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Black Studies becomes major factor in social advancement

Academia and Black examination

Merdies Hayes Editor in chief | 3/21/2019, midnight
The Black Power movement of the late 1960s helped to redefine African-American identity..

The Black Power movement of the late 1960s helped to redefine African-American identity and establish a new racial consciousness. As influential as this period was in the study and enhancement of the African Diaspora, this movement spawned the academic discipline known as Black Studies on our college and university campuses.

While there are more than 100 Black Studies degree programs nationwide, it can be confirmed that the beginning of this curriculum evolved from a student strike at San Francisco State University in 1968. Young people there forced the establishment of the Division of Ethnic Studies and departments of Black, Asian, Chicano and Native studies, all accomplished despite the discouragement of then university president and future United States Sen. S.I. Hayakawya.

The Black Student Union

The Black Student Union on campus drafted a political statement, “The Justification for African-American Studies,” that would become the main document for the development of the these academic departments at more than 60 universities by the early 1970s. Shortly thereafter, Black Studies programs were implemented—with inherent reservations from the various campus administrations—at UCLA, Cal State Los Angeles, Cal State Long Beach and at Cal State Northridge.

Black students demanded and end to the so-called “liberal-fascist” ideology that was rampant on campus, as well as calling for the immediate preparation of African American youth—including secondary school students—to have direct participation in the struggles of the Black community and to define themselves as responsible to and for the future successes of that community. Black Studies departments were created in a confrontational environment in a forceful rejection of traditional curricula content.

It was a novel idea that was met with early opposition from the entrenched White faculty and administration, already reeling from the Free Speech movement, opposition to the Vietnam War and a general uprising from young adults of all races, religions and creeds. Black students, specifically, wanted to reinforce the position that African-Americans must possess the rights to self-determination, liberation and voice opposition to the dominant ideology of “White capitalism” (e.g. world imperialism, White supremacy) that for centuries had excluded persons of color.

The Atlanta University Conferences

Black Studies can be traced back as far back as the Atlanta University Conferences held from 1898 to 1914. This early formulation was under the auspices of W.E.B. DuBois in marking the inauguration of the first scientific study of the conditions of Black people that covered important aspects of life (e.g., health, homes, the question of organization, economic development, higher education, voting).

By 1915, Carter G. Woodson had founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH) in marking a brave new era for Black curriculum. The group was founded to promote historical research, publish books on Black life and history, promote the study of Black history through clubs and schools and, in a noble effort, to foster harmony between the races by interpreting one history to the other. It was during this period that the Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HCBUs) began to respond to scholarly activities in history and social science.