It’s 1969.

You’ve just been accepted as a transfer student to City College of New York, CUNY.

Over the past decade, serious national tensions have flared over the struggle for civil rights, women’s equality, and the war in Vietnam. A year ago, over 500,000 people marched on Washington to oppose the war in Vietnam: the largest protest, to date, in the nation’s history. A series of devastating assassinations have rocked the nation: President John F. Kennedy’s in 1963, human rights activist Malcolm X’s in 1965, and civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr.’s just last year in April.

On April 4, 1968—the eve of King’s assassination—students at City College and young people in the neighborhood of Harlem, where the college is located, took to the streets in protest. According to student-activist Khadija DeLoache, King’s death motivated students to meet, to organize, and to act.

illustration of Khadija DeLoache

“It was a catalyst for anybody who was displeased with anything in the world. [We’d] had enough now…they [had] killed the king of love.”

Khadija DeLoache, co-founder of City College’s Black and Puerto Rican Student Community

Almost a year and a half later, autumn of 1969 is no different. Activism and protest are overwhelmingly in the air as you step onto City College’s campus.

Tensions are high and reach a peak when students and others begin to organize and demonstrate around a set of “Five Demands” that they say will increase equity and access to CUNY for all. Many are feeling an urgency to figure out how and when to implement open admissions, and they want a say in what that looks like.

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