May 1970 Student Antiwar Strikes

The May 1970 antiwar strikes became one of the largest coordinated sequences of disruptive protests in American history, with walkouts spreading across more than 700 campuses involving hundreds of thousands of students. On April 30, 1970, President Nixon announced that American forces had invaded Cambodia in an effort to disrupt North Vietnamese supply lines. This secret widening of the Vietnam conflict drew immediate condemnation around the the world and fierce protests from antiwar activists in the United States, especially on college campuses. Five days days later, Ohio National Guard troops fired into a crowd protesting at Kent State University, killing four, wounding nine. Calls for a nationwide student strike now escalated and in the days that followed students at hundreds of campuses boycotted classes, demanding the suspension of normal activities. Mass protests, marches, building takeovers, attacks on ROTC facilties, clashes with police were reported at many. Authorities suspended classes on 97 campuses and 20 remained closed for the remainder of school year. Most of the protests occured at universities and four-year colleges, but walkouts were also called at 135 high schools and many two-year colleges.

Here we map and list 708 campuses where protest activities were reported. This is a partial list of actions, derived from reports compiled by the National Strike Information Center, a student group at Brandeis University. Supplemental information is drawn from the New York Tmes, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and Atlanta Constitution, but many of the NSIC reports have not been verified. Research and data development by Amanda Miller. The maps are hosted by Tableau Public and may take a few seconds to respond. If slow, refresh the page. Here are other New Left and Antiwar Movement maps .

Move between six maps and databases by selecting tabs below

In Progress: We continue to seek additional data and are eager to correct errors. Please Help. If you know something about the actions and outcomes on particular campuses or location, please share it here.

Sources: National Strike Information Center newsletters from Kent State University Digital Archives and the Robert D. Farber University Archives and Special Collections Library, Brandeis University. Supplimental information from New York Tmes, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and Atlanta Constitution digital copies from ProQuest Historical Newspapers.

Research and data compilation: Amanda Miller.

Maps: James Gregory


The National Strike Information Center by Amanda Miller.

Most of the data for these visualizations are from eight newsletters distributed by the National Strike Information Center in May 1970. Based at Brandeis University, the student-run NSIC described itself as “a central clearing house for all information regarding strike activity at high schools, colleges, and universities across the country.” It proclaimed three official strike demands that were printed at the beginning of each newsletter. The first, and perhaps least-known, was “that the U.S. Government end its systematic repression of political dissidents and release all political prisoners, such as Bobby Seale and other members of the Black Panther Party.” The second, “that the U.S. Government cease its expansion of the Vietnam war into Laos and Cambodia; that it unilaterally and immediately withdraw all forces from Southeast Asia.” And finally, “that the universities end their complicity with the U.S. War Machine by an immediate end to defense research, ROTC, counterinsurgency research, and all other such programs.” These demands certainly do not represent the motivations of every striking student across the over 700 campuses that experienced strike activity, and make no mention of the May 4 shooting at Kent State, which was the impetus for much of the widespread outrage on college campuses. However, they provide a useful guide to what the strike was meant to achieve and what the NSIC in particular stood for.

The National Strike Information Center was born when students from many East Coast colleges gathered at Yale University to protest the bombing of Cambodia and the trial of Bobby Seale. There, at a meeting of hundreds of people, the original plans for a student strike against the war were laid and the Brandeis delegation volunteered to make their campus strike headquarters. One of the students contacted Sociology professor Gordon Fellman, who arranged for the NSIC to use Perlman Hall, the sociology building, as the strike headquarters. The center started receiving phone calls from campuses across the country almost immediately and Brandeis thus became recognized as the official headquarters for the student strike and all information related to it.

Though the strike center was located at Brandeis, it was autonomous from the university and completely controlled by the students who volunteered there. Some members of Brandeis faculty and administration aided the students including by providing them with a phone line and switchboard to take phone calls The total cost of the strike center’s phone and printing bills came to $9,000, none of which was paid by the university. The students were able to raise $6,000 by October of 1970 at which time Professor Fellman sent a letter to the editor of The New York Review of Books requesting donations to cover the remaining $3,000.

There is little information about the specifics of the day-to-day operations of the center. The mimeographed newsletters were were published multiple times a week during the peak of the strike and promptly mailed to campuses across the country. The strike center received most of its information through the six regional headquarters or by individual campuses calling in to self-report that they were on strike. This information was verified “whenever possible,” but it is unclear exactly how this was done. Many of the campuses were said to be “on strike indefinitely” which meant, according to one volunteer, that “the strike will end when the war ends.”

From the language of the newsletters, it is clear that the National Student Strike Center was an explicitly anti-imperialist, anti-capitalist organization aligned with the central ideas associated with the New Left of the 1960s and 70s. Its existence was fleeting, as it appears to have ceased operations by the end of the summer of 1970, but the impact of the student strike it fostered was great and its tremendous contribution to the preservation of the legacy of that strike has been invaluable to the creation of this project.

Bibliography

Blum, Alana. "The Anti-war Movement: Looking Back Forty Years Later." The Brandeis Hoot, February 12, 2010; Charlton, Linda. "Brandeis Building Is Center for Student Strike Data." New York Times, May 24, 1970, New York ed.; Edelstein, Mia. "Prof. Fellman Recalls Campus Electricity during Vietnam Era." The Brandeis Hoot, September 25, 2015; Fellman, Gordon. "National Student Strike Center." The New York Review of Books, October 8, 1970, Letters sec.


Additional Vietnam-era antiwar movement maps and charts


Click to see maps and charts
SDS Chapters 1962-1969

The Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) was one the most influential radical organizations of the 1960s and remains closely associated with the term "New Left." Founded in 1960, the organization took on a new mission after the Johnson administration escalated the war in Vietnam, launching a campaign of antiwar actions. Here we map the expansion of SDS chapters from 11 in 1962 to more than 300 by early 1969


Click to see maps and charts
Draft Resistance 1965-1973

Millions of young men found ways to avoid conscription during the Vietnam war. Others, women as well as men, committed themselves to openly resisting the draft. They burned or surrendered draft cards, refused induction, and staged disruptive protests at draft boards and induction centers, employing in some cases tactics of peaceful civil disobedience, in other cases damaging property and battling with police. Here we map draft resistance actions that received publicity in major newspapers in the years between 1965 and 1972.


Click to see maps and charts
Underground GI newspapers (antimilitarist) 1965-1975

Based on data assembled by James Lewes, these maps and charts locate 768 periodicals associated with the GI antimilitarist movement in the era of Vietnam war. By 1970, antiwar periodicals for GIs were available near most military bases in the US and at bases in Europe and Asia, especially in West Germany and Japan.


Click to see map and charts
Maps of underground and alternative newspapers 1965-1975

Here are five maps and charts showing the year-by year geography of the underground media system, locating the comings and goings of more than 2,600 weeklies and monthies. Filter by state and by categories, including African American, Chicana/o, GI antimilitarist, countercultural, radical left, and other descriptives.