Washington State University Students Were Extremely Important To Civil Rights Activists

New research centered on the civil rights movement seems to be never-ending and that’s a good thing. Marc Arsell Robinson, Assistant Professor of African American History at California State University released a new book that examines the civil rights protest in the Pacific Northwest region. 

Prof. Robinson spoke with The Conversation about his new book Washington State Rising, his research, and why he chose to focus on Washington as a site of civil rights protests. 

“As an African American born and raised in Seattle, I was curious to learn if and how my hometown was connected to the protests of the Civil Rights and Black Power movements,” Prof. Robinson said during his interview with The Conversation. “I was pleased to learn the city, and region was deeply connected to these larger movements. I felt a responsibility to share what I had learned.”

Much of the research based on civil rights focuses on Southern states with Oakland, Calif., being an exception. However, The Washington Post reports, Pacific cities like “Portland [had a] small but growing Black community helped transform the city, sparking new civil rights activism.” Now, Prof. Robinson is adding to civil rights protests near the Pacific. 

“My book shines light on Black Power’s reach beyond major cities like New York, Chicago and Los Angeles,” Prof. Robinson said.  “It shows Black Power’s impact on higher education, and it details how some Black student activists used community organizing and interracial alliances to create change.”

Through the research process for Washington State Rising, Robinson made some interesting discoveries about the connection between the University of Washington and the Seattle Black Panther Party. 

“The Black Student Union, or BSU, at the University of Washington, helped connect the Black Panther Party to Seattle,’ Robinson said to The Conversation. “The group formed in the fall of 1967, and later several of its members helped co-found the Seattle Panthers in April 1968. This includes Aaron Dixon, who confirms in his memoir that he was in the Black Student Union at UW before being appointed by Bobby Seale as Captain, or leader, of the Seattle Panthers.”