Black and Latino Studies

[Student Protest, 1969], Archives, Bronx Community College, City University of New York.

[Student Protest, 1969], Archives, Bronx Community College, City University of New York.

In 1969, Black and Hispanic students occupied BCC’s main 5 story building (when it was still located at Creston Avenue and 184th Street) for 12 hours. As a result, they forced classes to be canceled.

Students demanded that the college:

  • Hire more Black, Hispanic, and Asian faculty
  • Provide separate freshman orientation for Black and Hispanic students
  • Allow four additional school holidays for Black and Hispanic students, with one named in honor of noted Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara.

At this time, 40% of the student body was Black and Hispanic but the college employed on a “few” black faculty. Protests also took place at CUNY’s City College, Queensborough Community College, Brooklyn College and Queens College. According to the New York Times students shouted “Power to the people” with their fist raised as James Colston attempted to break up the protest.

The BCC student protest followed a wave of national protests across campuses demanding changes in curricula and academic studies that reflected the diversity and complexity of the United States.

Indeed, the 1970s saw the emergence of Black and Latino studies as distinct academic subjects across U.S. college campuses. Their inclusion was made possible by the activism of faculty and student protests such as the one at BCC. Exactly one year after the BCC student sit-in, the college’s history department had two new course offerings: the History of Africa and Afro-American History.