50 Years Later: Harvard’s 1969 Protests

In Cambridge, as in the rest of America, the late 1960s were a period of unrest and upheaval. As we consider our 2019 theme “How Does Cambridge Engage?” we benefit from looking back fifty years to the Spring of  1969.

The events of April 8th-10th, 1969 were a response to the Vietnam War and the social and political tensions it sparked. This three day period initiated an eight-day strike and two mass-meetings in Harvard Stadium.   

Were you there? Share your story with us!

April 1969

April 8th   The Harvard chapter of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) issued demands by pinning a list to the door of Harvard University President Nathan M. Pusey’s home. Central among those demands: 

                         Abolish the ROTC & Stop Harvard Expansion

April 9th    Approximately 70 students entered University Hall, evicted eight deans and administrators, and searched through administrative files

April 10th, early morning   At the request of President Pusey, Cambridge police officers and Massachusetts State Troopers forcibly evicted the students. Over 100 protesters were arrested and charged with trespassing.

The protests resulted in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences’ decision to relegate ROTC to an extracurricular. Over the next few years, ROTC was phased out completely. It would not return to Harvard until after the Vietnam War came to a close.

After amending its list of demands, the SDS’ efforts led to the creation of a student position in the appointments of a newly-established Afro-American Studies department.