By Ardhana S.
During the 1960s and 1970s, college campuses across the United States were cauldrons of student unrest. Students were involved with various student-led civil rights organizations on both local and national platforms, working to achieve every minority’s dream – to be treated with justice and equality. It is important to understand, however, that student organizations in the 1960s-1970s were not static; instead, they changed their ideas and even their names in response to both external and internal factors.
At UT Austin, during 1960-1971, of the main black organizations were NAP, AABL, and The Blacks’. The transformation of these organizations was driven by the evolution of four main factors: community outreach, campus outreach and visibility, inter-organizational outreach, and ideology. As NAP changed to AABL and then The Blacks’, community outreach, as well as black power rhetoric and sentiments, gradually declined. Despite UT’s low Black student enrollment, however, these organizations’ activities on campus were similar to those of San Francisco State College’s (SFSC) Black Student Union (BSU) and other well-known colleges. Unlike SFSC, however, black organizations on campus did not sustain their black power sentiments or aggressive behavior for as long as the BSU did.
Transformation of NAP to AABL to The Blacks’
During the 1960s and 1970s, college campuses across the United States were cauldrons of student unrest. In particular, students on college campuses were involved with various student-led civil rights organizations. On both local and national platforms, student organizations worked to achieve every minority’s dream – to be treated with justice and equality. It is important to understand, however, that student organizations in the 1960s-1970s did not remain the same for long; instead, they changed their ideas and even their names in relation to both external and internal factors.
At the University of Texas at Austin, the Negro Association for Progress (NAP) was one of the main black student civil rights organizations in 1968. NAP had previously changed their name from Negro Students for Progress (NSA). The change from “Students” to “Association” reflected their intentions of recruiting a variety of students beyond the African-American demographic. NAP members spoke audaciously – in line with Black Power rhetoric – and acted boldly during their demonstrations. However, the King’s assassination marked a turning point for NAP. Outraged by his death, their anger and frustration led to a new era in 1969, when NAP re-defined themselves as the Afro-Americans for Black Liberation (AABL). In the name alone, the shift from “Negro” to “Afro-Americans” and “Association” to “for Black Liberation” implies an organization that would continue to push for massive campus reform that serve the needs of minority students, but now with a sense of pride for their African heritage. True to the name, AABL pushed for many policy changes in regards to education and recognition and continued to demonstrations as NAP did. AABL’s actions on campus were more aggressive than that of NAP’s, and though this was in an attempt to increase student passions towards their struggle, their activities seemed to incite the opposite reaction. Many students were not comfortable with AABL’s assumption of black power sentiments, therefore in 1970, AABL redefined themselves as The Blacks’ and took a more inward direction towards approaching issues on campus.
The evolutions of black organizations at The University of Texas at Austin were driven by the evolution of four main factors: community outreach, campus outreach and visibility, inter-organizational outreach, and ideology. As NAP changed to AABL and then The Blacks’, community outreach, as well as black power rhetoric and sentiments, gradually declined. Despite UT’s low Black student enrollment, however, these organizations’ activities on campus were similar to those of SFSC’s Black Student Union (BSU) and other well-known colleges. Unlike SFSC, however, black organizations on campus did not sustain their black power sentiments or aggressive behavior for as long as the BSU did.
After the passage of the Equal Opportunity Act Civil Rights Act in the summer of 1964, many student organizations, like NAP, at predominantly white college campuses were trying to spread their influence into disenfranchised, neighboring communities. As black students became politically active during the Black Power era, they carried with themselves an awareness of the sociopolitical conditions from which they came and therefore, felt a strong responsibility to serve as connections to young people from poor communities. In 1970, at the University of Chicago – another elite, predominately white public college – graduate and undergraduate students came together under the name Communiversity to teach weekend courses to Chicagoans in black neighborhoods who did not have access to a formal Black Studies programs. Interestingly, just as SNCC leader Larry Jackson encouraged NAP to help improve the lives of East Austin residents, prominent black power leader Malcolm X had a similar influence on black students in Chicago.
 “The Black revolution on campus” Martha Biondi pg.111
Hari Dillon – a second generation Indian-American and member of the strike committee at SFSC at the time – was at this particular AABL rally and shared to the crowd that “This rally isn’t a danger to the administration. It’s when you take action, like we did at San Francisco State that the administration says no rallies or standing in groups of three.”24 Unlike AABL’s demonstrations in the late ‘60s, the Black Student Union were holding strikes. Most notably, in 1968 – to protest California’s discriminatory metric for college admission – held a five month strike that led to nearly eight hundred arrests and drew the national media’s and even President Reagan’s attention. What is most remarkable is AABL’s connection with a school known for its galvanizing activism. This relationship only reinforces AABL’s commitment to working with a diverse set of individuals.
 “The Black revolution on campus” Martha Biondi pg. 43
The African-American demographic at UT Austin is quite striking when put in the context of a few other colleges. Particularly, San Francisco State College and Merritt College, both predominantly white college campuses in California, were well known across the nation for their campus activism throughout the ‘60s. By 1968, nine hundred out of eighteen thousand students were black at SFSC and about 40% of the students were black at Merritt College. Although for black enrollment in predominantly white colleges was still quite bleak nationwide, hovering around 1-2%, UT’s black was far fewer. UT’s slow desegregation process probably influenced these numbers in that by 1960, major societal facets of the campus of life, like intercollegiate sports, remained segregated until much later in the decade which deterred many prospective black students from attending UT.
The lack in Black students certainly affected the longevity of black organizations at UT Austin but did not, by any means, affect their organizing power and community outreach. The implications of this study show that organizations at other predominantly white colleges with a Black student population similar to that of UT’s might have developed some of the same trends in organizational transformation did. Without further examination, we cannot know if the Black student population significantly contributed to the longevity and success of other Black student groups at predominantly white colleges or if it was a significant factor to UT alone.
 “The Black revolution on campus” Martha Biondi pg. 44
 “The Black revolution on campus” Martha Biondi pg. 41
Hey! My name is Aradhana S. and I’m currently a senior in Biomedical Engineering at UT. This was my first history paper involving archival research and it was such an informative experience. Being able to touch history is crazy cool! I want to thank Dr. Laurie Green for guiding me throughout this project, I certainly think about the Civil Rights Era from a different perspective now!