Historic Moments of Black Excellence at Oregon State University

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BSU Student Walk-Out

In 1969, Oregon State University’s Black Student Union staged a walkout protest in response to policies that forced Fred Milton,  a Black athlete to shave his beard and mustache to comply with the team’s no facial hair policy. The coach threatened to expel Milton from the team, along with his scholarship for school. The BSU then organized a sit-in, and weeks later, support from hundreds of students and staff joined in support as they began the class boycotts. The students even created their own newspaper, The Scab Sheet, to give platform to address the concerns of Black students and other students of color. Unfortunately, the walkout, though successful in its purpose, sparked an array of racist lashouts on campus (see photo with graffiti). The controversy resulted in Milton, along with many other Black students, to transfer to other universities; however, within the new few years OSU established a program designed to support students of color, and the first cultural centers were established at Oregon State. Now, there are 7 cultural centers on campus.

Today, natural Black hair is still policed and demonized throughout our society and culture; it is heavily stigmatized and underrepresented in media, public schools in a variety of states have banned natural hair for Black students and job discrimination based on the texture of Black hair is still rampant. The Natural Hair Movement of the 1960’s has found its way in Black Millennial culture, and it’s crucial to recognize the strength of those who paved the way in brave acts such as the BSU student walkout at OSU.


OSU's Black Student Union walks off campus near the campus gates in protest of policies that forced a black football player to shave his beard.


The walkout of the Black Student Union in March 1969 created racial tension on the OSU campus, including this graffiti.


Bobby Hill, president of the Black Student Union, and University President Robert MacVicar prepare to cut the ribbon, officially opening OSU's Black Cultural Center. Looking on is Betty Griffin, assistant professor of education and chairperson of the Black Cultural Advisory Board. Photo was in the Oregon Stater issue, June 1975, vol.9 no.4, p. 4.