News 8 Archives: 1969 Lockout at Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School

News 8 Archives

One of the most pivotal and least known events in the history of civil rights and the black church took place in Rochester.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the student lockout at Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School, a protest that brought lasting change to schools and seminaries across the country.

The Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School has trained clergy for 200 years. But at the height of the Civil Rights era, this landmark seminary was forever changed.

On March 2, 1969, 19 students entered the main academic building and locked and chained the doors in protest. The lockout was led by the black student caucus. The assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Junior on April 4, 1968 served as a catalyst.

King was a graduate of Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester, Pennsylvania, which later merged with Colgate Rochester. He visited the school in Rochester in 1962 and his parents helped raise money for a scholarship program after his death. For more than a year leading up to the lockout the black student caucus asked for more black faculty, adminstrators and board members.

When nothing happened the students took action. The lockout lasted 19 days, with the blessing of black ministers in Rochester and many white students on campus.

By the time it was over the school had committed to a black church studies program – the first of its kind in the country and now a staple in seminaries across the U.S.

The Colgate students who staged the lockout were motivated by their own desire to lead their communities, and the black church was central to their mission.  All of the students who staged the lockout went on to become leaders in social justice, civil rights, and the black church. Ten are still alive and practice ministry to this day.

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