The Ripple Effect of Antonelli v. Hammond

John Plue

By John Plue

Constitution day took place September 17, 2019, and the staff of the Cycle in 1969 came to speak with an audience about the Antonelli v. Hammond case. John Antonelli, Joan Sweeney, Jay Sampson, and Mark Rice all touched upon what led up to publishing “Black Moochie” by Eldridge Cleaver in the Cycle and how it changed their lives.

What happened after the case was simple, according to Rice most had either graduated or left campus leaving him the only one that was involved with the case left on campus, he was a freshman at the time. Antonelli was one to drop out because he did not want to be there anymore. Sampson graduated and for 25 years could not drive near the school whenever he was in town visiting. He said, “he believed that he was doing the right thing and we believed we were doing the right thing.” Sweeney got her PHD in psychology. Sweeny talked a lot about how she wanted to shake things up on campus while she oversaw campus events. Antonelli said, “she invited so many controversial characters to the university.”

Rice was left on campus to deal with the aftermath of the Antonelli v. Hammond case. However, there was not a lot that happened on campus after it. Rice said, “Students and teachers didn’t treat me any differently after the court case – in fact, the court case sort of became a non-entity as time passed.” He then went on to explain that the case was front news for a while, but then more important things were happening.

Antonelli v. Hammond was cited in a few cases, one being QUARTERMAN v. BYRD, and in an article “One Step Forward, Two Giant Steps Backward” by Jack E. London.

Rice said, “Nothing really changed. The Cycle went thru a number of editors and never really took hold on campus.” The Cycle only ran until 1974 and then changed names again. Rice touched upon the visit they had seven years ago and said, “it [Antonelli v. Hammond] was basically forgotten until I showed up on campus.”

There is a chance to forget it again, but it is a big part of Rice’s life. He called himself an accidental witness to it all. Rice was class president two years in a row, and in his junior year he became Student Government Association president. He tried to get President Hammond kicked out of his seat even. Rice then dropped out of school to go cook for a training exercise on a ship, and was with them for a while before returning to work at Fitchburg State. Someone told him if he wanted to cook, he should go to the Culinary Institute of America and off he went. Rice contributes the day that Hammond confronted them about the “Black Moochie” to changing the rest of his life.