By Simeon Cohen
PUBLISHED NOVEMBER 8, 2007
Nearly 40 years after the protests of 1968, the legacy of that year continues at Columbia and inspired the theme of this year’s history department undergraduate academic symposium on Wednesday night.
The symposium, entitled “1968: The Year and its Times,” was moderated by history professor Mae Ngai and featured brief lectures from five Columbia professors on different aspects of one of the most politically and socially turbulent years in recent history.
During her opening remarks, Professor Ngai drew a connection to Columbia’s rich history of student activism and current events on campus by commenting on how strange it was that the symposium was “being held on the same day that five current Columbia students decided to go on a hunger strike,” referring to five Columbia students who are protesting the University’s proposed Manhattanville expansion, a lack of support for ethnic studies, and other administrative actions. Professor Ngai implied that at its core, Columbia hasn’t changed as much as it may seem since that fateful April almost 40 years ago.
Attendees at the event ran the gamut from first-years to alumni who participated in the legendary 1968 Columbia riots. “I was interested in the event because my dad went here in ’68 and always told me stories about the riots,” Hannah Lepow, CC ’11, said. “I wanted to get a more academic perspective on the events, as opposed to just learning about them through my dad’s stories of his glory days as an undergraduate.”
Much of the discussion centered on anecdotal personal accounts of historic events. Professor Manning Marable spoke about being the first person to arrive at Martin Luther King’s funeral at Ebenezer Baptist Church. Professor Victoria De Grazia recounted how she was in Prague in August 1968, when Soviet tanks started rolling into the city. Professor Michael Merrill discussed what it was like being an undergraduate student at Columbia in April of 1968, and University Provost Alan Brinkley—a renowned scholar of modern American history—talked about his experience at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago that year and feeling like he was in “a fascist state.”
Robert Scheff, a participant in Columbia’s Lifelong Learners program, said that he came to the symposium to be “educated and reminded of the event, which I, of course, lived through. This lecture just hit the spot for me.”
Simeon Cohen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
TAGS: 1968, Activism, History
View Comments ( 3)Post a Comment
Any of these brave, brilliant fossils recall the '68 intimidations and kidnappings of their professors?
Posted by: anonymous (not verified) November 9th, 2007 @ 2:15am
We can only send men 300-400 miles into space NOWADAYS. How the hell are we supposed to believe that they could send men 239,000 miles(100000% farther!!!) to the Moon and back with less technology than a 'gameboy?' Ridiculous and Illogical!!!
Posted by: anonymous (not verified) November 8th, 2007 @ 6:11pm
Yes. The 88 people that Bill Clinton murdered at Waco in 1993 know the feeling.
Posted by: anonymous (not verified) November 8th, 2007 @ 12:18pm