On November 1-3, 1967, UNCG played host to a controversial Black Power Forum, organized in large part by the Student Government Association to “inform students and faculty members of this movement and its actions and to give us a chance to discuss Black Power, its history, its political and social implications for us and the nation.”
The Forum was organized around three topics: “Black Power past and present,” “the ghetto,” and “Black Power and the self-image of the Negro.” Speakers from across the country were brought in for presentations and discussions in Cone Ballroom. Attendance the first day was judged “poor” with fewer than 75 attendees, but by Thursday evening attendance had grown to 800. A UNCG report summarizing activities after the Forum’s conclusion noted “that off-campus people outnumbered UNCG students and faculty, that they were primarily Negroes and males, that a considerable number of them seemed to be sympathetic toward the concepts of Black Power, and that they often expressed their feelings with applause or cheers.”
The Forum did not occur without controversy. Editorials declared that the University had been “used” by activists with a specific agenda. Rumors abounded that Ku Klux Klan members planned to attend the Forum, and Chancellor James Ferguson was forced to ask City of Greensboro police officers to attend each of the scheduled sessions to “guard against possible trouble.”
Additionally, administrators expressed concern that sessions “did not produce a detached, objective examination of the ideas of Black Power but were given over to vigorous exhortations in support and advocacy of the movement.” But they could not deny that the Forum provided students with a learning opportunity. As stated in the UNCG report, “today’s students, today’s citizenry in general must learn all they can about the nature of Black Power and the forces that brought it into being. They need to be aware of the task before them. Above all, they should not wait until a crisis develops – until there is a riot in the streets – to gain knowledge of this troublesome subject.”
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