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Students march down Franklin Street carrying coffins following the Kent State tragedy Click on the above image to go directly to the documents and photographs for Episode 3. (Above: May 1970 - Students march down Franklin Street carrying empty coffins following the Kent State tragedy.)

Part 4: Vietnam War Protests

There was organized antiwar activity on campus as early as 1963, but, in its early days, it was supported by a small number of students and was low-key compared to activities on many other campuses. The majority of the student body remained in favor of U.S. policy in Vietnam, as did the Daily Tar Heel, which was often derisive of protests at other universities. When antiwar student groups staged protests in Chapel Hill, there were sometimes counter-protests by groups that supported the war. Gradually, however, public support for the war began to erode, and, though most students still did not engage in protest, there were signs that they were losing their faith in the national government. Then, in spring 1970, things changed dramatically. The U.S. invasion of Cambodia and the shooting by National Guardsmen of students at Kent State University catapulted the Chapel Hill campus into the largest protest in its history with thousands of students gathering in Polk Place to hear Student Body President Tommy Bello denounce the invasion and the shootings. The following is an overview of some of the events that took place in Chapel Hill from 1963 until that fateful spring of 1970.

The Student Peace Union (SPU), which formed a chapter on campus in spring 1963, sponsored the University's earliest antiwar activities. Among the chapter's organizers were John Dunne and Patrick Cusick, who were also active in the civil rights protests of that same year. On 18 May 1963, the SPU joined with the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom to protest the local Armed Forces Day ceremony. A group of students from Ruffin dorm staged a counter-protest, chanting "SPU-red" to link the peace marchers to Communism. In May 1965, when someone painted the cannon in front of the Naval Armory, many accused SPU, but an investigation revealed that the painting was done by two former SPU members and that the organization as a whole had voted against this form of protest.

The next major antiwar group to establish itself on campus was Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), generally considered more radical than the SPU. The May 1965 organizational meeting was attended by 35 people. In June, SDS issued it first publication, which consisted of three bibliographies: "Problems of the University;" "Race Relations;" and "Foreign Policy." In October, it joined with the SPU to sponsor a fast to raise money to rebuild the South Vietnamese village of Cam Ne, which had been burned by U.S. troops. Students were asked to eat only soup at one meal and to contribute the balance of the cost of the meal to C.A.R.E., Inc. The Student Legislature, which disapproved of C.A.R.E., passed a resolution urging students not to contribute.

Throughout the Vietnam era, traditional student organizations, such as Student Government and the Campus Y made concerted efforts to encourage study and discussion of the war. After Secretary of State Dean Rusk spoke to an audience of 1,700 in Memorial Hall in fall 1964, Student Government sponsored a National Issues Week. The Campus Y worked with the Carolina Political Union and the Committee of Faculty Concerned about the War to organize campus participation in a national teach-in on Vietnam on 15 May 1965. One hundred and fifty UNC students listened to the program on closed-circuit radio. The Y also supported Vietnam Summer, a group of students, faculty, and townspeople who spent summer 1967 in an effort to educate Americans about the war. A list of pointers prepared by the group included: "Be informed. Don't go off half-cocked."

By 1968, protest activity had begun to change. The rhetoric was becoming more strident, and the protesters more willing to engage in confrontation. On 18 March 1968, 15 protesters were arrested for blocking the entrance of Gardner Hall, where a job recruiter from Dow Chemical, the maker of napalm, was interviewing students. The following November, on election night, seven people, including two faculty members, were arrested at a gathering on Franklin Street sponsored by the Southern Student Organizing Committee -- a group that had been established on campus earlier that fall. On 16 November, eleven UNC students and one North Carolina State student were arrested at Fort Bragg, where some of them had been handing out antiwar leaflets. They were part of another recently established group, the United Anti-War Mobilization Front.

The activities of the antiwar groups were monitored by administrators, by campus police, and, at times, by federal agents. Dean of Students C. O. Cathey kept files on all the groups and lists of students who were active in them. Campus Police Chief Arthur Beaumont sometimes sat in on their meetings -- at least until October 1968, when he was instructed by his superiors to discontinue the practice. In February 1967, when SDS members picketed outside Memorial Hall during a speech by Vice President Humphrey, Chief Beaumont was there. "I spoke to the so called leader of the S.D.S.," he later wrote in a memo, "and told him that I didn't want him to embarrass U.N.C." On 23 November 1968, after the leafleting incident at Fort Bragg, two agents of the military's Criminal Investigation Division came to Chapel Hill and questioned two students about the activities of the United Anti-War Mobilization Front. They asked each student if the UAWMF was a Communist front organization.

By fall 1969, opposition to the war had increased to the extent that protest was more widely appealing. A broad-based committee, coordinated by student Buck Goldstein, worked on plans for campus and community participation in the 15 October national Vietnam Moratorium. Events that day included panel discussions, rap sessions, films, folk singing, a reading of the names of war dead, and a memorial service at the Chapel of the Cross.

When news of the Cambodian invasion reached the campus, the Student Legislature, once a supporter of U.S. policy, quickly passed a resolution, dated 28 April 1970, condemning the action and calling for a boycott of classes on 6 May. But on 4 May at Kent State University, National Guardsmen killed four students and wounded nine others in a confrontation with protesters, and UNC's intended one-day boycott turned into an extended strike. Student Body President Tommy Bello called an emergency mass meeting on 6 May in Polk Place and urged students to support the strike and to remain non-violent. By the following day roughly half the student body was striking, according to an informal poll by several faculty members. Four thousand students gathered outside Hill Hall, where the Faculty Council was in the process of passing a resolution that allowed faculty members to make individual arrangements with students for the completion of coursework, including the granting of amnesty for unfinished work. During the remainder of May, striking students made trips to the state capitol and Washington, D.C., to express their concerns about the war.

Those who have written and reminisced about the events of May 1970 have emphasized the non-violent nature of the protests, and they are right to do so. Yet there were attempts by a few to steer the protests toward violence. There were several broken windows and some red paint splashed on buildings, and there were three attempts at arson. The latter failed due to the ineptitude of the perpetrators and the vigilance of the campus police. Nevertheless, as Professor John Dixon told the North Carolina Congressional delegation, "... with extraordinary skill, the students themselves -- not the faculty, not the administration, not the police -- the students themselves controlled their own rage and the rhetoric of the radicals and have concentrated their attention on the real issue."

(This summary's sources are documents in University Archives, especially in the Records of the Office of the Chancellor and of the Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs, and Judith Lynne Thorpe's UNC M.A. thesis, "A Study of the Peace Movement at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill" (1972).)

Common Sense flyer Catalog 106: "Common Sense 1965," Students for Victory in Vietnam

Documents and Photographs
[Note: Due to copyright issues, some documents and photographs have not been made available online. To research these documents further, please visit the Manuscripts Department's website for more information.]

106. Fall 1965: "Common Sense 1965," Students for Victory in Vietnam
This UNC group was formed "to dispel the currently propagated notion that the overwhelming consensus on the college campus is for immediate withdrawal from the Vietnam area." Prepared for mass distribution, this flyer argued for continued resistance to "Red Chinese imperialism in Southeast Asia."
- From the Records of the Vice-Chancellor for Student Affairs (#40124)

107. 22 October 1965: Dean of Student Affairs C. O. Cathey to Dr. E. R. Caldwell Jr., Statesville, N.C.
Dean Cathey responded to concerns of Dr. Caldwell about early campus unrest concerning U.S. involvement in Vietnam. He expressed his regret that "the misguided activities of a very, very small number of our students can lead the general public to the conclusion that they represent the sentiments of our students."
- From the Records of the Vice-Chancellor for Student Affairs (#40124)

108. 14 June 1966: A. J. Beaumont, director of safety, to J. A. Williams, Annual Report
Beaumont, the director of safety on campus, indicated that "we were fortunate in the manner in which our demonstrators behaved and accepted my rule against outsiders in the line of march." He also reported that he had been "enlightened, frightened, and bored" by many meetings he attended of "a never ending stream of new initialed groups," which, "even though they don't seem to make much progress...do cause the majority of the good students to think."
- From the Records of the Office of Chancellor - J. Carlyle Sitterson Series (#40022)

109. 21 September 1966: "Ambassador of Infamy," UNC chapter, Students for a Democratic Society
Increasingly active on campus at this point, SDS outlined its opposition to U.S. support for the Saigon regime and announced plans to picket the South Vietnamese Ambassador Vu Van Thai's appearance at Memorial Hall.
- From the Records of the Vice-Chancellor for Student Affairs (#40124)

110. Circa May 1967: "Do You Know What the VIETNAM WAR is Costing YOU?"
Vietnam Summer, an organization headquartered in the Campus Y, made an appeal to students to work toward ending the war in summer 1967.
- From the Records of the Vice-Chancellor for Student Affairs (#40124)

111. 18 March 1968: Petition from concerned students and faculty to Chancellor J. Carlyle Sitterson
This petition announced a demonstration against campus recruiting by Dow Chemical Company, makers of napalm and herbicides used by the U.S. military in Vietnam. It also proposed "[t]hat the University publicly request all businesses who come to recruit to give up the manufacture of weapons of destruction."
- From the Records of the Office of Chancellor - J. Carlyle Sitterson Series (#40022)

Y Court Debate Catalog 112: Students debate military enlistment, in the court of the Campus Y

112. Undated: Photograph, Students debate military enlistment, in the court of the Campus Y
- From the North Carolina Collection

113. 22 March 1968: Letter from Dean of Student Affairs C. O. Cathey to Professor Robert J. Gwyn
Dean Cathey denied Professor Gwyn's request for the University to drop charges brought against students involved in the demonstration against Dow Chemical Company recruiters in Gardner Hall. He explained that the University "cannot condone the willful violation of law or provide sanctuary for those who do."
- From the Records of the Office of Chancellor - J. Carlyle Sitterson Series (#40022)

114. Fall 1968: "S.S.O.C. - U.N.C. Officers"
Demonstrating a sense of humor in the midst of politically tense times, the UNC-Chapel Hill chapter of the Southern Student Organizing Committee listed students in positions such as "Venetian Blind Raiser," "Assistant Score-keeper," and "Mistress of the Assistant Commissar of the Bureaucracy."
- From the Records of the Office of Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs (#40124)

115. November 1968: "S.S.O.C. Monday Night"
This flyer called on students to attend a pre-Thanksgiving break meeting to address the questions "What are we doing?" and "Where are we going?" It suggested that "UNC-SSOC is hundreds of students" and called on them to "forget school and related crap for awhile and come help...SYNtheSIZE."
- From the Records of the Office of Vice-Chancellor of Student Affairs (#40124)

116. 13 October 1968: Letter from Judith Weinberg, acting secretary, and Lawrence D. Kessler, acting chair, UNC chapter of the New University Conference, to Dean of Students C. O. Cathey
In this letter, the New University Conference (NUC) chapter applied for status as an approved University organization, appending its constitution and statement of purpose. The NUC claimed a membership of "approximately one hundred" and indicated that it aimed "to stimulate radical thought in the university community."
- From the Records of the Office of Vice-Chancellor for Student Affairs (#40124)

117. 2 October 1968: Assistant to the Chancellor Claiborne S. Jones to Chancellor J. Carlyle Sitterson
Jones reported to Sitterson on policy concerning surveillance of meetings on campus by campus police: "[P]olice officers [henceforth]...are not to attend in-door meetings on campus unless requested to do so by the organization concerned or by appropriate university officials."
- From the Records of the Office of Vice-Chancellor for Business and Finance (#40095)

Protean Radish Catalog 118: From The Protean Radish: independent left paper, "I Love a Parade"

118. 9 December 1968: From the Protean Radish: Independent Left Paper, "I Love a Parade"
The Protean Radish reported on a 7 December march in Chapel Hill of about 125 people "in support of GI rights to free speech." After the march, about 15 people proceeded to "Fayettenam" (Fayetteville) to talk with GIs.
- From the Records of the Office of Vice-Chancellor for Student Affairs (#40124)

119. 12 February 1969: Memorandum, Dean of Women Katherine E. Carmichael
Dean Carmichael wrote confidentially to a group of University officials about reports she received from two women students about activities of the Southern Student Organizing Committee. One of the students claimed that the SSOC wanted "to pack the student legislature" and that "in short, they want control of the University."
- From the Records of the Office of Vice-Chancellor for Student Affairs (#40124)

120. 25 September 1969: "Today Only - Films," Southern Student Organizing Committee/New University Conference
A flyer announced various films to be shown in Howell Hall, including Hide & Go Seek (See Hippie Guerrillas do their Thing!). The films were "[b]rought to you by the sponsors of Counter Orientation and the Radish."
- From the Records of the Office of Vice-Chancellor for Student Affairs (#40124)

121. Fall 1969: "The Chapel Hill Revolutionary Movement" and "Chapel Hill Radical"
Flyers announced an organizational meeting in Murphey Hall on 30 September for "The Chapel Hill Revolutionary Movement." The flyers outlined several "principles of unity," including "Fight White Supremacy," "Fight Imperialism," and "Fight for Female Liberation."
- From the Records of the Office of Vice-Chancellor for Student Affairs (#40124)

Franklin Street demonstration Catalog 122: Anti-war demonstration on Franklin Street (October 1969)

122. October 1969: Photograph, antiwar demonstration on Franklin Street (Anne Queen at left)
- From the North Carolina Collection

123. October 1969: "The Vietnam Moratorium Wednesday, October 15"
UNC-Chapel Hill's participation in the national moratorium effort of 15 October, one of the major events in the public protest of the war, is documented in this list of panels; a march; "liberation classes;" and other events, including reading of the names of war dead, an appearance by noted antiwar author Jack Newfield, and a "sacrificial supper."
- From the Records of the Office of Chancellor - J. Carlyle Sitterson Series (#40022)

124. Fall 1969: "The University of North Carolina Chapter of the Young Americans for Freedom"
Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) supported the U.S. military effort in Vietnam. In this statement, YAF warned that it would take legal action against any person or organization that disrupted class attendance as a part of the Vietnam War Moratorium of 15 October.
- From the Records of the Office of Vice-Chancellor for Student Affairs (#40124)

125. 6 January 1970: "Free Press on Campus?"
In January 1970, controversy arose when Chancellor Sitterson denied students the right to sell copies of the Protean Radish newspaper on campus, seeing it as a violation of the University's merchandising policy. Campus police were ordered to confiscate copies that were sold. This flyer called on the Chancellor to affirm that, under the Constitution, the University did not have the right "to restrict orderly political or artistic activity on the campus."
- From the Records of the Office of Chancellor - J. Carlyle Sitterson Series (#40022)

126. 7 April 1970: Letter from Student Body President Tom Bello to Governor Robert Scott
Bello referred to recent "crisis" situations involving "a failure of communication" between students and trustees. He expressed hope for improvement and willingness to take any action that would be helpful. President Friday and others have credited Bello with an important role in avoiding violence in Vietnam protests at UNC.
- From the Records of Student Government (#40169)

127. 1969: Photograph of Tommy Bello
- From 1969 Yackety Yack

128. 28 April 1970: "A resolution condemning the extension of United States military involvement in southeast asia into Cambodia," Student Legislature of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
The student legislature condemned incursions into Cambodia ordered by President Nixon and encouraged all like-minded students to boycott classes on 6 May to express their opposition to this intensification of the war effort. The 6 May actions were to be in concert with those on campuses across the nation.
- From the Records of Student Government (#40169)

Students petitioning against the invasion of Cambodia Catalog 129: Students in front of the Undergraduate Library petitioning against the invasion of Cambodia

129. 1970: Photograph, Students in front of the Undergraduate Library petitioning against the invasion of Cambodia
- From 1970 Yackety Yack

130. Circa 1 May 1970: Tommy Bello calls emergency session of the student body in reaction to Nixon's Cambodian involvement
In this press release, Bello contended that "...only such a meeting of the entire student body will convince skeptical on-lookers that this protest is not leftist-oriented or another anti-war rally. Rather, it is a sincere expression of all the students on this campus that what Nixon has done is wrong."
- From the Records of Student Government (#40169)

131. 5 May 1970: Statement about the Kent State killings and announcement of student strike
This statement, unascribed but clearly emanating from a student group, pointed to the U.S. incursion into Cambodia and the killing of five students by National Guardsmen at Kent State University as motivations for the strike. "We will remain on strike until the inhuman and repressive policies of the present government have been reversed." A meeting in front of Wilson Library also was announced.
- From the Records of the Office of Chancellor - J. Carlyle Sitterson Series (#40022)

132. 7 May 1970: Strike newsletter
The newsletter described the many activities on campus following the Kent State killings, including a march to Hill Hall to an "open" faculty meeting where the crisis was discussed.
- From the Records of the Office of Vice-Chancellor for Student Affairs (#40124)

Students crowding the windows of Hill Hall to hear the General Faculty Meeting Catalog 133: Students crowding the windows of Hill Hall to hear the General Faculty Meeting

133. 7 May 1970: Photograph, Students crowding the windows of Hill Hall to hear the General Faculty Meeting
- From the Records of the General Faculty and Faculty Council (#40106)

134. 7 May 1970: Declaration of independence
This one-page statement, followed by 31 pages of signatures, asserted that the undersigned "...declare that we have violated the disruptions policy and recognize that our disruption is equivalent to that of the black students being tried currently by the University."
- From the Records of the Office of Vice-Chancellor for Student Affairs (#40124)

135. Circa 9 May 1970: Student Government press release, "The Strike Continues"
This press release claimed that the strike had "expanded to include well over half of the student body." It listed many possible actions by students, including attendance at "free University classes." Student Body President Bello was quoted as calling on students to use "'every possible means of political influence, even if it means talking to every voter in this town, in this state, in this nation."
- From the Records of Student Government (#40169)

136. 15 May 1970: Letter from Chair of the Faculty Daniel A. Okun to Academic Lobby for a Responsible Congress
Okun reported that 700 people from UNC attended the antiwar rally in Washington on 12 May. He wrote that 380 of these "went in organized groups by bus under the leadership of some 100 faculty members."
- From the Records of the General Faculty and Faculty Council (#40106)

137. 16 May 1970: Complaint Report, UNC Police Department
Officer C. E. Mauer reported that red paint had been "spilled on back steps of South Building. ...Also two columns of the Old Well have red paint." These actions, some other instances of painting, and a number of broken windows seem to have been the extent of damage to property or persons involved in the UNC-Chapel Hill protests of the spring of 1970.
- From the Records of the Office of Chancellor - J. Carlyle Sitterson Series (#40022)

138. 20 May 1970: Chair of the Faculty Daniel A. Okun to Chancellor J. Carlyle Sitterson
Okun explained the options faculty offered students for completion of their academic work for spring semester 1970, including being graded on performance up to 6 May in some cases and delaying completion of course work in others. He concluded with a statement of pride in the performance of the University community: "Student-faculty dialogues and informal seminars have characterized the campus and student maturity has never been more clearly evidenced."
- From the Records of the Office of Chancellor - J. Carlyle Sitterson Series (#40022)

139. 9 June 1970: Director of Safety A. J. Beaumont to W. T. Blackwood
Chief Beaumont wrote about how "hectic" the academic year 1969-1970 had been. He estimated that one-third of the student body had been involved in the peace movement and expressed hope that members of the general public "have become aware of the severity of the problem of peace." He also noted that "some of the RED hot radicals" involved in the foodworkers' strike were out on bail.
- From the Records of the Office of Vice-Chancellor for Business and Finance (#40095)

Anne Queen Catalog 140: Photograph of Anne Queen, Director of the Campus Y

140. Photograph of Anne Queen, director of the Campus Y
- From the North Carolina Collection

141. 15 June 1970: Letter from Anne Queen to Tommy Bello
Queen congratulated Bello on his performance as student body president through recent crises, comparing him to Paul Dickson, the president during the climax of the Speaker Ban controversy. She praises his speech of 6 March, writing, "In the fourteen years I have been at the University I have heard no speech by a student that measures up to yours."
- From the Records of the Campus Y (#40126)

142. 15 July 1970: Chancellor J. Carlyle Sitterson, Response to questionnaire from the Carnegie Commission on Higher Education "on the Aftermath of Events in April and May 1970"
Chancellor Sitterson's responses were indications that "[t]here were essentially peaceful demonstrations" and that "[m]oderate (in their tactics) student-faculty leaders were generally in command of events." He estimated that less than 10 percent "of all undergraduate courses were modified to reflect antiwar interests," though more than 25 percent "of the faculty modified usual grading procedures."
- From the Records of the Office of Chancellor - J. Carlyle Sitterson Series (#40022)

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