John F. Guess, Jr. enrolled in Johns Hopkins University as an undergraduate student in Fall of 1967. Although he recalled experiencing some “culture shock”, he also enjoyed the proximity to Howard University in Washington, D.C. and quickly became active very active in the social and political life of JHU as well.
Later that school year, Mr. Guess had a conversation over a friendly basketball game with his friend, Mr. Bruce Baker, about the possibility of starting a Black Student Union on campus. The idea was not well received at first by the university’s administration, however. When repeated attempts to meet with the President of the university failed, Guess, accompanied by a core group of other students occupied Homewood House. They refused to leave until the university would hear their case and presented the President with a list of ten demands. Among these demands were an increase in black student enrollment, the hiring of more black professors, the hiring of a black staff person in the university admissions office, a black barber, and a section of the Milton Eisenhower library that would be dedicated to black authors. The students also asked that committees be formed “to facilitate the integration of the Black community into Homewood, while still maintaining their black identity” and they requested formal recognition of this “Black Student Union” by the administration.
In 1969, the Black Student Union was officially recognized by the administration of the university. Bruce Baker was the first President of the organization. John Guess became the Union’s first chairman. This biography explores the history of this founding and Mr. Guess’s work on behalf of the JHU Black Student Union.
Today, Mr. Guess works as a management consultant in Houston, Texas where he remains a community leader and supporter of contemporary black artists.
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