umemoto - AMERASIA 1 5 1 (1989), 3-41 "On...

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AMERASIA 151 (1989), 3-41 "On Strike!" San Francisco State College Strike, 1968-69: The Role of Asian American Students KAREN UMEMOTO The sixth of November, nineteen hundred and sixty-eight. Few thought this would mark the first day of the longest student strike in American history. Student leaders of the San Francisco State College Third World Liberation Front marched with their demands for an education more relevant and accessible to their communities. Their tenacity engaged the university, the police, and politicians in a five-month battle giving birth to the first School of Ethnic Studies in the nation. Batons were swung and blood was shed in the heat of conflict. But this violence was only symptomatic of the challenge made by activists to fundamental tenets of dominant culture as manifested in the university. African American, Asian American, Chicano, Latino, and Native American students called for ethnic studies and open admissions under the slogan of self-determination. They fought for the right to determine their own futures. They believed that they could shape the course of history and define a "new consciousness." For Asian American students in particular, this also marked is the coordinator of StudenVCommunity Projects at the Asian American Studies Center, UCLA. This is a revised version of her Master's Thesis. The author would like to acknowledge the Institute of American Cultures and the Asian American Studies Center for their support of this research. 3
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AMERASIA JOURNAL a "shedding of silence" and an affirmation of identity. The strike took place against the backdrop of nationwide Third World move- ments which had profound impact on the culture and ideology of America. Never before had a convergence of struggles-civil rights, anti-war, women, stu- dent and oppressed nationality-so sharply redefined the social norms of our society. Originating from the call for basic rights, protestors moved on to demand power and self-determination. When the State resisted, activists held to their convictions "by any means necessary.'' Though these movements did not produce major changes in the economic or political structure, they strongly af- fected popular ideology and social relations. They also resulted in the formation of mass organizations, and produced a cadre of activists who would continue to pursue their ideals. The San Francisco State strike was a microcosm of this struggle over cultural hegemony. The focus of the strike was a redefinition of education, which in turn was linked to a larger redefinition of American society. Activists believed that education should be "relevant" and serve the needs of their communities, not the corporations. The redefinition of education evolved from the early 1960s when students initiated programs to broaden the college curriculum and challenge ad- mission standards. They supported the hiring and retention of minority faculty.
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umemoto - AMERASIA 1 5 1 (1989), 3-41 "On...

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