Fifty years ago during the fall of 1969, the Moratorium Against the Vietnam War occurred nationwide with protests on Oct. 15 and Nov. 13-15. This Special Collections News post will look at involvement of NC State students and faculty with these events.
For the Oct. 15 Vietnam Day or Moratorium Day, NC State students and faculty held a symposium on campus instead of marches and demonstrations, as occurred at other colleges and universities. The Faculty Senate and Student Government organized the symposium, which primarily addressed such topics as the war's impact on the U.S. and Vietnam, U.S. foreign policy, historical background, and the war's moral impact. Sessions on the Brickyard consisted of faculty speakers and student moderators. Paul Geissler and Bev Schwarz were the primary student organizers. Chancellor John Caldwell kicked off the symposium with a keynote address during the evening of Oct. 14. Speakers the next day included History Professor Burton Beers, Political Science Professor Abe Holtzman, Forestry Professor Art Cooper, and Philosophy Professor Tom Regan (who became a prominent animal rights activist later in life). Other events included a reading of the names of Americans killed and a screening of the documentary film In The Year of the Pig. (An earlier Special Collections News post has more information about Vietnam Day.)
The Technician student newspaper stated that the "Moratorium Passes Peacefully in N.C.," and it ran an article with Geissler's reaction (although it misspelled his name). "I think it was a very profitable day," he said. There were no reports on the number attending, and no one wrote the Technician about it, whether in support or against. In fact a Technician editor lamented this silence when noting a number of letters were received about a separate incident in which a woman student criticized her male colleagues. A few days later, letters did start coming in, such as that from a "Concerned Students Committee" that supported President Richard Nixon's handling of the war, sparking further letters both for and against the war. (Bev Schwarz also wrote about the defacement of a pro-moratorium bumper sticker on her car at a local grocery store.)
On 13-15 Nov. 1969, massive antiwar protests occurred in Washington, D.C., and San Francisco (also called the Moratorium Against the War or the Second Moratorium), and some NC State students participated. On Nov. 13-14, 40,000 people carrying signs with names of servicemen killed marched single-file from Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, across the Potomac River into Washington, D.C., past the White House, and ended at the U.S. Capitol, where the signs were deposited in a coffin. On Nov. 15 a larger crowd, estimated at a half million, marched down Pennsylvania Ave. in what was then called the largest antiwar demonstration in U.S. history, and it ended up at the Washington Monument. (Thousands also partook in a march in San Francisco.)
The New Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam (also called New Mobe) organized the protest. Local members of the group organized a contingent of NC State students to go to D.C. Participants (including the Technician's photo editor Hal Barker) published photos in the Nov. 17 student newspaper, as well as the Agromeck yearbook the next spring. Student David Burney wrote an article, calling the event a "political Woodstock" (after the music festival that had recently happened) and claiming between 150 and 250 NC State students had attended. Another student, Richard Brodeur, briefly described the event in a letter published in the 19 Nov. 1969 Technician.
Another NC State participant was Luther Russell Herman, Jr., secretary-treasurer of the local New Mobe group. He later gave Special Collection his papers from antiwar groups and protests of the 1960s and 1970s, and these include materials from the Nov. 1969 demonstration in Washington, D.C. (such as the March Against Death flyer shown to the right).
Back on campus, opposition to the protesters continued. Into Dec. 1969 the Technician received more letters from the "Concerned Students Committee" and others supporting the war. The antiwar movement at NC State remained relatively small and quiet, at least for the next few months.
In addition to the Technician newspapers, Agromeck yearbook, and Herman papers referenced or discussed above, Special Collections has, in the University Archives Reference Collection General Records, Box 29, two folders primarily containing materials from the 15 Oct. 1969 Vietnam Symposium held on campus, including speaker schedules, some faculty members' speeches (including Tom Regan's), Chancellor Caldwell's remarks, the In the Year of the Pig pamphlet, and a Hill Library book list. If you are interested in seeing any of these materials, please contact the Special Collections Research Center.