Taking Control of Their Education: Students and The Third World Liberation Front Strikes (by Griffin Saxon)


Reading Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies: Grades 11-12

1. Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, connecting insights gained from specific details to an understanding of the text as a whole.

2. Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary that makes clear the relationships among the key details and ideas

3. Evaluate various explanations for actions or events and determine which explanation best accords with textual evidence, acknowledging where the text leaves matters uncertain.

7. Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., visually, quantitatively, as well as in words) in order to address a question or solve a problem.

9. Integrate information from diverse sources, both primary and secondary, into a coherent understanding of an idea or event, noting discrepancies among sources.

Writing Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects: Grades 11-12

4. Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

8. Gather relevant information from multiple authoritative print and digital sources, using advanced searches effectively; assess the strengths and limitations of each source in terms of the specific task, purpose, and audience; integrate information into the text selectively to maintain the flow of ideas, avoiding plagiarism and overreliance on any one source and following a standard format for citation.

9. Draw evidence from informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.


This exercise will help students not only examine primary sources, but analyze them in conjunction with secondary sources in order to understand differing points of view around a historical event, and additionally see how secondary sources can give primary sources context that is not given just by looking at the source. 


This lesson plan should reveal the use of primary and secondary sources to create a historical narrative, and should allow students to understand how secondary sources reveal alternative points of view and accounts unseen in primary sources. The lesson plan will span over three days, allowing students to grasp the use of primary and secondary sources. This lesson will ask students to analyze and cite sources to form an argument, and briefly present their findings to a class.

The first day the main primary source will be presented along with a small lecture or forward about the document, but nothing too in depth. Students will then analyze the primary source, and discuss what they find just from the document. The homework for that night, and day two will bring in secondary sources that analyze the primary source. Students will then talk in-depth in class about the multiple points of view revealed through the secondary source, and additionally talk about their thoughts on the movement, and its impact. Students will then be asked to examine a digital archive of primary sources at home and choose a document to bring to class, along with writing a short paper on how the primary source plays into the main narrative of the lesson. Then students will briefly present to a group their sources, and how they interact with the main narrative.


The Third World Liberation Front Strike is the longest student strike to date; it helped form the first ethnic studies department, and more importantly created a large-scale multi-racial movement.

-What conditions academically caused the Third World Liberation Front and BSU at SFSC to protest? What did they hope to attain academically?

-How did outside conditions (non-academic) play into the formation of the TWLF, and what affect did these conditions have on the college?

-How did the TWLF come to be? What unified the members/what made members clash?

-What was S.I. Hayakawa’s relationship with the Asian American student body at SFSC? What was the cause for that kind of relationship? What actions did Hayakawa take to make him unified or separate from the Asian American student body?

-How do the texts regarding Hayakawa change the TWLF Narrative?
-What do secondary sources provide for the analysis of the primary source?


Third World Liberation Front: A student coalition of the Black Student Union (BSU), the Latin American Student Organization (LASO), the Mexican American Student Confederation (MASC), the Asian American Political Alliance (AAPA), the Intercollegiate Chinese for Social Action (ICSA), and the Pilipino American Collegiate Endeavor (PACE) at San Francisco State College. All came together in the name of educational reform.

S.I. Hayakawa: The acting president of San Francisco State College during the majority of the TWLF Strike.

The Black Panthers: A Black Nationalist Organization founded in Oakland, California in 1966, founded for monitoring police brutality and behavior in Black neighborhoods.

Ethnic Studies: An academic field of study that focuses on race and ethnicity in the U.S. and globally, through a non-Eurocentric lens.

Racial/Cultural Assimilation: Process by which a racial or cultural group alters its language or culture in order to adapt to mainstream society.


“On Strike!” San Francisco State College Strike, 1968-1969: The Role of Asian American Students by Karen Umemoto


Third World Liberation Front: Notice of Demands


San Francisco State College Strike Collection


“Down With Hayakawa!” Assimilation vs. Third World Solidarity at San Francisco State College by Daryl J. Maeda

Download Here.


The Third World Liberation Front (TWLF) was a student organization that came together in 1968 at San Francisco State College (SFSC). Composed of a coalition of racial clubs and organizations on campus, the TWLF fought for reform in academic curriculum at the college. For the past couple years before the organization formed, students of the Black Student Union voiced their wants to establish a Black Studies department; the program would focus on Black history and culture within the United States, along with studies of Africa and the African Diaspora, all through a non-traditional lens.

Yet as the years went on, SFSC made promises to the Black students about the establishment of the department, but never followed through. Finally on December 6th of 1968, the students of the Black Student Union decided that they’d had enough. They held a strike on campus, and posted a list of demands for the school to follow through on. Two days later, the TWLF decided to join the strike with the BSU and posted a list of demands in addition to the prior ones. The strike lasted for four and a half months, making it the longest student strike to date.

In the end, the students got what they asked for, as the college opened up Black Studies and Ethnic Studies departments, but not after facing police brutality and hundreds of arrests. The students’ actions inspired a similar movement at UC Berkeley, which resulted in the establishment of an Ethnic Studies department on their campus. Over the years, campuses all around the U.S. would advocate for Ethnic Studies and Black Studies programs. Today, a large amount of college campuses have departments of African@, Chican@, Asian American, and Native American Studies. It is widely regarded by all departments that the TWLF Strike of 1968 was the origin of the departments, and since then has allowed students all over to study the cultures and histories of these racial-ethnic groups, through an alternative lens.


This lesson plan is intended to span over three days for a 11th grade United States history course. The lesson plan estimates the classes to be about 50 minutes long. Day 1 will focus on the main primary document for the lesson: the Third World Liberation Front list of demands, which students will examine and try to analyze without any prior knowledge. Additionally there will be a brief lecture. Day 2 brings in secondary sources, and students are asked to analyze the different points of view and opinions around the San Francisco State College strike. Day 3 students will bring in a printed document off the online digital archive from the SFSC Strike. They will be asked to present on it, and how it contributes to examining the main primary source and secondary sources.

DAY 1:

Hand out the Third World Liberation Front’s list of demands to students. Split students up into groups and have them examine the document. Ask them to answer these three questions:

-What narrative(s) can you draw from this document?

-From this document, what do you think the Third World Liberation Front is?

-What can you not tell from this document? What do you feel is missing?

Bring the class back together and ask students to volunteer to tell the class what their groups discussed.

(15-20 Minutes)

After that, present a short lecture on The Third World Liberation Front to give students context to the document that they just read.

Focus on these topics:

-The Master Plan for Higher Education

-How percentages of students of color in state colleges & universities were shrinking

-The Black Student Union

-The conflicts and negotiations with the administration for a Black Studies department at the college.

(10-15 Minutes)

Hand out the two homework readings to the class. Ask them to think about these questions when reading the documents:

-How do these documents supplement the document we looked at in class? What is revealed that you couldn’t see before?

-What were the different points of view around the TWLF Strike? Who was for or against it, and why?
-What makes the Third World Liberation Front different from other “Civil Rights” organizations in the U.S.?

Have students turn in one or two pages worth of writing responding to these questions in addition to their thoughts on the movement. Additionally ask them to choose and define three keywords from the reading that they find most important.

(5 Minutes)

Give student the opportunity to start the readings for the last 10-15 minutes of class, seeing that the readings are not incredibly short.

DAY 2:

Divide students into groups. Have them discuss their responses to the readings, and ask them to choose three keywords from their group that they think are most important to the readings. Bring the class back together and ask each group to briefly present their thoughts on the reading and their responses, and their three keywords.

(15-20 Minutes)

Then, split the class into two groups, and ask one group to look at the documents from the view of the Third World Liberation Front, and the other to look at the documents from the view of the Administration/S.I. Hayakawa.

Ask them to think about these questions:

-How do the secondary sources present your group’s point of view? Are they positive, negative, or neutral on your figure?

-How do the secondary sources shed light on the primary document in regards to your group’s point of view?

Bring the groups back together and have them discuss what they found.

(15-20 Minutes)

Present the class with their final project, showing them the San Francisco State College Strike Collection website. Hand out the assignment sheet, which will describe the project.


Explore the San Francisco State College Strike Collection Site, looking at the variety of documents and videos surrounding the strike. Find a document that you find interesting and print it out. Then write up one to two pages about your document, answering these questions:

-How does your document fit into the TWLF Strike?

-In what context as was created? What was it used for? Who made the document?

-How does your document support or go against the TWLF list of demands?

-What does your document do to expand the narrative of the TWLF Strike?

With the write up and questions in mind, prepare to talk for 1-2 minutes about your document and its relevance to the strike, its context, and its argument.

DAY 3:

Students will turn in their write-ups and present their documents to the class for 1-2 minutes each.

(30-40 Minutes)

Then ask students to discuss these questions:

-How did your perception of our primary source change over the course of these three days?

-What was the most important takeaway for you from the history of the strike?

-Can you think of any examples of how the strike and actions taken by the students have influenced or affected your day-to-day life?

(10-15 Minutes)


Odo, Franklin. “San Francisco State University Third World Liberation Front Position, 1968” in The Columbia Documentary History of the Asian American Experience, 361-364. New York: Columbia University Press, 2002.

Biondi, Martha. “A Revolution Is Beginning: The Strike at San Francisco State” in The Black Revolution on Campus, 43-78. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2012.

Maeda, Daryl J. Rethinking The Asian American Movement. New York: Routledge, 2012.

Ferreira, Dr. Jason M. “‘With the Soul of a Human Rainbow’: Los Siete, Black Panthers, and Third Worldism in San Francisco.” In Ten Years That Shook The City: San Francisco 1968-1978, edited by Chris Carlsson 30-47. San Francisco: City Lights Books, 2011.

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