out in 1953, they recognize the best works in science fiction and fantasy literature each year. The awards are overseen by the World Science Fiction Society and are selected by members of the World Science Fiction Convention (known as Worldcon). 

This year’s awards will be presented at WorldCon 76, which will be held in San Jose, California between August 16th and 20th.

And in more good news, Iain M. Banks  has also been awarded the British Science Fiction Association award for Best Non-Fiction!

Congratulations Paul Kincaid!


Are you headed to the 2018 Association for Asian American Studies conference in San Francisco? We are! Here is a preview of new books in The Asian American Experience series to look out for at AAAS.

Here are 5 books to look out for at #AAAS2018

Becoming Refugee American: The Politics of Rescue in Little Saigon


In this original book, Phuong Tran Nguyen examines the phenomenon of refugee nationalism among Vietnamese Americans in Southern California. His analysis moves beyond the familiar rescue narrative to chart the intimate yet contentious relationship these Vietnamese Americans have with their adopted homeland.






The Work of Mothering: Globalization and the Filipino Diaspora

SuarezF17Harrod J. Suarez details the ways literature and cinema play critical roles in encountering, addressing, and problematizing what we think we know about overseas Filipina workers. The result is a series of readings that develop new ways of thinking through diasporic maternal labor that engages with the sociological imaginary.






Discriminating Sex: White Leisure and the Making of the American “Oriental”


Amy Sueyoshi draws on everything from newspapers to felony case files to oral histories in order to examine how whites’ pursuit of gender and sexual fulfillment gave rise to racial caricatures. She bridges feminist, queer, and ethnic studies to show how the white quest to forge new frontiers in gender and sexual freedom reinforced—and spawned—racial inequality through the ever evolving Oriental.





Muncie, India(na): Middletown and Asian America

gupta-carlson S18A daughter in one of Muncie’s first Indian American families, Himanee Gupta-Carlson puts forth an essential question: what do nonwhites, non-Christians, and/or non-natives mean when they call themselves American? Her stories of members of Muncie’s South Asian communities unearth the silences imposed by past studies while challenging the body of scholarship in fundamental ways.






The Labor of Care: Filipina Migrants and Transnational Families in the Digital Age

FranciscoMenchavezS18Drawing on interviews and up-close collaboration with a group of working migrant mothers, Valerie Francisco-Menchavez looks at the sacrifices, emotional and material consequences, and recasting of roles that emerge from family separation. What emerges is a fascinating portrait of today’s transnational family—sundered, yet inexorably linked over the distances by timeless emotions and new forms of intimacy.





In celebration ofUIP 100 our 100th anniversary, the University of Illinois Press, in collaboration the University of Illinois Archives Sesquicentennial Speakers Series, presented a panel titled, “UIUC Scholarship and the University of Illinois Press: A Century of Partnerships on Campus. Featured speakers include Julie Laut, PhD, University of Illinois Press; Charles D. Wright, Professor of English and Medieval Studies, Former Editor of JEGP; Antony Augoustakis, Professor and Head of Classics, Former Editor of Illinois Classical Studies; and Laura Hetrick, Assistant Professor of Art Education, Co-Editor of Visual Arts Research. 


Logo-circleonly-blackThe University of Illinois Press is pleased to announce the new series Introductions to Mormon Thought. Dawn Durante, a senior acquisitions editor at the University of Illinois Press, will be the acquiring editor and Matthew Bowman and Joseph M. Spencer will serve as series editors. 

This series offers short reassessments (40,000–45,000 words) of leading figures in the development of Latter-day Saint thought and culture, synthesizing and systematizing their contributions and influence. It is a project that grows out of the blossoming of Mormon academic studies in the late twentieth and early twenty-first century that attempts to draw together work done on Mormonism as well as to forge new scholarly directions. Therefore, series editors are interested not only in work on recognized figures, but also in projects that press at the boundaries of who has traditionally been considered a Mormon intellectual and what has traditionally been considered “Mormon thought,” including ex- and schismatic Mormons, Mormons in underrepresented groups, and others not often included in the magisterial tradition of Mormon theology. The series thus offers an expansive definition of what might be considered “Mormon thought” and seeks to demonstrate how that form of Mormonism has interacted both with the world and itself.


All submission inquiries should be directed to:

Dawn Durante

Senior Acquisitions Editor

University of Illinois Press


Matthew Bowman

Department of History

Henderson State University

Arkadelphia, AR 71999


Joseph M. Spencer

Department of Ancient Scripture

Brigham Young University

Provo, UT 84602