In 1968, an estimated 60 students led by Charles Jenkins founded the Black Student Union at UCR. Soon after, in 1969, the group helped originate the Black Studies Department. The major was dissolved in 1970 and categorized as an interdisciplinary study instead. The newly formed Black Student Union remained active though and, along with those involved in the former Black Studies department, remained committed to giving value to the Black student experience.
Throughout the ‘70s, many old Highlander articles referenced organizations such as “Black Students United” and “Black Student Activities,” but it’s difficult to pinpoint an exact date when what we think of as African Student Programs became “official.” In general, 1972 is the agreed-upon date. It was during this time period that the former Black Studies Department emerged as a natural gathering space for students of African descent, as well as a distinct resource for additional student services and support. The space was a place for Black students to call their own, much like the African Student Programs office is today.
In 1979, Black Student Activities, under the guidance of Kathryn Jones, became Black Student Programs and was recognized as an official entity. In the fall of 1998, African American undergraduate enrollment surpassed the 500 mark with 505 students enrolled. That same year, student leaders organized to change the department name from Black Student Programs to African Student Programs. In fall of 2003, enrollment of African American students at UCR surpassed the 1,000 mark with 1,013 students enrolled. Currently, UCR has the largest number of students who identify as African American within the UC system. Currently, African American undergraduate enrollment is 1,265 students.
A Valuable Legacy
What began as a revolution is now an institution. Not only do more Black students come to UCR than any other UC school, our students of African descent have a reputation of graduating at higher rates than any other ethnicity on campus. We are also the only UC campus with a physical office devoted to African student programs and services. Today, as people of the African Diaspora, we continue to honor our multiple identities and cultures and advocate for their inclusion in defining the values of UCR. We are proud of our past and can’t wait to see what the future holds.
We invite you to learn more about our rich history by exploring our Interactive Timeline!