On May 5, 1970, students and faculty of Amherst College joined more than 1,250 other colleges and universities in a nationwide student strike.
The May 5 strike followed on the heels of a May Day demonstration at Yale protesting the trial of the New Haven Black Panthers and the surveillance of the Black Panthers by the FBI. As the protest grew into a national movement, the motivation for the strike expanded to include President Nixon’s recent expansion of the Vietnam War and the death of four students at a demonstration at Kent State.
- That the United States government end its systematic oppression of political dissidents and release all political prisoners, such as Bobby Seale and other members of the Black Panther Party.
- That the United States government cease its expansion of the Vietnam War into Cambodia and Laos; that it unilaterally and immediately withdraw all forces from Southeast Asia.
- That the universities end their complicity with the United States war machine by immediate end to defense research, ROTC, counterinsurgency research and other such programs.
The editions of the Amherst Student leading up to the strike include editorials on reasons Amherst College should participate in the national strike, letters to the editor encouraging students to resist the draft, and articles calling for Amherst faculty to suspend classes for the length of the strike.
The May 7, 1970 Amherst Student includes the faculty and student resolutions, including the announcement that the faculty of Amherst College had voted to suspend class for the remainder of the spring semester, stating “The Faculty of the College formally declares its support for the national movement to end the war in Indochina, to end the vilification of youth by public authorities, and to insure justice and full constitutional freedoms for Americans of all races”.
In the weeks following the suspension of classes, students organized daily talks, teach-ins, rallies, and draft counseling. The Moratoria Papers collection contains the Student Assembly Bulletin, a schedule of on-campus events published daily with announcements about progression of the national strike. The Moratoria Papers also include screen-printed posters and single page sheets of information for strikers, including facts about the Vietnam War, types of tear gas used by police, medical aid advice, and a flyer titled “Pocket Lawyer” informing students of their legal rights.
More information on Amherst College’s participation in the national strike of May 1970 can be found in the Moratoria Collection, General Files (Political Activity and Activism), Photographs Collection, and other sources in the Archives and Special Collections.