Ackerman Student Union building, 2nd floor, 1970. Marian Brown, Neville Garrick, Andrea Hill, Jane Staulz, Joanne Stewart, Michael Taylor, Helen Singleton, with contributions from the black community.
The mission in creating The Black Experience Mural was to expand and enhance UCLA's effort to increase campus diversity with a visual representation of the history and experience of Afrikan diaspora. Restoration made possible through the support of: ASUCLA Board of Directors, Agnell Foundation, Afrikan Student Union, UCLA Black Alumni Association, Panda Express.
Text from accompanying description: The Black Experience Mural. Out of Chaos, Collaboration.
In the spring of 1970, the President of the United States, Richard M. Nixon, announced his intention to draft 150,000 more soldiers to support an invasion of Cambodia, escalating the war in Viet Nam. This expansion of the draft provoked massive protests on campuses throughout the U.S. including UCLA. During a protest at Kent State University in Ohio, four students were killed, and nine wounded by National Guardsmen dispatched to the campus by Ohio's governor. At Jackson State University in Florida, the National Guard killed two black students in their dorms. Following these killings, the unrest across the nation escalated further. Almost five hundred colleges and universities were shut down or disrupted by protests. At UCLA, students took over the buildings, shattered windows, ransacked offices, sprayed graffiti on walls, and set a fire here in their own Ackerman Student Union building, prompting campus officials to dispatch armed local police and the highway patrol which further increased tensions. Students threw bottles, rocks, and benches at the police. For the first time, a California Governor, Ronald Reagan, declared a state of emergency and shut down all California universities and colleges for a week.
As the administration made plans to repair the damage, which would include repainting the walls, seven African American art students at UCLA met to explore interest in painting a mural on one of the graffiti covered walls in Ackerman Union. It would be an opportunity to express their social and political history and provide a positive outcome from the chaos. Though the university had begun to diversify its faculty and student body, and nascent ethnic studies programs were forming, they felt a need for a stronger presence on campus. A work of art could visually capture and enhance, for the UCLA community, an understanding of American history not offered in the required texts.
After writing a proposal describing their purpose, the materials needed, and the costs, the seven students presented their idea to the Dean of Students, and the management of the Associated Students of UCLA (ASUCLA), who granted permission and funding. The students, Michael Taylor, Marian Brown, and Jane Staulz, each pursuing graduate work, Helen Singleton and Andrea Hill, seniors, Joanna Stewart, a junior, and Neville Garrick, a sophomore exchange student, worked twelve hours a day for three weeks. The mural to the left, a montage of sepia toned photographs of historid figures and events in African American history and culture from slavery ot the present, superimposed over an enlarged high contrast photo of the student artists themselves and a photographer's assistant, is the result of that effort. "We are the product of these experiences. It is the only monument on the UCLA campus, which gives pictorial recognition to the history of African Americans from our African origins to our present struggle," the seven art students said in a statement at the time.