OSHKOSH (NBC 26) — As we continue to celebrate Black History Month, we are reflecting on a day in Wisconsin history that deeply impacted the lives of 94 African American students attending the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh.
November 21, 1968: a day the university now remembers as "Black Thursday".
Sheila Knox was a student at UW Oshkosh in 1968.
“It took me a while to be able to walk into Dempsey Hall into the administration building,” Knox said.
Knox and dozens of other black students were recruited to come to the university from Milwaukee, but when they arrived they encountered several issues.
From their dorm rooms and meal tickets not being ready to often times not being treated as equals to their white peers.
WATCH video below as she describes more in detail about some of the experiences she and other black students encountered at UW Oshkosh:
What came in next became known as Black Thursday as they demanded to the university president at the time, Rodger Guiles to be treated the same.
Knox explains how this was not the first time she and other black students presented their concerns to administration. WATCH:
“This is where we came and this office has been remodeled. So it’s not in the same configuration. But this is the office where Rodger Guiles was in,” Knox said as she shows NBC 26 the office where she and her black peers came in to present their demands.
“I remember him being very firm and obstinate and with a scowl on his face saying I’m not going to listen to you, I’m not going to do anything you say I’m just not going to respond to your demands,” Knox said referring to the university president at that time, Rodger Guiles.
WATCH as she describes more in detail about how the events of November 21, 1968 unfolded in her perspective:
Feeling unheard some of the students’ anger built up.
“Out of just emotions there were pictures that were knocked down, file cabinets that were turned over, there were desks that were turned over. There was a type writer that was turned around,” Knox said.
“Police officers from all different counties. They had riot gear, masks, Plexiglas masks and they were lined up and we had to walk through them to get out of the build. They had big U-Hauls waiting for us. The old fashion ones with no windows,” Knox said.
94 black students were then arrested and expelled.
Knox was one of the 94 students arrested and expelled. Learn more as she describes the situation more in detail, plus what came in next. WATCH:
“I thought really that I was going be killed because everyone seemed to be so full of hate. I can still feel it to this day,” Knox said.
In an effort to make amends the university installed this historical marker along with an apology to the students now known as the Oshkosh 94.
“We asked that the plaque be installed and it was installed in 2011,” Knox said. “When I look at it now, some of the changes were as a result of our actions. So I’m very proud of the university for the changes they have made and they need to continue to make because the struggle is not over,” Knox said.
UW Oshkosh is continuing to actively promote fairness and equity towards students of all communities.
In honor of the Oshkosh 94 the university gives out a scholarship to a student every year.
NBC 26 also sat down with Dr. Stephen Kercher, UW Oshkosh History Professor and Director of University Research and Creative Activity to further understand the civil unrest at the time of these events.
Dr. Kercher describes what Oshkosh was like in the 1960's. WATCH:
Knox also describes the civil unrest of the 1960s from her perspective and experiences.
To learn even more about the events that unfolded on "Black Thursday" click here.