This is an archival project started by students and faculty from the Africana Studies Department at Brown University in the spring of 2017. Our aim was not to re-tell the history of protest here – or nationally – but instead to try 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.
It also isn’t finished. No such archive ever can be, of course. But our hope is that subsequent classes and students will take up this project and keep this site up-to-date and growing.
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 thought-through positions on financial aid, admissions policies, student support services, structural equity and inequity, representation, and the curriculum. We also tried to highlight the diversity of remarkably creative strategies that black students have used in order to create the most 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 the Latinx, Asian American, and Native American Studies. 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.