1968: The Year of Change

The North Hall breezeway installation tells the tale of a small group of African-American students successfully taking over UCSB building in 1968. This act of courage occurred during a time when a boldness was viewed as defiance and people of color would leverage any opportunity to fight for what they believe in: equality and representation.

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African-American students takeover UCSB North Hall (1968).

“The students were fed up with their lack of representation on campus and wanted the school to know that not only did they have a voice, but they also had power and were a force to be reckoned with.”(Wing) The African-American students vowed to their fellow colored classmates that institutional racism would come to an end  on October 14th, 1968; the day they stormed in and successfully seized the North Hall building.

The North Hall takeover was by no means a small endeavor planned overnight or improvised. The students spent many sleepless nights carefully planning this event, motivated by years of neglect, oppression, and injustice towards the 0.04% of students that made up the black community at UCSB.

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Martin Luther King Jr., leading a protest.

A small group of ambitious and fearless students were capable to make a huge impact on their campus as they managed to pick up where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. left off; a civil rights activist fatally shot to death in April 1968. For many years leading up to his tragic death, Dr. King lead countless peaceful marches and protests in effort to fight for equality for people of color in the United States.”He was the driving force behind watershed events such as the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the March on Washington, which helped bring about such landmark legislation as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.” (History.com)

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President Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act of 1968.

In the wake of Dr. King’s death, the House of Representatives responded quickly, resulting in President Johnson signing the Civil Rights Act that has been successfully avoided for four years.The Act prohibited discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin, in public places, provided for the integration of schools and other public facilities, and made employment discrimination illegal. Upon signing the civil rights act, President Johnson states,”My fellow citizens, we have come now to a time of testing. We must not fail. Let us close the springs of racial poison. Let us pray for wise and understanding hearts. Let us lay aside irrelevant differences and make our nation whole.”(Bowen)

Society has taken a great leap towards equality nationally and locally. The legendary twelve African-American UCSB students set in motion a cultural-opening shock wave that is still felt to this day. Months following that takeover, the university immediately established more courses in black culture. A year later, the university announced the new launch of the Black studies department which eventually lead to the creation of other ethnic departments.

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North Hall’s student-led installation commemorating the North Hall takeover in 1968.

UCSB now has a culturally and politically varied menu of mind-opening disciplinary departments thanks to the voices of the 0.04% African-American students. Black students in fact do make a difference and have a positive influence on our UCSB and Isla Vista community, for we are reminded everyday of their brave act as we stroll through North Hall. The series of larger-than-life photo panels exhibit powerful images. “The idea was to create something so that black visiting students could see that they had a presence, and were making a real contribution here.” (Tesfai)

When walking amongst these images in North Hall, visitors can recognize a sense of courage from African-American men at a point in time when African-Americans were belittled and being black in America was unfortunately frowned upon. The African-
American students desired change and this was their way of showing that this was everyone’s business, not just the Black students’. These pictures cannot deny the black pride and solidarity expressed by the legendary 12 individuals who made their mark (a risky one at that); not only on the UCSB campus, but also the surrounding community.

Works Cited

  1. Bowen, Mae. “This Day in History: President Lyndon B. Johnson Signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964.” The White House. The White House, 2015. Web. 31 Aug. 2016.
  2. History.com Staff. “Martin Luther King Jr.” History.com. A&E Television Networks, 2009. Web. 31 Aug. 2016.
  3. Tesfai, Mahader. “Living History Project: The Impact of History: UCSB 1968 North Hall Takeover.” Living History Project: A Collective History of Student Engagement at UC Santa Barbara. N.p., 22 May 2013. Web. 31 Aug. 2016.
  4. Wing, Jeff. “The Taking of North Hall.” Santa Barbara Sentinel. State Street Scribe, 16 Oct. 2015. Web. 31 Aug. 2016.