What could be so important that faculty on campus would agree on creating a new campus-wide requirement? So asked Professor Bill Simmons, first director for the Center for the Study of American Cultures (from 1988-1994). His answer - the teaching and learning of race, racism, and anti-racism in our institutions, communities, local and transnational lives - bringing into life the nation’s first ‘diversity’ curriculum, the American Cultures (AC) requirement at UC Berkeley.
Thirty years after the first AC courses were offered on campus, this response reverberates powerfully, continuing to invite the UC Berkeley community of staff, students, and faculty into conversations and analyses critical to our complex, diverse worlds. Evermore necessary in the wake of renewed attention to systemic racism and the long-fought battles for racial justice, the curriculum bubbles with the energy of student, faculty, and community ideas and expectations for their AC classrooms. We invite you to explore the longevity and vigor of the curriculum, on the new AC Timeline, ‘Tumbling the Ivory Tower: creating the race requirement at UC Berkeley’.
Political Uprisings & Demographic Transformations: In the 1960s, institutions of higher education see a rapid increase in students of color at what were traditionally white colleges and universities in the U.S. Before 1965, the majority of Black students in the country were enrolled at Traditionally Black College and Universities. The increase in enrollment is primarily due to several landmark legislations, including the 1965 Higher Education Act (HEA) and the 1965 Immigration Nationality Act (INA). The HEA greatly expands financial aid to college students, allowing more students of color to attend more colleges and universities... Read More
The "Opening of the American Mind" - Curricular Insurgencies: “As the more diverse student body demanded a more diverse education, the nearly all-white faculties at US universities fiercely guarded the notion that a proper education emerged from studying the whitewashed canon of Great Books and viewed anything that might question the objectivity of that premise as an unwarranted political intrusion. The faculty attitude around the country was, ‘We let you in here. Come in, sit down, and enjoy the show.'” Professor Troy Duster, Changing the Culture of the Academy, 2007 As the number of enrolled undergraduate students of color increased at UC Berkeley, so did a demand for ... Read More
Partnered Struggles - Global uprisings against South African Apartheid and desegregating the UC Berkeley curriculum: In 1976, halfway across the world in Soweto, South Africa, Black school children bring years of unrest and civil disobedience to the apartheid state, and the vibrations are felt in California and in the ports of San Francisco and Oakland, an anti-apartheid boycott, inspired by the Soweto schoolchildren grows. In 1986, UC Berkeley students join the SF and Oakland longshore and Warehouse workers to organize against South African goods being disembarked and divestment of the UC Regent pension investments from South African apartheid businesses... Read More
Building the AC Requirement: Passed by the UC Berkeley Senate in 1989, the AC requirement was the first and only campus-wide graduation requirement for all UC Berkeley undergraduate students. When the requirement was first created, there was not one course on campus that could meet the comparative parameters of the requirement. A massive feat, the curriculum had to be built within two years to ensure that incoming students in 1991 had the necessary courses to prepare for graduation, catalyzing the most dramatic ideological effort in the university’s history... Read More
The war on diversity, and the growth of colorblindness: As multiculturalism becomes the byword for the state of California and the UC system becomes ‘minority-majority’, just a few years into the creation of the AC curriculum, the state of California is the bellwether of ‘the culture wars’. By the mid-1990s, the political ideology of colorblindness, explaining racial matters as the outcomes of nonracial dynamics shapes the national discourse, and the political slingshot against demographic diversity and race-centered public policies curdled by Prop 187, Prop 209 and ... Read More
On beyond 30: Everything is the same and nothing is the same. Entering its third decade, the AC curriculum is the site of new energy and rebuilding, responding to the global conversation on state-violence and anti-Black racism. Creating pedagogical spaces for faculty to exchange ideas in this most intellectually demanding, often emotionally exhausting and politically busy space, AC programs have been created at the apex of research, teaching, learning, and racial justice. Recently, Teaching in Troubled Times, Data Justice, and the Creative Discovery Fellows (CDF) programs, have been formed to create new framings and build new ideas to meet the historical juncture of the complex political times... Read More