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Smith Brown Murders of Southern University

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Paris Martin

9/17/18

A.A History

Mr. Johnson

Smith Brown murders of Southern University

On Nov. 16, 1972 the Smith-Brown murders took place at Southern University and A&M College. The incident happened outside the old auditorium which is now SUMA the museum of art. According to reports Gov. Edwin Edwards sent police in riot gear to the campus to break up a student demonstration within this break up two university students both 20 years old were killed by an East Baton Rouge deputy sheriff. Freshmen’s Denver Smith and Leonard Brown both unarmed lost their lives with no justice to be initiated. This November will be the 46th anniversary of this tragedy.

At the time southern was had black faculty and a black president and was the largest HBCU in the country at the time, but they pulled all their string by white elected officials. The issues began to take place at this institution a few weeks into the semester. Students began have having dissatisfactions with things going on around campus. A former student Ed Pratt states, “you stated getting this vibe of unhappiness and it started to build” (advocate 1). He was referring to the students views on wanting more teachers, more input into the curriculum, and a better physical space in which to learn. The student brought these concerns and demands to the then president Leon Netterville, but they didn’t give them the response they wanted. This gave students the courage to take matters into their own hands. The article also says, “the students decided to boycott classes for a month” it also proclaims, “They also chose the occasion of a packed stadium on a Saturday to draw more attention to their cause” (advocate 1). The university students were tired of being ignored and if they had to go to different measures to get the President Netterville attention they would.

Gov. Edwin Edwards ordered an increase of police presence on campus. All the boycotts and protest were nonviolent until the day of the murders. It got out that four university students who protested were arrested and students march in condition of getting the president to help get the students out of jail. The students put their faith in President Netterville in hopes that he really would get these students freed. The article asserts, “Netterville agreed, told the group to wait there, and left campus.” (advocate 1). He made the students believe in him the assume he was going to keep his word. Apparently, there was an “anonymous” call from the campus stating the President was being held hostage and the administration building was being taken over by students. Police arrived drawing suspicion to the students about Netterville. Pratt exclaims, “we immediately knew that Netterville had betrayed us” (advocate 1). 300 law enforcement officers and state police armored on campus also with a weapon called “big bertha”. Once a tear gas can was rolled out to the students and a student threw it back that’s when the violence began to kick in.

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