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“The Goal is to Build and Strengthen the Black Community:” Black Faculty and Staff’s Role in Black Power Movement at the University of Utah

Year: 2023

Presenter Name: Callie Avondet

The late 60s and 70s are known in the United States in part for the student protests that erupted from coast to coast. In addition to protesting the Vietnam War, college students were also active in racially backed campaigns such as the Black Power Movement. Situated just blocks east of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saint headquarters, which then banned Black people from holding the priesthood, the University of Utah became a unique and ideal site for the Black Power Movement to play out in Utah. Though Black Power did not hit campus until the early 70s a few years after other institutions, Black U of U students followed their peer's examples and protested in direct ways such as by walking into the university president's office with a list of demands and by writing letters supporting Black teachers that the university was trying to fire on minimal charges. In all their work, however, these students were backed by and/or led by Black faculty and staff at the U. Faculty and staff collaboration was an essential, but often overlooked, component to these student activists' wins as those non-students often stayed within the campus community for longer and had more direct ties to members of leadership. Thus, Black faculty and staff at the U were the less seen, but often more targeted, front lines in the Black Power movement on campus. This project focuses on the resistance and activism Black faculty and staff performed in the early 70s in three ways: asserting and defending space for Black faculty and students on campus, directly supporting student protests, and being the leaders in enacting organizational change that the students' visible activism started. Understanding these roles not only highlights the less seen and remembered, but equally important, work that faculty and staff did to bring changes to the U, but also provides more depth and understanding of the Black Power movement and how it played out in Utah.
University / Institution: University of Utah
Type: Oral
Format: In Person
SESSION A (9:00-10:30AM)
Area of Research: Humanities
Faculty Mentor: Shavauna Munster
Location: Union Building, PANORAMA EAST (9:00am)