From Black Power to Black Studies: How A Radical Social Movement Became an Academic Discipline

By Fenderson, Jonathan | The Western Journal of Black Studies, Summer 2008 | Go to article overview

From Black Power to Black Studies: How A Radical Social Movement Became an Academic Discipline


Fenderson, Jonathan, The Western Journal of Black Studies


From Black Power to Black Studies: How A Radical Social Movement Became An Academic Discipline

AUTHOR: FABIO ROJAS

JOHN HOPKINS UNIVERSITY PRESS, 2007

PRICE: $45.00

ISBN: 0-8018861-98 CLOTH

In From Black Power to Black Studies: How A Radical Social Movement Became An Academic Discipline, sociologist Fabio Rojas combines quantitative and qualitative sociological methodologies with archival history to detail Black Studies' past and present state. The work chronicles the emergence of select Black Studies programs during the radical 1960s and 1970s, such as San Francisco State University (formerly San Francisco State College), the University of Illinois at Chicago, the University of Chicago and Harvard University. The book is the latest in a sequence of works that focus on the history of the Black Power Movement, including Jeffrey Ogbar's Black Power: Radical Politics and African American Identity, Peniel Joseph's Waiting Til the Midnight Hour: A Narrative History of the Black Power Movement in America, Cedric Johnson's Revolutionaries to Race Leaders: Black Power and the Making of African American Politics and Judson Jeffries's anthology Black Power in the Belly of the Beast. Rojas' work also rests alongside Joy Ann Williamson's Black Power on Campus: the University of Illinois, 1965-1975, Noliwe Rooks' White Money/Black Power, Cecil Brown's Dude Where's My Black Studies Department and more recent works on Black Studies' history. Rojas' work is unique however, because of its sociological emphasis and its focus on the connection, or transition, between Black Power and Black Studies.

One of the critical chapters of From Black Power to Black Studies is the third, which attempts to provide a thicker history of the struggle to establish Black Studies at San Francisco State. Rojas details many of the events that lead to the Third World Strike, including the organization of the Negro Student Association later the Black Student Union, the arrival of Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee member James Garrett, the establishment of the off-campus program known as the Tutorial Center, the critical role of the Experimental College, the Black student's dispute with the student newspaper--which he calls "the Gater Incident," named after the newspaper, the Daily Gater--and subsequent suspension of Black Panther George Murray and student initiatives to appoint Dr. Nathan Hare. Rojas' work does a good job in identifying those individuals in California that worked against the establishment of Black Studies, including San Francisco State presidents Robert Smith, S.I. Hayakawa and then California governor Ronald Reagan. In chronicling these events, the author puts some names, dates and faces to one of, if not the, single most important sites of struggle leading to the emergence of Black Studies. Still, as a historical sketch of the San Francisco State struggle, Rojas third chapter leaves much to be desired. His work fails to mention the critical role played by Black Arts Movement activists Sonia Sanchez, Amiri Baraka, Askia Toure, Sarah Webster Fabio and, young actor at the time, Danny Glover. He also ignores the parts played by figures like Benny Stewart, Coltrane Chimurenga, Oba T'Shaka, the Goncalves, Mariana Awaddy, Joe White and Robert Chrisman, among a list of others.

Like Noliwe Rooks' work, White Money/Black Power, Rojas monolithically characterizes the students and activists involved as "black nationalist"; an assertion that rests upon his loose definition derived from the work of Michael Dawson. While Dawson's work Black Visions: the Roots of Contemporary African-American Political Ideologies is successful in teasing out the various political strands running throughout the Black community, From Black Power to Black Studies fails short in this regard. The work falls victim to the same criticism of Rooks work lent by Perry Hall. In his lengthy review, "History, Memory and Bad Memories", Hall argues that Rooks, "oversimplifies the reality that many ideologies other than nationalism, notably socialism and Marxism (and even integrationism and capitalism), were at play in this activist mix (Hall, p7). …

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