Exhibit Introduction

National Context

The late 1960s was an era of protest and social change around the world. Student protests were pervasive on college campuses throughout the United States. The Chicano Movement was part of this push for social change. At the University of California, Santa Barbara campus in 1969 there was a meeting between diverse university student groups from the Southwest United States. These student groups came together to form Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán (MEChA).  The strength of this student group spread across the United States and streached as far north as at the University of Nebraska. The student group that was formed on the UNL campus in the early 1970s was the Mexican American Student Association (MASA).


The struggle for a Chicano Studies program at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln was hard fought by many people in Nebraska's Chicano community. There were people from Grand Island, Scottsbluff, Omaha and Lincoln involved. This exhibit documents the involvement of faculty and administration at the University during the program's formative years, 1971-1976. Within the exhibit there are letters and documents that tell the story.


The most influential person from within faculty of the University of Nebraska was Ralph Grajeda, professor of English. Grajeda is a Chicano who grew up in Colorado and earned his PhD. at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Grajeda was a student at Nebraska when he first became involved in the movement for a Chicano Studies program. Grajeda taught the first course in Chicano studies at the University in 1972 as a graduate instructor. The class was English 116D - Chicano Literature. Grajeda continued to teach this course throughout his tenure after being hired by the University. After Chicano Studies became a minor field of studies Grajeda added a second English course to the curriculum in Chicano Studies, English 245D - Chicano Literature. This course continues to be taught at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln to this day. Grajeda's name appears in most of the documents in this exhibit. By looking at the document throughout this exhibiit one understands that Grajeda was truely at the heart of the development of the Chicano Studies Program.

University president Soshnik started an advisory committee on Mexican-American affairs in 1971. This committee advised the president until the committee changed to the auspices of the office of the chancellor. In 1972 Chancellor Dr. James Zumberge took responsibility for the committee. Communication between the committee members, President Soshnik and Chancellor Zumberge leave a trail of evidence that sheds light on the issues and decisions which would eventually lead to the Chicano Studies program at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.