No one really knows why some events also are vaguely recounted and others are forgotten all together while still other events are catalogued in detail and never lost. The sit-in that occurred in Old Sem in October of 1968 is one of those events that is fading away into Cornell's vast history. When it happened there was no way to prevent the publicity and reports of students behaving badly. After the fact, it was a much different story. The 1969 yearbook did not document this historic event. This is very different from the way the yearbook had recounted previous Civil Rights protests put on by Cornell students. The march and letter writing campaign in 1962 was praised by faculty and students alike. It was extensively covered in the ’63 yearbook. The unexplainable inconsistency of the yearbooks published so close together raises many questions about why one historical event was more than acceptable, even commendable, while another was allowed to slip through the cracks. The sit-in was by no means forgotten, but instead the details were left to the wayside to perhaps preserve an image, or maybe the school simply looked on it as a dark day that it did not need to rehash. Or maybe the difference that makes one wrong and one right is simply how close to home the trouble is found. The march of ’62 was to protest what someone else was doing wrong, while the sit-in protested something the school itself was failing to accomplish. These are ideas one is left to toy with in the absence of information.
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Website Launched Wednesday, November 22, 2006
Created by Chris Petersen, Colleen Smith, and Lindsay Wieland
With special thanks to Susan Kuecker and the African American Historical Museum and Cultural Center of Iowa
Photos courtesy of Wikipedia and the Cornell College Website. Information courtesy of the Cornell College archives and Encyclopedia Britannica
History tends to favor the storyteller. Cases of slavery and slaveholding are typically associated with the South; a fact which owes its prevalence to the North having been the victor of the Civil War, and thus the right to be the main narrator of that particular tale. The fact that plantations dependent upon slave labor existed in a number of Union states thereby fades from memory and history. In other cases, we simply judge events as not worthy of our remembrance. These forgettable moments are usually mundane or insignificant events of the sort that happen every day, or are at least of no real consequence. It may have been for one of these reasons that Cornell’s first African American student is remembered only by these words: "His name is Johnson...he was a slave six years ago," though it may also be because he was not the first African American graduate of the college.