About The New Black Student Movement (NBSM) A GDN Exclusive


Peter Grear

The New Black Student Movement (NBSM) evolved from a Greater Diversity News (GDN) initiative created to educate, organize, and mobilize student voting. The strategy was to develop as an organizational strategy and not to be an organization. The project created an organizing blueprint tailored for Historically Black Colleges and Universities students and Black Student Unions (BSUs) students in Predominantly White Institutions and Minority Serving Institutions. The intent is to help students understand the objectives of the former Civil Rights Era and continue to pursue remedies to those objectives.

The North Carolina Central University National Alumni Association was the first alumni association to adopt this strategy and created the first Civic Engagement and Advocacy Committee (CEAC) to promote student engagement. In addition, their leaders encouraged The Fayetteville State University (FSU) alumni association to replicate the CEAC process. FSU agreed and is implementing its CEAC.

One of the primary objectives of the CEACs was to institutionalize civic/voter engagement as early as possible in the students’ college careers.

The main assets used in developing The NBSM are GDN eNews and The NBSM think tank. This Black Consciousness think tank was designed for student priorities and initiatives, enabling all students can share their ideas and comments. Think tank participants can also schedule conference calls to enhance their ability to exchange ideas and strategies. One such idea encourages students to volunteer 8, 16, 24 hours or more per election cycle for voter mobilization and to volunteer their hours through the NAACP or other non-partisan voter participation organizations.

Voting rights protection and pursuing economic equity are equally important and demand the same attention. GDN has a growing coalition of volunteers and mentors that help with planning and writing that support student activities.

The other project to support student engagement is “It’s a Family Affair: NAACP Membership.” The NAACP Youth and College Division (YCD) is the best student-focused organization in America that teaches young people leadership, scholarship, and citizenship skills. It’s a Family Affair is a well-received initiative that promotes families’ support of their students and themselves joining and supporting the NAACP.

The NBSM’s outreach is too high school and college students, both HBCU and BSUs, and their parents and mentors. The outreach is also to Black civic leadership organizations and corporations that support diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI).

Supporters, volunteers, and others are encouraged to sign up for GDN’s free eNews @ greaterdiversity.com and the student “Think Tank”.

“Seven Sisters and a Brother” Details Black Student Activism That Transformed Swarthmore College

NEW YORK, NY – More than 50 years ago, African American students changed the course of history at predominantly white Swarthmore College by courageously staging an eight-day takeover of the Admissions Office. Their book, Seven Sisters and A Brother: Friendship, Resistance and Untold Truths Behind Black Student Activism in the 1960s, portrays their strides to overcome family, economic and academic challenges, while documenting their struggle for equality and respect in a hostile environment. Their amazing account is being released in paperback today.

Located outside Philadelphia, PA, Swarthmore College has cited the demonstration as the most consequential action in its 157-year history.

The book details stunning privacy breaches by Swarthmore that would spark outrage today, but was of little concern in 1969 when Black students and their families were the victims: Swarthmore completed a report on Black admissions containing personal information such as SAT scores, Swarthmore grades, family incomes and occupations. The report was openly available to fellow students, professors and the public at the school’s McCabe Library

“We thought that was a breach of trust. That motivated us to just say, ‘Enough is enough, something has to change,’” says Marilyn Holifield, one of the book’s authors, who is a partner at the mega law firm, Holland & Knight LLP, and a member of Swarthmore’s Board of Managers.

Another student, Joyce Baynes recalled that the Black students gathered in their dorm rooms to discuss the racism they faced at the private liberal arts college, and to plot their response. “We would talk about how we were feeling and some of the things that were going on in our classes. We got agitated by the unfairness,” says Baynes, who helped plan the protest but didn’t participate because she had graduated the previous semester.

On January 9, 1969, the students sprang into action.

Holifield, Marilyn Allman Maye, Harold S. Buchanan, Jannette O. Domingo and Aundrea White Kelley took over the Admissions Office, stopping all school activities. Soon students, Bridget Van Gronigen Warren and Myra E. Rose joined them, along with other Black students. Among their demands were that the college recruit more Black students and start a Black Studies Department.

With America still reverberating from the massive demonstrations after the police killing of George Floyd and other racial injustices, this narrative by the Black Swarthmore students underscores the lasting impact that activism can have, even if it isn’t immediately apparent. The next year, Black enrollment increased and a Black Admissions Dean was hired. And, today Swarthmore is led by President Valerie Smith, a Black, female scholar of African American literature. Last year, at an event celebrating the book, Smith said, “The activism of these courageous alumni paved the way for future generations of Swarthmore students. At great risk to themselves, they fought for justice at the College and forever changed our trajectory.”

Moreover, the students also excelled in their professional careers, and include a medical doctor, a lawyer, a biologist, four educational leaders, and a computer scientist. The hardcover version of the book was awarded 2020 Sarton Women’s Literary Award for Nonfiction with Special Recognition. The new 2021 paperback edition includes a foreword by award winning author and journalist Sophia Nelson as well as an Afterword that puts the students’ 1960s era protest in perspective with today’s racial justice movement.

In the foreword, Nelson writes: “I cannot recommend this book enough. For years the media and some in the Swarthmore community portrayed the peaceful 1969 protest in a false light―these collective narratives provide a very necessary and overdue retelling of the revolution that took place at Swarthmore College in 1969. The group of eight student protestors only recently have begun to receive credit for the school’s greater inclusiveness, as well as the influence their actions had on universities around the country. As they should.”

Alberto Ibargüen, President and CEO of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and former publisher of The Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald, says, “Over eight days, eight students sparked change that defined their lives, changed an institution and fueled a movement that continues today.”

The authors will donate their share of the proceeds from the sale of the book to support study, research, and celebration of Black history and culture at Swarthmore, and to support the Swarthmore Black Alumni Network Endowment Fund (SBAN). The SBAN Endowment will support student internships in collaboration with the Eugene Lang Center for Civic and Social Responsibility.

Birthed by HBCU Students, This Organization Offers Important Lessons for Today’s Student Activists

Photo caption: Members of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) , 1964. (Photo by Afro American Newspapers/Gado/Getty Images)

April 15, 2020 marks 60 years since the founding of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, perhaps better known as SNCC, and usually pronounced as “snick.” SNCC became one of the most important organizations to engage in grassroots organizing during the modern civil rights movement and radically transformed youth culture during the decade. Jelani Favors, an associate professor of history and author of a book on how historically black colleges and universities ushered in a new era of activism and leadership, discusses SNCC’s legacy and what lessons it can offer today’s activists.

What role did SNCC play in the civil rights movement?

The founding of SNCC in April 1960 represented an important paradigm shift within the modern civil rights movement. SNCC encouraged black youth to defiantly enter spaces that they had been told to avoid all of their lives. The founding in 1960 resulted in a wave of SNCC activists being sent into the most hostile environments to register voters and mobilize African Americans for change. In doing so, SNCC ushered in the direct action phase of the movement.

Previous generations of activists had embraced lawsuits, such as the 1944 Smith v. Allwright against racial discrimination in voting, and the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education case against racial segregation in public schools. Previous generations also embraced non-direct protest tactics, such as boycotts, to bring slow change. But the sit-ins – popularized by black college students who would later form SNCC – placed black bodies on the line in ways that other tactics had not. They clogged “five and dime” stores across the South, effectively shutting them down, dramatizing the movement for black liberation as the entire world looked on through television and media coverage.

Black youth courageously courted the danger that often accompanied breaking the color line in the racially segregated South. Their actions resulted in violent clashes that fully displayed the immorality of white segregationists and simultaneously captured the nobility and courage of black youth. Perhaps most importantly, SNCC radically transformed youth culture in America. The organization took a generation of youth that Time magazine had previously labeled in 1951 as the “silent generation,” and ushered in a decade – the 1960s – that would be widely characterized and defined by the militancy and dissent of young Americans.

How did historically black colleges and universities help form SNCC and its agenda?

Black colleges served as the incubators for this militancy. For generations, historically black colleges and universities – also known as HBCUs – exposed students to a “second curriculum” that was defined by race consciousness, idealism and cultural nationalism. These concepts not only blunted the toxic effects of white supremacy, but they also empowered youth and deliberately fitted them with a mission to serve as change agents within their respective communities and professional fields. It was not happenstance that the origins of SNCC were rooted within the crucial intellectual and social spaces that were carved out within HBCUs.

The overwhelming majority of students who convened in Raleigh, North Carolina, on April 15, 1960 were from southern black colleges where the sit-ins had unfolded. And it was also no mistake that they met at Shaw University, an HBCU located in Raleigh. After all, the woman who had the vision to bring those students together – Ella Baker – was a 1927 graduate of Shaw.

For generations, black college alumni like Baker worked within religious institutions, civil rights organizations, labor unions and special interests groups. Their work within these spaces was largely informed by the “second curriculum” they had been exposed to as HBCU students. SNCC was therefore part of a long tradition of radicalism that was cultivated and produced within black colleges. This exposure equipped them with the necessary intellectual and political tools they would use to take on white supremacy and Jim Crow – the system of legalized segregation in the South.

What is SNCC’s legacy?

SNCC had a relatively short lifespan compared to other civil rights organizations. By the end of the decade their operations were defunct. Much of this was due to both external and internal pressures. Nevertheless, SNCC distinguished itself as “the most powerful energy machine” for the freedom struggle. I argue that SNCC was the most important and effective civil rights organization of the 1960s.

Unlike most other organizations, SNCC eschewed “top-down” operations that fostered elitism and “helicopter” tactics in which organizers would swoop in to inspire local folks and then leave them to manage local struggles on their own. SNCC’s objectives were completely opposite. They entered into the most dangerous, racially hostile and violent regions of the country, such as Albany, Georgia, the Delta region of Mississippi, and Lowndes County, Alabama. Once there, they set up operations that listened to and empowered local people, such as Fannie Lou Hamer, Amzie Moore, Unita Blackwell and countless others.

The relationship between SNCC and local people was reciprocal. SNCC activists learned and lived among the black proletariat – sharecroppers, farmers and day laborers. These people’s wisdom, shrewdness and practical knowledge of how to survive and navigate the worst of the Jim Crow South proved invaluable as SNCC took the fight for black liberation into the rural communities and remote areas of the South. Their blueprint became the template for local organizing for the Black Power Movement and beyond. Perhaps most importantly, their actions played a crucial role in expanding the ballot to millions of Americans who had been marginalized by racist policies and violence.

What lessons can today’s student activists learn from SNCC?

Both SNCC’s victories and defeats are very informative on the history of black social movements. Internal debates are both necessary and healthy for activist organizations. However, by 1964 SNCC’s ability to function as a cohesive unit was under serious threat. Disagreements concerning the infusion of young white activists in the organization and field operations, arguments concerning the use of non-violence as a tactic, and debate over other competing ideological tenets, such as Marxism and Black Nationalism, greatly impaired the organization’s ability to keep a unified front.

Perhaps most challenging were the external threats to SNCC’s existence. The potency of SNCC drew the attention of federal and state agencies that wanted to curb its influence and power. SNCC activists were constantly under surveillance. They lived their lives under the looming shadow of intimidation from law enforcement and the threat of being infiltrated. Today’s student activists can and should be wary of arguments that are unproductive and those who seek to derail their organizations with their own toxic agendas.

In spite of these challenges, SNCC presented a model that empowered local communities and radically transformed American democracy. By listening to and learning from aggrieved populations and empowering local folks to carry out their own agendas, today’s student activists can extend the radical tradition established by SNCC.

Arizona Students Join Joe Madison in Voting Rights Hunger Strike

December 17, 2021

Arizona Students Join Joe Madison in Voting Rights Hunger Strike

The Story:

Two voting rights bills are still stalled in the U.S. Congress. Out beyond the DC beltway, though, they are not stalled at all. They are picking up new and passionate support. On Monday, Dec. 6, more than twenty students at colleges in Arizona announced that they are on an indefinite hunger strike to force one of their Senators in particular, Kyrsten Sinema, to take up the cause of voting rights.


Sinema, like Arizona’s other Senator, Mark Kelly, are both Democrats. Mark Kelly is a reliable vote supporting the Democratic Party’s initiatives, on voting rights and other matters. Sinema has been less reliable, so she has been targeted by this effort.

Specifically, the students want Senator Sinema (D) to support not only the Freedom to Vote Act itself, but a carevout of the bill from coverage of the filibuster rule.

The Thing to Know:

In pursuing this risky course, the students are following the example of radio show host Joe Madison. Madison announced on Nov. 8 that he will not eat solid food until, as he put it, “Congress passes, and President Biden signs, the Freedom to Vote Act or the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.” As of this writing, he has gone more than a month without eating.