For 50 years, Black student enrollment has barely budged at Wisconsin-Madison

According to UW System data, the percentage of students who identify as Black alone at the school has never surpassed 3% of the student body.

In February 1969, University of Wisconsin-Madison freshman Harvey Clay stood outside Bascom Hall, seething with anger.

Clay, a 6-foot-8-inch, 255-pound center, came to UW-Madison to play football. But in this moment, he was confronting players from his own team.

Thousands of students, police and National Guardsmen had been clashing on campus and in the streets as part of a series of protests dubbed the Black Student Strike. Clay was a leader in the strike, which called for the boycotting and disruption of classes until the students’ 13 demands for more Black representation on campus were met by administration.

“There was a very small number of Black students” at UW-Madison in 1969, Clay recalled. He and his fellow student activists wanted that to change. They said so in demand No. 3: “That at least 500 Black students be admitted to U.W. for the semester of September 1969.”

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