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Project 500 Memorial revealed

By Alex Bahena

A new memorial has been placed on campus to recognize a specific group of students who brought change and diversity to the University over five decades ago.

After the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, the University of Illinois admitted more than 500 new students that came from minority backgrounds. In 1967, only 372 of 30,400 of the people that were students at Illinois were African American. The following year 565 African American and Latino students were admitted to the university. These individuals were known as the “Project 500, ” and they came from all over the country and played a big factor in changing the demographics at the university.

This was one of the efforts that were done to improve the educational opportunities that were being given out to minorities. The new addition of minorities nearly tripled the number of minorities on campus. Nowadays, there is a lot more representation on campus with people coming from all over the world and from different backgrounds. Both Latinos and African Americans make up 11 percent and 5.7 percent of the school’s total population percentage.

While there is now more representation on campus it is important to remember those who came before and paved the way so this became possible for later generations of students. More than 50 years later, the Project 500 Alum was immortalized as part of the university outside the African American Cultural Center.

Right outside the Bruce D Nesbitt African American Cultural Center, located right at 1212 W Nevada St in Urbana, there is a bolder with the names of the original 565 classmates with a poem titled “500 Brave Souls” The memorial was revealed during the Black Alumni Reunion Weekend at the University, and anyone can go see the memorial for themselves.

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