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Student Protest Movements at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: Anti-War Protests (1965-1970)

Anti-War Protests at UNC-Chapel Hill

Richard Nixon’s election and subsequent failure to curtail U.S. involvement in the war in Vietnam led, by the fall of 1969, to mass demonstrations and protests by UNC-Chapel Hill students. By the spring of 1970, class boycotts targeting the U.S. war effort had become significant, and student protests culminated in a strike by graduate teaching assistants and a march by 2,000 students on South Building. Following the strike, university faculty and administrators met in May amidst student teach-ins and sit-ins to discuss the university’s policies toward the strikers and student protesters, demonstrating that campus discontent was no longer limited to the periphery of student life.  

This component of the guide focuses primarily on Vietnam protests, although it is important to note that UNC-Chapel Hill and the Town also saw anti-war activism during other eras, even if sporadic in comparison, for example during World War II.

Books, Theses, and Articles

Thorpe, Judith L. Study of the Peace Movement at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Viewed within the Context of the Nation, 1964-1971. Master's thesis, 1971. C378 UO2 1972 THORPE, J.L. 

Thorpe's work focuses on the anti-war movements at UNC-Chapel Hill. While many at the time considered UNC to be "the liberal bastion of the South," the author argues that students in Chapel Hill were not as politically active as those on other campuses. 

Bello, Thomas M. The Student Strike at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (May, 1970): An Eyewitness Historical Memoir. 1971. C378 US19

Bello, elected student body president in 1970, was a key student leader in campus protests against the Vietnam War and the related invasion of Cambodia. In this volume, Bello describes the protests and student strike that occurred in the aftermath of the Cambodian invasion and shootings at Kent State University. Bello offers a first-hand account of the campus during this tumultuous time in its history. 

Holden, Charles. "Patriotism Does Not Mean Stupidity: Student Antiwar Activism at UNC in the 1930s." North Carolina Historical Review v.85, no. 1 (January 2008): pp. 29-56. Cp970 N87hi v. 85, no. 1

Although focused on a time period decades before the outbreak of the Vietnam War, Holden's article describes early anti-war sentiment at UNC-Chapel Hill and provides useful background for researchers interested in later student demonstrations. Holden details the anti-war efforts of students, including rallies and calls for strikes, in the decade preceding American involvement in World War II.

Archival Resources

Archival materials are an excellent resource for researchers interested in anti-war protests at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The following are just a few examples of the archival resources that can be found on this subject. 

Office of the Chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: Joseph Carlyle Sitterson Records, 1966-1972 

During his tenure as chancellor of UNC-Chapel Hill from 1966 to 1971 Sitterson led the University through several major events including a wave of anti-Vietnam War protests as well as general campus unrest. This collection includes records created and collected by the office of the University's chief administrator on various campus demonstrations and student protests. 

General Faculty and Faculty Council of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Records, 1799-2011

This collection includes records documenting the reaction of faculty members and administrators at UNC-Chapel Hill to campus anti-war protests and protests at other institutions of higher education including Kent State. These records include subject files kept by the Faculty Council as well as the minutes of faculty meetings that discuss the topic. 

Thomas M. Bello Papers, 1970-1971

As student body president from 1970 to 1971, Bello was active in the student anti-war movement on campus and instrumental in facilitating communication between student groups, faculty, and University administration at the time. The materials in this collection document the protests of the early 1970s, Bello's involvement in the protests, and the reaction of University leaders to the events. 

Anti-war Materials from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 1969-1973. North Carolina Collection. FVC378 US14. 

This collection includes flyers, posters, handouts, and other materials relating to the anti-war movement on campus during the late 1960s and early 1970s. 

Jock Lauterer Photographic Collection, circa 1964-1968

Jock Lauterer of Chapel Hill, N.C., is a photojournalist and educator who teaches community journalism, photojournalism, and newswriting classes at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, from which he received his undergraduate degree in 1967. He is the founding director of the Carolina Community Media Project, an outreach initiative in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Prior to returning to his alma mater in 2001, he created and ran the photojournalism program at Pennsylvania State University. The collection is predominantly composed of images of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the town of Chapel Hill, N.C., made from circa 1964-1968, when the photographer was an undergraduate student at UNC. The largest grouping of negatives documents the UNC Men’s Glee Club European Tour of 1966. Other images portray life in Chapel Hill, the UNC campus, and university activities. Lauterer captured small-town life; the serenity of campus; sporting events; and the effects of politically charged times on a small community, including anti-war protests, Speaker Ban protests, civil rights marches and speeches, and a Ku Klux Klan rally. Many of the images include persons of national or local significance.

Class Strike Ephemera, 1970

This series consists of materials related to a 1970 class strike and student petition challenging the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's disruption policy. The class strike was called to protest the United States's invasion of Cambodia. Following the strike, students submitted a petition, signed by 600 to 800 students, to UNC-Chapel Hill President William C. Friday declaring that they had violated the University's disruption policy. This was intended to overwhelm the University's system for investigating and responding to violations of the policy. In response, Dean of Students C.O. Cathey sent letters to all students who signed the petition, asking them to confirm that they had signed and to further explain their signature of the petition within ten days.