It Was Fifty Years Ago Today Series: Mallory’s Journal Entries for May
May 28, 1968
Extraordinary week. Non-academic employees threatened to strike over wage and benefit issues. The university responded by announcing that if a strike was called, the students could forget about final exams and leave for the summer. The students proceeded to pack up and get ready to take off. Then the strike was called off and the univ. told the kids to unpack. Was [University President] Alden really surprised when 2000 kids threw bricks through his windows? The rioting spread and the town is a mess. Armed guards all over the place. Where the hell are we, anyway? Germany? Russia?
And then it flooded. Water, water everywhere! We are sitting up here on our hill high and dry, but the rest of the town is soup. And another flood crest will happen tomorrow! The students had to be evacuated from the dorms. The power is out all over campus. Half the students can’t even getto classes. BUT final exams are scheduled as usual with no exceptions made for the awful conditions!
AND, I’ve been informed that I won’t get an assistantship for next year and John doesn’t even have a contract! We are thoroughly PISSED!
May 30, 1968
Called the Leedy’s [At the time, Jim Leedy was a faculty member in the art department at Ohio U.] a couple of days ago. They are going to Nova Scotia for the summer where Jim will teach at the Halifax College of Art. They invited us to come up for a visit. Sounds like a ball!
With all that’s been going on, I could use a break! I’m in a foul mood. Don’t want to take finals. Don’t want to file any more library acquisition forms [one of my responsibilities as a graduate assistant]. Don’t even want to distribute any more Bobby K. flyers. But if I can hang on for twelve more days, this wretched semester will finally be over! I really need a rest!
Meanwhile in the larger world. . .
The Vietnam War peak casualty day was May 5, 1968. By Dec. 31, 1968, combat deaths for the year hit 16,899 — the most of any year of the war. Those events marked the beginning of the end of U.S. support for South Vietnam.
After 34 days of discussions to select a site, the United States and North Vietnam agree to begin formal negotiations in Paris on May 10, or shortly thereafter. Hanoi disclosed that ex-Foreign Minister Xuan Thuy would head the North Vietnamese delegation at the talks. Ambassador W. Averell Harriman was named as his U.S. counterpart. The start of negotiations brought a flurry of hope that the war might be settled quickly. Instead, the talks rapidly degenerated into a dreary ritual of weekly sessions, during which both sides repeated long-standing positions without seeming to come close to any agreement.
Ralph Abernathy, Martin Luther King Jr.’s designated successor, and the Southern Christian Leadership Corps are granted a permit for an encampment on the Mall in Washington, DC. Eventually, despite nearly a solid month of rain, over 2,500 people will eventually occupy Resurrection City.
On June 24th the site is raided by police, 124 occupants arrested, and the encampment demolished.
Nine antiwar activists enter a Selective Service office in Catonsville, Maryland, remove nearly 400 files and burn them in the parking lot with homemade napalm. The example of the Catonsville Nine (later convicted of destruction of government property and sentenced to jail terms between 24 and 42 months) spurs some 300 similar raids on draft boards over the next four years.
The Supreme Court rules 7-1 that burning a draft card is not an act of free speech protected by the First Amendment.
By May of 1968, Robert F. Kennedy had declared his candidacy for the presidency and was in the thick of the California primary. On May 30, 1968, Kennedy and his wife were traveling up the Central Valley on a train doing whistle stop campaign speeches. He also met with United Farm Worker Union organizer Cesar Chavez.