Origins of African American Studies at Uc-Berkeley (Part I: Department Chair and Faculty Perspectives) (Report) - The Western Journal of Black Studies

Origins of African American Studies at Uc-Berkeley (Part I: Department Chair and Faculty Perspectives) (Report)

By The Western Journal of Black Studies

  • Release Date - Published: 2010-06-22
  • Book Genre: Social Science
  • Author: The Western Journal of Black Studies
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Origins of African American Studies at Uc-Berkeley (Part I: Department Chair and Faculty Perspectives) (Report) The Western Journal of Black Studies read online review & book description:

In the Fall Quarter of 1968, Eldridge Cleaver was scheduled to teach ten lectures at the University of California, Berkeley (UCB) in a course that was co-organized by four Faculty: Edward Sampson, Jonas Langer, Jan Dizard, and Troy Duster, Associate Professor of Sociology. As the grandson of the legendary anti-lynching journalist Ida B. Wells Barnett, Duster's lineage was firmly rooted in progressive political struggle. By bringing a leader of the Black Panther Party (BPP) on campus to teach, Duster disrupted notions that the members were a group of gun-toting thugs without a sound analysis of the social ills that plagued the United States. Although many of the BPP leaders were politically astute in a September 23, 1968, letter from the Office of the President, it was argued that Cleaver "who does not have academic qualifications, carrying so large a part of the teaching 10 lectures out of 20," was a problem for the University of California (University Archives, Social Analysis 139X). Duster, however, was confident in Cleaver's ability to meet the University's academic standards as well as the intellectual desires of the student body to learn from community activists. The course was entitled, "Social Analysis 139X," but most students at UCB referred to it as the "Cleaver Course." Given the turbulent 1960s, it was hard to ignore the political demonstrations led by activists against institutional racism and police brutality. The students at UCB, along with most of the nation, had witnessed (largely via television) the Southern Civil Rights Movement. In 1964, however, Berkeley student activism was ignited near Sather Gate, the historic campus landmark that provides an unofficial divide between the Sproul Plaza activists' zone, which ends at the intersection of Bancroft and Telegraph Avenues and the University. On October 1, 1964, Jack Weinberg, a graduate student who was sitting at a Congress for Racial Equality (CORE) table near the intersection refused to show his identification to campus police and was arrested. It is reported that over 3,000 students surrounded the police car in support of Weinberg. For thirty-two hours students stood on top of the police car and used it as a podium to argue for the right to engage in political protest on campus. Two months later, students organized a sit-in at the Sproul Hall administration building to protest the rule that the only political clubs eligible for fundraising on campus were the Democratic and the Republican. Over 800 students were arrested and the Free Speech Movement under the poetic leadership of Mario Savio was spawned. For Savio, "freedom of speech" was "something that represents the very dignity of what a human being is ... it is the thing that marks us as just below the angels" (Free Speech Cafe Mural).

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