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Columbia University civil rights protests

Nicole Frisone


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The Columbia University Crisis of 1968 marked significant changes within the New Left movement and reflected the racial division that had been growing since the early 1960s among left-leaning activists. Columbia students from April 23 to April 30 occupied and “liberated” five buildings on Columbia University's Morningside Heights campus. Students' primary demands were to halt Columbia's construction of a gymnasium in Morningside Park, and to sever the university's ties with the Institute for Defense Analysis (IDA). Within the initial hours of protest, the Columbia demonstrations became a strictly segregated affair with black students occupying Hamilton Hall while whites occupied Low Library and the subsequently occupied buildings. The student leaders at Columbia consisted primarily of Mark Rudd, from the Columbia chapter of Students for a Democratic Society, and Cicero Wilson, the leader of the Students Afro-American Society. Tensions at Columbia had been building for over a year prior to the actual demonstration. The university's expansion policy throughout Morningside Heights and towards Harlem (at the expense of lower-income residents), its failed attempt to generate income through the infamous Columbia filter cigarette, and the presence of CIA and Dow chemical recruiters on campus increased friction between students and the university. The February 1968 Tet offensive exacerbated ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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