Black Student Activism at Mundelein College and in the Archives

The 1960s were a tumultuous time for college students. The decade saw a surge of activism led by students across the United States. Between the war in Vietnam and the growth of the Civil Rights Movement, it is difficult to find a college student who did not take part in one activist cause or another. Mundelein College was not immune to this student activism. The campus saw huge demonstrations against the war. The October Moratorium of 1969 saw 85% of Mundelein’s campus participate in anti-war activities [1]. When reviewing the Women and Leadership Archives’ collection of this period, especially the Mundelein Voices Media Portal, it is difficult to ignore the prevalence of anti-war involvement on campus. However, it is significantly more difficult to find the activism of Black students at Mundelein.  

Figure 1. MuCuba Members. 1970 Mundelein Yearbook, page 18. View the Yearbook in our Digital Collections.

The 1960s were brimming with national Black student activism. Organizations like the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), and the Black Panther Party helped to shape a growing Black student movement, which reached its zenith during the decade [2]. By 1968, many universities had Black student organizations. By the ’70s, many of these organizations were using their power to make themselves heard. Universities such as the University of Kansas and the University of Wisconsin at Madison were rocked by strikes led by their respective Black student unions [3]. Mundelein also experienced the wave of Black empowerment that led to vocal activism. In the fall semester of 1969 Black students at Mundelein formed a group to work collectively for their goals.  

Figure 2. Lane Tech High School African Ensemble singing at a Mundelein College Black History Month event. 1991.  View in the Illinois Digital Archives.

The Mundelein College United Black Association (MuCuba) organized to make Mundelein a more accepting place for Black students.  They also vocally challenged the institutional racism that plagues many predominantly white colleges. A May 22, 1970, newsletter, described MuCuba as “not just a club, it is a life-style–a home away from home. We are not just black students going to Mundelein College, we are a black community” [4]. MuCuba reflected on their early campus activity in a letter to Mundelein President Sister Ann Ida Gannon: 

“Our first event was the “Rainbow Rally’ with the Black Panther Party where the topic “The Black Woman’s Role in the Revolution” was discussed. During the dedication of the new Learning Resource Center, we planned a program to salute the Black woman by presenting “A Tribute to Miss Gwendolyn Brooks”” [5] 

In this letter, MuCuba also made it clear that Black women on campus demanded a space for their community. They insisted on a “Black Room” for hosting speakers, discussions, and exhibits. While waiting for a response from Mundelein administration, MuCuba occupied Northland Hall room 110. Though I have been unable to locate evidence in the WLA collection, alumna have referred to a Black Student Center on the second floor of Piper Hall. 

Figure 3. MuCuba Letter to Mundelein President Sister Ann Ida Gannon. 

 On May 15, 1970, MuCuba submitted a list of demands to the Mundelein community. Among the demands, Black students insisted on the creation of a Black Studies program, better conditions for Black student workers, and funding from the college for a Black student center. MuCuba also demanded that Mundelein admit more Black students and combat racism on campus by requiring the “administration rid the college of prejudiced instructors and administrators” [6]. Other Black student organizers from around the country made similar requests. Students at University of Wisconsin Madison also called for a Black Studies department, higher admission of Black students, and development of a Black Cultural Center (which is still in operation on their campus) [7]. 

The national demand for colleges and universities to embrace the Black community and fight the institutional racism led to many changes on campuses across the country. At Mundelein, Sister Ann Ida Gannon agreed to meet with MuCuba students in hopes “that Mundelein — as an institution as well as individually – will go beyond your Demands to an even wider and more lasting response” [8] A steering committee was formed to address these demands and released a “Report on the State of Black Studies at Mundelein” in May 1971. Many of the demands resulted in change to Mundelein, including a Black studies program, seminars on institutional racism, and the creation of a Black Scholarship Fund [9]. 

Figure 5: Mundelein College students. 1980. View in the Illinois Digital Archives.

The absence of Black voices and stories is an unsettlingly common trend in too many archives. The last decade has seen many archivists attempting to right this wrong and uncover the silenced stories of people of color. This work still has a long way to go. While the WLA has uncovered a good deal of documentation relating to MuCuba and Black student activism at Mundelein, our collection still suffers from racist archival practice of the past. Ongoing projects to uncover these stories, like our Share Your Story oral history project, will help fill in the gaps surrounding Black Mundelenites and others from marginalized communities.  

Chris Mattix is a graduate assistant at the WLA and is in their second year in the Public History MA program at Loyola. Chris’ focus is on Queer history in America and Germany in the pre-Stonewall era. Chris is currently a graduate assistant at the Leather Archives and Museum in Chicago, IL. In their free time, Chris is a baker, drag queen, and dog parent.

Loyola University Chicago’s Women and Leadership Archives Blog is designed to provide a positive environment for the Loyola community to discuss important issues and ideas. Differences of opinion are encouraged. We invite comments in response to posts and ask that you write in a civil and respectful manner. All comments will be screened for tone and content and must include the first and last name of the author and a valid email address. The appearance of comments on the blog does not imply the University’s endorsement or acceptance of views expressed. Questions? Please contact the WLA at

[1] “Moratorium, 1969 · Activist Mundelein: Civic Engagement at a 20th Century Women’s College · Loyola University Chicago Digital Special Collections.” Accessed November 30, 2022.–student-en/-antiwar-protest-/moratorium–1969

[2] Ahmad, Muhammad. “On the Black Student Movement-1960-70.” The Black Scholar 9, no. 8–9 (1978): 2–11.

[3] “1969 Black Student Strike | UW–Madison.” Accessed November 30, 2022., “Black Student Activism and BSU · 1970: The Year That Rocked KU · KU Libraries Exhibits.” Accessed November 30, 2022.

[4] “A New Black Consciousness · Activist Mundelein: Civic Engagement at a 20th Century Women’s College · Loyola University Chicago Digital Special Collections.” Accessed November 30, 2022.–student-en/-we-started-in–68-/-diane-allen-

[5] January 15, 1970, letter to Sister Ann Ida Gannon. Mundelein College Records.

[6] “Demands” Folder F.8.13.a. Mundelein College Collection. Women and Leadership Archives. 

[7] “1969 Black Student Strike | UW–Madison.” Accessed November 30, 2022.

[8] May 16, 1970, Letter to the Black Students of Mundelein. Mundelein College Records.

[9] “Report on the State of Black Studies at Mundelein” Mundelein College Records.

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About Women and Leadership Archives

Established in 1994, the Women and Leadership Archives (WLA) collects, preserves, and makes available permanently valuable records of women and women’s organizations, which document women’s lives, roles, and contributions. The WLA grew out of the need to care for the records of Mundelein College and expanded to collect papers of women leaders and women’s organizations. Collection strengths include the subject areas of activism and women’s issues; authors; education; environmental issues; public service; social justice; women religious; and the fine, performance, and visual arts. The WLA is part of the Gannon Center and Loyola University Libraries and serves a wide variety of users, ranging from students and scholars to the general public. The WLA makes records available at the Archives in Loyola’s Piper Hall, offers remote reference services, presents programs, and provides online resources. Staff include a Director, Assistant Archivist, and graduate assistants from Loyola’s Public History Program.

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