The Origins of Ethnic Studies
In the late 1960s, students
in the United States were fighting for free speech on campuses, protesting
the war in Vietnam, and participating in the second wave of the women's
rights movement. Against this backdrop of protest, students of color continued
to enroll in colleges and universities in record numbers, as a result
of Civil Rights era educational reform. These students brought the struggles
of their communities with them onto campus. Beginning in 1968, under the
slogan of self determination, a group called the Third World Liberation
Front, comprised of African American, Latino, Asian American, and American
Indian students at San Francisco State, went on strike for an education
they felt would be more relevant and accessible to communities of color.
In addition to requesting increased admissions of minorities, the students
called for a School of Ethnic Studies to be founded within their insititution.
When the strike ended five months later, student demands had not been
fully met. However, the administration promised the establishment of the
first Asian American Studies program, a significant victory. In 1969,
the movement spread to nearby University of California at Berkeley, where
that year the first department of Ethnic Studies was born. UC Berkeley
remains the only United States college or university to offer a Ph.D.
in Ethnic Studies.
City College established the first east
coast Latino Studies program in1973, and the first east coast Asian American
Studies program in 1978. Nevertheless, the struggle for Ethnic Studies
didn't find widesread success in the East and Midwest until the late 1980s.
Although various proposals were submitted to administrators throughout
the 70s and 80s, it wasn't until the 1990s that the struggle in the Ivy
League, and at Columbia in particular, was fully underway.