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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

The University of Illinois in the Cold War Era 1945-1975: Project 500

Project 500

DRUMS, the newsletter of the Black Students Association, questions reports of a "riot" in the Illini Union, 1968.

Project 500 was the first extensive effort by the University of Illinois to offer equal educational opportunities for all of the residents of Illinois.  Spurred by the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968, students and community residents urged the university to enroll students traditionally underrepresented on campus.  In 1967, only 372 of 30,400 students were black.  In 1968, 565 newly admitted African American and Latino students entered the student body.  The details of the project were poorly carried out, and miscommunication between students and the university bureaucracy led to a protest at the Illini Union on September 10, 1968 which resulted in the arrest of 240 black students.

University of Illinois Sources:

Equal Opportunity & Affirmative Action Office Issuances, 1968-1997 (RS 24/9/803)

Graduate Student Association Subject Files, 1967-71 (RS 41/62/15): Box 4 includes many files on race relations at the U of I

Photographic Subject File, 1868- (RS: 39/2/20): Includes photographs of student protests and demonstrations.

The Board of Trustees Reports, 1867- (RS 1/1/802): The reports from 1968-70 deal with many African American issues including Project 500.

Educational Opportunities Program Files, 1966-82 (RS 41/2/14)

Special Educational Opportunities Files, 1968-70 (RS 25/2/17)

David Eisenman Papers, 1965-74 (RS 41/2/25)

Campus Security Office Campus Unrest File, 1968-1972 (RS: 37/4/9)

Black Student Association Publications, 1967- (RS: 41/66/826): Includes newsletters and yearbooks published by the Black Student Association.

Newsweek, “A Look Back at Anger,” April 23, 1984, Afro-American Studies and Research Program Subject File, 1948-2003 (RS: 15/42/5): Box 5.  A look back at the student rebellion at Cornell.

Daily Illini, 1874- (Microform in Newspaper Library)


ARC Reference File – “Affirmative Action – Project 500”: Includes 2003 articles from the Chicago Tribune


Faite R-P Mack, “Educational Opportunity Program Graduates Compared to Educational Opportunity Program Non-Graduates,” Journal of Negro Education 43: 1 (1974): 39-46.

Jeffries Merrick, “Project ‘500’: An Excellent Plan Poorly Executed." FOCUS/Midwest 45 (1969): 8-13.

Joy Ann Williamson, Black Power on Campus: The University of Illinois, 1965-1975. (Champaign: 2003).

Joy Ann Williamson, “In Defense of Themselves: The Black Student Struggle for Success and Recognition at Predominantly White Colleges and Universities,”  The Journal of Negro Education 68 (Winter, 1999), pp. 92-105.

Joy Ann Williamson, “Who is ‘Black’ at the University of Illinois, 1965-1975,” Journal of the Midwest History of Education Society 24 (1997): 52-56.

Joy Ann Williamson, “Affirmative Action at University of Illinois: The 1968 Special Educational Opportunities Program,” Journal of the Midwest History of Education Society 25 (1998): 49-54.

Joy Ann Williamson, “An Oral History of Black Students at the University of Illinois, 1965-1975,” Journal of the Midwest History of Education Society 25 (1998): 94-100.

Clarus Backes, “The Illini Incident,” Chicago Tribune, Dec. 8, 1968, p. I 44.

Chicago Tribune, “Riot at U. of I., 248 Held; Negroes Go On Rampage After Row,” Sept. 11, 1968, p. 1.

Chicago Tribune, “The Universities are Asking for It,” Sept. 11, 1968, p. 22.