Third World Liberation Front

2018-2019: 50th Anniversary of the Third World Liberation Front

The pivotal 1969 UC Berkeley student movement, the Third World Liberation Front (twLF), helped established Ethnic Studies as an interdisciplinary field in the U.S.  Marking the upcoming 50th anniversary of the twLF, this research initiative will produce a year-long series of events, discussions, exhibits, and an online digital portal that archives and documents twLF’s critical role in shaping UC Berkeley’s identity, its relationship with Bay Area-based 1960s social movements, and its impact on the inception and development of Ethnic Studies. Initiative members include students, staff, and faculty from the Center for Race & Gender, the Ethnic Studies Library, the Multicultural Community Center, the Ethnic Studies and African American Studies Departments, and American Cultures.

Thank you to the Berkeley’s Student Technology Fund supporting the twLF digital portal and 2018-19 commemoration events with a $40,000 research grant.

twLF history from the Multicultural Community Center

In 1968, a coalition known as the Third World Liberation Front (TWLF) is formed between the Black Student Union and other student groups at San Francisco State University to lead a five month strike on campus to demand a radical shift in admissions practices that mostly excluded nonwhite students and in the curriculum regarded as irrelevant to the lives of students of color.

In 1969, a multiracial coalition of UC Berkeley students comes together and forms the third world Liberation Front (twLF) to demand that the University acknowledge the histories of communities of color as vital scholarship through the creation of a Third World College dedicated to the underemphasized histories of African Americans, Asian Americans, Chicanos/Chicanas, and Native Americans. The three month long protests that followed resulted not in a Third World College but in the Department of Ethnic Studies.

In 1999, under the banner of the third world Liberation Front, UC Berkeley students protested a series of cuts to the Ethnic Studies Department by holding rallies, sit-ins, building occupations, and a hunger strike resulting in a five point Agreement in Support of Ethnic Studies. Included in this agreement was a commitment to establishing a research center on campus, which evolved to be the Center for Race & Gender.

The UC Berkeley Ethnic Studies Library organized a Third World Liberation Front Resource Guide that compiles materials on the twLF and the history of Ethnic Studies and African American Studies focusing on, but not limited to the University of California, Berkeley and San Francisco State University. Resource include the following:

  • books
  • dissertations
  • articles
  • audiovisual media
  • primary sources
  • newspapers
  • oral histories
2015 Panel reflecting on film, On Strike: 1969-1999, and the twLF movement:

On Saturday, November 21st 2015, UC Berkeley hosted activists, scholars, students and faculty to honor those involved in the Third World Liberation Front (twLF) strikes of the late 1960s at San Francisco State University and UC Berkeley.

The Third World Multiracial Solidarity and Community Engagement Conference was organized by UCB Students from Ethnic Studies 41AC and Asian American & Asian Diaspora Studies 20AC under the leadership of Prof. Harvey Dong and Prof. Emeritus Carlos Muñoz.

The Center for Race & Gender screened the film, On Strike: Ethnic Studies 1999, and led a panel discussion focusing on the second wave of twLF students from 1999.  The panel discussion featuring students, faculty observers and former 1999 twLF strikers followed the film screening.

Invited panelists, Ziza Delgado (UC Berkeley Ethnic Studies), Prof. Roberto Hernandez (San Diego State University), Prof. Priya Kandaswamy (Mills College), Prof. Sara Clarke Kaplan (UC San Diego), Prof. Jeff Romm (Environmental Science, Policy and Management, UC Berkeley) and distinguished moderator, Prof. Paola Bacchetta (Gender and Womens Studies, UC Berkeley) discussed the importance of CRG as it has grown and evolved over the years to become a community hub committed to community-engaged research and the critical study of race, gender and sexuality at Cal. The panel discussion was especially valuable in light of recent events centering on the proposed restructuring of the CRG and the discussion and breakout sessions were an opportunity to clarify, inform and constructively brainstorm alternative solutions for the CRG’s future.

Catalyzing Knowledge in Dangerous Times was a major conference organized by the Center for Race & Gender on April 14, 2011, marking CRG’s 10th anniversary.  It explored the ways in which knowledge is politicized, embodied, and imagined within a volatile political climate that targets education as a racialized and gendered battleground for defining legitimacy, visibility, and access.

The three videos below feature panels directly addressing issues related to the twLF:

From 1969 to the Present: A Brief History Outlining the Critical Role of Women of Color in the Struggle for Ethnic Studies Ziza Delgado, UC Berkeley



Ethnic Studies at Forty: Scholarship, Art, and Activism in the Formation of a Transdisciplinary Field Prof. Nelson Maldonado-Torres, UC Berkeley/Rutgers University



Staging Hunger, Embodying Pain: Some Queer Thoughts on Campus Organizing Prof. Sara Kaplan, UC San Diego

Decolonizing the University: Fulfilling the Dream of the Third World College

On February 26th and 27th, 2010, a gathering of activists, artists and scholars commemorated the 40th anniversary of Ethnic Studies by coming together at the University of California at Berkeley to renew and revisit the idea of the Third World College and of decolonizing the university.

Viewed by participants as both a celebration and a space for urgent work, the conference emphasized how the university can and should become a more welcoming space to people of color as well as an important institution that forges the desegregation and decolonization of society and knowledge at large.

The first day of the conference sought to emulate a version of a Third World College through a combination of teach-ins, dialogue, panels, performances, film screenings, and workshops. The second day of the conference aimed at having in-depth discussions about the ways in which a Third World College is necessary and possible at every college/university, what the near and long-term future of Ethnic Studies could look like, and why decolonizing the university as a social justice movement is particularly urgent now.

On Strike: Ethnic Studies 1969-1999 from Peek Media on Vimeo.

On Strike: Ethnic Studies 1969-1999 makes an encapsulated, incisive study of the context and events that led up to the Ethnic Studies demonstrations, hunger strikes, and student arrests that surprisingly roiled the UC Berkeley campus in May 1999. Opening with a quick historical study of the struggle that established Ethnic Studies in the late sixties, this record of modern-day activism soon moves into the urgent present-time, detailing the nineties’ twLF (Third World Liberation Front) movement and their pitched battle against the university administration.

Directed by: Irum Shiekh

Runtime: 35 minutes

Release year: 1999

DVD available through Progressive Films