In 1980, when Julius Eastman gave his concert at Northwestern University, Martin Luther King Jr. Day didn't exist yet. This didn't stop the university's black community from honoring his birthday proper with lectures, celebrations, and a conference about race issues on the campus. Although I believe the timing of Eastman's concert the next day was entirely a coincidence, nonetheless it's a little ominous.
I'm charging up to some possibly thesis-scope work on this concert. The combination of a high-quality recording, clean copies of all three scores, and the notable ability of most of the concert's participants to continue living, it's probably one of the best documents of Eastman's late musical style we've got. And no one involved would have had any idea that this would be such an important moment for his posterity.
Until I get some chances to interview people, the only angle I have on the "protest" around Eastman's concert is an article in the Daily Northwestern. When presented with both sides, the disagreement over Eastman's titles is the veritable unstoppable force meeting an immovable object. It's not that either the black student organization or Eastman and the Contemporary Music Ensemble disagree with each other's arguments other artistic freedom or trying to avoid stereotypes. They just differ in their order of priority.
This day has a lot of sweeping rhetoric associated with it, but lately with the "day of service" movement there's been some pragmatism mixed in, and that's pretty cool.
Here would be a good stat for your thesis: somehow define a usable, non-controversial sample of the 'downtown' nyc avant-garde active in from, hmm, 1960-1980, and chart average life expectancy.
Perhaps then divide the sample into those with salaried positions (or a predominantly subsidized existence).