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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

The University of Illinois in the Cold War Era 1945-1975: Civil Rights on Campus


Civil Rights on Campus

Students demostrating at a rally opposing racism, ca. 1968.

In the years following the second world war, numerous struggles by minority groups challenged the discriminatory practices of the University of Illinois.  While the primary civil rights battlegrounds for African Americans were located in Southern states, segregation and discrimination was a reality on college campuses, just as it was everywhere else in the United States.  By the 1960s African American students not only began to combat differential treatment in public accommodations and housing, but with Project 500 and Affirmative Action programs they challenged the University of Illinois to create a more inclusive vision for the institution which provided opportunities for minority students and worked to remedy past injustices. 

At Illinois, and around the nation, the self-activity of African Americans inspired other minority groups to wage their own campaigns for recognition and redress.  The feminist movement helped put into law Title IX, which prohibited gender discrimination in higher education. Feminism also energized women at Illinois to create organizations of their own that could combat patriarchy in university institutions.  Also, queer communities on campus organized to pass anti-discrimination ordinances, while Latina/o students established organizations to defend their civil rights and emphasize their political and cultural traditions.