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1969 — Third World Liberation Front (TWLF) strike for Ethnic Studies programs at UC Berkeley

TWLF supporters block Sather Gate.  Chancellor Heyns responded with "Sather Gate will be kept open by any means necessary," which led to Governor Reagan's declaration of "extreme emergency" and the brief calling in of the National Guard, the use of hundreds of local and county police, and tactic of teargas for crowd dispersal and mace to make arrests

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Black Studies program proposed in 1968


In the spring of 1968, the Afro-American Student Union (AASU) at UC Berkeley submitted a proposal for the creation of a Black Studies program.  Declaring that Black students all over America were in a state of crisis, the AASU demanded that the university implement "a program which will be of, by, and for Black people."  They envisioned the program evolving into an autonomous department that would ensure that "Black students would be educated rather than indoctrinated."  After persistent pressure from the AASU, Chancellor Heyns and the UC Regents approved a Black Studies program, not a department, on January 13, 1969.  The AASU criticized this proposal for the absence of black student and staff involvement in implementing the program, and rejected Heyns' plan.

Building a coalition -- the Third World Liberation Front (TWLF)


The Black activists at Berkeley then joined forces with the Mexican American Student Confederation (MASC), the Asian American Political Alliance (AAPA), and the Native American Student Alliance (NASA,) under the banner of the Third World Liberation Front (TWLF.)  Inspired by the example of the TWLF at San Francisco State, the idea behind this coalition was to attain a Third World College, incorporating individual departments with studies devoted to the four main ethnic groups.  "Self-determination" was the TWLF watchword, meaning that a Third World College should give students of color an opportunity to challenge the university's traditional Euro-centric education, and incorporate discussions of identity and oppression into academia.


The strike


TWLF launched a student strike at UCB on January 22, 1969 with a set of formal demands:


1.  Establishment of a Third World College.

2.  Recruitment of "third world" people at every level of university administration, instruction, and staffing.

3.  Open admissions for "third world" applicants.

4.  Institutional autonomy ("third world control over third world programs.")

5.  Amnesty for strikers.


The first days of the strike took the form of informational pickets at major campus entrances and buildings, with the goal of building a broad base of support, including sympathetic white students.  By ten days in, the smaller picket lines had grown into gatherings of thousands, with large, serpentine "marches" across the campus and demonstrations blocking Sather Gate.  Centrist campus organizations, such as the ASUC Senate, the faculty Senate and the Daily Cal indicated support for the TWLF's goals, while raising questions about the strike's "tactics."  A large campus employee's union, AFSCME Local 1695, voted to respect the TWLF picket lines and support the strike.



































When TWLF supporters blocked Sather Gate,  Chancellor Roger Heyns responded with "Sather Gate will be kept open by any means necessary."  On February 4, plainclothes police tried to arrest strikers in the middle of a demonstration.  This touched off a riot in which pro-TWLF students beat back the arresting officers .  Twenty students were arrested and twenty injured.  The administration responded by banning noon rallies on Sproul Plaza, and together with the police, appealed to Governor Reagan to declare "a state of extreme emergency" so more police forces could be brought in. 

On February 5, the National Guard was brought on campus for the first time, and police used teargas and mace on student demonstrators.  In response, strikers threw gas-spewing canisters back at police and pelted them with non-lethal projectiles.


On February 13, police arrested 17 Teaching Assistants on a peaceful picket line.  This action led the TA union, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) Local 1570 ), which previously had  declined to go on strike with TWLF, to vote to strike in protest of the arrests of their members.

The strike is settled, but there is dissension in the TWLF ranks


After ten weeks of intense struggle on TWLF's part, with help from campus unions, and widespread support for the concept of Ethnic Studies, UC Berkeley's faculty Senate voted overwhelmingly to establish a department of Ethnic Studies on the campus.  The activists within TWLF vowed to continue the fight for a Third World College.  The new Ethnic Studies Department was bound by standard university protocols.  The department, like every other, functioned under the direct authority of the Chancellor. The Black Student Union (BSU) continued to advocate for an "autonomous" Afro-American Studies  department, and in 1974 the Afro-American Studies curriculum gained "departmental status" in the College of Letters and Science."  This separatist move by the BSU took Afro-American Studies out of the Ethnic Studies Department and effectively ended the dream of a Third World College.

The TWLF at San Francisco State University


The San Francisco State University (SFSU Third World Liberation Front strike, which started in November, 1968, two months before the UC Berkeley TWLF strike, and served as its model, lasted five months.  On March 7, 1969, the TWLF and the Black Student Union (BSU) at SFSU reached an agreement with SFSU establishing a College of Ethnic Studies, with departments established for Africana Studies, American Indian Studies, Asian American Studies and Latina/Latino Studies.   Other colleges and universities  across the country followed suit, establishing Ethnic Studies as an accepted field of study.


The 1978 Supreme Court decision and California's 1996 Proposition 209 Initiative.


Gauging the historical impact of the Ethnic Studies strikes at UCB and SFSU is a complex and somewhat controversial subject, affected in significant ways by court decisions and public sentiment..  In 1978, the US Supreme Court ruled that racial admission quotas were unconstitutional, but allowed affirmative action programs to continue giving consideration to race and other factors in admission policies.  In 1996, the California electorate passed Proposition 209, which forbade consideration of race in college and university admissions, in public employment and in public contracting.  These changes effectively ended affirmative action programs in California higher education.


Changes in UCB's student makeup:  Asian enrollment skyrockets and  black students go elsewhere for a college education


The end to affirmative action has contributed to a dramatic change in the ethnic composition of UCB's student body. Black student admissions are currently down to 2-3%, just one-sixth of the black population's overall percentage in California.  Asian enrollment has shot up to around 45%, while enrollment is down to 25% or so, and Chicano/Latino enrollment sits at around 15%.  Native enrollment has declined to  around 0.25%, and international student enrollment makes up most of the balance (around 15%).  Of course, many other factors, including historic migrations from Southeast Asia have affected student demographics in significant ways.

Despite the successful effort to create a  Black Studies department at UCB, black students now frequently choose other colleges and universities where they feel more welcome, partly due to the extremely high cost of education on the UCB campus and its relatively small number of black instructors (about 3% of total faculty.)


Ethnic Studies programs are having a profound effect on American education

Like every aspect of discussions of race, the effects of ethnic studies programs are subject to contentious debate.  Nonetheless, there seems to be a majority consensus that ethnic studies are effective in raising the self-confidence and life achievement skills of young students of color.  Interestingly, these programs, which are now common in high schools, colleges and universities, seem to be most effective in secondary schools, where young people are most easily challenged to understand their place in society, their history and culture, and assess their prospects for the future.  There is disagreement in some public school systems about the effects of ethnic studies programs on white students, who may have difficulty with some of the more assertive aspects of curricula that introduce them to the concepts of "black power" and "La Raza" in particular.







TWLF supporters rally at Sather Gate. 

TWLF supporters block Sather Gate.

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Marv Aoki (above) and other TWLF leaders speak in Pauley Ballroom (all four adjacent photos).

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TWLF speakers' platform, Pauley Ballroom.

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The crowd in Pauley listens to the TWLF spokespeople (photos immediately above and below).

TWLF supporters demonstrate at the entrance to the UCB campus.

TWLF supporters march with Campanile in the background.

Bancroft and Telegraph was considered to be Berkeley City public property and was the site of many TWLF picket lines.

UC Berkeley students were kept involved and informed at TWLF meetings in large classroom auditoriums (L and R photos).

Student in center of photograph taken on Sproul Plaza may not have been a TWLF supporter.

TWLF picket line makes a U-turn at the bridge just inside Sather Gate.

Mexican-American Student Confederation leader Jaime Soliz confers in Pauley.

TWLF supporters model ethnic diversity.  Use of picket sign sarcasm makes a point. 

TWLF supporters parade through Sather Gate.

AFSCME Local 1695 was the only campus employee union that supported the TWLF strike (other than the Teaching Assistants' union, AFT Local 1570,  These AFSCME picketers on Bancroft Avenue walk next to the Student Union building.

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TWLF informational table. 

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TWLF support Rally, Sproul Plaza.  Note the AFT Local 1570 (T.A.s) signs.

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The UCB administration used  Governor Reagan's "state of extreme emergency" to call in Alameda County Sheriff's Deputies to "clear Sather Gate."

TWLF strike leader with hard hat.


Unlike the first ten days of the TWLF strike, later massive police interventions targeted TWLF leaders and activists for arrests.  Police violence served to swell the ranks of TWLF supporters.


TWLF supporters commanded the streets and walkways on the UC Berkeley campus.

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TWLF picketers and canine supporters on Sproul Plaza.


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AFSCME Local 1695, the UC Berkeley campus employees' union, traveled to San Francisco State University (SFSU) to support SFSU's TWLF strike.


"Tear Gas Thursday," February 4, 1969.  Police use teargas on campus against TWLF supporters, driving hundreds onto Telegraph Avenue.


Police in gas masks chase some TWLF supporters back onto campus after deploying teargas at Bancroft and Telegraph.

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Sproul Hall Plaza.  Note the gesture of support for the TWLF from the black community.


This disabled student activist was very involved in supporting the TWLF, and was a frequent TWLF rally speaker..

"T.W.F.  A.A." (TWLF Afro-American) pickets at Bancroft and Telegraph.

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TWLF leader Manuel Delgado leads protesters through a classroom building.

White supporters of TWLF do picket duty at Bancroft and Telegraph.


California State Highway Patrol Officers conduct a forceful sweep of Sproul Plaza.

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Drumming up enthusiasm for the TWLF strike at Bancroft and Telegraph.

Black students supporting the TWLF strike.

Asian American TWLF activists on Sproul Plaza.

"Speak softly and carry a big stick"  was President Theodore Roosevelt's foreign policy credo.  Some TWLF demonstrators adopted the "big stick" part.

Students couldn't miss the serpentine lines of TWLF supporters encouraging them to join the strike.

Alameda County Sherrif's Deputies used nightsticks across the throat as persuaders.


Campus employees and their union didn't like the ominous presence of National Guard troops and squads of law enforcement officers on campus.  They voted to join the strike.

Latina students joined the strike.


Talking up the TWLF strike on Bancroft Avenue next to the Student Union.


The Teaching Assistants' union (AFT Local 1570) went on strike after some of them were arrested at a peaceful TWLF demonstration


Did this new photographer intentionally fumble with his movie camera to avoid filming two white cops arresting a black student?


This TWLF spokesperson appeared at at microphones on campus several times.

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TWLF demonstration outside a UC Berkeley Regents meeting on February 21, 1969.


Riddle: How many Sherrif's Deputies does it take to screw over one demonstrator?

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Police teargas on campus.


TWLF medics awaiting their next call.


I see your point, officers, you don't have to twist my arm to get me to leave.

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