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Black Student Alliance collection

Identifier: COU:2197

Scope and Contents

The Black Student Alliance collection is comprised of materials that date from 1968 through 1998, including the social and fiancial data of the organization, programs and resources for incoming African American CU students, intermittent BSA publications on political and racial issues, and events sponsored by the BSA. Highlights include a pamphlet of the Black Student Alliance’s constitution, a list of demands to CU administration regarding the Univeristy's response to an anti-racism protest, and a powerful essay of racial profiling and harassment of a Black CU student by Boulder police in the wake of the Rodney King beating. Many of the BSA publications include original art and writings by students, which capture the political energy and racial agency of BSA members at CU.


  • Creation: 1968 - 1998

Conditions Governing Use

Limited duplication of materials is allowed for research purposes. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.

Historical Note

African American Students have been attending the University of Colorado since before 1900. Their numbers were large enough to contribute to the membership of an African American fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha, and the multi-ethnic Cosmopolitan Club in the 1920s. On campus, the Cosmopolitan Club fulfilled political, educational, and social roles for African American Students. The Cosmo Club played an important consultant role in the campus’s first desegregation movement between 1938 and 1945. The Ethnic Minorities Commission, a multi-racial commission of the ASUC, ran from 1948 until 1954, also focusing on desegregation. After the controversy surrounding the desegregation effort of fraternities and sororities between 1955 and 1966, there appears to have been a lapse of interest in African American or multi-ethnic societies on campus, as desegregation appeared to have succeeded. However, after 1965, integrationist court decisions and ideology indicated that desegregation was not enough, and that minority enrollment and faculty numbers needed to represent ethnic percentages statewide. On-campus activism began again in earnest, and ethnic groups broke up into ethnic specific organizations and causes. By 1968, after intense pressure from students and cooperation from administrators, two courses were offered on minority issues.

The Black Student Alliance became the African American student group. Founded in 1969, and funded by the University, the group was dedicated to the continued agency and advancement of Black students at the University of Colorado at Boulder. In addition, the Black Student Alliance devoted itself to promoting an environment in which multicultural ideology could be realized by the entire student population. As stated in the Constitution of the Black Student Alliance, its mission was to foster the growth of the Black population within the University, student, staff and faculty; and to empower both the on and off campus Black communities. The BSA sponsored staunch African American activists like Stokley Carmichael, Angela Davis, and Leroi Jones (now known as Amiri Baraka) as well as Black poets, artists and musical acts, in conjunction with the CU Program Council in order to enhance awareness and education in Black causes. BSA also produced a series of newsletters such as "Black X-Pression," "The Black Unity News," "The BEP/BSA Messenger," "Sounds of Blackness," and "Attica" as well as a journal, "UMOJA (1977-1982)" to educate the majority on campus as well as to inform and unite campus Blacks. BSA also picked up where the Cosmo Club had left off by providing a social center for the network of African Americans on campus.

When established in 1969, the founding members were President Bill Collins, Vice President Bill Phillips, Secretary Gleevia Washington, as well as Roland Rhodes as Treasurer and Dr. Ernestine Patterson as the Faculty/Staff Sponsor. Upon requesting to be recognized as a legitimate student group on March 3, 1969, the aim of the group was “To educate its members to the importance and expediency of knowing the true culture and history of Black people throughout the world, and how it relates to us as students today.” Despite the fact that the Black Student Alliance’s mission was a student group devoted to development, education, enlargement and activation of the Black population on and off campus, its membership was not limited to Black students. Since the BSA’s beginnings, it has welcomed all those with an interest in those issues facing the Black student and local community.

A major aspect of the BSA Program was activism. The BSA launched a number of protest efforts: to create and add support for Black Studies; to increase African American student enrollment; to attract and retain African American faculty; and to strike at prejudice on campus. Throughout the 1970s, even as a bureaucracy of racial grievance had already been constructed within the administration, there were protests on all of these issues. In 1986, the BSA protested several allegedly racist posters placed on campus, one by the Sigma Chi Fraternity and one by the Campus Press. In 1988, the BSA joined a multi-racial protest against Apartheid and helped construct a “shanty-town”. In 1992, following the Simi Valley verdict against the police who had injured Rodney King, the BSA organized large protest march from Williams Village to Campus. The BSA also led successful protests in 1994 to support tenure for certain minority professors and the change of CSERA into the Ethnic Studies Department. From the 1990s through 2006, protest has remained a frequently-used strategy when confronting racism, both on or off campus.

However, protest has not been the BSA’s only strategy. Sometimes, BSA leadership would use campus and city channels to effect change. From 1988 through 1991, the BSA and the Athletic Department worked with the Boulder Police Department to alleviate racial tensions between Boulder and CU’s black football players.

BSA’s activities were conducted on a campus increasingly sensitive to racial issues. In 1969 the Intercultural and Human Relations Center was created to address minority grievances on campus and to advise the university on civil rights issues. A Black Studies program was established in 1970. In 1987, the Center for Studies in Ethnicity and Race in America (CSERA) was formed, combining Chicano and Black Studies into one center. Additional faculty offered courses in Asian American, American Indian studies, and comparative racial and ethnic studies in 1988, thus making CSERA the only ethnic studies program in the United States to focus on each of the four groups. Many of CSERA's faculty and offerings were cross-listed in other departments and colleges--history, anthropology, sociology, English and journalism. Moreover, beginning in the 1970s, traditional departments and their professors began to incorporate scholarship on minority studies in both course offerings and class syllabi. After a year of considerable faculty debate, student protest, and a hunger strike that lasted six days, the Ethnic Studies became a department in 1995. It is only one of four ethnic studies departments in the country that offers a Ph.D.


1.5 linear feet

Language of Materials



African American students attended the University of Colorado well before 1900, and were represented on campus by the multi-racial and international Cosmopolitan Club in the late-19th and early-20th centuries. In 1965, at the height of Civil Rights movement in the United States, several student groups on campus splintered off and became more politicized. The Black Student Alliance, established in 1969, was created to support African Americans' social, political and educational goals at the University. The collection consists of intermittent BSA publications, activity fliers, social and financial data gathered by the CU Archives and donated by individual BSA officers.


The Black Student Alliance Collection is a consolidation of materials that pertain to the student group’s activities, membership, and affiliations since its founding in 1969. While there are gaps in documentation due to the aggregate nature of the records, the documents are organized into the following series:

Series 1, Correspondence, 1992-1997

Series 2, Information Files, 1992-1997

Series 3, Department and University Files, 1974-1997

Series 4, Publication Files, 1968-1997

Series 5, Events, 1970-1998

James A. Thompkins, Jr., June, 2006; edited by Agostina Ntow, October 2014; edited by Kalyani Fernando, May 2019
May, 2019
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
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Repository Details

Part of the University of Colorado Boulder Libraries, Rare and Distinctive Collections Repository

1720 Pleasant Street
184 UCB
Boulder Colorado 80503 United States