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This is a contributing entry for African American Campus Experiences at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio and only appears as part of that tour.Learn More.
Shriver Student Center, first known as the University Center, was built in 1957 to accommodate a growing student population. Prior to this, students at Miami did not have an area dedicated to them on campus to hang out, study, eat, and build relationships within the student community. Since its creation, The Shriver Student Center has been a place of African-American activism at Miami University. The center has hosted prominent speakers such as Martin Luther King Jr. in 1959. May other guest speakers have inspired the fight for equality at Miami University and the United States. By hosting these speakers and being a place for open discussion, The Shriver Center has inspired many protests around campus and kickstarted African-American activism while also being a safe place for African-American students to spend time together.

Current Front View of Shriver Center

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East Wing of Shriver Student Center (1959)

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Students Hanging Out in Common Area of Shriver

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Mural in Memory of 1964 Freedom Summer

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Student News Article About Dr. King's Speech (1959)

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Until Shriver Student Center was built students at Miami did not have a dedicated space for general day-to-day activities. The closest thing students had to an area for them other than the gym was The Miami Redskins Reservation, also known as “The Res”; a dining hall. So when The Shriver Student Center was built in 1954 it had a major impact on everyone at Miami University from students to faculty and staff. 

The roots of student activism date back to 1938, when a group of students came together to start a Campus Interracial Club. This organization fostered beneficial relationships between students of different races. The organization began as the “Interracial Committee”, though the group was not recognized by Miami University. In November of 1945, the small committee of five members, Carl Duning, Rose Earner, Joyce Grossman, Tom Joyner, and Sylvester Stewart, submitted a constitution to the university.

The students ultimately prevailed in the spring of 1946 gaining official approval from the university administrative council. After the administrative approval, the student organization met weekly on Fridays in Harrison Hall - formerly a hub for student activity. Students began drafting letters to university officials including the president, Dr. Hahn, about discrimination against African-American students. These young activists called for reform in administrative handling, academic environment, and general communication at the university. The Interracial Club was the foundation for African-American student action organizations to come, such as the Black Student Action Association, the Black Action Movement, and the Center for Black Culture and Learning - all housed in the Shriver Center at one point in time.

Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech in December 1959 at the ballroom in Shriver Center was one of the major events in Miami’s history . This speech influenced many people at Miami and began a chain of events of activism at Miami that would last through the following decades. Arthur Miller ‘49 was so inspired by King’s speech that it led to his involvement in the 1964 Freedom Summer. At the time of this speech, King was not as well known as he is today, mostly known at the time for his organization of the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955. However, the people around him could feel the magnitude of his words and knew he would go on to do great things. One reporter at the time described King as, “an exceptionally articulate man. He had no notes. He never really raised his voice. For 23 minutes, he was strictly matter-of-fact, almost academic.” This event was also one of the first examples of activism at Miami covered in detail by the student newspaper, as many preceding efforts have been ignored. . Accessed April 1st 2021.

Martin Luther King Jr.’s memorable visit to Miami University, Slant Talk - The Miami University Alumni Association Blog. January 18th 2021. Accessed March 30th 2021.

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