On the night of October 7, 1975, more than 300 students at the University of Virginia (UVA) stormed Carr’s Hill to confront President Frank L. Hereford about his conspicuous absence at the Student Council’s Open Forum on Minority Affairs. The spontaneous protest occurred minutes after Council President Paul Freeman abruptly adjourned the forum upon word that Hereford had been spotted in attendance at the premiere of “The Threepenny Opera,” held at the Culbreth Theatre. At one of the more contentious moments in the forum, when African American students complained about Hereford’s absence, Freeman informed the crowd that UVA’s President wanted to hear the students’ concerns but a previously scheduled luncheon in Washington, DC prevented his attendance. Frustration quickly turned into outrage when Eston E. Melton, the editor-in-chief of the Cavalier Daily, revealed that Hereford had been seen at Culbreth Theatre. Disgruntled students then marched to Carr’s Hill to “demand an explanation for Hereford’s failure to attend the forum.” His absence, in the view of many students, confirmed their growing belief in the administration’s disregard for the concerns and needs of African American students.
The period between the spring semester of 1974 and the fall semester of 1975 had been a rather tense period on grounds as students protested Hereford’s membership in the all-white Farmington Country Club, questioned other University administrators’ commitment to diversity, and railed against a University-Union sponsored debate featuring William Shockley, a Nobel Prize winning physicist who promoted the theory of black genetic inferiority. Counted among the students most consistent demands was the establishment of an Office of Minority Affairs, which would come into existence after a series of protests and negotiations initiated by both African American and white students.
Especially important in the creation of what would become the Office of African American Affairs were students like Freeman, Linda Quarles of the Black Student Alliance, and Leroy Hassell, among others. In the video below, one of the individuals working for the creation of OAAA, Charles “Corky” Conyers reflects on the politics behind its creation.