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Spring Colloquium Series
Wednesday, April 27, 2011 - 12:00pm - 1:30pm
Ph.D. Candidate in the Steinhardt School of Education, New York University
Problem and Promise of Educational Reform: 1970s Black Student Activism at Harvard
Against the backdrop of a national turn toward conservatism, black students and faculty at Harvard sought to implement a comprehensive agenda for educational reform during a difficult implementation phase of the 1970s. The students wanted to ensure that the 1969 faculty agreement, which included the creation of an Afro-Americans Studies department, promise to form a W. E.B. DuBois Institute, and the commitment to increase minority admissions and faculty hires rested on solid institutional grounds. Yet the Harvard administration sought to revise central elements of the student and faculty agreement. For the first time, there was a small, but significant presence of black faculty and administrators who complicated the dialogue of race and reform on the 1970s campus. The interaction of the three groups, black and white student activists, administrators, and black faculty, highlight the difficulties of fully implementing educational reform.
A popular belief, shared by students of color, was that Afro-Americans Studies department was the verge of being destroyed in the 1970's. The administration support was sincere, but inconsistently during the decade. A dizzying succession of ad-hoc committees to revise and restructure the department muted administration's efforts and contributed to the strained tensions between the two groups. The students created the Black Students Association (BSA) in 1975 after a series of internal discussions. It refined its political agenda to address the exigencies of the time such as the national backlash against affirmative action. As a result of their reorganization, the BSA could also fight to preserve the spirit of the 1969 agreement to form the Afro-American Studies department. This group, aided by key black faculty members, was poised to continue the battles for racial reform into the next decade.
Location: Thompson Room, Barker Center, 12 Quincy Street, Harvard University.
Free and Open to the Public. Please Feel Free to Bring a Lunch.