Columbia University Archives: 1968 Crisis

University Archives

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Phone: (212) 854-3786
Fax: (212) 854-1365
E-mail: uarchives@columbia.edu

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Related Collections

Barnard College
The Barnard Archives and Special Collections serves as the final repository for the historical records of Barnard College, from its founding in 1889 to the present day. For more information, please contact archives@barnard.edu.

Health Sciences Library
The Archives and Special Collections at the Augustus C. Long Health Sciences Library of Columbia University can help you find information about the schools of the Medical Center: College of Physicians & Surgeons, School of Nursing, College of Dental Medicine (formerly the School of Dental & Oral Surgery), Mailman School of Public Health, and the College of Pharmaceutical Sciences. For more information, please contact hslarchives@columbia.edu.

1968

How to find information about events of April 1968

1968: Columbia in Crisis

To start of your research into the Columbia crisis of 1968, visit the online exhibition 1968: Columbia in Crisis. Here you will find documents, photographs and even audio of the events in context.

About the exhibition: The occupation of five buildings in April 1968 marked a sea change in the relationships among Columbia University administration, its faculty, its student body, and its neighbors. Featuring documents, photographs, and audio from the University Archives, 1968: Columbia in Crisis examines the the causes, actions, and aftermath of a protest that captivated the campus, the nation, and the world.

Columbia Daily Spectator

You can search the issues of the student newspaper, either by date or by keyword, by visiting the Columbia Spectator Digital Archive. In addition, a compilation of the issues released during the crisis is also available online: Crisis at Columbia: an inside report on the rebellion at Columbia from the pages of the Columbia Daily Spectator. This edition includes issues no. 101-113, vol. CXII, of the Columbia Daily Spectator, April 24-May 8, 1968, and Connection, a magazine supplement, no. 2, May 10, 1968.

In order to use the University Archives collections at the Rare Book & Manuscript Library (RBML), you will be required to register your own Special Collections Research Account before your visit and to validate the account in person with government-issued photo identification or Columbia ID card. Once you have created your Special Collections Research Account, you will be able to request materials directly from the finding aid: click the check box located on the right for the box(es) you need, and then scroll back to the top of the container list document and click “Submit Request” button in the red-rimmed box at top. This should lead you directly to your Special Collections Research Account to complete the request form.

  • The Protest and Activism Collection is an excellent source for researchers interested in the campus turmoil of the spring of 1968. Containing flyers, correspondence, news clippings, press releases, transcripts of electronic media reports, memoranda, legal documents, meeting minutes, and photographic prints and negatives, this collection provides access to the myriad of viewpoints on campus at that time. There is also extensive documentation of a number of student organizations, notably the Columbia chapter of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), which was instrumental in organizing demonstrations and other strike activities. Although the main focus of this collection is on what transpired in 1968, materials also document events leading up to the April 1968 strike, the aftermath of those events, as well as subsequent student strikes in 1969, 1970, 1971 and 1972.
     
  • Central Files, 1890-1984 (or Office of the President records) is composed chiefly of correspondence sent and received between Columbia University administrators and other University officers, faculty, and trustees, as well as correspondence sent and received between University administrators and individuals and organizations from outside the university. As such, this collection documents a wide range of people, topics and functions. You can start your research by looking at the Subject files, 1895-1971. This subseries consists of records relating to a particular subject filed under a topical heading (for example, "Campus disturbances files, 1968-1969" or "Gymnasium files, 1958-1969"). You can also focus your search by looking for correspondence with a particular individual by searching the Personal Names subseries, 1890-1971. For example, you may want to request the boxes that include Richard Hofstadter for 1967-1968 to see any correspondence between the history professor and Central Administration. Central Files records created after 1971 are organized by year and then alphabetically, for example, "Student Protest - Correspondence, 1971-1972" or "Student Unrest - Protest Re Obstruction of Buildings, April 1972."
     
  • The Office of Public Affairs Photograph Collection contains a very large number of images of the 1968 protests on campus. These photographs consist of black-and-white photographic prints, negatives, and contact sheets depicting student protest activities at Columbia from April 21, 1967 to April 21, 1969, with the overwhelming majority of items dating from April and May, 1968 - the period of the most sustained and significant student protests at Columbia. The images depict protest activities around the campus, scenes of the occupation in a number of Columbia buildings, and the aftermath of these occupations, as well as many of the Columbia individuals who were prominently involved in the student protests.
     
  • Compiled over the years by University Archives staff, the Building and Grounds Collection contains materials relating to Columbia University’s buildings and grounds on the three sites that have served as the University's main campus as well as other real estate used by the University. The collection includes maps, press clippings, images, and administrative reports - all of which are useful if you are trying to trace the history of a particular building, campus or campus feature, including the then-proposed Morningside Park gymnasium.

For more information on how to access our collections, check out our Research & Access website. If you have any questions about how to find materials or how to access materials, please contact uarchives@columbia.edu.

In order to use the University Archives collections at the Rare Book & Manuscript Library (RBML), you will be required to register your own Special Collections Research Account before your visit and to validate the account in person with government-issued photo identification or Columbia ID card. Once you have created your Special Collections Research Account, you will be able to request materials directly from the finding aid: click the check box located on the right for the box(es) you need, and then scroll back to the top of the container list document and click “Submit Request” button in the red-rimmed box at top. This should lead you directly to your Special Collections Research Account to complete the request form.

  • Joanne Grant research files, 1963-1968
    This collection is a repository of Joanne Grant's research materials for her 1969 book Confrontation on Campus: The Columbia Pattern for the New Protest. The collection contains both Grant's notes taken throughout the Columbia revolt, as well as collected research materials. These materials consist of Strike Coordinating Committee fliers, agendas, leaflets and official statements. In addition, the collection includes the responses of faculty, administration and community members to the strike. The collection also contains materials from the Independent Committee on Vietnam at Columbia University, student protest files against Columbia's involvement in the war.

  • Temple-Lilley Special Committee records, 1968-1971
    After the Columbia University student protests of April and May 1968, the Board of Trustees appointed a six-member Special Committee to study the structure of the university and recommend changes. The Committee met often during the next year, and examined and produced proposals for changes, such as the establishment of a University Senate. This collection includes memoranda, statements and reports from individual members of the University community as well as various working groups and committee among the faculty, students, alumni, and outside consultants. There are published reports of reform proposals at other universities, clippings from the student newspaper, the Columbia Spectator, and correspondence to and from members of the Special Committee and other University officials.

  • William E. Petersen papers July-August 1968
    This collection is comprised of papers collected by William E. Petersen, then Chair of the Board of Trustees (1968-1978) recording his role in choosing a new president for Columbia University following the Columbia Disturbances of 1968. The collection is comprised of one notebook, personal documents, writings, and correspondence. Most items are from the summer of 1968, following the Columbia disturbances.

  • Columbia Crisis of 1968 project : oral history, 1968.
    In this series of interviews, almost all conducted on the Columbia University campus in May, 1968, participants and observers--student activists (conservative, independent, and radical), junior and senior faculty, administrators, supporting staff, and parents--describe and discuss the many phases of the crisis that resulted in the occupation of five Columbia buildings by students April 23 and 24, the suspension of classes, fruitless negotiations, police intervention on April 30, a campus wide strike, a lesser eruption May 21-22, and the eventual restructuring of the University. Factors behind the crisis are examined and weighed in tones ranging from analytical detachment to passionate concern.

  • Police on Campus collection, 1968.
    Eyewitness statements, statistical summaries, correspondence, and miscellaneous materials pertaining to the publication of Police on Campus. The work is an account of the riots at Columbia University in 1968, written by Michael A. Baker, Bradley R. Brewery, Raymond DeBuse, Sally T. Hillsman, Murray Milner, and David V. Soeiro.

For more information on how to access our collections, check out our Research & Access website. If you have any questions about how to find materials or how to access materials, please contact uarchives@columbia.edu.

  • Columbia 1968
    "Columbia University 1968" is a website created by the participants in the protests as an outgrowth of a conference held in April 2008, forty years later, addressing the events of 1968, war, racism, sexism, and the role of universities. The website makes the proceedings of this conference available to the public for non-commercial use. The site also acts as a repository for their experiences of the history of Columbia 1968 as well as a source for reflection and discussion of the events and issues of that time and how they relate today.
     
  • A Time to Stir
    A Time To Stir is a documentary film by Paul Cronin. His website for the film provides an excellent summary of the events on campus and links to important documents and articles about these events at Columbia. A four-hour version will be ready in early 2018 and will be accompanied by a book to be published by Columbia University press: an illustrated book containing more than sixty newly-written testimonials from a range of participants. For more information about this project, see the Spring 2008 Columbia magazine article.
     
  • Columbia Revolt
    Documentary film of the 1968 protests at Columbia University created by Newsreel Films.
     
  • Frank da Cruz's Columbia 1968
    Frank da Cruz ('71GS, '76E), who worked at Columbia University until 2011, created this web site where he provides his personal reminiscences of the 1968 events.
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About the images

Top - "No Gym" protest, June 4, 1968. (Scan 393). Protest and Activism Photographs, Office of Public Affairs Photograph Collection. University Archives, Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Columbia University in the City of New York.

Right - Faculty with armbands in front of Low Library. (Scan 1974). Protest and Activism Photographs, Office of Public Affairs Photograph Collection. University Archives, Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Columbia University in the City of New York.