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COLLECTION Identifier: HUY 187

Harvard Student Strike and Protest Collection compiled by the Harvard College Class of 1970

Overview

In April 1969, Harvard students, acting under the leadership of Students for a Democratic Society, staged a sit-in in University Hall to protest against the Harvard administration. The protest was violently broken up, which pushed thousands of students and professors to strike against classes until the Harvard administration agreed to more open and inclusive communication. During the protest, strike posters and associated apparel in this collection were used as ways to express dissent, announce events and meetings, and show solidarity to their causes, including the Vietnam War and the expansion of Harvard. In addition to the 1969 strike materials, some of the posters are from 1970 student protests against the shootings at Kent State University, the invasion of Laos, and the bombing of Cambodia. Compiled by the Harvard College Class of 1970, the collection gives unique insight into which items student protesters personally deemed most important to represent their strike and political causes.

Dates

  • 1969-1970

Creator

Conditions Governing Access

Open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Some posters are fragile and may require special handling.

Extent

1.33 cubic feet (2 flat boxes and 35 folders)
81 posters
2 objects (2 armbands)
2 Volumes (1 newspaper and 1 examination booklet)
This collection was donated by Fred Fiske on behalf of the Class of 1970 that documents the 1969 Harvard student strike and 1970 student political protests against the U.S. military involvement in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos, and the shootings at Kent State University. It includes 81 protest posters; two protest arm bands; an examination booklet that includes sketches and hand-written notes; and a 1970 issue of the Gargoyle Enquirer, a Harvard Lampoon publication. The collection gives unique insight into which items student protesters personally deemed most important to represent their strike and political causes. The strike posters and apparel were made in Robinson Hall and emphasize the protesters' eight demands, which included the call for the abolishment of the ROTC on campus, the establishment of a Black studies program, the prevention of university expansion, the solution to the housing crisis, and the end of the Vietnam War. In addition to the 1969 student strike, the posters also reference the May 4, 1970 shootings at Kent State Univeristy and the creation of the Free University in Lawrence Hall at Harvard. The collection also includes a copy of the Gargoyle Inquirer, which was published on May 8, 1970 by the Harvard Lampoon, a satirical campus organization. Though it was published a year after the strike, the newspaper provides insight into how students continued to voice their concerns about the nation’s politics. Almost every poster in this collection is individually unique. The content of the posters varies, and includes stopping the Vietnam War, ending the invasion of Laos and bombing of Cambodia, preventing Harvard campus expansion, and striking for the protesters' eight demands. The most comnonly used imagery throughout the collection include the raised fist, the American flag, the peace sign, the forked tongue snake, and drawn maps of Southeast Asia. Commonly used slogans include “End the War,” “Strike for the 8 demands,” and “Strike for Peace."

Historical note on the 1969 Harvard strike

In 1969, the United States was consumed by the Vietnam War and nation-wide societal and cultural unrest, to which Harvard University was no exception. The Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) was active on campus, which gave many Harvard students a sense that the University was complicit with the role of the United States in the Vietnam War. Additionally, the University was looking to expand around Cambridge and Boston, which would raise the cost of rent significantly and force many working class residents of the area, troubling many in the student body. The University was also lacking any meaningful representation for African-American students in the curriculum, which led students to also demand the establishment of a Black studies program. All of these issues were intensified by a lack of communication between students, faculty, and the Harvard administration, which led many students to believe that their opinions were unimportant to the administration.

In reaction to the University’s response to student and faculty concerns, the Harvard chapter of the Students for a Democratic Society planned a protest. On April 9, 1969, approximately 30 students staged a takeover of Harvard’s University Hall. The protesters forced the administration and staff members from the premises, chained the doors shut, and staged a sit-in until the early morning of April 10. Their eight demands were to abolish ROTC; restore scholarships to the Paine Hall demonstrators; replace ROTC scholarships with Harvard scholarships; roll back rent increases in university-owned apartments; prevent University Road apartments from being torn down to make room for the Kennedy complex; prevent homes in Roxbury from being torn down for the expansion of Harvard Medical School; establish a Black studies program; and to end the Vietnam War. On the morning of April 10, 1969, the Harvard administration called in the Cambridge police and the Massachusetts State Police to remove the protesters from the building, which had grown to an estimated 500 students. The altercation turned violent as the police used billy clubs and mace to break up the protest. This violence only escalated tensions between the Harvard community and the administration, resulting in Harvard students boycotting classes until April 17, when the faculty convinced the students to return to classes on the promise on increasing student representation to the university administration.
Historical note on the Students for a Democratic Society The Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) was a New Left association of collegiate students. The organization embodied socialist thinking and focused on civil rights, militarism, poverty, and university reform. The Harvard student chapter of SDS was formed in 1964, but was only able to gain serious footing when the Vietnam War was escalated, around 1968, growing from a few dozen members to over 200 people.

Arrangement

This collection was arranged in alphbetical order by the archivist.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession 13119 was donated to the Harvard University Archives by Fred Fiske on behalf of the Class of 1970 in June 1995.

Related Materials

The Harvard University Archives also holds the David Geddes Harvard University student strike material and personal correspondence [accession], 1969-1971 (2016.118); The Harvard Strike, 1970 (HUA 969.23); Harvard University Strike Posters Collection, 1969 and [ca. 1984?] (HUA 969.100.2); A wrap-up of strike art, April 18, 1969 (HUA 969.58); Strike: confrontation at Harvard, 1969 (17470); Student protest apparel, 1969 (HUB 3293.83); Photographs of student protests at Harvard, 10 April 1969 (HUA 969.58).

Inventory update

This document last updated 2019 February 8.

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Clara Snyder in November 2017. Processing involved physical re-housing and the creation of this finding aid. Additional edits were made by Olivia Mandica-Hart in December 2017 and August 2018.

Titles enclosed in brackets were devised by the archivist.
Link to catalog
Title
Harvard College (1780- ). Class of 1970, compiler. Harvard Student Strike and Protest Collection compiled by the Harvard College Class of 1970 : an inventory
Status
completed
Author
Harvard University Archives
Date
November 8, 2017
Description rules
dacs
Language of description
English
EAD ID
hua21017

Repository Details

Part of the Harvard University Archives Repository

Holding nearly four centuries of materials, the Harvard University Archives is the principal repository for the institutional records of Harvard University and the personal archives of Harvard faculty, as well as collections related to students, alumni, Harvard-affiliates and other associated topics. The collections document the intellectual, cultural, administrative and social life of Harvard and the influence of the University as it emerged across the globe.

Contact:
Pusey Library
Harvard Yard
Cambridge MA 02138 USA
(617) 495-2461