COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY 1968
Frank da Cruz
Center for Computing Activities
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The buttons above (and others
) were on
display in Columbia's Rare
Book and Manuscript Library
on the 6th floor of Butler Library, Chang
Room, March 17 - June 6, 2008, in an exhibition commemorating the 40th
anniversity of the 1968 uprising. In July 2011, I donated them to their
permanent collection. Click the buttons to see more.
Personal recollections of the 1968 student uprising at Columbia University.
I was an active participant, but not a member of any particular faction (the
only organization I belonged to was Veterans Against the War). I wrote this
article for publication in the "Columbia Librarian" at the request of
Columbia's Vice President for Information Services and University Librarian,
Elaine Sloan (then my boss's boss), on the 30th anniversary of the student
rebellion. In 1968 I was
veteran working my way through a Columbia degree with a "part-time"
student job in the library; when I first wrote this in 1998 I worked in
Academic Information Systems (the academic half of what used to be called
the Computer Center), which, after 1986, was
part of the University Library; hence the library connection.
Because this article was written for a Columbia audience, familiarity with
campus and setting are assumed. The article was placed on the Web and
slightly updated in February 2001, with periodic updates after that.
Pictures were added in June 2001, which could be viewed by following the
May 31, 2011: This page and its sub-pages and images were moved from
http://www.columbia.edu/cu/computinghistory/. On July 1, 2011, I was laid
off after 45 years at Columbia.
April 16, 2018: This page converted to HTML5 and validated, all links verified,
and all pages made "fluid", e.g. to fit on cell phone screens.
August 2019: Extensive revisions, new galleries, and inline images.
|Me in the Army
|1967 Anti military recruiting demo
|1968 antiwar demonstration on Low Plaza
In 1968 there was a war going on, but unlike today there was also a military
draft; between 1964 and 1973 about 2.2 million people were drafted, mostly
during 1965-70. Prior to 1968, the University had routinely
furnished class rank lists to the draft board
so if you had low grades, off you
went to kill or be killed; this practice ended only after massive protests
in 1967. Meanwhile there were ROTC drills on South Field, military and CIA
recruiters on campus, and classified military and CIA research in the labs.
The Civil Rights movement, still fresh in our minds, had become the Black
Liberation movement and
and Soul music
– captured students' imaginations. Dr. King
had just been killed and the cities were in flames — NYC less than
others due to the calming influence of Mayor Lindsay. It was not a time
for "business as usual".
|Morningside Park gym site April 23
Throughout the late 1960s and early 70s there was constant antiwar activity
on campus – Sundial rallies against the war, confrontations with
military recruiters, teach-ins on the war and
, demonstrations against class rank reporting; it was an era of
bullhorns. Meanwhile the University was constructing a new gym in
Morningside Park – the barrier separating Columbia from Harlem –
with a "back door" on the Harlem side. One day in April some students went
to Morningside Drive and tore down the gym construction fence, attempting to
break into the construction site. They were restrained by police and some
were arrested. The ensuing Sundial rally wandered into Hamilton Hall and
stayed the night. The original idea was that the students would occupy
Hamilton until the charges were dropped and some other demands were met.
Various factions debated tactics and what the demands should be.
Eventually six demands
were formulated, of
which the only two substantive ones were that Columbia cease all forms of
support for the war and that it cancel the gym.
The First Building Occupations
|Hamilton lobby April 23
|Black students in Hamilton Hall
|Carmichael and Brown
Several hundred of us congregated in the Hamilton lobby
while the leadership went upstairs to plan what to do next. Many
groups were involved but the primary ones were the white Students for a
Democratic Society (SDS) and the black Students Afroamerican Society (SAS).
The talks took all night, and although a few in the lobby went home, most
stuck it out. About 6:00am it was announced that the Black students
would stay in Hamilton and everybody else would leave and take another
building. Soon the Black students were joined by
H. Rap Brown, Stokely Carmichael
Charles 37X Kenyatta, and other well-known Black activists.
|The march from Hamilton to Low
We marched in a large column straight across College Walk to the
security entrance at the southeast corner of Low Library. The door was
locked so people at the front (I assume they were the SDS leaders) picked up
a bench and smashed it through the glass, reached around and opened the
door, and hundreds of us marched past the security desk without incident.
We walked upstairs to the President's suite and entered... I don't recall
having to break in; I think the cleaners were at work inside, so it was
|Red flag over Math
Over the next few days the various mostly-white factions branched out to
other buildings — SDS to Math (which flew
the splendid red flag featured on the
cover of Spring 1968 Columbia College Today
others to Fayerweather and Avery. In all, five buildings were occupied for
a week. The history is written in various books, in the souvenir-bound
editions of Spectator, and there is also a locally-produced
film, Columbia Revolt
shot in large part by
the legendary wall-scaling Melvin
, that is
trotted out on special occasions. When I took my son to see it at the 20th
anniversary get-together in Earl Hall in 1988, it was already crumbling
(this was a film projection and talk by Eric Foner; the film is now
available on digital media in expurgated form; see
|White students in Low
|Me in Low Library
I spent the week in Low Library. There was a carnival atmosphere
the first day, with press photographers and reporters from magazines, the
local newspapers, etc; the Post
was fair, the
was atrocious, but the Times
was beyond belief
– small wonder, considering the connections
There was an unforgettable, Felliniesque visit from a
faculty member who swooped through the window
in full academic regalia
, Batmanlike, to "reason" with us. Security
guards and office workers brought us snacks. Life
(May 10, 1968) ran a cover story featuring pictures taken in Low, including
my favorite: a group of us seated on the carpet, each with a Grayson Kirk
face, complete with pipe (from President Kirk's desk drawer, which was
stocked with dozens of 8x10 glossy book-jacket poses).
|Shaking out blankets
After the first day, activities grew more structured, and thenceforth the
occupation was one long meeting governed by Robert's Rules of Order,
interpreted creatively ("Point of obfuscation!") and interspersed by
housework. Contrary to press reports, the President's suite of offices was
kept immaculate and orderly after the chaotic first
. Cleanup detail included vacuuming, shaking out blankets, scrubbing
the bathroom, etc. The administration's fears of vandalism (and their
special concern for the Rembrandt hanging above President Kirk's desk) were
poorly founded, at least in Low.
|The scene outside Low Library
Outside, a system of rings developed around Low Library. Opponents (called
"jocks" although they weren't only jocks) formed the inner ring; student
supporters (known, along with us, as
formed an outer ring, and later concerned faculty formed a buffer
ring. Each group wore distinctive armbands, not that they were needed:
jocks (Columbia light blue) looked like jocks; pukes (red) were scruffy;
faculty (white) older and wore tweed with elbow patches. Black armbands
came later, after the mass arrests. Beyond the rings were crowds of
onlookers and press. The outside pukes would try to send food up to us, but
the jocks intercepted most of it and made a great show of wolfing it down as
we looked on. Most food didn't throw well and fell short; what little got
through was mainly oranges and baloney packets. One day a tall stranger
with waist-length hair appeared at the distant fringe of the crowd (almost
all the way to Earl Hall) and began to hurl five-pound bags of home-made
fried chicken our way, one after another, with perfect aim, over the jocks'
heads and right into our windows. I found out later that the chicken was
cooked by Mrs. Gloria Sánchez of the Bronx, my mother-in-law-to-be's
next-door neighbor, and it was delicious. As to the mysterious stranger...
. . . In June 2001 I had a call from Jerry Kisslinger of Columbia's
Office of University Development and Alumni Relations, who recognized the
waist-length hair and powerful arm of John Taylor, son of Nürnberg
prosecutor and Columbia Law
Taylor (who declined to lend his name to a statement signed by most
other Law School faculty, which said the student protests exceeded the
"allowable limits" of civil disobedience [New York Times, 24 May 1998]).
Thanks to both John and his dad!
Aside from the meetings and work details, a concerted effort was made to
break into and rifle through President Kirk's many file cabinets and turn up
evidence of covert links with the war machine and defense contractors, large
corporations planning to divide up the spoils in Viet Nam, etc, all of which
were to be found in abundance. These were photocopied and later published
in the East Village underground
. Some items were picked
up by the mainstream press, resulting in some embarrassment among the rich
and powerful, which quickly passed. Because we broke the file cabinets, we
were charged with Malicious Mischief, a felony, in addition to the two
standard felonies, Criminal Trespass and Resisting Arrest. Plus
a misdemeanor, Disorderly Conduct.
The First Bust
On Tuesday, April 30th, leather-clad NYC motorcycle police muscled through
the crowd and the rings to form a new inner ring just below our feet as we
congregated on the ledges and windowsills. We fortified the entrances to the
building, especially through the tunnels, against the expected assault that
came about a day later. After a final warning at 2:00am to vacate or be
arrested, we discussed (still observing proper parliamentary procedure)
whether to resist or go peacefully. Opinion was divided and many variations
were proposed. Consensus converged on civil-rights-movement-style passive
resistance; we would go limp and the police would have to carry us out.
|Low Library Window
We devoted the final moments to preparations – the Defense Committee
piled furniture up against the door while the rest of us picked up trash,
vacuumed, and scrubbed so the President's suite would be left in pristine
condition, better than we had found it, except for tape criss-crossed on the
window glass and the jimmied file-cabinet locks. Those with pierced
earrings took them off — a routine precaution in those days of
police actions — and then we formed a 100-person, 10,000-pound clump
singing "We Shall Not Be Moved", knowing that we would.
Soon axes were crashing through the door, the barricade was breached, and
the Tactical Police Force (TPF) piled in, first prying apart the singing
clump of us, then forming a gauntlet to pass our limp bodies down the
corridors, whacking our heads with big metal flashlights along the way, and
dragging us by our feet down the marble steps so our heads bounced. Head
wounds bleed a lot and journalists got some striking photos of us on our way
to the paddy wagons waiting on College Walk.
|Melee at Math building
As I recall, my group was taken to a police precinct in lower Manhattan
first for booking, then transferred to the Tombs [the jail and criminal
]. I was in a cell with six others
including Tom Hayden
. Later, students from the other
buildings began to arrive, much bloodier than we were. The students in Math
(some of whom later went on to the Democratic
in Chicago, and then formed
) received less gentle treatment – one student was
thrown from a second-story window and landed on a professor
), breaking the professor's arm.
In December 2001 I received the following email from Thomas Gucciardi: "My
dad, Frank Gucciardi, was a cop during
the riots. He was paralyzed from the waist down for 3 years. (A student
jumped off a building into the crowd) He has had a miraculous recovery &
still enjoys a fairly active life. I just found your site & commend you on
it. My dad till this day loved his job & he does understand the
students uprising. He holds no grudges at all for what the students did to
him at 34 years of age & having 3 children. Thank you for your
website." Later Thomas sent copies of newspaper clippings that told how
Patrolman Gucciardi had been injured and of the operations on his spine over
the next several years. A series of articles by columnist Martin Gershen in
the NY Times, the Long Island Press, and other papers, followed his progress
and gained national attention. Also injured was Officer Bernard Wease.
While an article in the LA Times, 9 September 1969, quotes Mayor Lindsay as
acknowledging that some police used "excessive force" and states that "news
reports quoted witnesses as having seen nonuniformed policemen punching and
kicking both male and female students... one blond girl was said to have been
beaten unconscious on the sidewalk in front of Avery Hall... a boy left
writhing in front of Ferris Booth Hall with his nose smashed...", the only two
injuries serious enough to require prolonged hospitalization were to Officers
Gucciardi and Wease.
|Police riot on campus
Many of the later arrivals to the Tombs were bystanders. All hell had
broken loose after we left, with mounted police charging through the crowds
on South Field, swinging their "batons" at all nearby heads like rampaging
Cossacks and arresting people at random. Subsequent investigative
commissions called it a "police riot." The combat spilled out to Broadway
and down the side streets towards Riverside Park, horses galloping after
fleeing pedestrians – it must have been quite a sight, and it was a
"radicalizing experience" for many former sideliners. Ed Kent (UTS BD 1959,
Columbia PhD 1965, currently professor of moral / political /
legal philosophy at Brooklyn College, CUNY) recalls:
I made sure that I put on a coat and tie – it was about 1 a.m. and I
had been alerted by a colleague at Hunter who had heard the bust was
imminent. I then joined the cop assigned to the gate who was entirely
sympathetic to the students and we watched with horror as the cops beat
up kids that had come out of their dorms to find out what all the ruckus
was about (Those occupying buildings had been taken out through the
tunnels earlier.). I will never forget one small sized student being
chased by a group of cops with clubs intent on beating him up – he
finally took refuge on top of a car where he tried to avoid their
swings. They finally knocked him off and pounced with their clubs. The
next day many faculty and students were treated for head and other
injuries – all of them innocent of any connection with the actual
building occupations. Incidentally at the Cox hearings I heard the dean
who had supposedly been imprisoned by the students in Hamilton admit in
response to a question by Anthony Amsterdam that he had in fact been
ordered by the President to remain in his office and had been treated
with entire courtesy by the students throughout and could have unlocked his
office door (and relocked it to protect student records) and left at any
time. This was given as the excuse for the police action and Sidney Hook
refused to take it out of his book account (I got his galleys to pre-view)
although I personally drew his attention to his mis-reporting there. Hook
had become very right wing by then.
Meanwhile, back in jail... Escorting a group of incoming wounded was a
fellow worker of mine from Butler Library, now wearing a badge. In Butler,
posing as a student library assistant, he had been trying to recruit us to
"blow stuff up", an episode that served well for many years in discussions
of leftist paranoia. The librarians, to their credit, were shocked to learn
they had hired an agent provocateur and fired him immediately. In those
days, librarians also refused to turn over circulation records to the
FBI, amazing but true.
|Low vandalism... we didn't do it!
Some 700 people were arrested that night, a logistical nightmare, involving
at least 20 precincts and various modes of transportation. We were
arraigned and released over the next day or two, with court dates set that
would stretch for years into the future, a story in itself. Back on
campus... what a mess! The morning's newspapers were full of it.
ran a front-page story with a photo of a police
officer standing in the President's Office, which was a total wreck
(graffiti sprayed on the walls, bookshelves toppled, etc), gesturing
sorrowfully towards a mound of mangled books, a forlorn tear in his eye:
"The world's knowledge was in those books..."*. Ironic
because it was not us who made the mess
or sprayed the graffiti
! Later, we caught the author (Sylvan Fox) of
the story on campus and asked why he had written that when he had seen what
really happened – he recommended we take it up with his boss (a
Columbia trustee). To be clear: the President's
office was in pristine shape before the police entered except for the
furniture piled up against the door. I can also tell you that, contrary to
what you might have read in the New York Daily News ("the police were met
with curses, kicks from every direction, were spit on, punched and hit with
furniture", May 1, 1968; "Police were punched, bitten and kicked, with many
attempts to kick policement in the groin. A pattern was seen in the use of
females to bit and kick policement", 8 May 1968) nobody in Low lifted a
finger against the police; both women and men in Low were beaten, dragged
down the marble steps by their feet, and had their clothing ripped.
|The Grateful Dead
In the following weeks, regular classes were replaced by "Liberation
classes" on the lawns. There were no grades that
year. Picket lines were thrown up in front of
. The Grateful
played on Ferris Booth terrace. A student
batallion marched up Amsterdam Avenue to City
to make noise and "link up". Organizers for progressive labor
unions began circulating pledge cards among supporting staff (this cost me
my Butler Library job). A contingent from
the French student/worker uprising
handed out those famous posters
(unfortunately printed on cheap paper, now disintegrated) from the
des Beaux Arts", and we also had visits from student representatives of many
of the other universities that followed Columbia's lead that year,
who raised clenched fists and gave rousing speeches. Later some of us
visited other student uprisings in progress, notably in Mexico City
made the Columbia arrests look like a lovefest; others
went to cut cane in Cuba.
The Second Bust
Community issues loomed large. A Single-Room
Occupancy tenement on West 114th Street was the scene of a second
a couple weeks later, in which some veterans from the first
bust plus newly radicalized onlookers from South Field took part and were
promptly arrested The issue was that Columbia was taking over a building
previously occupied by poor people to convert to Columbia housing.
Thomas William Hamilton recalls (January 3, 2018):
The May arrests at the Columbia owned building at 618 West 114 Street does
not mention that only 113 of the 117 people arrested were actually in 618.
Four of us were in the lobby of 622 W 114, not owned by Columbia. Two lived
in 622, Mai Ling Rogoff (a pre med student at Columbia), and myself, a 1960
Columbia alumnus. The other two were Mai Ling's boy friend (name long
forgotten by me), and a classmate of mine, Jay Russek.
A police sergeant (Last name Healy) opened the lobby door during the police
invasion of 618 and screamed "Stay inside." Stupid me replied "We are
inside." I saw his face flush and he grabbed Mai Ling and Jay, who were in
front of me, pushed them out the door, and grabbed me. At some point the
boy friend went also.
We were all charged with trespassing in 618. In court some CU creep
testified yes, CU owns 618, and no, CU did not authorize our presence
there. As he let the witness stand he had to walk by me, and I said in a
low tone "Filthy liar." No one but my fellow criminal, Sam Melville, and
the creep heard me, so when he screamed "What! What did you say?" his
reaction seemed totally unmotivated. The judge stared, and the assistant
D.A. rushed over and tried to calm him down, finally escorting him from the
room. Melville kept a poker face, but nudged me.
killed in the assault on Attica in 1971.
The Third Bust
On May 22nd, sensing no movement in the administration on the issues of the
strike, we went back into Hamilton; déjà vu
rallying cry. This time the police were summoned onto campus without
hesitation, and back we all went to jail. By now it was like commuting.
Again, campus erupted after we left – this time,
barricades were erected
at the main gates and
set ablaze, windows were smashed,
cars crushed, crowds surged back and forth, and many heads were bashed
– most of them attached to innocent bystanders. As in the first bust,
the police again did a fair amount of mischief aimed at discrediting the
Commencement and Beyond
|Going to the picnic
The year ended with most of the Class of 1968 walking out of graduation,
which was at Saint John's
year, on a prearranged signal – students carried radios under their
gowns and walked out when WKCR played "The Times They Are A'Changin'"
— to a countercommencement
on Low Plaza
, and from there to Morningside Park
— where it all started
a big picnic that marked a coming together of the estranged Black and white
protestors as well as the elites from the Acropolis with the people of
Harlem. I remember good food, live jazz, and good feelings.
At Columbia, classified war research was halted, the gym was canceled, ROTC
left campus, military and CIA recruiting stopped, and (not that anybody
asked for it) the University Senate was established. Robert Kennedy, the
antiwar presidential candidate, was killed in June 1968, and later that
month the French uprising was "voted away" in a national referendum.
Mexican students and supporters and bystanders were slaughtered wholesale in
La Noche de
Tlatelolco. Columbia antiwar rallies continued, and large Columbia
contingents chartered buses for the huge demonstrations
in Washington, of which there were to be far too many – the war dragged
on for another seven years. To this day, I don't know if all the antiwar
activities combined had as much affect as the Vietnamese figuring out how to
shoot down the American B-52s
that were carpet-bombing their cities.
commission produced a report on the disturbances. Springtime building
occupations continued for the next few years, but eventually were replaced
by disco. Then came the 80s and 90s: the rich became richer at the expense
of everyone else; organized labor was squashed; most real jobs were
exported; drugs and greed ruled; student activism was replaced by ambition,
and real work by sitting in front of a PC clicking on investments.
After a semester's suspension and dozens of court appearances (but no hard
time – thanks National Lawyers
Guild!), I received my BA in 1970, held a number of odd jobs (taxi
driver, etc; nobody pays you to save the world), and eventually wound up
back at Columbia getting a graduate degree in electrical engineering and
computer science and working in what was called
the Computer Center until I was laid off 2011,
raising my kids in the Columbia area while the once diverse and affordable
neighborhood was "cleansed" of all poor and
working-class families and the mom-and-pop stores they (and we) depended on,
as rents went into the strastosphere. Goodbye Columbia,
Much can be said (and has been) about the strike's effects on Columbia
University. Of course it hurt the University in many ways –
applications, endowment, contracts & grants, gifts, and so on. It took
at least 20 years to fully recover. Perhaps it strengthened the University
in other ways, who knows.
Most press accounts of the time focus on the strike leaders, their
affiliations and temperaments and hairstyles, but honestly, I don't recall
them being a major force, except on the first night when they decided the
white students should leave Hamilton Hall. They certainly didn't
choreograph the events after that. Actions were either taken spontaneously,
or discussed to death by EVERYBODY until consensus was reached. In Low
library, leadership meant nothing more than fairly moderating the open
discussion and applying Robert's Rules – a process not nearly as
interesting to the media as sound bites from high-profile personalities.
In the end, it was a case of students doing the best they could in the place
where they were to stop the war in Viet Nam and fight racism at home, just
as they hoped others would do in other places: in the streets, factories,
offices, other universities, the military itself, the court of world
opinion, and finally in the seats of government. Whether this was the best
way to do it is debatable, but it is clear that the more
polite methods of previous years were
not working, and every DAY that passed cost 2000 lives in Southeast Asia.
So to the extent that the Columbia strike hastened the end of the war, it
was worthwhile. As to institutional racism and community relations, I'd say
it was a total flop.
Trust Anyone Under 50!
Students had legitimate grievances and tried
repeatedly to get through to the administration with no success. The
University was complicit in the Viet Nam war (e.g. in the “automated
battlefield” from which the Vietnamese continue to suffer to this
day), and its behavior towards its neighbors was arrogant, patronizing, and
bellicose. The University administration never appreciated its
African-American, Dominican, and Puerto Rican neighbors in Harlem and
Manhattan Valley. The administration's door was closed and in the end,
students were placed on probation for trying to get in to speak with
President Kirk about these issues.
By 2010 or so, Columbia had prevailed in every way over its critics. The
surrounding neighborhoods are gentrified to the extent that only hedge-fund
managers can afford to live in them. Harlem as we knew it is vanishing;
Columbia bought up the buildings and either raised the rents or turned
buildings into luxury condominiums and then gave low-interest loans to
Columbia faculty to buy them. Industrial West Harlem ("Manhattanville") has
been flattened to make way for a new Columbia campus. Today, students enter
Columbia to become Masters of the Universe, not to learn about real life and
then leave equipped to make the world a better place.
|John Jacobs (JJ)
Sometimes I wonder why I wasn't more involved in SDS; if I had been, my life
would have been quite different after nearly everybody I knew went off to
Chicago in 1968 and then underground. I noticed recently that Wikipedia
pages have appeared about many of my friends from those days: Ted Gold
and others I won't name because they are still alive. Reading them, it
suddenly dawns on me after all these years: as a returning veteran putting
myself through college, often working 60 hours a week in addition to taking
a full course load, I simply never had the free time for all the meetings.
Teddy and JJ and many others, on the other hand, probably didn't have to work.
Fifty Years On and the Death of Morality
For most of us the Columbia strike of 1968 was about moral issues: the
Vietnam War, racism at home, and Columbia's role in each. We were right,
everybody else was wrong. 50 years later, everybody else is still wrong.
The United States is indisputably the most destructive nation on earth since
Nazi Germany. Morality is a forgotten concept; there are no moral leaders
in this country. The USA is guilty of too many crimes to list here, but
foremost among them is the endless killing of people and toppling of
governments all over world to further "American interests".
The last moral leader the USA knew was Martin Luther King. When he began to
speak openly about the Vietnam war and of social and economic justice (right
next door at Riverside Church just a year before the Columbia strike) he was
killed. Since then nobody has stood up to take his place. In fact, every
prominent leader who posed a serious threat to the Vietnam War was
assassinated: JFK (when he tried to stop the war and make peace with the
USSR and Cuba), Malcolm X (the first Black leader to speak out against the
war), MLK, and finally Robert Kennedy.
This country and the planet itself are spiraling into Armageddon. Can we
stop it? The kinds of mass movements and open rebellion that made some
difference in the 1960s don't happen any more, or if they do nobody pays
attention. American government at every level as well as the two-party
system are utterly corrupt, the electoral system nonfunctional, the
population torn by hatred, depression, despair, and addiction. Even if
elections were fair, open, and honest, at least 40% of the electorate is
openly racist. And of the other 60%, probably most feel threatened by
"radical Islamic terrorism" and favor the wars, the security state, the
drones, and all the rest. The best hope we had for meaningful
Sanders' 2016 campaign, was squashed like a bug. Fifty years ago, I
could never have predicted a world like this. In 1968 and the years that
followed we tried to fix things and the world has been engulfed in the
backlash — to 1968 as well as to the Civil Rights movement the New
Deal — ever since. I don't know what else to say, except to recall
what we were taught as children: Do unto others as you would have them do
unto you. A simple rule, what became of it?
|23 April 1968
||Assault on gym site, occupation of Hamilton Hall
|24 April 1968
||Occupation of Low Library
|26-28 April 1968
||Occupation of Math, Avery, Fayerweather
|30 April 1968
||712 building occupiers and bystanders arrested
|6 May 1968
||University reopened, students boycott classes
|17 May 1968
||117 arrested at 114th Street SRO
|21 May 1968
||138 arrested in "Hamilton II" + bystanders
|4 June 1968
||Counter-commencement on Low Plaza.
||Black Panther Party
||Congress Of Racial Equality (then);
Columbia Organization of Rising Entrepreneurs (now)
||Institute for Defense Analyses
||Progressive Labor Party
||Reserve Officers Training Corps
||Students Afro-American Society
||Students for a Democratic Society
||Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee
||Single Room Occupancy
||Socialist Workers Party
||Tactical Police Force
||The Columbia student-run radio station
||Youth Against War and Fascism
||Young Communist League
||Young Socialist Alliance
- Publication of the Columbia Librarian issue, Volume XXVII
Numbers 1-2, was delayed until Fall-Winter 1999.
- Big demonstrations and other actions in 1967 persuaded Columbia's
administration to stop turning over class rank lists to Selective Service, in
defiance of US policy, if not law. Fast forward 35 years to when Columbia
announced plans to send regular reports about each foreign student to the
Immigration and Naturalization Service (not just residence and visa status but
also detailed academic information) and not a peep was heard from anybody.
In the intervening years Columbia had often refused to provide information
such as students' reading preferences to the FBI as a matter of principle,
even without student prodding.
- These things are not intrinsically bad; you have to take them in
context. For example, see the 1940s section of my Computing at Columbia
Timeline. It's one thing to fight Fascism and genocide (if that's what
we were doing) but Viet Nam was something else again, and Columbia was tied
to the Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA) which conducted classified war
and weapons research for the Pentagon, e.g. on the "automated battlefield"
and defoliation, from which the Vietnamese (not to mention American veterans
and other field personnel) are still suffering today, as will be the case with
depleted uranium and burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan. Six weeks prior to
the Columbia strike, a petition bearing nearly 2000 signatures calling on
Columbia to cease classified war research was brought to the President's
office; the University responded by placing the students who presented it on
- The Times managing editors were also Columbia
- Press and photographers were allowed into the President's
office the first day, when it was messy, and this was the only view the
public had (most famously from the May 10th Life issue). The
mainstream press was barred after that because of their fixation on
silliness, like the
student who was smoking the President's cigars,
rather than the issues of the strike.
- In retrospect, perhaps the leather-clad police were not TPF
after all, but a detachment of motorcycle police brought in temporarily
until the TPF arrived.
- Nothing lasts forever. In
2005, academic computing was again severed
from the Libraries and rejoined to administrative computing.
- The Young Lords.... My mind might be a little fuzzy about this because I
read today (16 July 2009) in El Diaro that Summer 2009 is the 40th
anniversary of the founding of the Young Lords, so it would seem they were
not on campus (or, rather, like the Black Panthers, in front of the main
gate on Broadway) in the prelude to the 1968 strike, at least not formally.
(The article is Reflexiones sobre 40 años de los Young Lords by Iris
Morales, one the founders. By the way, I recommend that everybody who cares
about reading world and local news that has not been censored and sanitized
by the corporate media, and that treats Latin America and its new
progressive governments with respect instead of dirision, learn Spanish;
you'll be surprised and amazed. Print journalism is not dead, just the
anglo version.) (Update June 2014: El Diario was just snapped up by
a group that characterized it as a “ghetto newspaper” that needed
to “elevate its standards and pursue more highly educated
- Bingham, Clara, 'Voices of a Revolution —
“The Whole World Is Watching”: An Oral History of the 1968 Columbia
Uprising', Vanity Fair, April 2018, pp.118-127,130-131.
- Naison, Mark D.,
Boy: A Memoir
Temple University Press, Philadelphia (2002). This book includes the most
vivid, accurate, and honest account of the Columbia scene in the 1960s that I
have encountered. By focusing on the painful racial issues behind the events
of 1968, it shows not just what happened, but why, and it captures the
passions, stresses, sights, sounds, and smells of that time and place like
nothing else I've read.
- Who Rules
Columbia?, North American Congress on Latin America, 475
Riverside Drive, NYC (1970). "If you depended on major media,
all you knew about Columbia University in 1968 was that Mark Rudd, SDS, and
some long-haired students became spontaneously restless. In fact, a major
study of Columbia's role in the community and in the world was produced by
these students. This is NACLA's reprint of the original 1968
edition. 'Strawberry Statement' is cute, but here's the beef."
(NameBase, A Cumulative Index
of Books and Clippings)
[Sorry, as of April 2018 this one comes up
blank; can't find it anywhere else.]
- Obenzinger, Hilton,
Dying - Columbia Revolt, Low Commune, April
1968, Chax Press (2008) [excerpt]
- Bradley, Stefan M., Harlem
vs. Columbia University: Black Student Power in the Late 1960s,
University of Illinois Press; 1st Edition (2009)
- McCaughey, Robert A.,
Columbia: A History of Columbia University, Columbia University Press (2003),
esp. Chapter 15: "Riding the Whirlwind: Columbia '68".
My Life with SDS and the Weathermen, William Morrow (2010).
- Gilbert, Dave, SDS/WUO,
Students For A Democratic Society And The Weather Underground
Abraham Guillen Press/Arm the Spirit (2002).
- Kurlansky, Mark,
The Year That Rocked the World,
Ballentine Books, New York (2004), esp. Chapters 11 and 20.
Days and other books by Bill Ayers
- Cathy Wilkerson,
Close to the Sun: My Life and Times As a Weatherman,
Seven Stories Press (2007).
- Todd Gitlin, The
Sixties: Years of Hope, Days of Rage, Bantam (1993)
- Anderson, Terry H., The
Movement and The Sixties, Oxford University Press (1996)
- Judith Clavir Albert and Stewart Edward Albert,
Sixties Papers: Documents of a Rebellious Decade,
Praeger Paperback (1984).
- Susan Braudy, Family
Circle, Anchor (2004).
- Malcom X, The
Autobiography of Malcolm X: As Told to Alex Haley,
Ballantine Books (1987).
- George Jackson, Soledad
Brother: The Prison Letters of George Jackson,
Lawrence Hill Books (1994).
- Melville, Sam, Letters
Weather Underground (DVD)
massacre, Wikipedia, accessed 10 August 2019.
- Poniatowska, Elena,
La noche de Tlatelolco: Testimonios de historia oral,
Ediciones Era, S.A. de C.V., México D.F., 1971, 1998.
- Taibo, Paco, '68
Seven Stories Press (2004).
- Carrier, Michael,
Fighting the War against Blight: Columbia University, Morningside
Heights, Inc., and Counterinsurgent Urban Renewal, Journal of
Planning History, 27 December 2010.
Fifty Years Later, Barnard Magazine, Spring 1968.
(Verified April 2018 - defunct links removed)
- Dohrn, Bernadine,
the Anti-War Movement Won the Hearts and Minds of the Public”,
In These Times,
11 September 2013. Not about Columbia 1968 exactly,
but a glimmer of hope in these dark, depressing times from an ex-neighbor.
Columbia in Crisis, a major online exhibit by Jocelyn Wilk of the
Columbia Archive, with a wealth of photos and documents (2011). Use the
menu on the left to see the different parts.
Daily Spectator issues, April 24 - May 8, 1968.
College Today, Spring 1968 issue, in some kind of “book
reader” format. 100 pages. Liable to disappear at any time. Paper
copies available in the Columbia Archive.
Columbia Forty Years After the Strike:
A Multiracial Community "Cleansed" of a Working Class Presence,
Mark Naison, Fordham University, 2008-04-25.
How High School Students Helped Save the
Columbia Strike - And Why the Gentrification of Manhattan Bodes Ill for
the Success of Future Protests,
Mark Naison, Fordham University, 2008-04-26.
30 April 1975,
Billy Kelly, Tuổi Trẻ,
- Third World Newsreel (TWN),
Columbia Revolt (1968, film, 50 minutes):
[ Part I ]
[ Part II ]
[ From TWN ]
[ Roz Payne's Newsreel Archives ]
(SEE SCREENSHOT GALLERY) I'm in it a lot,
e.g. catching food on the Low Library ledge, occupying the Hamilton lobby.
The scene of Teddy Gold and me sharing a gallon jug of apple juice has been
cut from the film. The film is also included on a CD, Vintage
1950s-1960s New York City Film Collection, which can be
ordered from Amazon.com.
- Dohrn, Bernadine,
Young Activists: Beware Sixties Nostalgia,
Monthly Review: MR Zine, 27 July 2005.
- "Bloody Minds",
1967 song about IDA written in Furnald Hall,
sung by Bob Feldman, Youtube video.
- Rudd, Mark,
- Gillies, Kevin,
The Last Radical
Vancouver Magazine, November 1998. A retrospective of the life of "JJ",
John Jacobs, who died in 1997. This
article disappeared from their website some years ago and I had not had the
sense to archive it locally. In June 2013, it was located and scanned by
Jennifer Giesbrecht, Assistant Editor of Vancouver magazine, and sent to me
for this site. The PDF is not OCR'd, just a visual scan, but it's perfectly
readable if you magnify it. The accompanying photos can't be made out. If
the original online text and photos can be located, they will be posted. (I
have the text of "Part 1" HERE but without the
pictures and of course the "Read more" link doesn't go anywhere, nor do any
of the others.) Meanwhile, you can also read some things about JJ in Mark
Rudd's website, and much more in this
Collins, Scholar Who Fought a Columbia Gym, Dies at 92,
New York Times, 8 May 2018.
- Branch, James "Plunky", Personal
Random Ramblings on My Columbia 1968 + 40 Weekend Experience,
- Hond, Paul, “Stir
Spring 2008: An article about Paul Cronin's forthcoming documentary film
about the student uprising at Columbia, tentatively scheduled for release in
2017. As of December 2013 Paul had conducted more than 400 filmed
interviews with participants and witnesses. He estimates the film will last
It All Began: Origins and History of the National Caucus of Labor Committees
in New York and Philadelphia (1966-1971)”, a detailed history of
some of the factions involved in the Columbia uprising, with special
attention to the role of the SDS Labor Committee, by an anonymous author
affiliated with this
group. Chapter 2
focuses on the Columbia strike.
- Karaganis, Joseph, "Radicalism
and research at Columbia: the legacy of '68", 21st Century 4.1
(Spring 1999), Columbia University.
del 68, o cómo una revolución se quedó en nada,
Junio del 2007.
- Auerbach, Shane,
The Little Generation That Could, and Did,
Jul-Aug 2004 (PDF).
1968 Photo Gallery.
University protests of 1968, Columbia Wiki.
University protests of 1968, Wikipedia.
resistance within the military during the Vietnam war,
vietnamfulldisclosure.org, accessed 15 March 2018. There was massive
opposition to the war in the US Army, Navy, and Air Force. We knew this in
the 1960s and 70s, I knew it myself as a recent veteran.
Translations of this page courtesy of...
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