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From Black Power to Black Studies

How a Radical Social Movement Became an Academic Discipline

Fabio Rojas

Publication Year: 2010

The black power movement helped redefine African Americans' identity and establish a new racial consciousness in the 1960s. As an influential political force, this movement in turn spawned the academic discipline known as Black Studies. Today there are more than a hundred Black Studies degree programs in the United States, many of them located in America’s elite research institutions. In From Black Power to Black Studies, Fabio Rojas explores how this radical social movement evolved into a recognized academic discipline. Rojas traces the evolution of Black Studies over more than three decades, beginning with its origins in black nationalist politics. His account includes the 1968 Third World Strike at San Francisco State College, the Ford Foundation’s attempts to shape the field, and a description of Black Studies programs at various American universities. His statistical analyses of protest data illuminate how violent and nonviolent protests influenced the establishment of Black Studies programs. Integrating personal interviews and newly discovered archival material, Rojas documents how social activism can bring about organizational change. Shedding light on the black power movement, Black Studies programs, and American higher education, this historical analysis reveals how radical politics are assimilated into the university system.

Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press


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pp. 8-9 | DOI: 10.1353/chapter.1628

List of Figures and Tables

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pp. 10-11 | DOI: 10.1353/chapter.1629

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pp. 12-15 | DOI: 10.1353/chapter.1630

I first became aware of black studies as an undergraduate at the Universityof California at Berkeley in the early 1990s. At the time, students were pushingfor a multiculturalism requirement. The purpose was to instill in undergradu-ates a working knowledge of the history and culture of various American eth-nic groups. In response to student activism, Berkeley became one of the first...

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pp. 16-17 | DOI: 10.1353/chapter.1631

My main source of emotional support has been my spouse, Elizabeth H.Pisares. I thank my dissertation committee: Ross M. Stolzenberg, Charles E.Bidwell, Terry Nichols Clark, and Michael Dawson. I thank the following schol-ars for their support and feedback: John Brehm, Michael T. Heaney, BryanCaplan, Cathy Cohen, Edward O. Laumann, Andreas Glaeser, James A. Davis,...

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Note on Terminology

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pp. 18-21 | DOI: 10.1353/chapter.1632

Black studies is a field in constant motion, and this encourages teachersand researchers to use a wide range of terms for their academic discipline. I use“black studies” because it was the term used by student activists when the fieldwas created, it is easily recognizable, and it is readable. Occasionally, I use syn-onyms, such as Africana studies or African American studies, for variety. When...

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1 The Movement That Became an Institution

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pp. 22-42 | DOI: 10.1353/chapter.1633

On November 5, 1968, black students at San Francisco State College gavePresident Robert Smith a list of ten demands. The first demand was that thecollege immediately create a Department of Black Studies. Other demands in-cluded the appointment of Nathan Hare, a Chicago-trained sociologist, asdepartment chair and the reinstatement of George Murray, a Black Panther...

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2 The Road to Black Studies

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pp. 43-65 | DOI: 10.1353/chapter.1634

Black studies’ history is remarkable because its establishment in 1968 was asudden event. Before the 1960s, there was a substantial amount of black schol-arship and intellectual work, but it was rarely taught in college courses. Sincethe nineteenth century, black intellectuals had developed a corpus of histori-cal, literary, and sociological work, but few colleges and universities explicitly...

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3 Revolution at San Francisco State College

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pp. 66-113 | DOI: 10.1353/chapter.1635

The Third World Strike of 1968–1969 stands out as one of the most memo-rable moments in American educational history. From November 1968 toMarch 1969, a dedicated and well-organized student insurgency waged a bitterand protracted fight against the San Francisco State College administration.Student activists staged massive rallies, clashed with police, shut down the cam-...

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4 The Life and Death of Black Studies Programs

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pp. 114-150 | DOI: 10.1353/chapter.1636

The Third World Strike and other events like it created a new academic field.Black students across the country demanded academic programs offering blackhistory, arts, and social science. Professors and administrators used black stud-ies for many reasons: to pursue novel intellectual agendas, diversify a college’sfaculty and course offerings, offer social support for black students, encourage...

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5 The Ford Foundation’s Mission in Black Studies

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pp. 151-187 | DOI: 10.1353/chapter.1637

A new academic program requires hundreds of thousands of dollars for fac-ulty salaries, staff,office space, and equipment. Because an academic programhas significant financial needs, university administrators can deliberate foryears as they weigh a proposal’s intellectual merits and develop new budgets.Black studies’ sudden appearance during the 1968–1969 school year took col-...

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6 Constructing the Discipline

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pp. 188-227 | DOI: 10.1353/chapter.1638

Chapters 3, 4, and 5 examine specific universities, academic programs, andnonprofit organizations. Prior chapters show how activists targeted universi-ties and introduced black studies. I also explore the long-term consequences ofblack student activism, the conditions inside universities that helped blackstudies programs survive, and how philanthropists responded to the rise of...

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7 Black Studies as the Loyal Opposition

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pp. 228-247 | DOI: 10.1353/chapter.1639

This book began with two questions. First, how did black studies accommo-date to the university? Second, how does the institutionalization of black stud-I answered these questions by showing how black studies grew out of thedisillusionment with the civil rights movement and the subsequent surge ofblack cultural nationalism. Upset that blacks did not immediately gain the so-...


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pp. 248-257 | DOI: 10.1353/chapter.1640


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pp. 258-293 | DOI: 10.1353/chapter.1641


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pp. 294-300 | DOI: 10.1353/chapter.1642

E-ISBN-13: 9780801899713
E-ISBN-10: 0801899710
Print-ISBN-13: 9780801898259
Print-ISBN-10: 0801898250

Page Count: 304
Illustrations: 6 halftones, 2 line drawings
Publication Year: 2010