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The History of UMN – as Important as Ever

May 1, 2019

The history of the University of Minnesota has been in focus this past week. From the second series in the Afro50 teach in, and the central role Dr. John Wright, an organizer of the Morrill Hall takeover in 1969 and decorated member of the faculty, played in the recent Board of Regents meeting spoke to history’s importance. The Teach-in, which featured Dr. Barbara Ransby, a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, was a part of a larger series commemorating 50 years since the Morrill Hall takeover. That event, in which a group of activists and Black students took over the Morrill Hall building on campus, led directly to the formation of the Department of Afro-American and African Studies, now the Department of African American and African Studies here at the University of Minnesota.

Dr. John Wright was involved in that protest and taught for thirty-five years at the department he helped found. Now, with his retirement approaching, Dr. Wright was given the opportunity to speak at the recent Board of Regents meeting thanks, in part, to calls by faculty of the History Department that he be allowed to do so. Dr. Wright spoke to his own history at the University, but also spoke of the longer history that his family has with this University. Crucially, he also spoke of the archives of Black newspapers that exist at the Minnesota Historical society, which are an important source for thinking about the history of the University of Minnesota.

Although the Afro50 Teach-in series is finished, and Dr. Wright will be emeritus after this semester, the past week has reinforced the central and continued importance of history, in general, and the history of this University, in particular.