Thirteen Demands

During the 1960s, numerous events occurred that sparked activism on Northeastern’s campus, but it was the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. that gave the university’s African American students a sense of urgency. Although they were already negotiating with university officials to create more efficient support services for African American students, increase African American enrollment, and hire more African American faculty, students felt that more needed to be done. On May 3, 1968, five students (Ms. Williams and Messrs. Hazelwood, Farrar, Evans, and Peace) presented President Asa S. Knowles with a list of 13 demands that had been ratified by more than 200 of the university’s 345 African American students.

Northeastern’s African American student body sought equal status to their white classmates by demanding an increase in African American student enrollment and financial aid, insisting that more culturally related activities and academic courses be instituted and by demanding that a committee be formed of representatives of the faculty, administration and African American students to report on the university’s implementation of the other demands. The students wanted change and were prepared to battle university officials for it.

Thirteen Demands
Knowles's Response to the Thirteen Demands
"Blacks Make Steady Gains"


They did not have to wait long for a response. Four days later, on May 7, President Knowles agreed to all 13 of the demands. In a memorandum addressed to Northeastern’s deans, directors, department heads and faculty, Knowles stated that the, “demands were reasonable and, in fact, some will contribute to the improvement of our curricula in the light of these times in which we live.”

The acceptance of these 13 demands encouraged further activism on campus, helping to establish the Afro-American Institute (now called the African-American Institute), the Department of African-American Studies, and additional scholarships for African American students.