Interview with Tony Gittens

Talk about the takeover and going up from the rally, now you really didn't think there was going to be a takeover at that point. And how many people were in this rally?


We had ah decided that we were going to have a sit in in the administration building. And ah we met the militant, the group Ujamaa and some of the student government people. And the university was going to have hearings again ah to try ah--ah students. Some students who had been more active on campus. So we had a rally in front of ah Douglas Hall. Ah and we said that you know we were just tired of this, tired of the way we were being treated. And that ah we were going to have a sit in in the administration building. And I remember different people gave speeches. And I gave the last speech. That was part of the plan. And we had these bags of food that we were carrying in. And we're saying, and I said, you know, we're going to go in. You know we're going to go and we're going to sit down. And we just, we're not going to get up until they just refuse to have these hearings. And I remember just walking off, walking away from the steps and going down. And I was out front and there were some people by my side. Ah and then I remember turning around and just seeing all of these students. And it, it was just so movingly incredible. I mean I'd, we had never been able to get this response before just, and I just realized that all these people were also tired. And I just, we just walked, and we walked around. And we went into the first floor of the administration building. And everybody sat down, just sat down. When we went in there, when we planned this the night before, you know we figured that, you know we'd just sit on the first floor and that would be it. And we would just stay there. And then more students, people began to hear about it. And then the whole first floor was full. Then the whole second floor was filled. Then they went up the third floor. And the whole building was just filled with these students who had come out of the dormitories, come out of their classes to just participate in this. And it was incredible. It was just ah, just amazing. I mean after all that time, all that work, that you know someone was actually listening. And so we just stayed there. It was then about noon and we stayed there and the newspapers began to hear about it and ah reporters began to show up. And the university, the people who worked there just left. They just left the building to us. And, so then we said, "Well, we have to organize this." So we had meetings. There was this group that we called the Central Committee. And we met and we started having chairmen of certain committees. There was a Sanitation Committee, there was a Communications Committee. And there was a Food Committee, and a Security Committee. There were all these committees and we met. And there were just some incidents there that astounded me. Like, ah, the switchboards had to be manned. And so we just made an announcement. From somewhere someone came up with a PA system. Someone went and got a PA system within an hour. And there was, then we said well we need some people to man the switchboard. And all these, these women got up and went and took over the whole university switchboard. I remember looking into this room and they were just--just very professionally and efficiently running the switchboard. I said, "How do you know, how do?" And they said, "You know these students work, you know, doing this kind of stuff, you know, part time." And everyone was saying, they were saying on their own that sorry, the university is closed today, the students have taken it over, you know. And that went on for days. And they developed a schedule for taking care of that. Then there was ah, there was food that all these people from off campus, this community, who the university, up until then had very little relationship with. People began to bring food, you know, ah, ladies would bring these, these bags of food. And churches would take up collections and bring us all this money. You know and they would give it to us. And then these cultural groups would come in and say, "You know we want to do something. You know, can we perform?" And there'd be plays and, and all kinds of things would go on. And people from around Washington would come and give all these supportive speeches and say, "Whatever you want, let us know." You know we, and then, people who could not get into the building, there are all these students outside of the building who were just there. Just there, you know just willing to participate. And signs were made. "Howard University, the Black university." You know ah and people would, then teachers would come up. And they said, you know, "What can we do?" And we had classes that were going on. Because some students would be afraid they were getting behind. And these faculty members saying, you know, "Don't worry about it. We'll take care of it." And people would come in and have, we had seminars. It was just quite, it was amazing. It was amazing. You know just, and we met every morning, and we met periodically to take care of the issues. It was just a, an incredible experience to just show that, you know, the administration, these people who thought that we were kids, you know were just so offkey, just so wrong about the whole thing.