African Independence with French Diplomas? The 1968 Dakar Student Strike and the Question of Sovereignty

Sunday, January 7, 2018: 10:00 AM
Hampton Room (Omni Shoreham)
Matthew Swagler, Columbia University
This paper explores the ways that Historically Black College and University students assumed and leveraged what has been termed “Black student power” during the Black Power movement. From aesthetics to student government to community engagement, student-activists worked as change agents determined to make their institutions more relevant to the Black community. It centers Howard University as a means to examine intra-class, intra-race dynamics within the larger Black Campus Movement. The composition of Howard University - colloquially called “The Mecca” and “The Capstone of Negro Education” – and its surrounding community provide a representative cross-section of the wider African Diaspora. Specifically, this paper examines “The Black University” concept that was at the heart of the recommendations Black power advocates made as critical steps toward liberation.

Methodologically, the presentation is informed by research conducted at the Moorland Spingarn Research Center, the Library of Congress, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, the National Archives and Records Administration, and the Smithsonian Institution; a series of oral interviews conducted with students, faculty, and community activists; and secondary source material on Black power, revolutionary Black women, and student activism. Drawing heavily on visual media, this presentation will synthesize all of these influences to highlight the ways in which HBCU student activists have engaged, transformed, and revolutionized culture, education, and activism in order to build the world they wanted to see.

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