Black Student Movement

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The Black Student Movement (BSM) is an organization at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It is the second largest student-run organization on the school's campus. The organization was created on November 7, 1967 because of limited population growth of blacks on the UNC-CH campus. Through Black Student Movement there have been many subgroups and committees to appear such as: Opeyo! Dance Company, Celebration of Black Womanhood (CBW), Emphasizing Brotherhood Across Campus Effectively (EmBrACE), Harmonyx A Capella, UNC Gospel Choir, Ebony Reader's Onyx Theatre (EROT), Black Ink and the Political Action Committee (PAC) to name a few.


The Black Student Movement was established on November 7, 1967 as a result of the slow new enrollment of the black population on campus and because of Black student dissatisfaction with the NAACP chapter on the campus. The Black Student Movement was officially recognized by the UNC administration in December 1967. In the fall of 1967, UNC reported 113 African American Students enrolled out of 13,352.[1] In 1961 the NAACP chapter had been formed and had actively protested against segregation and discrimination, but by 1967 more militant students led by Preston Dobbins and Reggie Hawkins felt that the NAACP was overly conservative. They voted to disband the chapter and instead form the Black Student Movement. The NAACP's magazine, The Crisis, reported that the chapter president, Kelly Alexander Jr., opposed demands for separate facilities for black students, arguing against "any attempt to re-establish institutionalized segregation".[2] The state NAACP leadership intervened and the two organizations then co-existed. Although the organization had white sympathizers, it was all-black.[3][4]

The Black Student Movement began taking form as the dominant organization who voiced the views and opinions of black students at the university.The ensuing year was momentous black students on the campus because it was within this time frame that the Dixon Resolution and the Phipps Committee were established. The Dixon Resolution, written by Professor John Dixon on May 3, 1968, requested that the Chancellor appoint a five-person committee to generate recommendations for the faculty to help improve the academic climate among Black students. It was the Phillips Committee, led by Professor Dickson Phillips, that recommended an eight-step plan to improve the intellectual climate and remove educational disabilities on the basis of the race of Black students on campus and those to come.

On December 11, 1968, the Black Student Movement presented a list of 23 demands to J. Carlyle Sitterson (chancellor at the time) for improvements that they wished to see implemented, including better treatment of the campus workforce and more opportunity and representation at the University for African American students.[4] The demands included the founding of an African-American Studies department at the University, an office that would be responsive to black student's needs. Six weeks after being presented with the demands, Sitterson issued a nineteen-page written reply, demonstrating his intent "to be responsive to the educational needs of...all races, colors and creeds" while also asserting that the University cannot, in policy or practice, provide unique treatment for any single race, color or creed", but promised open discussion and the establishment of a student commission.[5] The demands that students made left the University community nervous, given the student takeover of administrative buildings at Duke University in February 1969, that led to police firing tear gas. Many students and faculty alike felt as though the Chancellor's response was dismissive and organized sit ins. UNC faculty members organized a petition supporting the BSM, athletes Bill Chamberlain and Charlie Scott met with Chancellor Sitterson to show their support for the demands, the majority of which were met within five years.

BSM and Food-workers[edit]

A partnership between blacks students and food-workers began in December 1968, after the BSM presented their demands. Amongst these demands was the urging of the University to "begin working immediately to alleviate the intolerable working conditions of the Black non-academic employees". Provoked by Sitterson's response to their demands, BSM met with food-workers to address employee grievances. With encouragement from BSM core members, Preston Dobbins, Reggie Hawkins, Jack McLean and Eric Clay, the food-workers remained determined to be taken seriously by administration.

Sunday, February 23, 1969, food-workers came to work and set up their counters. When the doors were opened, workers walked out and sat down at cafeteria tables. The following morning, nearly 100 dining hall employees refused to report to work, marking UNC's first serious labor dispute, one that would last for nearly a month.

Due to the involvement of the BSM, administrators viewed the strike as a student uprising and refused to meet with workers alone rather wanting meeting with BSM students presents. Upset with the lack of response from administration, particularly the Chancellor, on Monday, March 3, 1969 the BSM partnering with Southern Students Organizing Committee changed their tactics, taking a more authoritative stance entering Lenoir and slowing down service to students. Their actions tried to force administration to deal with the issue. After things got dangerous, the administration closed Lenoir. In a meeting with Governor Robert W. Scott, Chancellor Sitterson and UNC System President William C. Friday argued to keep Lenoir Hall closed until Thursday lunch and downplayed the need to bring in the Highway Patrol to maintain order. As Sitterson prepared to announce his plan for reopening Lenoir, Governor Scott declared that four National Guard units were standing by in Durham, and that five squads of riot-trained Highway Patrol were being sent to Chapel Hill to ensure that Lenoir would open for breakfast on Thursday, 6 March.

Many UNC students, white and black, and faculty were mobilized by the table-turning incident and the Governor's response. The SSOC, the National Student Association Southern Area Conference, and representatives from Student Government attempted to act as mediators between the black students and food-workers on one side and the University administration and North Carolina General Assembly on the other. Though the Faculty Council resolved to support the University administration, some faculty members signed petitions calling on Sitterson to recognize the validity of the BSM's demands and to increase wages and opportunities for promotion for campus non-academic workers.

BSM activities came to a head when, on 13 March, the Governor directed Chapel Hill police to arrest BSM members who refused to leave Manning Hall, which was then otherwise unused. Those arrested retained Charlotte attorneys Julius Chambers and Adam Stein to represent them.Ultimately, the UNC Non-Academic Employees Union was formed and its requests were prioritized: a minimum wage of $1.80 per hour, the appointment of a black supervisor, and time-and-a-half for overtime work.[1]

Uprisings and strikes[edit]

During 1968, the Movement staged several protest marches following the Orangeburg Massacre and the assassination of Martin Luther King that featured the burning of an effigy of Governor Robert McNair and the Confederate flag, followed by a one-day strike with 95% adherence from black workers.[3]

In 1969 along with the Southern Student Organizing Committee (SSOC), picketed alongside workers and boycotted the dining halls in solidarity. Faculty picketed as well, carrying signs that said "Faculty Supports Lenoir Workers". After ten days of the second strike, students from Black Student Movement chapters across the state planned to convene in Chapel Hill for "Black Monday", a rally in support of the strikers.

On December 4, 1969, the police attacked a group of demonstrators from the Black Student Movement who allegedly refused to disperse. Nine people were arrested, including two union organizers. Charges included failure to disperse and disorderly conduct.

On November 14, 1998, to commemorate the BSM's 30th anniversary, students rallied in support of the Housekeeper and Groundskeeper Struggle, and presented Chancellor Michael Hooker with a list of 22 new demands.[6][7]

BSM Evolves[edit]

The Black Student Movement, commonly referred to as BSM has the mission: "We, the members of the Black Student Movement, embrace a culture distinct from the dominant culture found at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In view of this fact, it is the goal of this organization to strive for the continued existence of the unity among all its members, to voice the concerns and grievances of its members to the University, to offer outlets for expressing Black ideals and culture, and finally, to insure that the Black Student Movement members never lose contact with the Black community".[8]

In November 1997, students on campus still felt as though their voices were not being heard. BSM presented Chancellor Michael Hooker with a list of concerns. The presentation coincided with BSM Awareness Day, remembering those who began the fight for equality thirty years earlier. On Friday afternoon, students presented readings, music and poetry to make the campus community aware of their cause. At the conclusion of their events, the students marched to the Officer of Chancellor Hooker and presented him with a list of demands. They presented 22 demands that were not different from the ones presented to Chancellor Sitterson in 1968, however there was an additional demand for a black cultural center on campus.[9]

One of the demands presented at the second round was a free-standing black cultural center. When professor Sonja Haynes Stone died of a stroke in 1991, BSM members voiced their dissatisfaction with the small black cultural center in the Student Union and pushed for a freestanding building dedicated to the late professor.But former Chancellor Paul Hardin said the center should be "a forum and not a fortress," and the Black Cultural Center's suite in the Union was dedicated to Stone. After more than a decade of fundraising and rallying, BSM members were able to see the dedication of a freestanding Sonja Haynes Stone Center for Black Culture and History.

In addition to advocating for the minority voice, in recent years, the BSM has made an effort to promote change and voter participation. In 2009, the political action committee of BSM presented "Vote and Vote Smart", to encourage political participation.

The group presented the event in conjunction with the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the group United with the Northside Community Now.[10]

BSM also has focused the 2011 year on self-identity, hosting "Same by Race, Different by Name", a panel discussion on identity in the black community as well as an in-depth look at stereotypes about Africans and American Americans and their relationship with one another.[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Part III: The BSM and the Foodworkers' Strike - "I Raised My Hand to Volunteer" Exhibit". Retrieved 2013-02-25. 
  2. ^ "Freedom news". The Crisis (NAACP). April 1969. Retrieved 21 November 2011. 
  3. ^ a b Turner, Jeffrey A. (2010). Sitting in and speaking out: student movements in the American South, 1960-1970. University of Georgia Press. p. 204. ISBN 0-8203-3599-1. 
  4. ^ "The BSM's 23 Demands: December 1968". The Carolina Story. University of North Carolina. 
  5. ^ History[dead link]
  6. ^ "Timeline". Retrieved 2013-02-25. 
  7. ^ "Mission and History - Black Student Movement". Retrieved 2013-02-25. 
  8. ^ "UNC's Black Student Movement Calls on Chancellor". 1997-11-14. Retrieved 2013-02-25. 
  9. ^ "Black Student Movement pushes political awareness". The Daily Tar Heel. 2009-10-29. Retrieved 2013-02-25. 
  10. ^ "Same by Race, Different By Name". Facebook. Retrieved 2013-02-25. 

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