Staff Picks April 2018: From the Classroom to the Streets: 50 years of School-Based Activism

| April 26, 2018

 

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Co-Authored and Co-Curated By Anika Paris and Jasmine Sykes-Kunk

Fifty years ago this month, Columbia University students, as well as some staff, faculty, committed activists, and Harlem residents, came together to air a set of similarly heterogenous grievances. Incensed by a recent ban on indoor protests on campus, the university’s collaboration with the military and defense contractors on the Vietnam War, and enduring issues of racism on campus- made more exigent by plans to make a semi- private gym out of a public Harlem park- hundreds gathered at the Sundial on Columbia’s main campus on April 23, 1968. In the ensuing days, protests continued while students called a strike and occupied campus buildings. By the close of the week, more than 700 students were arrested, over 100 were injured, and hundreds of faculty members met to discuss resolutions for and against the university administration. These events, and what immediately followed, transformed the university and signaled a sharp escalation in the uprisings sweeping the country in the wake of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.

While the faculty’s resolutions on the administration were tabled in favor of one to create a body that would “return the university to its primary focus of education,” the CU strike, as well as other student protests covered in this collection, illustrate the inherent educational value of political organizing. Students have often been categorically overlooked as having no political agency, given their relative inexperience and circumscribed political rights. But during these protests, the youth made their voices and their values heard loud and clear. Many of the sit-ins and protests led to concrete change in administrative policies and beyond. April’s Staff Picks collection, From the Classroom to the Streets: 50 Years of School-Based Activism, explores the events not only at Columbia in 1968, but those in primary and secondary schools in the following years, as well as the general nature of student protest. To commemorate the impact of the uprisings on our campuses, Columbia’s Rare Book and Manuscript Library is also hosting a Conference and has curated an exhibition entitled 1968: The Global Revolutions.

1968-Conference-Program-663x1024Today, student activism and action is at the forefront, with student occupations occurring most recently at the University of Vermont, Howard University, and once again, here at Columbia University. Of course, students at Parkland, Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School have sparked a national student movement to address gun violence, building on the work of movements such as Blacks Lives Matter, #MeToo, and Moms Demand Action Against Gun Violence.

If any one lesson can be gleaned from this history- from Columbia in 1968 to Howard in 2018- it is that student organizing and occupations can bring not only an optical advantage, but success. The Columbia protests resulted in the end of plans to construct the new gym; engendered the University Senate, a significantly more representative policy-making body; and terminated the university’s weapons research contract. At Howard, students report that eight of their nine demands have been met, forcing the university’s hand in changing a housing deadline, putting students in advisory positions, and making a recommendation to the governing board that tuition rates be held flat for the next year. As high school students in Southhampton, NY, declared in their underground newspaper Up Against the Wall, “If the school is to be run for our benefit, we should start exercising our power as students.”
You can view the full listing of books on display and browse links for e-resources in our collection that have been selected with this month’s theme in mind. We have also included a list of related websites about current and past student protests.

 

Related Websites:

1968: Columbia in Crisis

1968 CU Twitter Feed

1968: The Global Revolutions.

Columbia University 1968

We Are Here – Exhibit of Student Activism at Columbia and across the globe

Project Stand

 

E-Resources:

The Black Revolution on Campus by Martha Biondi

Corridor Cultures : Mapping Student Resistance at an Urban School by Maryann Dickar

Decades of Chaos and Revolution : Showdowns for College Presidents by Stephen J. Nelson

Freedom Riders : 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice By Raymond Arsenault

Little Rock : Race and Resistance at Central High School by Karen Anderson

Sitting in and Speaking Out: Student Movements in the American South, 1960-1970 by Jeffrey A. Turner

Student Activism and Civil Rights in Mississippi : Protest Politics and the Struggle for Racial Justice, 1960-1965 By James P. Marshall

Materials on Display:

If We Could Change the World: Young People and America’s Long Struggle for Racial Equality by Rebecca de Schweinitz

The Student Voice, 1960-1965: Periodical of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee  by Clayborne Carson, Ed.

The Conflict of Generations; the Character and Significance of Student Movements by Lewis S. Feuer

Student Dissent in the Schools by Irving G. Hendrick and Reginald L. Jones, Eds.

Student Protest by Gerald F. McGuigan, with George Payerle and Patricia Horrobin

Crises on Campus by Russel B. Nye, Ray B. Browne, and Michael T. Marsden, Eds.

The Report of the President’s Commission on Campus Unrest; Including Special Reports: the Killings at Jackson State, the Kent State Tragedy

The Academic Rebellion in the United States by Bettina Aptheker, Introduction by Angela Y. Davis

Encyclopedia of Campus Unrest by Panos D. Bardis

Confrontation; the Student Rebellion and the Universities by Daniel Bell and Irving Kristol, Eds.

Our Time is Now! Notes from the High School Underground by John Birmingham, Ed., Introduction by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

Young Activists: American High School Students in the Age of Protest by Gael Graham, foreword by Todd Gitlin

Staff study of campus riots and disorders, October 1967-May 1969 by Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations of the Committee on Government Operations, U.S. Senate

The High School Revolutionaries by Marc Libarle and Tom Seligson, Eds.

Is the Library Burning? by Roger Rapoport and Laurence J. Kirshbaum

Rebels or Revolutionaries? Student Movements of the 1960’s by Dean Albertson, Ed.

Notes of a Processed Brother by Donald Reeves

The Campus War; A Sympathetic Look at the University in Agony by John R. Searle

Student Unrest: Threat or Promise? Prepared by the ASCD Council on Secondary Education by Richard L. Hart and J. Galen Saylor, Eds.

Justice, Justice: School Politics and the Eclipse of Liberalism by Daniel H. Perlstein

A School of Our Own; Parents, Power, and Community at the East Harlem Block Schools by Tom Roderick, foreword by William Ayres