Interview with Angela Davis

Can you talk a little bit about the forces that came together behind the idea and the vision of that college?


Well, actually, we were quite unique during that period. That was an era during which Black people were seeking to identify with, ah, a lost heritage. And it, of course, it was extremely important that we understand what was, ah, necessary in order to, ah, feel comfortable calling ourselves Black, in order to talk about our African ancestry in a very positive way, so that many of us took on African names. My name, during that time, was Tamu. We wore African garb. And we were very much concerned about developing our Black identity. But at the same time I felt, perhaps because of my background, the way my parents reared me, that there had to be, ah, coalition work with other groups, that we could not so encapsulate ourselves that we were not aware of what was happening in the Chicano community, we were not aware of what was happening with White working class people who were also oppressed. So, I convinced a couple of students to begin organizing the Black Student Union. When finally we had gotten enough Black students together, and I should say there were, there was only a handful on the campus at that time, ah, then we approached the Chicano students who began to organize and created a Chicano students organization. We realized that we had to come together because separately we were so few that we would accomplish absolutely nothing. We connected with a group of, of progressive White students on the campus and decided that we would make the demand that the next college to be established on the campus of the University of California, San Diego be called Lamumba Zapata College and that its curriculum as well as its faculty reflect the specific needs of Black students, Chicano students and White working class students. It was a very, ah, ah, militant movement I should say. We, ah, were forced to break in, at one point, to an academic senate meeting, ah, and of course ignore all of the decorum that is usually reserved for such meetings. And we simply demanded that the professors listen to us about, ah, ah, the needs of those of us who had been marginalized so long within academia. The professors, ah, eventually listened. They were, of course, absolutely outraged that we would, ah, dare to disrupt their deliberations. But they listened. And some of them joined us. Eventually we decided to, ah, occupy the registrar's office. And Herbert Marcus was the first person to walk through the door. We figured that if the most revered professor on the campus, ah, participated in the occupation that that would legitimize our struggle. So that eventually we were able to, ah, muster support among the majority of the students on campus. We had a successful strike. And, the third college, although it was never called Lamumba Zapata College eventually came into being.