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© President and Fellows of Harvard College
Call No.: HUY 187
Repository: Harvard University Archives
Creator: Harvard College (1780- ). Class of 1970
Title: Harvard College Class of 1970 Strike Collection
Quantity: 1.33 cubic feet (2 flat boxes and 35 folders)
Quantity: 81 posters
Quantity: 2 objects (2 armbands)
Quantity: 1 volume (1 newspaper)
Quantity: 1 booklet (1 examination booklet)
Language of materials: English
Abstract: 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 were used as ways to express dissent, announce events and meetings, and show solidarity to their causes, issues that varied from the Vietnam War to the expansion of Harvard. 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.
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).
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.
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.
This collection was arranged in alphbetical order by the archivist.
This collection was donated by Fred Fiske on behlaf of the Class of 1970 that documents the 1969 Harvard student strike. 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. The posters, examination booklet, and strike apparel were made in Robinson Hall, exclusively for the 1969 strike, 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. The examination booklet contains strategic planning for the University Hall sit-in on April 9, 1969. The Gargoyle Inquirer 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, 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."
This document last updated 2018 February 22.