The Malcolm X Reading Room in Taft Hall originated as a direct result of student protests in 1992. The demonstrators looked to combat the ingrained racism that was tearing apart the campus community. The 300 students participating in the protest were primarily of color and enrolled in the University’s Talent Development Program, a special admission program for Rhode Island students of color and students from disadvantaged backgrounds. As the protest proceeded, the activists stressed that they did not gather to disrupt campus activities, but rather to voice their concerns on the pervasive racism at URI.
The students also issued a list of demands to administrators. The students demanded that the University offer majors in African American and Native American studies, hire minority staff members in counseling and career services, and spend more on minority scholarships. They also demanded that Taft Hall be renamed Malcolm X Hall. The University granted some of the students’ requests; we now have an Africana Studies major, and the Reading Room of Taft Hall (though not the entire building) was renamed in honor of Malcolm X.
Perhaps one of the greatest outcomes of this historic protest was the establishment of the present-day Multicultural Center, which serves to develop an inclusive campus culture and celebrate unity as a community composed of diverse individuals. This would not have been possible without the perseverance of those passionate and motivated students back in 1992. The Malcolm X Reading Room, though less traveled than The Multicultural Center, is a persevering symbol of the strength of a group on campus who stood up for what they believe in, and refused to tolerate discrimination and hatred on this campus.
For more information about the Takeover of Taft Hall, visit the following website: