Black Student Protests from Jim Crow to the Present
This is an archival project started by students and faculty from the Africana Studies Department at Brown University in the spring of 2017 and continued in the spring of 2019. Our aim in creating this site is not to re-tell the history of protest here – or nationally – but instead to create an accessible, public-facing archive, to be useful to anyone beyond Brown who might be interested in the dynamic tension among young people, race, institutions, and social transformation.
This archive could extend much further into the past but it doesn’t. Most of it focuses on the period from the 1960s to the present. It focuses, generally, on Black student protests because there is both a unique history and a present need for such a centering.
Our hope is that subsequent classes and students will take up this project and keep this site up-to-date.
Users of this archive should know this: in the popular imagination, student protests are described as irrational and ego-maniacal. However, that popular portrait is, in two words, disturbingly inaccurate. The narrative on display here – ranging from the 1960s to the present – is one that reveals carefully constructed positions on financial aid, admissions policies, student support services, structural equity and inequity, representation, and curriculum content. We also attempt to highlight the diversity of remarkably creative strategies that black students have used in order to create lasting results.
We are mindful, as a group, that this site is an echo of ’68, ’75, ’86 – and ‘2015. As such, it reminds us of generations of Black students, Black faculty, and Black staff who mobilized. It reverberates, too, with the work of our Latinx, Asian American, and Native American counterparts. And it continues, intellectually, the work of other classes, other efforts to archive and curate this part. (Specifically, this one and this one, but see “Extras” for a full list).
An echo is a reminder, of course. And, in this case, the reminder is not merely that students make change in the world, but also that there is so much work left to do.