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The Student Movement: Not Just a Voice For Change, But a SHOUT Heard Across America.


The US Trek Goes to Canada!

The sixties were a changing time in America. It was a time of action by people no longer willing to accept what was happening around them. The Civil Rights movement and the Vietnam War were issues that some Americans could no longer ignore. Young people were discovering their voice, and it was a loud one. Students were coming together to work towards social change. One such group was The Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). They believed that change in society must come from within the community, not just from the government.

In the sixties, the apartment above this restaurant was the main stage for SDS organizing.  Pizza or peace?

Traveling across the country, SDS members would show up in towns and on campuses to find new members. They recognized the large role that universities had in student lives. As the Civil Rights movement began to gain success, the Vietnam War was becoming a bigger part of the students' agenda.

By 1965, U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War had grown. President Johnson had approved use of U.S. ground forces, with plans for 150,000 troops by the end of the year. The war was escalating, more young men were being drafted, and the student movement couldn't help but take notice.

M is for the University of Michigan, the birthplace of teach-ins across America.

More and more college-aged men were being sent to war. Members of SDS were watching their friends go off to Vietnam and come home in pine boxes. Young men, not in college, and usually poor and black, were the first to go. Most SDS members were excused from the draft because they were in college. They saw an unfair draft for a war they did not believe in and demanded an end to it. But how were they to do this? They couldn't vote for change because they were too young. So what do you do when you don't agree with what your government is doing , but can't vote against it?

One of their best ways of disagreeing was through education. They knew the public was not well informed about the government's increase in the war. They took strides to act out against this and to educate the public.

Professors like David Singer decided not to walkout, but instead to teach-in. ****

Concerned faculty and students at the University of Michigan planned a strike on classes to protest the war. But they realized if they used the time when classes were over, they could educate the student body about what was really happening in Vietnam. They decided that instead of a walkout they would have a "teach-in." Students spent entire weekends, from Friday night until Sunday night, attending lectures, workshops and films. They discussed the government's use of tear gas, and torture. Three thousand students attended the first teach-in and soon other college campuses were holding their own. Students across the country became involved in nonviolent protests and sit-ins to express their unhappiness with American involvement in the war.

The steps of the university library make a perfect stage for rallies and protests.

Did the sit-ins and teach-ins stop the war? No, but the movement had created a generation of people who believed in social change, and most of them kept on working towards their goals. Although the student movement of the 60's didn't end the war, they didn't just sit by and watch it happen either. They proved that young people have a mind and a voice and that they are prepared to use them. When their children ask them, "What did you do about the war?" they will certainly have an answer.


Please email me at: jennifer@ustrek.org


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