Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

The Black Revolution on Campus: An Extended Book Review

Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

The Black Revolution on Campus: An Extended Book Review

Article excerpt


Historian Martha Biondi's 2012 book entitled The Black Revolution on Campus (University of California Press, 2012, 366 pp. ISBN 9780520296224) provides accounts of Black student activism on college and university campuses throughout the United States. The Associate Professor of African American Studies and History at Northwestern University explores selected college and university campuses as case studies, chronicling the power and impact of Black student activism in the late 60s. Using archival research and oral histories, Biondi's 278-page work provides insight into how Black students revolutionized higher education through their protests, strikes, and seizures of buildings towards the fulfillment of their demands.

For Biondi, "This dramatic explosion of militant activism set in motion a period of conflict, crackdown, negotiation, and reform that profoundly transformed college life. At stake was the very mission of higher education". (1) She concludes the book with a discursive analysis of "What Happened to Black Studies?" where she argues against the standardization of the curriculum in academic units in favor of the flexibility of curriculum, theories, and approaches.

The book divides into eight chapters sandwiched between an Introduction and Conclusion. After introducing the book, chapter one explores the socio-political and historical climate, giving rise to Black student activism on campus. Chapter's two through five examine Black student activism at specific colleges and universities. Finally, chapters six, seven, and eight discuss the rise, successes, and challenges of Black Studies on and off campus. Biondi is sure to include external as well as internal challenges to Black Studies as a discipline and its departments and programs.

From the beginning, Biondi is clear on the inaccuracies of calling this period of activism a revolution. She illustrates how the Black student activist were referring to the moment as a revolution, even noting that Ebony magazine bought into the idea of a Black Revolution when they published a special issue in 1969 entitled "The Black Revolution". (2) However, Biondi illustrates that neither the students' aims nor achievements fulfilled the traditional sense of revolution. That is, seizing power and taking control facilitating socio-political shifts in society and/ or nation. For Biondi, the reference to a Black revolution on campus sheds light on the power to assert agency and reform higher education. She says, "The title of this book hopes to capture the sweeping nature of many of their demands". She continues, "the audacity of the children of sharecroppers and factory workers in asserting a right to shape these institutions was in a sense revolutionary". (3) For Biondi, to varying degrees the "desegregation of institutions of higher education in the American North and West was won by the children of southern migrants and constitutes another legacy of the twentieth century's massive internal migration". (4) Therefore, what was revolutionary was not the socio-political movement or historical moment on these campuses per se, but the new and different Black students and their politics and agenda's separated them from previous generations. For Wayne Glasker, "this 'revolution' rejected the earlier sense of shame and stigma attached to blackness and to African ancestry, and it involved a rejection of the goal of assimilation (into the melting pot of Anglo-conformity). It also involved a rejection of the goal of 'color-blindness' or eradication of the consciousness of difference, in favor of pride in difference and positive consciousness of difference (hence the terms 'black consciousness' and 'race consciousness'". (5)

Ibram Rogers highlights that the Civil Rights Movement primarily affected "the moral conscious of white America to advance African Americans-or white suasion-gave way to black suasion to develop the moral, cultural, and political consciousness of African Americans toward the necessity of black unity, power, and agency through the Black Power Movement (BPM). …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.