Black Students in the Ivory Tower: African-American Student Activism at the University of Pennsylvania, 1967-1990

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Overview

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the number of African American undergraduates at the University of Pennsylvania grew dramatically. This book describes the circumstances surrounding the university's decision to increase its black enrollment and the consequences that followed. Focusing on the role of black student activism, Wayne C. Glasker traces the trajectory of controversy and debate over such issues as assimilation, integration, Black Nationalism, and cultural pluralism on a single university campus.

Glasker begins his study in the late 1960s, when the university's expansion into a predominantly black Philadelphia neighborhood precipitated a massive sit-in and protest. In response, Penn accelerated the process of admitting more black students, doubling the number of black matriculants by September 1969. Many came from inner city public high schools with backgrounds, ideas, and interests far different from those of the affluent middle- and upper-class white students who constituted the majority of the undergraduate population. As a result, the next decade was marked by recurrent tension and conflict, as black students at Penn rejected assimilation and agitated successfully for the creation of a variety of institutions that recognized their needs. These included an Afro-American studies program, a residence for students interested in black culture, and a Black Student League. Following a sit-in in 1978, they won a demand for an Inter-cultural Center and formed the United Minorities Council, and in 1986 they joined with white activists to press the university to divest its holdings from companies doing business in South Africa.

Throughout the book Glasker interweaves two parallel stories: that of an Ivy League university wrestling with questions of diversity, compensatory education, and the meaning of merit and qualification; and that of black students grappling with issues of assimilation, separatism, and cultural pluralism. In the end, he argues, the students sought to preserve their own distinctive ethnic culture, identity, and heritage while pursuing economic upward mobility. Rather than separatism, they aspired to a form of biculturalism that involved economic empowerment without cultural assimilation.

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Editorial Reviews

John Bracey
A very interesting and thorough history of the struggles to increase the African American presence at the University of Pennsylvania during the late 1960s and early 1970s. There are few such studies.... Glasker's book constitutes a significant contribution.
Booknews
In the context of issues and models of assimilation, pluralism, and separatism, and the impact of the King assassination, Glasker (African American studies, Rutgers U., Camden, NJ) examines the Black Student League's protests at the predominantly white Penn campus as the school sought to expand into a neighboring black neighborhood and the ensuing expansion of black enrollment. Includes a chronology of the African American student movement. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781558493223
  • Publisher: University of Massachusetts Press
  • Publication date: 6/28/2002
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 6.34 (w) x 9.24 (h) x 1.06 (d)

Table of Contents

Preface
Chronology of the African American Student Movement, 1967-1978
Introduction: Dual Organization on the Predominantly White Campus 1
1 To Open the Doors of Opportunity 19
2 Years of Discord, 1967 and 1968 28
3 The Sit-in of 1969 43
4 Reflections in the Mirror, Reflections in the Curriculum 61
5 The Sojourn of the Afro-American Studies Program 71
6 The Most Difficult Year, 1969-70 87
7 Confronting Class and Disadvantage 100
8 Is a Black Dormitory "Voluntary Segregation"? 115
9 "A Program for Any Undergraduate of Any Race" 129
10 The Sit-in of 1978 and the United Minorities Council 147
11 Assimilation, Pluralism, and Nationalism-Separatism 159
Conclusion: The Revolt against Assimilation 173
Acknowledgments 183
Notes 187
Selected Bibliography 217
Index 231
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