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This is a contributing entry for African American Student Experiences at the University of Arkansas and only appears as part of that tour.Learn More.
In order to explore African American experiences at the University of Arkansas, Nandi Hervey, political science major, starts our tour where all prospective students begin. Named after Silas Hunt, the first African American admitted to our law school in 1948, the admissions building serves as a symbol of inclusion for all at the University of Arkansas. But how have things truly changed? On May 25, 2020, a Black man named George Floyd was choked for 8 minutes and 46 seconds and ultimately murdered by Minneapolis police officers over a "counterfeit" 20 dollar bill that turned out to be real. This death heightened the Black Lives Matter movement across the country. On May 31, 2020, a hazing video made by University of Arkansas students from the Omega Omega Chapter of the Sigma Chi fraternity went viral. This video included them reenacting Floyd's death with a caption reading, "Let's do some George Floyd shit to 'em" which resulted in two of the students getting expelled from the University. On June 16, 2020, the BlackStudentCaucusUARK Twitter account released a list of demands for reaching a more inclusive campus for the University. #BlackAtUark, a hashtag that University of Arkansas (UARK) students and faculty shared stories on of racism and microaggressions faced on campus, started trending. An example of what one of these tweets would look like is: Being #BlackAtUark is seeing a video of members of a fraternity on campus mock the murder of an innocent Black man. These current events could be a reflection of issues faced during the B.A.D Movement at UARK in the 1970s. Taking a look at that movement could provide insight into the movement seen on campus today.

Owens Explains Goals Structures of BAD

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Black Rebellion

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Black Experience

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In the late 1960s after the assassination of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the newspaper The Traveler published letters from white students criticizing the amount of attention Dr. King's death was receiving. A Black student submitted a letter in response to the letters previously published, but The Traveler refused to print it on the basis of racially-charged reasoning. This incident is believed to be one of the reasons The University of Arkansas Black Americans for Democracy (B.A.D) was founded. In September of 1972, B.A.D released a statement in their publication, BAD Times, regarding the reason they organized that included a list of goals for the group and the University. BAD Times acted as a voice for the Black community on the UARK campus.

When looking at the B.A.D movement and the #BlackAtUark movement, the two feel slightly similar despite the great strides that have been made since. Both were created to combat racism and exclusivity on campus and give Black students a platform to discuss the injustices they have faced at UARK. Although the two are very different in the sense that the racism faced on campus today is not as blatant or harsh, they still share the same tune. From the perspective of a Black student currently on campus, it seems to me that the injustices faced by Black students during the B.A.D era are in some ways still being faced by Black students during the #BlackAtUark era. This led me to ask the question "Why?". Why is history seemingly repeating itself over 40 years later? In order to answer this question, I needed the perspective of a Black student that was on campus during the 1970s and 80s.

Mr. Gregory Pitts attended the UARK as an undergraduate student from 1980 to 1983, completed his first masters degree from 1983 to 1985, and was also the second President of B.A.D.

We discussed his perspective on similarities between the B.A.D and #Blackatuark movements, and he stated, "Yeah I have, some of the things were eerily reminiscent of some of the same issues that we were confronted with; the lack of sensitivity of, the disregard of Black culture, the distance between the African-American students and the students from the dominant culture so to speak. Those things are very similar to what the climate was when I was there."

We then talked about why he thought said similarities still remain and he said, "Well, I think there are things that haven’t changed a great deal. People are exposed to stereotypes and that type of thing is passed down generationally, and at some point, someone needs to step outside of the box or at least confront stereotypes at the very least. So, without acknowledging that there are issues, it would be very difficult to overcome that particular aspect as well."

And lastly, we talked about things that he thought white students and students and general could do to help combat these issues on campus and he commented, "Well, I think that not only a white student there but just people in general, first of all, we need to acknowledge and accept the fact that there are racial and cultural differences as well as racial injustices. If we can’t acknowledge that fact, then we’ll never be able to make any significant, long-lasting improvements. Culturally we have not been taught to embrace our history, both the negative and/or the positive experiences, and I think that racial injustice in America is a very difficult topic for the average person to talk about without becoming emotional or without having to constantly defend their point of view. So acknowledging that there are issues, that there are opportunities for improvement would be the first major step in trying to make things better."

Based on his responses, I got the impression that he believes the current state of race relations on campus is due to the lack of inclusivity amongst the students. If the culture within student life doesn’t change, then the general experience of Black students on campus would still be relatively the same. This is not to excuse the university from its responsibilities to its Black community. It would certainly help if the school put in place more/harsher repercussions for racist behavior from staff and students, but fixing the larger cultural issue may be far deeper than the campus. The university is located in the south, which is historically not exactly known for having the best race relations. It is also highly possible that a good portion of students and faculty were raised either in this state or in the south. This indicates that the current problems within the culture of the university are most likely ingrained due to issues within the culture of the south. This same cultural issues can be seen during the B.A.D era as well. Generations of ignorance being passed down is what helped breed the hatred seen back then as well as today and courses like the B.A.D Times forum help combat that. Invoking cultural change is no small feat, but it's not impossible either if we as a community work together better educate ourselves and those around us.

Nandi Hervey is a current honors freshman at the University of Arkansas from Little Rock, Arkansas. She is studying Political Science.

Komar, Sarah. Sigma Chi Members Expelled from Fraternity for Mocking Death of George Floyd, The Arkansas Traveler. June 4th 2020. Accessed December 3rd 2020.

Brantley, Max. “#BlackatUARK Is a Twitter Thread for Today.” Arkansas Times, 16 June 2020,

“BAD Times Collection: A Digital Collection of the Black Americans for Democracy Newspapers.” Special Collections, University of Arkansas Libraries, Fayetteville, October 2015.