Brown Center for Students of Color

Third World History at Brown

Although the term “Third World” may have negative socioeconomic connotations outside of Brown, Third World students here continue to use the term in the context originating from the Civil Rights Movement.

Students first began using the term “Third World” over “minority” because of the negative connotations of inferiority and powerlessness with which the word “minority” is often associated. Although the term “Third World" may have negative socioeconomic connotations outside of Brown, Third World students here continue to use the term in the context originating from the Civil Rights Movement.

Frantz Fanon, author of The Wretched of the Earth (1961), urged readers to band together against oppression and colonialism, by pioneering a “Third Way” meaning an alternative to the ways of the first world (U.S. & Europe) and also the second world (USSR & Eastern Europe). When students adopted the term “Third World”, they use it in the sense of a cultural model of empowerment and liberation.

“Third World” at Brown

Brown students of color continue to use the term "Third World" in a similar fashion: to describe a consciousness which recognizes the commonalities and links shared by their diverse communities. Using the term "Third World" reminds students of the power they have in coalescing, communicating, and uniting across marginalized communities to create a safer and more open place for all individuals. This consciousness at Brown also reflects a right, a willingness, and a necessity for people of color and others to define themselves instead of being defined by others.

The concept of "Third World" has special meaning for minority students at Brown. It is not to be confused with the economic definition of the term used commonly in our society today, but understood as a term that celebrates diverse cultures.

The Third World Center

The Third World Center emerged in response to the needs of students following protests in 1968 and 1975. Established in 1976, the Third World Center was designed to serve the interests and meet the needs of all students of color and to promote racial and ethnic pluralism in the Brown community.  Originally housed in the basement of Churchill House, the Third World Center was relocated in 1986 to Partridge Hall on 68 Brown Street, directly across the street from the Faunce House Arch and the Main Green.

Brown’s Third World Center provides an arena in which students can explore cultural heritages and learn about race and ethnicity as components of American identity. The center, in collaboration with student organizations, academic and co-curricular departments and centers, sponsors over 250 lectures and programs throughout the academic year to which all Brown students are invited.


Edward Carrington, U.S. consul in Canton (China), builds a mansion on William Street. Down the hill, the Brown family owns and docks sailing ships that are used for travel between the U.S., China, and India.

The John Brown House (on the corner of Power and Benefit Streets) is built, funded partially by the China Trade, laying the foundation for the history of Asians at Brown.

Geronimo Urmeneta is the first Latin American to graduate from Brown. Born in Santiago, Chile, he returns to Chile in 1850 to become Secretary of Finance.

Sau Ahbrah comes to Brown from Henthada, Burma.  The first known Asian (and Southeast Asian) at Brown, he arrives in the U.S. in 1873 as a recruit of a Brown graduate and Baptist missionary.  He leaves after his junior year and graduates from Newton Theological Institution in 1879.  In 1882, Ahbrah receives his medical degree from Jefferson Medical College, intending to return to Burma after, but instead stays in the U.S.

Inman Page (1853-1935) and George Washington Milford Brown are the first two black students to graduate from Brown.

John Wesley Gilbert, class of 1888, is the first African American to receive a graduate degree from Brown.  He later teaches at Paine Institute.

John Hope and John William Beverly graduate from Brown.  Hope goes on to become the first black president of Morehouse College in 1906.  Beverly teaches at Alabama State Normal School and later becomes its president.

Ethel Robinson, a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc., is the first black graduate of the Women’s College (founded in 1896 and named Pembroke College in 1928).  She goes on to teach English at Howard University.

An honorary degree is awarded to Masanao Hanihara, Japanese Ambassador to the U.S., to establish good relations between Japan and the U.S., previously weakened by the Japanese Immigration Restriction Act.  (This may have an indirect role in leading to the admission of John Aiso ’31.)

John F. Aiso ’31 is the first Asian American student at Brown.  Born in California of Japanese parents, Aiso graduates from Brown with many honors and eventually becomes Presiding Judge of the Appellate Department of the Superior Court of California in 1966.

Samuel M. Nabrit is the first black person to receive a Ph.D. from Brown.  From 1967 to 1972, he serves as the Brown Corporation’s first black Trustee.  He later is named the first black to work on the Atomic Energy Commission.

Kuo P’ing Chou ’37 is the first Asian (and Chinese) female to attend Pembroke College.  She wins a Brown University scholarship that is newly instituted at several Japanese and Chinese universities and transfers from Yenching University to Pembroke as a junior. 

Albert L. Anthony, from Wayne, NJ, is the first Native American student to graduate from Brown.  He receives a Bachelor of Science in Engineering.

Pauline Bergevin becomes the first female Native American to graduate from Brown.  She receives a Bachelor of Arts in French Language and later earns a Master’s degree from Boston University.

The Brown chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is founded.

The Afro-American Society is founded.

Several black women from Pembroke College march to Congdon Street Baptist Church, where they camp for three days in an attempt to force the University to increase the number of black students in the entering class to 11%.  The result is a 300% increase in black student enrollment.  Another of their demands is for the creation of Rites and Reason Theatre.  This also results in the creation of the Transitional Summer Program, later known as Third World Transition Program.

Summer: The Transitional Summer Program is established as a result of the 1968 protest and student demands.  It begins as a two-phase program: seven weeks for academic enrichment and one week for socialization and other non-academic activities.  It later becomes the Third World Transition Program (TWTP).

William Brown Ph.D. ’69 becomes the first black Dean of Student Affairs.

J. Saunders Redding ’28, M.A. ’32, is the Brown Corporation’s first black Fellow.

Rites and Reason Theatre is founded.  The first director is George Houston Bass (1938-1990), who is also the executor of Langston Hughes’ estate.

The Asian American Students Association (AASA) is established by a small group of students as a political voice for Asian Americans. 

The Afro-American Society is renamed the Organization of United African Peoples (OUAP). 

Third World student protests ask the University to recommit to the demands of the 1968 walkout.

John Eng-Wong, who graduates from Brown in 1962 and receives his MA from University of Michigan, begins working at Brown as a college admissions officer, a position he holds until 1977.  He then works in the Dean of Students office (what is currently known as the Office of Student Life) from 1977 to 1980.  In 1980, he becomes a foreign student advisor and then later is named the Director of the Office of Foreign Student, Faculty, and Staff Services.  He also holds the position as the executive officer of the Council on International Studies, a predecessor of the Watson Institute for International Studies.  Eng-Wong retires from Brown in 2005.

The Minority Peer Counseling (MPC) Program is created by African American students at Brown.  By the 1980s, students from African, Latino, Asian, Native American, and multiracial descent are involved in the program.  Arab Americans are added to the constituent list in 1995.

Chicanos de Brown is founded and is a precursor to the Latin American Students Organization.

Bernard Bruce becomes the graduate school’s first black dean.

The Latin American Students Organization (LASO) is founded.

With the threat of budget cuts, a coalition of Asian, black, and Latino students mobilizes to occupy University Hall with demands focusing on increasing financial aid for students of color and timetables for increased recruitment.  Their goal is to have the University honor the demands of the 1968 walkout.

The Third World Transition Program (previously called Transitional Summer Program) begins.

Joseph DiLorenzo is the first Latino to graduate from Brown Medical School.

The Third World Center (TWC) opens in the basement of Churchill House.

Perry Ashley is appointed dean of the College and becomes the second black dean of the College.

The first director of the TWC is Calvin Hicks.

The second director of the TWC is Felipe Floresca ’73, who later becomes a White House Chief of Staff during the Clinton Administration.

The first annual Asian American Heritage Month at Brown University is programmed.  The name is later changed to Asian American History Month.

La Federacion de Estudiantes Puertorriquenos (FEP) is founded.

The Latino Recruitment Program is officially proposed.

The third director of the TWC is Reverend Darryl Smaw.

The fourth director of the TWC is Robert Lee, who becomes an Assistant Professor of American Civilization at Brown in 1990 and an Associate Professor in 1997.

Students organized a sit-in to support the TWC.

Jean Wu is appointed to the Dean of the College and is the first Asian to hold this position at Brown.

Approximately 350 Third World students rally to demand that the University resolve issues raised by students of color in previous years.  The Third World Coalition occupies the stairs of the John Carter Library to reclaim documents of Brown’s slave-holding family.  This is the first time that blacks, Asians, and Latinos work together in large numbers.  The rally increases Asian matriculation substantially, but several demands from the 1975 protest are still not met, such as increasing the numbers of black students at Brown to their percentage of the U.S. population.

As a result of the 1985 occupation, Armando Bengochea is hired and appointed as a dean to address the needs of Latino students, one of the many recommendations submitted to the Brown administration.

The fifth director of the TWC is Preston Smith, who later becomes an Associate Professor of Politics at Mount Holyoke College.

The TWC is relocated to Partridge Hall, one of the 1985 protest’s demands.

Brown’s 100th Latino student graduates.

Protests asking for an Ethnic Studies department and recommitment to the 1968, 1975, and 1985 demands begin and last until the following year.

The Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America (CSREA) is established with the purpose of expanding study, teaching, and research on people of color at Brown and nationwide. 

The first director of the CSREA is John Ladd, Professor of Philosophy.

The sixteenth president of Brown University is Vartan Gregorian, an Iranian.

The Native American Advocacy Group (NAAG) is established as Native Americans at Brown (NAB), a university organization composed of Native and non-Native students who share concern for Native issues, both generally and within the context of the Brown community.  NAB’s activities include sponsoring cultural weeks, organizing events and advocating for increased inclusion of American Indian perspectives in the curriculum.

The sixth director of the TWC is Tommy Lee Woon.

The second director of the CSREA is Rhett Jones, Professor of History and Afro-American Studies.

The Third World Coalition writes a report entitled, “Redefining the Concept of Community: A Framework for Pluralism in the 1990’s.”

The active members of NAB decide to change its name and restate its purpose, largely to better convey its existence as a multicultural advocacy organization with goals that include better Native student representation at Brown.  The name of the organization is changed to Native American Advocacy Group (NAAG), which becomes an affiliate of HONOR (Honor Our Neighbors Origins and Rights).  About a year later, some members split off and form NAB as a separate group as a way of forming more connections with Brown’s Third World community.

Students for Admissions and Minority Aid (SAMA) members take over University Hall in advocacy of need blind admissions.  Joanna Fernandez is a key Latina alumna in this takeover.

The first Native American MPC Friend and Coordinator for Native American Heritage Week is Kathy DeLeon, a Resumed Undergraduate Education (RUE) student at Brown. 

Bill Bailey, director of Equal Employment Opportunities/Affirmative Action, is dismissed as many Latino students protest under the leadership of Joseph Perez.

MEZCLA, a Latino performance group intended to represent Latino culture and diversity, is founded by Elizabeth Garcia ’94.

Thelma Chun-Hoon Zen ’48 is the Brown Corporation’s first Asian Trustee.

The seventh director of the TWC is Karen McLaurin-Chesson ’74.

In April, the CSREA publishes the Native American Advocacy Group Report, entitled “Native America and the Pluralist Ideal at Brown University.”  This is the result of a two-year independent study that highlights Native American history in higher education.

The third director of the CSREA is Faynese Miller, Professor of Education and Psychology.

Ethnic Studies becomes a concentration.

Kisa Takesue ’88 is appointed an Assistant Dean of Student Life, with responsibilities including serving as a liaison for Asian and Asian American students.  In 2002, she also begins working as the Third World Center Coordinator.

Peggy Chang ’93 becomes the first person of color to direct the Venture Consortium, an organization founded in 1973 as a way for students to become involved in academically enriching experiences outside of the classroom.  The Venture Consortium is made up of nine liberal arts colleges and universities, each with its own Venture Board Member and a Campus Coordinator.  Chang also co-directs the Urban Education Semester Program.

A group of MPCs comes together to form a space where concerns of students of color can be addressed.  This group evolves into third world ACTION (twA), a multiracial student group dedicated to racial and economic justice, mainly at Brown and in Providence.

Salvador Mena is appointed an Assistant Dean of Student Life.  His duties include advising and supporting the needs of Latino students.

The Brown University Latino Alumni Council (BULAC) is founded to create alumni connections with Brown and Latino undergraduate students.

The fourth director of the CSREA is William Simmons, Professor of Anthropology.

African American Studies becomes a department and is renamed Africana Studies.

David Horowitz, a conservative politician, pays for an ad in the “Brown Daily Herald” entitled, “Ten Reasons Why Reparations for Slavery is a Bad Idea and Racist Too.”  Students of color unite in an effort to seek apologies from the BDH and to try to have the money paid for the ad returned to Brown’s Third World community.

Dr. Ruth Simmons is named President of Brown University, making her the first African American president of an Ivy League University and the first black president of Brown.

The first Southeast Asian American Week at Brown is programmed by Jan Seng ’04.

The first South Asian Identity Week at Brown is programmed by Manisha Kumar ’04.

The 1st Annual Pow Wow at Brown is organized, with the support of the Third World Center, the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity, and various other campus resources.  This event attracts well over 1,000 people in one afternoon, building cross-cultural understanding.

The Asian/Asian American Alumni Alliance (A4) is established with the intention of building stronger relationships between Brown and alumni, students and faculty.

The 2nd Annual Spring Thaw Pow Wow takes place on the weekend of March 15-16 at the Olney-Margolies Athletic Center and is the first two-day pow wow in Brown’s history. 

The largest graduating class of Native Americans at Brown consists of five students, leaving NAB with about nine active members. 

The fifth director of the CSREA is Evelyn Hu-DeHart, Professor of History.

The first Native American MPC is Aprilshandiin Curley. 

“Brown at Brown 2003: The New England Latino Leadership Conference” is held.

Latino organizations FEP, LASO, and MEChA, join forces to present the “Latino Initiatives for Progress” on March 11 to the administration.  Goals include hiring a Latino dean and establishing a Latino center.

The 3rd Annual Spring Thaw Pow Wow takes place on May 1-2 on Pembroke Field.

Rajiv Vohra, Professor of Economics, is appointed Dean of the Faculty at Brown.  He is the first person of Asian (and South Asian) descent to hold this position.

The Southeast Asian Coalition (SEACO) is created as a space for Southeast Asian students on campus, particularly those underrepresented by existing student organizations.  Goals include increasing both the Southeast Asian presence at Brown and awareness of issues affecting Southeast Asian communities, pushing for a SEA concentration and more SEA professors at Brown, and increasing interaction and community-building with Southeast Asians off campus. 

Timeline compiled by the MPC History & Alumni Relations Committee during the 2003-4 Academic Year:

  • Diarra Guthrie ’06 (Native American History at Brown)
  • Ayana Morales ’06 (Latino History at Brown)
  • Myra Pong ’06 (Asian and Asian American History at Brown)
  • Essie Yamoah ’06 (Black and African American History at Brown)

Edited by Dean Karen McLaurin-Chesson and Myra Pong ’06

Additional Information About BCSC

Our strategic plan is intended to produce sustainable change within the Brown Center for Students of Color (BCSC) and the wider campus community
The Brown Center for Students of Color name reflects the revised mission statement and is in alignment with other campus centers (i.e., LGBTQ Center, Sarah Doyle Women's Center). BCSC also signals a clear focus on students of color and thereby reduces confusion about who the Center primarily serves.
The Brown Center for Students of Color (BCSC) provides a place and space for students of color at Brown University to explore their identity, develop their leadership skills, and build a sense of community in a welcoming and supportive environment.