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Kennedy-King College was established under public pressure during the Great Depression after the city and school board faced with a budget crisis, were forced to shut down Crane Junior College. Legendary Chicago lawyer Clarence Darrow argued in defense of keeping the college open. He stated that higher education in the form of the junior college had to endure because it was “for the people.” A few months later Wilson and Wright Colleges were established.
Wilson’s first graduating class in 1936 included Gwendolyn Brooks who later went on to become a Pulitzer Prize winning poet. She was appointed Poet Laureate of Illinois in 1968.   
City Colleges of Chicago were not immune to widespread student protests in the 1960s. Following civil rights demonstrations by CCC students, Wilson Junior College was re-named Kennedy-King College in 1969 to honor U.S. Senator Robert F. Kennedy and civil rights leader Dr. Martin L. King, Jr., one year after they were assassinated.