Read more comments from Mike Conklin 69, Joe Gebhardt 68, and Richard Barrett 71.
Gabriel Wallace 69, a black student who participated in the
takeover of Old Sem the following fall, clearly remembered a memorial service for King at King Chapel but recalled mixed reactions among blacks on campus.
There was a lot of controversy on campus at that time and
there were a lot of factions. Even the blacks were divided among
themselves in some ways. And Martin Luther King was not perceived exactly at that time as he is today. He was one of several important players. And so, now we can look back and see that he was truly a pivotal person but at the time there were a lot of voicesH.
Rap Brown, Black Panthers, Stokely Carmichael, black Muslims. We
were all listening to all these voices and trying to make up our minds.
Wallace, now an English professor at Oakton Community College in Des Plaines, Ill., said his own reaction was complex. I thought it was evidence that his focus on non-violence wasnt working. Heres a person preaching non-violence and he was killed by a violent act, he recalled. When he was killed, there was a difference between my public stance (non-violence cannot work and whites cannot let blacks be part of society) and my private feeling, which was one of deep sadness because at some level you had to realize that Dr. Kings position was the only rational one given that blacks at the time were only 10 percent of the population and violence wasnt going to go anywhere.
There were 16 black students on campus that year. Three of us were militant. The majority of the blacks on campus were not. I imagine there was a range of opinions among them. They were much more openly remorseful about the death of Dr.King.