Southern University Ends 50-Year Campus Ban of Students Who Mounted a Protest in 1972

In 1972, students at historically Black Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, mounted a protest against poor living conditions in residence halls, low-quality cafeteria food, and the lack of academic programs that were relevant to its student body.

The protests lasted for more than a month. Students boycotted classes and held a sit-in in the end zone during a home football game. On November 16, student protesters were confronted with tear gas canisters that they threw back at police. During an ensuing melee, two students were shot and killed. None of the police officers faced criminal charges. Four student leaders were arrested, expelled from the university, and banned from campus.

In a 2019 documentary film entitled Tell Them We Are Rising: The Story of Black Colleges and Universities aired on PBS. It included a segment on the incident. Michael Cato, a former student who was interviewed for the film, said “They were exercising their constitutional rights. And they get killed for it. They die. Nobody sent their child to school to die. It shouldn’t have happened.”

In 2017, the two students who were killed were awarded posthumous degrees. Now, 50 years after the incident, the Southern University Board of Supervisors has voted to end the campus ban of the students who were expelled.

Related Articles


  1. I had no idea the students were banned from campus. We will discuss this in my class since this is the week of observing the lives of Smith/Brown; the student center is named after them. One was the brother of one of the student organizers. I can’t imagine losing my brother and being banned from campus. This was just awful, especially since justice eluded them.

Leave a Reply

Get the JBHE Weekly Bulletin

Receive our weekly email newsletter delivered to your inbox

Latest News

Two Black Scholars Appointed to Faculty Positions

The new faculty are Esther Jones at Brown University and Dagmawi Woubshet at the University of Pennsylvania.

Ph.D. in Counselor Education and Supervision is Established at Bowie State University

"The new program will help to increase the number of counselor educators within the counseling field and the number of competent Black counselor educators," says Dr. Otis Williams, chair of the Bowie State University department of counseling and psychological studies.

Elizabeth City State University Partners With the University of Tennessee Health Science Center to Increase Representation of Black Graduate...

"We are excited by this partnership with UT Health Science Center and the opportunities this brings to our students who wish to pursue advanced degrees," said Kuldeep Rawat, dean of the Elizabeth City State University School of Science, Health and Technology.

Kimberly White-Smith Honored for Outstanding Contributions to Teacher Education

“Through her leadership and scholarship, Dr. White-Smith inspires a new generation of teachers to serve students and approach their work with equity, compassion, and respect,” said Gail F. Baker, provost and senior vice president at the University of San Diego. 

Featured Jobs