The Center for Black Studies was founded at UCSB in Fall 1969 as a response to student struggle for Black studies in Fall 1968. The Department of Black Studies, Educational Opportunity Program, and Black Studies Library Collection were established at the same time to create a multi-pronged program for Black studies. In its early history, the CBSR had multiple directors, until Cedric Robinson was hired to head the CBSR (1978–87). Other longer-term directors include Charles Long (1991–96), Claudine Michel (1996–2001, 2005–2009), Anna Everett (2002–2005), Clyde Woods (2009–2011), and Diane Fujino (2013–present).
From its inception, the Center had a joint focus on scholarship and community engagement. Its work has long centered on racial analyses and social justice work within the Black Radical Tradition delineated in Cedric Robinson’s Black Marxism, Clyde Woods’s Development Arrested, and the writings of many others. The Center’s Academic Mission is to support interdisciplinary research that examines US Black history, politics, and culture as well as Afro-diasporic communities through grants, publications, and programming.
Its Haitian Studies initiative, established by Claudine Michel in 1996, has resulted in the CBSR being recognized as one of the most prominent research centers on Haitian Studies in the United States and beyond. Anna Everett brought a focus on race and technology that resulted in a CBSR publication, Afro Geeks. Clyde Woods’s focus on race and urban studies resulted in the CBSR’s publication Black California Dreamin’. Its current Engaged Scholarship Initiative, established by Diane Fujino in 2013, focuses the Center’s longstanding focus on community-based scholarship to develop methodologies and epistemologies that recognize the knowledge produced in Black and other aggrieved communities and that create horizontal, egalitarian partnerships among academics, activists, artists, and everyday people.
The CBSR has a publishing arm that has produced the Journal of Haitian Studies, issued twice per year since 1995, and Kalfou: A Journal of Comparative and Relational Ethnic Studies, published twice per year since Spring 2014.