September 9 Illinois History Minute
It’s September 9th, and late at night on this day in 1968 --- police arrested nearly 250 Black University of Illinois students, who had camped out in a lounge of the Illini Union to protest problems with the university’s program to recruit low-income, minority students. Most were freshmen in that program, known as the Special Education Opportunities Program, or Project 500.
The ambitious minority recruitment project had run into logistical problems, resulting in new minority students being moved to smaller or poorly maintained dorm rooms, and with reports that student loans would be smaller than promised. The arrests, and damage done to Illini Union lounge furniture, hurt Project 500’s image with the general public. But the project surpassed its goal, enrolling 565 minority students at the U of I that fall.