Skip to Main Content

Student Activism at University of Maryland

A guide to researching student activism at UMD using student newspapers.

Racial Justice at UMD

The bulk of student activism related to racial justice on UMD's campus began in the late 1960s. As the African American student community on campus grew, the Black Student Union (BSU) was formed in 1968, which provided a way for Black students to organize and advocate for racial justice at the university. That same year, the BSU led a protest on the steps of the Home Economics building in response to racial discrimination in a nutrition study as well as racial violence that had occurred on campus earlier in the year. In the years since, students have continued to organize in defense of racial justice, garnering media coverage in student newspapers and beyond as they fought on behalf of many causes, including: a lack of diversity in the student body, faculty, administration, and educational course catalog; the divestment of UMD funds from companies doing business in South Africa during Apartheid; the ruling that the Banneker scholarship in support of Black college students was unconstitutional; the renaming of Byrd Stadium on campus due to Byrd's storied history as a segregationist; the support of undocumented students amid political controversy over the DREAM Act; an ongoing history of hate crimes on campus; and police brutality across the nation as well as on campus and in P.G. County, most recently with the mobilization of Black Terps Matter, a campus initiative working in the vein of the larger Black Lives Matter movement. In 2016, a coalition named ProtectUMD petitioned the University in support of marginalized, Native American and Indigenous, Black, Latinx, LGBTQ+, Muslim, Pro-Palestine, and Undocumented students. The group utilized hashtags such as #ProtectUMD and #ADifferentUMD to organize, communicate, and share stories of underrepresented experiences on campus.

Efforts toward racial justice at UMD have been historically documented and often supported by student newspapers, especially those created to tell the stories and opinions of communities that were marginalized on campus. For more information, read our blog post about the creation of The Black Explosion in 1970 and search University Archives' digital database for issues of The Black Explosion, The Eclipse, La Voz Latina, The Asian Voice, Public Asian, Hanoori, Expression, and Mitzpeh. A guide on how to search the student newspapers can be found here.

Racial Justice Articles

Bishop Confronted by 300 Blacks in Protest of Admissions Policy

September 1971 - 300+ Black students marched from McKeldin Library to the main administration building in protest of the increased admissions standards proposed by the University. Students were concerned that the new policies would disproportionately impact Black students who were already severely underrepresented and had a lower attrition rate than white students.

OEOR, Lack of Black Faculty Protested

May 1980 - The BSU led a student rally of roughly 150 students outside the student union to demand the reinstatement of the Office of Equal Opportunity Recruitment, more Black faculty, and expanded funding for campus programs benefitting minority students. 

Coalition Members Build Shanty to Protest Campus Investments

April 1987 - Members of the student organization Campus Divestment Coalition held a rally and built a shanty on McKeldin Mall to protest Apartheid in South Africa and demand the University of Maryland's divestment from companies doing business in South Africa. The article also discusses the events of the divestment protests throughout the previous year.

Rodney King Protests

Students Protest King Case

May 1992 - The BSU was joined by 200+ UMD students and staff as they demonstrated against the acquittal of the police officers charged with beating and killing Rodney King in Los Angeles.

Banneker -- The Future?

November 1994 - After the Benjamin Banneker Scholarship given in support of Black college students at UMCP was deemed unconstitutional, students held a candelight vigil in protest of the decision and in support of the scholarship. 

AASU Studies Program Moves Closer to Approval

December 1998 - Final proposal drafts were prepared for an Asian American Studies Program, an outcome that followed 4+ years of student activism on its behalf. Efforts included the formation of Working for an Asian American Studies Program (WAASP) to mobilize faculty, staff, and students to demand a response to the campus' changing demo­graphics as well as the Asian American Student Union leading students to protest outside President William Kirwan's office. 

Rally Decries Brutality

May 1999 - 200+ students gathered in the Student Union building for a forum on police brutality, organized by the BSU, NAACP student chapter, Student Government Association, Latino Student Union, Jewish Student Union, and Interfraternity Council. After the forum, a rally was held in the Nyumburu Amphitheater to read “Our Plan for Justice and Action: A Formulation of Ideas Pro­posed and Supported by Black Stu­dent Leaders." Students then took a silent candlelight march to the Admin­istration Building, leaving candles on the steps as a metaphor for the dying rights of people persecuted by police.

Latino Students Gain Full Time Coordinator

September 2005 - A full­-time Coordinator for Latino Student Services and Advocacy was finally hired after a semester of fighting on behalf of the Latino Student Union's Action Advisor Committee (AAC). The AAC was formed in Fall 2004, but the push for the position began 8+ years prior. The decision was announced during an AAC-led protest comprised of students, student organizations, fraternities, sororities, faculty, staff, community members, and elected state officials in front of the Main Administration's Building.

Students Fight for Return of Native American Classes

May 2009 - After the university cancelled the only two classes offering content related to Native American history and culture, the American Indian Student Union (AISU) created a petition for the immedi­ate reinstatement of the courses, an investigation into the formation of a Native American Studies minor, the creation of programs that foster greater enrollment of Native American and Indigenous students, and a renewed emphasis on class­es promoting intercultural relations.

UM Students Rallies for Black

November 2009 - 600+ Students, alumni, and faculty marched from the Nyumburu Cultural Center to McKeldin Library in protest of the remov­al of Associ­ate Provost for Equity and Diversity, Dr. Cordell Black, as well as proposed changes to the Equity and Diversity office, the drop in diversity in the freshmen class, and teacher furloughs.

Students Protest Execution of Georgia Man

September 2011 - Members of campus student organization Community Roots stood outside McKeldin Library encouraging students to protest Troy Davis' execu­tion by calling Georgia's governor and the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles. Davis was sentenced to death for allegedly killing a police officer although the case was based almost entirely on nine witnesses testimonies, seven of whom retracted their statements, claiming they were coerced in testifying by the police. 

Remembering Trayvon Martin

April 2012 - The university's Women's Studies, American Studies, and African-American Studies departments sponsored a forum and vigil to remember Trayvon Martin, the 17-year-old Florida high school student who was shot and killed in February 2012 after a neighborhood watchman found the teenager in a hooded sweatshirt to be "suspicious." 

DREAM Advocates Fight for Federal Law

October 2012 - A crowd of more than 250 stu­dents, supporters, and government officials joined together at the Nyumburu Amphitheater to show support for the DREAM Act, which would permanently protect and provide a pathway to legal status for undocumented people who came to the U.S. as children. Supporters included members of the Student Gov­ernment Association, which passed a resolution supporting the DREAM Act prior to the rally. 

“Protect this house”

November 2016 - University of Maryland students associated with the Protect UMD coalition organized a walk-out in support of UMD students from minoritized backgrounds. On the same day, the Protect UMD coalition published a list of demands addressing how to make the University of Maryland safer and more inclusive for all students. 

Black student leaders are pushing for change at UMD. Here are their 31 demands.

April 2021 - In the wake of nationwide protests against the continuous violence against Black people in America, UMD President Pines asked a group of five Black student leaders to come up with a list of issues the university needs to tackle. They submitted 25 demands, which were then added to by a collective of Black graduate students known as UMD BLK Grads for BLK Lives.

Related Archival Collections 

Most of the records collections listed below are a part of the University Publications collection, which consists of a wide variety of printed materials produced by and about the various administrative units, academic departments, student groups, and athletic teams on the UMCP campus. Within this large collection are records of hundreds of Student Organizations and Student Publications. For additional collections, search our archival database here

American Indian Cultural Society records
A meeting of the American Indian Cultural Society, an organization for American Indian students, held by the University of Maryland's Office of Minority Student Affairs, June 26, 1974.
Asian American Student Union records
members of the Asian American Student Union sit at a table to speak with prospective members
Black Student Union records
Black Student Union members protest on the steps of the Home Ec Building in 1968
Democratic Radical Union of Maryland (DRUM) records
cover of the Radical Guide to the University of Maryland, featuring students protesting the Vietnam War on Route 1 on campus
Latino Student Union records
Latino Student Union members at a cookout in 2001
NAACP records
2019 yearbook photo of the UMD chapter of the NAACP
Political Latinxs United for Movement & Action
in Society (PLUMAS) records
students protest at a PLUMAS-led rally in reaction to Trump's election
Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) records

A photograph of people gathered on the McKeldin Mall for a teach-in sponsored by Students for a Democratic Society at the University of Maryland, September 1969.