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San Diego State students demonstrate downtown as part of CORE. San Diego State students demonstrate downtown as part of CORE.

Aztecs Fight for Equality

Decades Ago at San Diego State: looking back at the Civil Rights movement in San Diego.

In recognition of the new San Diego Civil Rights Collection initiative, Decades Ago looks back at the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s in San Diego, one that saw significant participation by San Diego State students.

On the day JFK was assassinated, the Daily Aztec reported on “seeds of discontent growing in San Diego.” Throughout the week, San Diego State students were involved in demonstrations protesting discriminatory employment practices at the San Diego Gas and Electric Company. The Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), chaired in San Diego by former San Diego State student Harold K. Brown, sponsored the demonstrations.

In addition to public protests, voter registration became one of the hallmarks of the Civil Rights movement. In March 1964, 20 San Diego State students traveled to Atlanta to register black voters as part of a nationwide voter registration program sponsored by the Y.M.C.A. involving more than 100 colleges and universities. In April, students who participated reported on their experiences. One student said he encountered “hate stares” but no “overt hostility” from the white population, which considered the “separate-but-equal doctrine” fair. Another said he “realized that it is not necessary for one to be totally committed to the civil rights movement to effectively participate in one phase.”

Civil Rights activities would continue at San Diego State and in San Diego throughout 1964 and beyond.

In June, Martin Luther King Jr. spoke to a near-capacity crowd in the Open Air Theater about the importance of pending civil rights legislation in Congress. In August 1964, CORE continued demonstrations against discriminatory employment practices by S.D.G. & E., expanding the protests to the Bank of America and other business in San Diego. San Diego State students would continue to participate in the Civil Rights movement throughout the 1960s.

In January 1966, Barbara Weeks reported on her trip to Jackson, Miss., to take part in continued voter registration drives in the South. Participating in the “Freedom Christmas Project” of 1965, she stayed in a “Freedom House” in Newton, Mississippi, one of many first established throughout the South during the “Freedom Summer” of 1964.

Learn more about the new Harold K. Brown Civil Rights initiative here.

About Decades Ago at San Diego State

The SDSU Library's Department of Special Collections and University Archives presents the weekly series "Decades Ago at San Diego State." Special Collections and University Archives staff members collect articles and photos from archived issues of The Daily Aztec, providing a glimpse of the university's past and its memorable events, people and programs. 

More Decades Ago at San Diego State


Aztecs Fight for Equality
Harold K. Brown Collection