Black Student Movement

Formed in 1967 by a group of around forty African American students, the Black Student Movement (BSM) has grown into one of the largest student organizations at UNC—Chapel Hill. The group was founded by students frustrated with the campus chapter of the NAACP and by lack of representation in student government. Led by Preston Dobbins, one of the founders of the BSM and its first president, and cofounder Reggie Hawkins, the group was an outspoken advocate for African American students and workers on campus. In December 1968 the BSM presented Chancellor J. Carlyle Sitterson with a list of twenty-three demands for improved access, resources, and support for African American students, campus workers, and local African Americans, drawing a point-by-point response from the university administration. The BSM was especially active in the spring 1969 cafeteria workers' strike, supporting the workers as they advocated for improved wages and working conditions.

In 1969 the BSM began publishing Black Ink, a monthly newspaper dedicated to coverage of African American students, culture, and issues on campus. The BSM remained active in protests and organized advocacy throughout the years, with members participating in anti-apartheid demonstrations on campus in the 1980s and leading an ultimately successful campaign in the 1990s for a freestanding black cultural center on campus. In celebration of the organization's thirtieth anniversary in 1997, the BSM presented Chancellor Michael Hooker with a revised list of demands.

As the BSM grew along with the number of African American students on campus, it remained an active voice for student and community needs but also began to serve as a parent organization for student performing arts and cultural groups, including the UNC Gospel Choir, Opeyo! Dance Company, Ebony Readers/Onyx Theatre, and the a capella group Harmonyx. The BSM celebrated its fiftieth anniversary in 2017 with a celebration, symposium, fund-raising campaign, and a renewed commitment to advocate for African American students at UNC.


Date Established: 1967

Date Range: 1967 – Present

Black Student Movement members Yackety Yack, 1976. North Carolina Collection, Wilson Library.