DVD and DVD + 3-Year Site/Local Streaming
66 minutes, 2016, Subtitled for the Deaf and hard-of-hearing Produced and Directed by Frank Dawson and Abby Ginzberg
ABOUT THE FILM
Current struggles to make colleges welcoming and relevant for students of color continue movements which swept across campuses fifty years ago. Agents of Change, tells the timely and inspiring story of how successful protests for equity and inclusion led to establishing the first Black and Ethnic Studies departments at two very different universities, San Francisco State (1968) and Cornell (1969).
San Francisco State students, their supporters on the faculty and in the community, including the increasingly influential Black Panther Party, launched the longest student strike in U.S. history. In addition to curricular changes, they demanded increased minority student recruitment and retention, and the hiring of minority faculty. Student activists, like actor Danny Glover, demonstrated and faced brutal police assaults and massive arrests unleashed by then-Governor Ronald Reagan. In spite of these obstacles, Black, Latino and Asian student groups formed the Third World Liberation Front and emerged victorious, creating the first College of Ethnic Studies in the nation and igniting similar actions across the country.
Meanwhile, newly recruited Black and Puerto Rican students at Cornell University faced isolation, ignorance and hostility from the overwhelmingly white campus and surrounding rural community. After a late-night cross-burning in front of the dorm housing Black women, outraged African American students compiled a list of demands, occupied the Student Union Building and armed themselves for self-defense after an attack by white fraternity members and upon hearing that heavily militarized law enforcement officers were assembling nearby. Fearing bloodshed, administrators chose to negotiate rather than retaliate, forging an agreement to accelerate the establishment of an Africana Studies and Research Center, changing the face of Cornell and higher education forever.
The filmmakers, both of whom participated in the Cornell events, offer eye-opening accounts by the young men and women at the forefront of these groundbreaking efforts, which today’s young racial justice activists are boldly carrying forward on college campuses and beyond.
This award-winning documentary features a dynamic soundtrack written and performed by Patrice Rushen and is punctuated by the music of James Brown, Jimi Hendrix, Marvin Gaye and others from the era.
"This film is, at once contemporary and historical, but most of all, relevant, to all Americans of any race."
"A gripping case study of...two of the most effective student protests in American history."
Mother Jones Magazine
"Agents of Change is just the kind of resource needed to learn from the past in order to pursue appropriate policies going forward.”
Benjamin D. Reese, Jr. , Vice President for Institutional Equity at Duke University and Past-President, National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education
"A critically important must-see film for faculty, students and community members interested in how activism transformed the college landscape in previous decades and why social justice and racial equality are still such urgent needs today.”
Joseph F. Jordan, Director, Stone Center for Black Culture and History, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill