The Quest for a Black Culture House


The Sit-in at Keane Hall


Black Student Union spokesman Thomas Jackson, 1969

On Saturday, November 8, 1969, all 16 black students who were involved in the sit-in at Henion Manor were notified of their indefinite suspensions from Loras College and instructed to leave campus that evening (6). At the 8PM deadline for the student’s departure, BSU representative Thomas Jackson stood on the front steps of Keane Hall, where the black students resided, and announced that the students would not be leaving campus. The Telegraph Herald quoted Jackson, stating, “We will stay in the college until the issue is resolved. We have nothing to lose now and want to convey the message...” After news of the indefinite suspensions got out earlier that afternoon, black students from Coe College, the University of Dubuque, Platteville State University, the University of Iowa, Clarke College, and students from Waterloo and Chicago came to join the Loras students in their dormitory space. The Telegraph Herald estimated that about 100 black students from area colleges came to back up the Loras students (1&2). Jackson explained to the Telegraph Herald, “The brothers felt the concern…they came from all over…some of them I didn't know” (2).

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Students dancing during the sit-in at Keane Hall, The Telegraph Herald 1969

At approximately 9PM, Alvin Hayes Jr. (executive director of the Iowa Civil Liberties Union), Rev. Edwin Cabey (black priest and student counselor from Divine Word Seminary), Rev. George Clements (militant black priest from Chicago), and President Driscoll arrived at Keane (1). Dr. Robert Giroux (President of Clarke College) and Dr. Bennett Tate (Dean of students at the University of Dubuque), soon joined them. The closed meeting lasted until 4AM the next morning, when President Driscoll decided to substitute indefinite suspension for probation ending in July of 1970 (2).

President Driscoll announced the decision at a press conference in the Keane Hall lounge later that afternoon, at about 1:45PM.

He stated,

In response to the request of clemency in the resolution of the Committee on Discipline, I reduced the indefinite suspensions of the sixteen black students of Loras College to probation at the College. This period of probation will begin at once and will terminate at the mid-year, 1970.

This decision was made at 4AM with the strong insistence of the representatives of Clarke College and the University of Dubuque who were present at that time (3)

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1970 Loras College Purgold

The Telegraph Herald reported Driscoll appeared “slightly flushed,” and “There was no applause, no questions, and the president left the room in virtual silence” (2).

Jackson told The Telegraph Herald about learning that four more carloads were on their way from Coe College soon after the announcement. He said, “Hey… it’s already over Man. We better make a phone call" (2).

Clements, a Black Power advocate who had spoken in Dubuque about a year prior, explained, “Never before has an institution attempted to expel all its black students. It is to the credit of the black students here that they were able to persuade the administration to rescind its obvious act of injustice."