Fifty years ago this week, students took over City College, battling police and school administrators, seeking a sweping change in the school's admissions policy.
Those who were a part of the protest are returning tp the campus, for panel discussions and other commemorations marking the anniversary of the uprising.
Charles Powell was one of the students who took part in the landmark protest. He said they wanted more students of color admitted.
"So the students here decided enough was enough, and we said, 'We demand open admissions,'" Powell reflected. "And of course we wanted black and Latino studies."
More than 200 black and Puerto Rican students occupied 17 buildings beginning on April 22, 1969. They closed the South Campus for two weeks. In a show of solidarity, white students took over the North Campus.
As they return to the campus, the former student protesters are hugging, laughing and reminiscing. Some have not seen each since their college days.
"This gorgeous campus that was being touted as being one of the world's best public universities had a very low percentage of brown and black people," Francee Covington said.
Blacks and Puerto Ricans only made up 9 percent of the student body in 1969. Students thought that was outrageous since blacks and Puerto Ricans made up 40 percent of the city's high school graduates and nearly the entire Harlem community surrounding the college.
Mayor John Lindsay and other public officials eventually agreed to the students' demands, opening City College and the City University to thousands of students who otherwise would not have qualified for admission. They also agreed to provide remedial help for those who needed it.
"I would say that at that time I was considering myself a black revolutionary. There was lots of stuff going on, in the country around us, and we were part of a movement that said we could make a difference, we could rally, we could make changes, and it felt hopeful," said Mary McRae, who was also among the protesters.
The open enrollment policy was debated for years, and eventually adjusted. City College now says it accepts 30 percent of all applicants.
The protesters from 1969 are now in their late 60s and 70s. As they returned to the campus, some quickly remembered the passion and anger they had a half-century ago.
"They surrounded us down at the South Campus and all of their forces showed up in the school buses and they had all of their batons and weapons," Jennie Cook Trotter said about the NYPD officers.
"We were out there saying, 'Off the pig! Off the pig!' We thought we were like, whatever. We thought we were invincible. We did not care, we basically were so committed, I was to the cause, that we were not afraid at that particular time."
According to the Black Studies Program, City College is now 53 percent Hispanic and black, with blacks making up 15 percent of the student population.
"The way we got involved was to make sure that the people who came after us would have access to this institution," Covington said.