UCLA Spotlight

Celebrating 40 years of Ethnic Studies

  • Published Mar 1, 2010 8:15 AM

"UCLA blazed a new trail by establishing centers in African American, Chicano, American Indian and Asian American studies, becoming one of the first universities in the nation to establish ethnic studies research centers," Chancellor Gene Block said as he designated the 2009-2010 school year as the Year of Ethnic Studies at UCLA.

Chancellor Emeritus Charles E. Young remembers the turbulent times in the 1960s that led to the center's formation.

On the heels of the nation's civil rights movements, a group of UCLA students and professors sought for the university to create academic spaces that would focus on the history and culture of underrepresented communities. Students Bunchy Carter and John Huggins, who were Black Panther Party members, were killed after a meeting to discuss who the director of the African American studies center would be.

But the UCLA community supported Young's preference to create research centers that would delve into understanding the issues as opposed to establishing academic departments.

"A lot of people thought: This is another one of Young's nutty ideas and it probably won't last very long," Young said. "But it's been forty years."

In the video, Young is joined by academics Robert Singleton, Charlotte Heth, Carlos Manuel Haro and Robert A. Nakamura in remembering the era and the campus conditions that led to the establishment of the centers.

Photos used in the video courtesy of: UCLA Asian American Studies Center; Bunche Center For African American Studies at UCLA; UCLA American Indian Studies Center; UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center; UCLA Daily Bruin; Michael (Misha) Tsukerman.