Makio '68, Getty Images, Library of Congress
Video: An alumnus reflects on a 1968 protest
John Sidney Evans ’70 recalls the aftermath of a 1968 Ohio State protest that resulted in criminal indictments and expulsions, including his own.
John Sidney Evans ’70 was among 34 black students indicted for participating in an April 26, 1968, protest in what is today Bricker Hall. Charges against many of the students eventually were dropped, but Evans and seven other students were expelled. The experience changed these students’ lives — affecting their relationship with the university, their families and neighbors, and their immediate futures.
In this video, recorded on April 26, 2018, for University Archives, Evans describes the aftermath of the protest and how he reflects on his role in it, 50 years later.
Rick Harrison / Andrew Ina
‘April 26 was the breaking point’
Evans describes a tumultuous day at Ohio State, his “first and only” choiceof colleges in an era of lingering segregation at many schools
When we got to the administration building on April 26, we had a list of demands, things we wanted to talk about. I basically said the meeting wasn’t over until we said it was over. I wasn’t the leader of the Black Student Union — I was our unofficial spokesman, a title I was comfortable with.
It wasn’t that I came to a revelation in ’68. I just felt somebody had to do something at Ohio State. I had gone through four years of crap. There couldn’t have been more than 400 black kids on campus when I was here. I never had a black professor. Housing was a problem. It was almost like we were not really welcome.
The Black Student Union took shape in the fall of ’67 because we were so frustrated with what was happening on campus, all around us, and in the world. We understood things had to change. That was the bottom line. We wanted people to understand that for months we had been asking the administration, going through all the channels, and change wasn’t happening.
April 26 was the breaking point. We were frustrated that we even had to be there. It was an insult. We ended up meeting with administrators for approximately 10 hours. The energy in that room was phenomenal, something you never forget. It felt like it was about 150 degrees. At the end of that confrontation, I had lost about 12 pounds. The pictures of me on the front page of The Lantern looked like somebody had poured water over me.
There was every type of emotion you can imagine. Some people, we had to calm down. It was heavy, very, very heavy. The cooler head was John Corbally (provost and vice president of academic affairs). He was basically the one who agreed to a lot of the problems, demands and requests that we presented in a logical manner.
When we walked out, we had an understanding from the university that it had not been doing enough for black students on all different levels. We felt that we had accomplished something. And we had an understanding of amnesty and that there were not going to be repercussions.