Anga Sanders, one of SMU’s first black students, speaks on college experience
Published: Wednesday, February 23, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, November 20, 2012 17:11
At 17-years-old, Anga Sanders had dreams of pursuing the kind of college experiences magazines like Seventeen displayed in its pages. However, what she found was quite different.
In the midst of the Civil Rights Movement, Sanders helped to change Southern Methodist University into the school it is today by speaking out against the injustices she witnessed everyday on campus.
"We realized that there were some things going on here on this beautiful campus that we thought could be improved," Sanders said.
Sanders, who is now CEO of Global HR Solutions, spoke Monday as part of the Nu Kappa Chapter of Omega Psi Phi in the Hughes-Trigg Commons about her experiences at SMU. Students listened eagerly as she recounted her personal experiences at SMU, including performing a sit-in in then-President Tate's office.
Her experiences at SMU helped to shape the school into what it is today.
The 1960s marked an era of student turmoil and unrest. After years of being ignored and neglected, African American students were not going to take it anymore.
"Students had started to recognize the power that they had," Sanders said.
Power was the necessity in order for students to change things. Not only was the small population of black students offended by Kappa Alpha Order's Old South Week, which included the confederate flag being hung on campus, they were also concerned that the university did not have any black professors nor offer any sort of African American studies programs.
Despite its size, the small group of black students banned together in 1969 in order to help bridge the gap between themselves and the university
"We were small, but we were still a part of the university," Sanders said. "We didn't come in on a discounted tuition. We were here with all the costs and all the rights, or so we thought, of any other student."
Together the group, which by 1969 included 33 students, marched down to Tate's office in order to discuss what needed to be changed at SMU.
"We were very calm. We stated the list of demands that we had and he told us, ‘get out of my office, go back to class, and don't come back,'" Sanders said.
Tate's cold demeanor only made the student's more determined to fight for what they believed, inciting a sit-in in the middle of Tate's office.
"We refused to leave, he threatened to expel us, but we still refused to leave," Sanders said.
The sit-in sparked a major uproar all over campus. After five hours of negotiating with SMU officials, the students were met by a mob of people, including students, police and the FBI. No matter the reactions, Sanders as well the rest of the group knew that they were fighting for what they believed was right.
"We had support of some students and some were against us," Sanders said. "It didn't matter to us. We were determined in our goals."
Today, SMU offers a variety of diverse curriculums and activities, including ethnic studies as well as the Association of Black Students under the SAMSA organization, all of which would not have been possible without Sanders and the brave group of 33 students who took a stand against inequality.
"The fact that we did that really had less to do with what was going on with us at the time," Sanders said. "It had more to do with you, because we knew that one day you would be here."
The lasting impression of Sanders and the small group of black students who gathered in Tate's office continues to inspire students of today.
"Nowadays I feel we're comfortable where we're at," 2010 SMU graduate Virginia Brook said. "To see somebody who sparked change and wasn't afraid, you don't see that very often."
Sanders wanted to help change SMU for the future, not herself, something she urges others to continue.
"You will never make a greater impact than when you act on behalf of another person," Sanders said.