Feb 1, 2024 - History

The San Francisco student strike that created Black studies

Photo of Black leaders arm in arm leading a protest

African American community leaders head a march across the San Francisco State campus on Dec. 6, 1968. About 3,500 took part in the rally to demand Black studies. Photo: Howard Erker/Oakland Tribune via Getty Images

In 1968, African American students led a campus walkout in a bid to demand Black studies at San Francisco State College, now known as San Francisco State University.

Why it matters: The 133-day strike eventually made San Francisco State the first four-year college institution in the U.S. to create a Black studies department.

Details: Driven by the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, the students protested racist scholarship and traditional Euro-centric views of Black experiences.

  • White supremacy was the "norm of the day," Nesbit Crutchfield, a member of the Black Studies Union that led the strike, said in a 2020 interview with KQED.
  • "We wanted to find out and be educated about ourselves," Crutchfield said. "If we could not get that, then nobody could get an education."
  • The five-month strike, which led to frequent and violent police standoffs, became one of the longest of its kind in U.S. history.

Of note: After multiple failed attempts to quell the protests, the administration established a College of Ethnic Studies, which housed a Black studies department, on March 20, 1969.

  • It inspired a wave of Black studies departments at college campuses across the nation and paved the way for other ethnic studies disciplines.
avatar

Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios San Francisco.

🌱

Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More San Francisco stories

No stories could be found

San Franciscopostcard

Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios San Francisco.

🌱

Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more