the events


"This [University] has always been a vibrant place; it's just that sometimes it's not easy to discover. Sometimes it was easier than others." -Former history professor Paul Gaston



Welcome to May Days 1970: Protest at the University of Virginia. This site presents research for the American Studies program at UVA, highlighted by interviews with May Days participants--students, faculty, and community members. Please feel free to comment on the site or offer your story of May Days by contacting me, Anne-Marie Angelo, at aa4w@virginia.edu.

You can navigate this site by clicking on a day in the timeline below, or by visiting the interviews and images.


SO WHAT EXACTLY WAS MAY DAYS?

On May 4, 1970, students at the University of Virginia demonstrated that, ideally, this University is indeed a vibrant place. Students gathered at the Rotunda, the focal point of the campus, and rallied in direct response to two issues. The deaths of 4 student activists at Kent State University at the hands of National Guardsmen and a decision by President Richard Nixon to move American troops into neutral Cambodian territory politicized the University and sent students into action. During the course of the week, over 4,000 people - students and faculty alike - attended Strike events.

By 1968, the national student movement had become unequivocally radical. It encompassed both militaristic sentiments, as in the adoption of the methodology of the Black Panther Party, and a radical sensibility, equating all "liberation movements" as valuable to the cultural and political life of America. With Kent State, however, came the danger of real violence. This fear was highlighted by "one of the serious problems of the New Left as a whole: How could a movement that relied so heavily on student effort retain its continuity in the face of the uncertainties of student character and the pressures of student life?" Thus, fledgling student groups found themselves under pressure to respond and provide some continuity for the movement.

The Strikes at the University were not much different from the national scene. Some 350 schools nationwide formally went on strike following the Kent State tragedy, referred to as "the tragic climax of student protest." At UVA, the Strike occurred in the middle of a large transition period, which included both full coeducation and integration.

However, The University provided a unique setting, both aesthetically and ideologically. People inside the Grounds saw them as distinct. The University’s Southernness, history, and community of trust became active entities and compelled students to act in the movement.

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