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University of Washington

Texto en español.

In the fall of 1968, a group of 35 students of Mexican descent from the Yakima Valley enrolled at the University of Washington. At that time, the UW campus was less than diverse. The Chicano “Students of ‘68” were the sons and daughters of rural farming towns, the first wave of young Latino students who transitioned from farmworker backgrounds to professional careers in engineering, law, medicine, government, education, and more.  In less than 6 months, these students firmly established their voice, organizing the first chapter of the United Mexican American Students (UMAS) in the Pacific Northwest, the first Chicano student group on the UW campus. In 1969, building on the national civil rights movement and particularly the farmworker & labor rights movement, UMAS mobilized a campus wide coalition of student organizations to convince the University to join the national grape boycott of 1965-1970, in support of unionized farmworkers.

The “students of ‘68” recruited more students from their home towns to study at the university. They pushed for the first course offerings in Chicano Studies, now part of the American Ethnic Studies Department curriculum. They also inspired subsequent social justice movements and political activism in the region, leading to the establishment of two important community organizations; El Centro de la Raza and Sea Mar Community Health Centers. The UMAS group served as a model for other Chicano student organizations on other college campuses across the region, eventually merging to form MEChA – El Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan.

Note: The recent demolition and rebuilding of Lander Hall has erased all evidence of the 6th floor, known as the “Chicano House” during the 1960s. Likewise, Rm 108 in the Student Union building, “the HUB,” assigned to the Chicano student organization in the 1960s has been lost after 2 renovations of the building.

Images

2018 image of the fountain near Red Square, UW campus, Seattle

2018 image of Red Square, UW campus, Seattle

Historic 1969 grape boycott poster

source Washington State Historical Society

Video