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Monday, November 28, 2022

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The Harold K. Brown Civil Rights and African-American Experience features photos, oral histories, personal and organizational papers, and more. The Harold K. Brown Civil Rights and African-American Experience features photos, oral histories, personal and organizational papers, and more.

Civil Rights Era Brought to Life

A new collection in University Archives and Special Collections highlights San Diegans' fight for equal rights.
By David Rozul

The stories of the courageous men and women who fought for equal rights in the streets of downtown San Diego in the 1960s will finally be heard.

Harold Brown, an alumnus of San Diego State, administrator for 33 years and a prominent leader in the San Diego Civil Rights movement, brings a unique collection to San Diego State’s Special Collections and University Archive. SDSU library staffers said it is one of the rarest and most unique collections this campus has ever seen.  

The Harold K. Brown Civil Rights and African-American Experience will focus on the African-American experience in San Diego, emphasizing the Civil Rights era.

The new collection brings an enriching experience to SDSU and features one-of-a-kind digitized oral histories, original personal and organizational papers, photography collections and online exhibits. These online archives are available and can be accessed here.

“There is nothing that can replicate the experience of hearing the actual broadcast, and seeing those documents to give students a sense of what it was like,” said Gale Etschmaier, dean of SDSU Library & Information Services at San Diego State.

“It will be a rich resource for researchers worldwide.”

San Diego and the Civil Rights movement

When one thinks of the civil rights movement, San Diego may not be the first place that comes to mind. But there were racial problems here, just like any other urban American city.

“We didn’t have the problems here in San Diego like they did in Detroit because of the leadership,” Brown said.

The collection provides insight on the work of San Diego civil rights groups, such as the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and is a valuable opportunity to learn about the methods of diffusing violence in demonstrations.

“It’s extremely important that students understand this part of history because it tells a story,” Brown added.

“It tells a story of overcoming obstacles of a group of people working together to overcome those obstacles. It also says ‘look this is our history, this is what we are. How did we get there and what did we learn from this experience?’”  

Campaign Flag

The Harold K. Brown Civil Rights and African-American Experience is just one example of how the university engages the San Diego region, a key initiative of The Campaign for SDSU. Whether it’s supporting programs that contribute directly to San Diego's growth or building academic programs to prepare for the region’s future, SDSU is an important community partner. Learn more about SDSU’s community engagement and how you can contribute.

Celebrating the collection

The collection will debut in Special Collections and University Archives on Oct. 22.

Last month, the San Diego City Council voted to proclaim Oct. 22 as “San Diego State University Harold K. Brown Civil Rights and African American Experience Collection Day.”

To commemorate and kick off the collection, a public event will be held at 4 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 22, at the Parma Payne Goodall Alumni Center. To attend, please RSVP to Lynn Hawkes at

Special guests will include:

  • Mayor Jerry Sanders
  • City Council member Tony Young
  • City Council member Marti Emerald
  • Congressman Bob Filner
  • State Assembly member Marty Block

“If you look at the race issue, where we started and where we are today, it requires a celebration as well as a dedication.  It requires a celebration of what we accomplished, and I say ‘we’ as a city of San Diego accomplished something,” Brown said.