Understanding the Racism at University of Missouri: A brief timeline

Darcey Pancoast
If you’ve been on the internet this week, you’ve probably heard something about what’s happening at University of Missouri, and the escalating threats of violence the school has seen. Many people across the country are only just now tuning into a story of racism that has roots not only in the events of the last few months, but also deep in University of Missouri history.

1839: University of Missouri is founded, built using slave labor. Student protestors reference this date with shirts saying “1839 was built on my B(l)ack”

1850-1860: Slaves owned by family members of MU President James Shannon serve as janitors at the University.

1935: Lloyd Gaines petitions the University to be their first black law student. He is denied admission.

1950: Gus T. Rigel becomes the first black student at University of Missouri, inspiring protestors to take up the name Concerned Student 1950

2010: Cotton balls are strewn around the University’s Black Culture Center.

2014: Mike Brown is shot and killed by police in nearby Ferguson, MO—just two hours away from the University. No official statement is made by the University.

September 12: Payton Head, the Missouri Students Association president, takes to social media to recount having the n-word screamed at him by a group of men in a pickup truck the previous evening.  University Chancellor R. Bowen Loften takes a week to respond to the incident.

September 24: Around 100 students gather in protest of the inadequacy of the Chancellor’s response, using the hashtags #RacismLivesHere and #LoftenCANTexplain on Twitter.

October 5: The Legion of Black Collegians are shouted at and called n— by a drunk man. Chancellor Loften responds more quickly, but does not ease campus tensions.

October 7: Post-it notes are left on University of Missouri’s Thomas Jefferson statue, labelling him a “racist,” “murderer,” “rapist,” “hypocrite,” and more.

October 10: Eleven Black student leaders, including Jonathan Butler, who would later go on a hunger strike, interject in the homecoming parade. Missouri President Tim Wolfe sits by, “allowing his driver to hit one of the demonstrators, consenting to the physical violence of bystanders, and lastly refusing to intervene when the Colombia Police Department used excessive force with demonstrators.”

October 20: Concerned Student 1950 present their demands to the University, with a request for a response by October 28. They call for an apology from Tim Wolfe, an admission that he recognizes systematic oppression,  and his removal as president, along with demands to increase the percentage of black faculty, create racial awareness and inclusion curriculum, increase the availability of mental health services, and meet the demands set by the Black Collegians in 1969, among others.

October 24: A swastika is drawn using human feces in a dorm bathroom.

October 26: Concerned Student 1950 meets with Tim Wolfe, who at the time “did not mention any plan of action to address the demands or help us work together to create a more safe and inclusive campus,” according to the students.

November 2: Graduate Student Jonathan Butler begins a hunger strike at 9am. He said, “Starting today … I will be embarking on an indefinite hunger strike in opposition to Tim Wolfe as the University of Missouri system president. During this hunger strike, I will not consume any food or nutritional sustenance at the expense of my health until either Tim Wolfe is removed from office or my internal organs fail and my life is lost.”

His grievances include not only racial injustice, but also the removal of graduate health insurance,  Planned Parenthood’s effective removal from campus, and issues of sexism, bigotry, & homophobia on campus.

November 3: More than two dozen members of the University of Missouri English Department give the Chancellor a vote of no confidence during a staff meeting. Tim Wolfe offers a statement of concern for Jonathan Butler, expressing interest in communication, but shows no intention of resigning.

November 4: Students rally in solidarity, beginning an occupation of the Carnahan quad.

November 6: Wolfe issues a statement apologizing for the events of the homecoming parade, but later addresses the University of Missouri at Kansas City that “systematic oppression is because you don’t believe that you have the equal opportunity for success.”

November 7: Concerned Student 1950 protests in dining halls and locations around campus. Black football players announce they will not play until Tim Wolfe resigns. “The athletes of color on the University of Missouri football team truly believe ‘Injustice Anywhere is a threat to Justice Everywhere,'” the players said in a statement. “We will no longer participate in any football related activities until President Tim Wolfe resigns or is removed due to his negligence toward marginalized students’ experience. WE ARE UNITED!!!!!”

Gary Pinkel, head football coach tweets: “The Mizzou Family stands as one. We are united. We are behind our players.”

November 8:  Head coach Gary Pinkel & Missouri athletic director Mack Rhoades release a joint statement, cancelling practice. It is estimated that cancelling this Saturday’s game could cost the school $1 million.

State lawmakers begin to weigh in.  “Poplar Bluff Republican Rep. Steven Cookson said in a statement that Wolfe “can no longer effectively lead” and should leave his post. Joining him in calling for Wolfe’s resignation was Assistant House Minority Leader Gail McCann Beatty, the highest-ranking black member of that chamber.”

The university’s Board of Curators announces a meeting will be held on Monday the 9th.

November 9: #ConcernedStudent1950 protestors rally to explain their demands. The Missouri Students Association formally calls for Wolfe’s removal. By mid-day, Tim Wolfe announces his immediate resignation, Chancellor R. Bowin Loftin announces his year-end resignation, the university’s board of curators announces a new diversity initiative. Planned Parenthood urges Chancellor Loftin to reverse the earlier university decisions threatening to limit their services. Missouria Governor Nixon applauds Wolfe’s resignation: “Tim Wolfe’s resignation was a necessary step toward healing and reconciliation on the University of Missouri campus, and I appreciate his decision to do so,” Gov. Jay Nixon (D) said.

Coach Pinkel says “I did the right thing and I would do it again” about his support for his football players’ boycott.

An anonymous caller leaves a threatening message to Mizzou’s Oldham Black Culture center.

November 10: As anonymous threats begin to build on social media sites such as Yik-Yak, campus police state that the threats are being investigated. Student activists criticize administrators for their lack of response. The Mizzou football team resumes preparation for the Nov 14 game. Coach Pinkel distances himself from the #ConcernedStudent1950 activists, saying that the hashtag was inserted by an assistant who helps manage his Twitter account.

November 11: Police arrest Hunter M. Park, a Missouri University of Science and technology student, & Connor B. Stottlemyre of Northwest Missouri State University on allegations of terrorist threats over social media. Park’s Yik-Yak threat quoted a gunman involved in a mass shooting in Oregon in October.

November 12:  Police arrest another man, Tyler Bradenburg, another Missouri University of Science student for threats of violence. Connor Stottlemyre is charged with two counts of making a terrorist threat. Hunter Park, also charged with making a terrorist threat, made his first court appearance but remained silent. The University of Missouri appoints retired senior administrator Michael Middleton, a black man, as interim president. Thousands of students across the country, from Stanford University , to Georgetown, to Southern Mississippi University, stand in solidarity with #ConcernedStudent1950

Live updates can be found on this interactive timeline of events: