When cotton balls were scattered outside the black culture center at the University of Missouri’s flagship campus in 2010 in a clear reference to slavery, two white students were arrested and expelled.

But there was no broader conversation about race anywhere at the school, where blacks were not allowed to enroll until 1950.

“To say we were livid is an understatement,” said black alumna Erika Brown, who graduated in 2007 and 2012 and now lives in St. Louis. “It was just another example of them finding the offender and never going past that. There was never a larger discussion.”

Five years later, when another series of racially charged incidents stirred emotions in Columbia, students emboldened by last year’s protests in Ferguson took action, leading to Monday’s resignation of the university system’s president and the campus chancellor.

The race complaints came to a head last weekend, when at least 30 black football players announced they would not play until the president left. A graduate student went on a weeklong hunger strike.

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