Black and Brown Tumbling the Walls Together: African Americans and Mexican Americans Accessing Higher Education through Intersectoral Points of Contact and Interactions

  • Irene E. Vásquez


While studies of relations between African American and Mexican American communities often highlight conflict or collaboration as organizing principles, this article seeks to identify where organizing efforts and advocacy intersected between these constituencies but also where influences and ideologies conjoined their social critiques. While this article focuses on how African American activists and advocacies informed Mexican American struggles, the point is to demonstrate that these groups did not operate in isolation or in organizational vacuums. 

This article provides an analysis of the interstitial moments of interethnic solidarities between African American and Chicana/o student and community activists in their efforts to establish cultural centers and ethnic studies programs at UCLA in 1968. Highlighting the intersectional struggles by Chicana/o and African American students, this exploratory work examines primary and secondary sources including newspaper articles, group statements and proposals, and institutional reports. Collaborative moments in the history of Chicana/o and African American student activism occurred that reflected previous Black and Brown solidarity relations as well as newly developing interactions among students. 

Contextually, my research situates activism on behalf of Chicana/o studies within the Civil Rights period. First, I examine the Civil Rights contexts within which Chicana/o and African American collaborative relations developed and the influences they brought to bear on activists and their agendas. Second, I note some networks and associations that occurred between African American and Chicana/o activists seeking self-determination and empowerment. Third, I feature some joint activities at UCLA that resulted in concrete institutional outcomes. In conclusion, I argue that the 1968 struggles to reform higher education became a pivotal site for Black and Brown solidarity.