Students block the halls at West High, an alderman pulls strings to help his father, and the UW adds a course in black culture. Just some of what was going on in Madison fifty years ago this week.
Fifty years ago this week, the last week of January.
The Madison Police Department should take over campus patrol duties and the University Department of Protection and Security disbanded, according to a report from Legislative Council Staff Attorney James R. Klauser. The 45-page report, which was shared with Madison Police Chief Wilbur Emery before its release but not with Mayor Otto Festge, contends the campus squad headed by Ralph Hanson is unable to deal with political protests, drug traffic and violent crime. Klauser is especially critical of Hanson’s refusal to use undercover agents in drug investigations. Mayor Festge opposes the plan as a bad policy which the city can’t afford.
About 150 of the 1500 students at West Senior High School stage a peaceful but spirited two-hour sit-in, protesting principal David Spencer’s refusal to meet with them during class time to discuss a series of demands made by the group Concerned Students of West High. Among the demands: abolishing the dress code so girls could wear slacks, creating a student smoking lounge, bringing back the open lunch hour, and a public refusal by school administrators to provide any information to the Selective Service System. After the sit-in near the Ash Street entrance, some students march through the halls singing and encouraging a mass walk-out – much to the principal’s displeasure. “Marching and sitting-in are contrary to school regulations, and your parents will be hearing from us,” Spencer tells an after-school meeting of about 600 students. “If it happens again, we will suspend you and recommend you be expelled.” The students later agree among themselves to give the Student Senate two weeks to work for changes, with demonstrations to resume if nothing happens within that time period.
The Madison Board of Education announces it will visit four historically black colleges and universities on the east coast, including Temple and Howard universities, in an attempt to recruit more African-American teachers. Superintendent of schools Douglas Ritchie says the district has had trouble hiring more black teachers because many felt other cities had a greater need for non-white teachers. “They tell us Madison doesn’t have a large race problem,” Ritchie says. “They want to go to work in the ghettos where this is a major problem.”
The UW announces a new class on black culture, an experimental course entitled Afro-American Cultural and Intellectual Tradition. The three-credit course, the first to be offered for the new Afro-American concentration within the American Institutions Program, will feature a series of guest lecturers, including Claude Brown, author of Manchild in the Promised Land, Negro Digest editor Hoyt Fuller, and an assistant professor of social welfare from UCLA. Advocates for a full Black Studies department say this falls fall short of their demands or needs.
That demand may get a push from a week-long conference in early February entitled “The Black Revolution: To What Ends?” According to the conference program just released by its organizers, speakers will include Reverends Jesse Jackson, Andrew Young and Hosea Williams, all from the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, activist Detroit clergyman the Rev. Albert B. Cleage, Jr., and Professor Nathan Hare, chairman of the new Black Studies Department at San Francisco State College.
An influential alderman succeeds in getting a series of variances from the Zoning Board of Appeals so his father can build a unique 13-story student apartment building in the 600 block of Langdon Street. Alderman James T. Devine Jr., acting as his father’s agent on the so-called Roundhouse, convinces the board to approve a plan which is three stories higher than the building code allows, violates front, side and rear yard requirements, provides no parking, and has the highest density of any apartment building constructed since the new building code went into effect in 1966. Richard J. Landgraf, Devine’s opponent in the spring election, says the incumbent has “an apparent conflict of interest between Madison’s building codes and his own personal building developments.”
The Madison Redevelopment Authority sells three of the remaining four parcels in the Triangle Urban Renewal Area to two very well-connected local firms. Fred Mohs agrees to pay $542,000 for two parcels on Park Street across from Madison General Hospital, where he is to build 350 apartment units. And Jim and David Carley, doing business as Public Facilities Associates, agrees to pay 335,000 for an adjoining parcel, to build 250 units. Public Facilities also plans to build a shopping center at the corner of Park and Regent Streets, under terms still being negotiated.
Photo Credit: Rich Faverty, The Capital Times