Reflections on the Morrill takeover
Gbemi Oyetunde builds on the legacy of U of M student leaders from ’69.
Gbemi Oyetunde ’22, College of Liberal Arts, currently serves as president of the Black Student Union at the University of Minnesota. The following are her reflections on the 1969 Morrill Hall takeover, which led to the creation of the University’s Afro-American Studies Department (now African American & African Studies).
I first became aware of the  Morrill Hall takeover as an intern for the Black Student Union (BSU) my first year.
It was the takeover’s 50th anniversary. As the BSU cultural awareness chair, I was helping plan events to celebrate Black History Month. Going through the U of M archives, I saw newspaper clippings and pictures from the takeover, and I began to visualize the way it happened. At first, I understood the impact of the event but didn't know in depth its different aspects. The vision of those student leaders inspires me now. I am in awe of the bravery it took for them to take a stand to create resources that I now benefit from.
Building on the legacy
My understanding of the takeover deepened after I saw the documentary This Free North. It gave me a fuller picture of this event and solidified the importance of it. I wanted to find out every detail about the events leading up to the takeover, what happened during it, and the aftermath of it. I’ve now studied the event by going through the archives and reading the articles available online.
Black students at the University of Minnesota are still facing some of the same challenges that the Afro-American Action Committee wanted the University to work on in 1969. I hope that, as a student leader, I can build on the legacy they started and continue to hold the University accountable.
Being part of the future
What keeps me going is the hope I have for the future of Black students at the University. A future where we no longer have the “first Black” in any higher education position or student leadership position, because Black students feel comfortable taking on these roles without fear of failure or inadequacy. A future where more effort is put into recruiting Black students and giving them adequate resources to be successful in their college journey. A future where history doesn't repeat itself but is reimagined to change the world. When I think of what can be, I’m content in doing the best I can to be part of that change.
Meet the people behind the story
Gbemi Oyetunde ’22
Bachelor of Individualized Studies, College of Liberal Arts
President, Black Student Union