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Living History Project

A Collective History of Student Engagement at UC Santa Barbara

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Black Student Organizing

Out of the civil rights activity of the Sixties came a student protest movement which was to give UCSB a new orientation and its first attempt to form an ethnic studies program.

Established by a group of students concerned with the underrepresentation of minorities at UCSB, the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) recruited ninety Mexican Americans and twelve Blacks onto campus, each constituting about 1.1% of the UCSB student population in 1968, in its first year.

March 22,1965
Racial tension rise on the UCSB campus after an African American female student is attacked at knife point in front of the De La Guerra Annex by a male wearing a white cloth hood who whispered “Selma” to his victim.

Harambe was the first Black organization established at UCSB as an alternative Black student council modled after the nationalism of the Black Power Movement.  Harambe and its sister organization the lack Student Union [BSU], embraced Black pride and self-determination.  Harambee is a Swahili word meaning "let's pull together".  The organization worked to put out events expressing and promoting African American culture.  

October 1967
African American co-ed was repeatedly denied housing in Isla Vista prompting the Fair Employment Practices Commission to launch an investigation of possible violations of fair housing laws in the area of Santa Barbara, it also created an opportunity for students to examine local incidences of racial discrimination.

January 31, 1968 
Associated Students Legislative Council made a gesture against racial prejudice by recommending to the UCSB Administration that no company practicing discriminatory employment policies be allowed to use campus facilities.

February 15, 1968  
Conversations about race relations between white and black students on the UCSB campus were first organized by HOP student Bill James in his inaugural meeting of the Workshop for Racial and Ethnic Understanding.; meant to be day-long sessions discussing the cause behind racial unrest in the country. This meeting was taken over by the Black Action Group; a group of African-American UCSB students who did not feel that discussion would accomplish anything.

February 19-25, 1968 
The first Black History Week was held at UCSB by Harambee. Harambe formally introduced itself to the UCSB community with this event.  Guest speakers for Black History Week included the likes of James Forman [veteran SNCC leader], Ron Karenga [Los Angeles-based leader], and Harry Edwards [leader of Olympic boycott movement].   

April 4, 1968  
After the assassination of Martin Luther King, the Santa Barbara Division of the Senate, endorsed without change, a student-originated petition to the Board of Regents that urged the body to alter recruitment and admissions policies for student, staff, and faculty so as to be reflective of the states ethnic  diversity; as well as altering courses and curricula to be more race and class conscious.  The assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. served to further galvanize several liberal students and faculty members to once and for all resolve the problems of racial inequality in society and on college campuses.

October 1, 1968
BSU and a small group of Black athletes presented Chancellor Vernon I. Cheadle a position paper charging the Athletic Department with gross negligence of and paternalistic attitudes toward Black athletes. Among other things, the newly formed coalition known as the Black Athletes Committee (BAC) called for the hiring of Black coaches and administrators. Although BAC sought immediate resolution to their demands, Chancellor Cheadle responded to the disgruntled group by referring the matter to the Intercollegiate Athletic Commission (IAC) on campus for further investigation.

October 7, 1968
In a move to gather support for their cause, BAC held a rally on campus, explaining how their attempt to work with the administration had been rebuffed by the IAC Board. “There we witnessed the greatest case of procrastination ever,” stated BSU leader Bob Mason to an estimated crowd of 400 students. Mason added, “It was changed from charges of racism to the inability of the athletic staff to perform its functions. They avoided the charge of racism completely.”  Mason then linked their case with the UC Regents’ concurrent fight to block Black Panther Eldridge Cleaver from teaching a course as a guest lecturer at UC Berkeley. 

According to the BSU, both instances were symptomatic of institutional racism in the University of California. To further mobilize support, the BSU challenged students to break out of their apathy by joining their struggle for justice. In Mason’s words, “It’s your country, white people. You’re the ones who set it up. Black students have taken a stand, and we will win by any means necessary.”  In anticipation of the IAC’s dismissal of their charges, the BSU turned to direct action, believing it to be the only way to force the university to genuinely confront the issue of racism.

October 14, 1968
As the culture of UCSB was shifting, Harambee evolved into a more politicized Black Student Union [BSU]. Maurice Rainey was the first president of the Black Student Union.  Disillusioned by an educational system which they felt was not only irrelevant to their needs but also inadequately reflected the demographic reality of America. At 6:30 am, twelve African American UCSB students [Maurice Rainey, Bob Mason, ] strategically took over North Hall’s second floor, where the computer hub which housed UCSB student records and other vital information was located. The building was renamed Malcolm X Hall.  There demands were simple, concise and realistic: the creation on the campus of a minority program that would bring more relevancy to the curricula, give general academic information on the the multifarious characteristics of their culture, and give an opportunity to minority faculty, staff, and students to exercise their talents in an open academic forum.

Responding to UCSB’s administrations unwillingness to address and correct the segregation and institutional racism on its campus.  Black students were originally responding in large part to grievances from Black athletes about racism in the UCSB athletics department.  BSU’s original charge against the Athletic Department was now accompanied by an extended list of grievances. While the protestors remained barricaded behind chairs, tables, and desks, representatives of the BSU met with Chancellor Cheadle and Dean Reynolds to negotiate their list of eight demands that included a Black Studies College, the hiring of Black staff and faculty, an investigative commission to study racism on campus, university access, and cultural/educational relevancy.

At this point, students had collected over 4,000 signatures demanding substantial improvements in the investigation of racism on campus and the development of Black Studies.  After the UCSB administrations inadequate response to such demands, Black students decided to bring attention to their demands by occupying North Hall.  At its height, the North Hall takeover had attracted over 1,000 students in to the courtyard, the majority of which were sympathetic students of all racial backgrounds shouting chants of support.  This action ended peacefully, and the Black Student Union had succeeded in getting their demands heard.

Confronted with a specific set of demands and fearing that the potentially explosive situation would degenerate into a more serious and damaging confrontation, Dr. Cheadle, the Chancellor at the time, decided against the advice of many and negotiated an agreement rather than use a display of force. Understanding the necessity of their plight and being rather sympathetic to the student demands, the Chancellor immediately appointed a Committee on Ethnic Studies to study the new situation.

In less than a day the administration and the BSU arrived at a settlement. Upon the suggestion of the Associated Student Judicial Committee, the administration agreed to “suspended suspensions” for the original students occupying the computer center giving the university the appearance of sanctioning the students.With the exception of the demand calling for the firing of the director of Intercollegiate Athletics and the chairman of the Physical Activities Department, the administration promised to comply with the rest of the BSU demands including the establishment of Black Studies.   
Click here to read October 1968 articles from “El Guacho”   

Marcus Mathis of UCSB EOP put together this short video about the 1968 North Hall takeover.   

April 17, 1969
Professor Otey Scruggs, Co-Chairman of the Committee on Ethnic Studies and Professor of History, presented the Executive Committee of Letters and Science with a proposal for the comprehensive implementation of a Black Studies Program at UC Santa Barbara.  Headed by a Black Assistant to the Chancellor, the program was to be governed by a board called the “Kaaba”, composed of representatives of the diverse units.  [Kaaba is the name of the black stone in the center of Mecca in Saudi Arabia.  The choice of the name is very significant to the rebellious intention and the cultural identity of the group]

Click here to read Racism at UCSB, an essay written by 1968 BSU president Maurice Rainey and Committee Charmain Arnold Ellis.  

Click here to read accounts from Black student athletes of dealing with racism from the UCSB Athletics Department.
May 22, 1969
Following the administrative process of proposal review: by the Executive Committee of Letters and Science, the Dean of Letters and Science Dr. Spaulding, and finally the Chancellor the  Black Studies Department had officially started, nearly one month after the official request of the Black students.

July 14, 1969
Groups interested in the implementation and development of the Black Studies Program met between July 14, 1969 and September 26, 1969 to prepare curriculum recommendations  and course offerings for the upcoming Fall quarter. Academic personnel were recruited and a core of newly appointed faculty stood ready for the Fall starting date.

September 1969
Black Studies opened with an initial Fall enrollment of 83 students [predominantly Black].  Enrollment in Black Studies courses reached 428 at the end of the first year of existence . The creation of the Center for Black Studies Research and the Black Studies Library followed soon after.

The Department of Black Studies put together this video showing the positive impact the department has on UCSB students.

Bill James becomes the first African American Associated Students UCSB Student Body President.

October 2, 1969 
Founders of the Blacks Studies Department:  ”The black students were outstanding in conceptualizing the idea of the department….These students, certainly Bob Mason, Rashidid (James Johnson), Tom Crenshaw, Cynthia George, Shelly Brazier, Andrew Jackson, Maurice Rainey, Booker Banks, as well as others (Dalton Nezy, Mike Harris), are the ones who put their academic careers on the block just to get the idea sparked.”  -Preston Dent, the former Vice Chancellor for Minority Affairs, GAUCHO, 10/2/69

Winter 1971
The Committee For Black Culture was organized for the purpose of presenting events on campus and in the community, which focus attention on the cultural heritage of Black people. 

Spring 1971
The Committee For Black Culture successfully sponsors the Black Mini-Festival.

May 1972
The first Black Culture Festival was held at UC Santa Barbara the first Black Culture Festival was in held at UC Santa Barbara. It was a 3 day event with 6 events planned in the areas of poetry, drama, dance, art, film, and music. A letter to the Nexus Editor was published afterwards, criticizing their lack of attempt to cover any of the events.

September 27, 1972  
The Committee For Black Culture opened its’ new office in Room 1041A, Storke Plaza with an open house, held in conjunction with Market Day and Rebysont Club Day.  

UCSB Black students initiated a tutoring program for children in the Santa Barbara community at the Black Community School and Information Center, located at 710 North Milpas Street.

African-American student editor Ricardo Freeman produces the 1972 La Cumbre Yearbook.   This yearbook is noteworthy in its attempt to break away from the traditional yearbook by focusing on political and social current events interspersed with poetry and quotes.  [shown above is the cover of the 1972 La Cumbre].

Black Coordinating Council is organized at UCSB

The first Black Sorority, Delta Sigma Theta, was established at UCSB

In order to reach a broader audience, a Summer Institute in Black Studies, was created.  Aimed primarily at high school and junior high school teachers, it offered three basic courses in African-American history and culture.  Offered through the Summer Session office, it made available up to twelve upper division units to teachers and registered UCSB students.

Yes. There was a Black Student’s Union at UCSB in 1974-1975. There was also a Black EOP, a Black History Week, a Black Studies Department, a Black Culture Week and some [but not enough] Beautiful Black Women and Men walking around this campus by the sea. Why?

A long time ago, somebody forgot to do something. A very important something. Include US in the Constitution, in the history books, education, in the money. And until we are included [properly] there will continue to be a Black Student’s Union at UCSB in 1975,1976,1977…a Black EOP, a Black History Week, a Black Studies Department, a Black Culture Week and don’t let me leave out all those Beautiful Black Women and Men who know what I’m talking about and carry it with them every sea breezed step of the way… A.M.L.

UCSB chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha was established.

Fall 1982 
For the first time in UCSB history, black faculty members and administration met with Chancellor Huttenback to discuss plans to increase the black student population at UCSB.  Los Angeles Times September 1, 1982 issue titled “Riding High On Waves He Makes”  by Anne Roark, which profiled UCSB Chancellor Huttenback was the impetus for the meeting.  In the article, Huttenback had a negative attitude toward Black Student recruitment at UCSB.  “It’s foolish for us to spend a lot of money trying to recruit Black students.”

At this time UCSB had the lowest undergraduate black student population in the UC system at 2.1% and the Black graduate student  population was 2%  [second lowest next to UC Davis with 1.4%]. 

May 25, 1982
The African Liberation Day Lecture, Dr. Maulana Karenga spoke at the UCen Pavilion giving a talk titled Afro- American Strategies for Social Change: Nationalism, Pan-Africanism, and Socialism.

June 4, 5, and 6 1982  
The first Black Reunion was held at UCSB. The events included lectures, seminars, a panel, and a play.  June 5th Dr. Otey Scruggs was the keynote speaker at the Black Reunion Dinner.

BSU organized Black Wednesdays; which occurred every Wednesday at 12 noon in the Arbor.  Although the initial catalyst for the weekly gathering is not known, Black Wednesdays served as both a social hub for Black Students who wanted an easy and social way to connect with one another [as well as Black staff and faculty] on campus and also as a political statement to show the presence of Black students on the UCSB campus.  Black Wednesday’s were also functioned as overtly political spaces for political addresses and rallies.  Below is a flyer for a Black Wednesday Political Address in 2003.

March 1991 
Rodney King Aftermath:  Students erupt in anger upon learning of the verdict in the Rodney King case.  An all-white jury found several white policemen innocent of beating King nearly to death, despite a video featuring the beating in full.  As rioting consumes the streets of Los Angeles, newly-elected AS President and current AS staffer Aaron Jones leads a march of 1,000 UCSB students through the streets of IV.  ”This is so blantantly a miscarriage of justice,” Jones says.  “It just goes to show that the system’s not working.”

First year of Black Interest Hall at Santa Rosa Residence Hall. The Resident Assistant was Tavio Lucas.

May 20, 1998 
 UCSB’s Black student organization 100 College Black Men hosted their annual four day high school outreach program.  The program started at 6:30 pm dinner at Ortega Dining Commons, welcoming at Corwin Pavilion, and movie and discussion at the Multi-Cultural Center facilitated by Professor Cedric J. Robinson. The second day consisted of a workshop titled: Hip  Hop Music versus Maat.  This workshops goal was to get high school students to redefine what it means to be a healthy African American.  Male and female forums were facilitated by UCSB graduate student Bryan Brown and UCSB undergraduate Tammarin Spearman.  Participants in the program were exposed to university courses by shadowing their hosts to classes.

Sounds of Unity is a short glimpse in to the experience of Black students at UCSB.

October 2003
Over 100 students led a march from the University Center to the Arbor wearing red t-shirts that read “Danger: Educated Black Student.” The hour of speeches given here were to catch the attention of passers-by and to encourage the hiring of 5 new black faculty members, and the addition of a PhD program in black studies.

December 2005  
Angela Davis speaks at UCSB’s Corwin Pavillion as part of UCSB’s Interdisciplinary Humanities Center series “Blow Back:  Responding to the 1960′s”.  Click here to watch the entire talk.  

UCSB students elect the first African American woman as Associated Students Student Body President.

UCSB Enrolls record number of Black Students, 194.


Black Quare, founded in 2008, is an organization for people of Black communities/African Diasporas who identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning, Intersex and/or Asexual.  Their mission is to first and foremost create safe spaces for black queer students, faculty, staff, and community members.

November 20-22, 2008  
UCSB’s Center for Black Studies puts on a three day conference titled, “1968:  A Global Year of Student Driven Change”.  This conference focused on youth and student movements of the time, the consequences of student radicalism, and the state of post 1968 radical activism.  Click here to view the conference program.

March 6, 2013
The Black Student Union and the A.S. UCSB Student Advocate General Yoel Haile sent out a press release and press advisory to the public. The press release was sent to over 50 newspapers, all the BSUs throughout the UC system and publicized through social media outlets such as facebook. The press release articulated BSU's demands and stated that the first BSU spring quarter meeting to be held on April 2nd would be dedicated to discussing the demands and our updates.  The press release read:

Given the hostile racial climate throughout the UC system and a multitude of issues adversely affecting Black students here at UCSB, we as concerned leaders of the campus community have created this list of demands out of true concern for health of current and future Black students here at UCSB. It is our belief that Chancellor Henry T. Yang must be called to action and held accountable in addressing the structural deficiencies and lack of institutional support for Black students on this campus.  The structural changes we want to be addressed are as follows:

April 16, 2013
UCSB Black Student Union organized a talk at the Multi-Cultural Center titled, "Black Power At UCSB:  The Future Has A Past".  Current and alumni UCSB students, staff, and faculty engaged in a discussion with Dalton Nezey, a participant in the UCSB 1968 North Hall Takeover. This talk allowed participants to get a first hand account of how the 1968 Black Student Takeover of North Hall was organized and its relevance to the current climate of UCSB and Black students current organizing efforts for freedom, equality, and dignity.

June 7, 2013
After nearly an entire school year campaign  and deliberation with UCSB administrators the UCSB Black Student Union got Chancellor Henry T. Yang to agree to all but one of their demands. During the press conference student leaders spoke about the on-going deliberations with UCSB administrators to get the various demands met.  
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