The Causes and Legacies of the UMD Black Student Protests of the 1960s-70s

Similar to the Black Lives Matters protests of today, the anti-war demonstrations of the 1960s and early-mid 1970s were frequently organized and led by young people.  Anti-war demonstrations and boycotts became commonplace on college campuses across the country throughout the Vietnam War.  And while protests weren’t necessarily restricted to students from specific backgrounds, black student activists maintained a unique perspective and set of objectives when it came to American involvement in Vietnam.

Following American military escalation in Vietnam in the mid-1960s, prominent civil rights organizations like SNCC and leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X vehemently rejected the notion that Black Americans should be required to aid the war efforts.  In 1965, SNCC issued a statement that declared: “No Black Mississippian should be fighting in Vietnam for the white man’s freedom until all the Negro people are free in Mississippi.”  In other words, many African-Americans across the country contended that they should not be required to fight and support a foreign war for democracy when their own rights were still not fully secured at home.

Despite the growing numbers of black-led protests throughout the 1960s, African-American men continued to bear the brunt of American military hardships during the war.  African-American men were much more likely to be drafted into the military compared to white men.  In 1967, 64 percent of eligible black men were drafted into war–compared to only 31 percent of eligible white men.  The casualty rate of black soldiers was also disproportionately higher.  Black soldiers were twice as likely to die in combat compared to whites.

In spite of stern opposition from university leadership and deterrence from police and National Guard troops, African-American students at University of Maryland continued to organize and hold campus protests into the early 1970s.  In addition to protesting the military draft and American escalation in southeast Asia, student activists also used the protests as opportunities to advocate for racial equality on campus.  Student protestors, including those active with the Students for a Democratic Society, demanded for the university to enroll larger numbers of students of color and hire additional faculty of color.  As doctoral student Greg Dunkel later claimed, “the connection between the struggle against racism at UMD and the struggle against the war was very significant.”    

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David Biel, Candidate for Master of Library & Information Science

Greetings from the Land of Postcards!

I have never worked in a library before.  Been in one, yes.  Studied in one, definitely.  Worked in one that holds invaluable documents and rare artifacts, that’d be a resounding no.  Until now.

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If you had told me at the beginning of summer that my first project as a student assistant in Special Collections and University Archives would have me surrounded by boxes upon boxes of postcards, I would have laughed and asked, “What’s a postcard?”

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Turtles, Terrapins, and Tortoises…Oh My!

A new exhibit in the Maryland Room is all about turtles, terrapins, and tortoises! On display are several illustrated natural history books from the rare book collection held in Special Collections and University Archives at Hornbake Library. They include Nomenclator Aquatilium Animantium (1560), by 16th century Swiss naturalist Conrad Gessner,  along with a variety of 19th century works highlighting the artistry and science of herpetology.

Also on display is Historia Testvdinvm Iconibvs Illvstrata (1792) by Johann David Schöpf. Schöpf was chief surgeon for the Ansbach regiment of Hessian troops, who fought for the British in the American Revolutionary War. After the war, he returned to Europe and published several natural history works.

Nestled among the rare books are a small selection of turtle figures acquired over the years by University Archivist Anne Turkos. These turtle toys, figures, and accessories help decorate every inch of her office with that “Go Terps” spirit!

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Army ROTC at UMD: 100 Years of Leadership

In celebration of the 100th anniversary of Army ROTC, the University Archives, in collaboration with the Terrapin Battalion, present an exhibit tracing the history of the Army Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) on campus.

On June 3, 1916, President Woodrow Wilson signed the National Defense Act, creating the Army ROTC. Instruction in Military Science at the University of Maryland (UMD) began at least as early as 1868, but the introduction of ROTC saw the birth of a program that produced Army officers during both World Wars. Army ROTC returned to UMD in 2003, 53 years after its departure in 1950, and resumed its place in the campus community. Today, the battalion is 100 cadets strong.IMG_0464.JPG

These objects and documents can only briefly testify to Army ROTC’s impact over the past 100 years by highlighting leadership development courses, collegiate teams, campus events, and notable alumni like Ralph Davis, the ROTC cadet who wrote the UMD fight song.

Visit the exhibit in Hornbake Library’s Maryland Room throughout the month of August. Learn more about the Army ROTC at the University of Maryland by visiting armyrotc.umd.edu.