From the Archives: Black History at Penn


Protests and holidays were among important moments for the black community on campus


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In February, the United States observes Black History Month in celebration of the world's African diaspora. These are several selected moments in the history of the black community at Penn.

May 15, 1992

Penn students protested the verdict of the Rodney King case outside of then-Penn President Sheldon Hackney's house. Four white officers allegedly beat King, an African American construction worker.

Although the beating was caught on video tape, they were acquitted. Protesters demanded that all faculty and campus police be required to attend diversity training. The decision sparked massive riots in Los Angeles - the biggest riots in the United States since the 1960s.

April 15, 1993

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An estimated 14,000 copies of the Daily Pennsylvanian were stolen from the racks on the morning of April 15. A statement from the "Members of the Black Community" to the Associated Press about the incident "cited the DP as one of the 'many institutions that exploit the black community,'" the DP reported that week. Misrepresentation of the community, poor coverage of events on campus and certain racially-charged columns - including those of Gregory Pavlik - were blamed.

January 15, 2001

Penn observed the federal holiday celebrating the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. for the first time in 2001. Students, faculty and staff celebrated with a candle light vigil and sang during a procession down Locust Walk.

That year, the holiday fell the day before the start of Spring term, but the DP reported that organizers of the MLK day events were impressed with the turnout. The day kicked-off two weeks of events to honor King.

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