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Office of the President, Yale University, records concerning the May Day rally

 Collection
Call Number: RU 16

Scope and Contents

The records include background materials on the Black Panther party, information on the trial, and a series of Strike Newspapers issued by Dwight Hall. Also included are materials documenting Yale's approach and efforts toward organizing peaceful co-existence during the weekend events, as well as published information chronicling each day and summarizing media coverage. Other materials describe the faculty meeting held to address the issue of suspending academic activities during the trial, as well reaction to President Kingman Brewster, Jr.'s, famous speech before that assembly. A significant number of letters detailing positive and negative feedback from Yale alumni and those unrelated to Yale comprise the correspondence files. May Day weekend took place 1-3 May 1970 as a rally to protest the Black Panther murder trial of party chairman Bobby Seale and seven other party members. Normal academic activities were suspended so that Yale students, faculty, and staff could assist in planning and organizing cautionary measures. Yale University opened its doors to demonstrators by offering shelter, food, day care, and first aid throughout the weekend. Approximately 15,000 people attended the first day of rallies without significant disruption or disorder. Fewer remained the following days, and academic activities resumed around campus by Monday 4 May.

Dates

  • 1970-1976

Creator

Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Original audiovisual materials, as well as preservation and duplicating masters, may not be played. Researchers must consult use copies, or if none exist must pay for a use copy, which is retained by the repository. Researchers wishing to obtain an additional copy for their personal use should consult Copying Services information on the Manuscripts and Archives web site.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The records were transferred from the Office of the President, 1973

Arrangement

The records are arranged alphabetically by subject and material type.

Extent

7.76 Linear Feet (11 boxes, 1 audiocassette)

Language of Materials

English

Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL

https://hdl.handle.net/10079/fa/mssa.ru.0016

Overview

The records include background materials on the Black Panther party, information on the trial, and a series of Strike Newspapers issued by Dwight Hall. Also included are materials documenting Yale's approach and efforts toward organizing peaceful co-existence during the weekend events, as well as published information chronicling each day and summarizing media coverage. Other materials describe the faculty meeting held to address the issue of suspending academic activities during the trial, as well reaction to President Kingman Brewster, Jr.'s, famous speech before that assembly. A significant number of letters detailing positive and negative feedback from Yale alumni and those unrelated to Yale comprise the correspondence files. May Day weekend took place 1-3 May 1970 as a rally to protest the Black Panther murder trial of party chairman Bobby Seale and seven other party members. Normal academic activities were suspended so that Yale students, faculty, and staff could assist in planning and organizing cautionary measures. Yale University opened its doors to demonstrators by offering shelter, food, day care, and first aid throughout the weekend. Approximately 15,000 people attended the first day of rallies without significant disruption or disorder. Fewer remained the following days, and academic activities resumed around campus by Monday 4 May.

Biographical / Historical

May Day weekend took place May 1-3, 1970 as a rally to protest the murder trial of Black Panther party chairman Bobby Seale and seven other party members. Normal academic activities were suspended so that Yale students, faculty, and staff could assist in preparing the campus for the rally. Yale University opened its doors to demonstrators by offering shelter, food, day care, and first aid throughout the weekend. Approximately 15,000 people attended the first day of rallies without significant disruption or disorder. Fewer remained the following days, and academic activities resumed by Monday May 4.

Biographical / Historical

May Day weekend took place Friday 1 May to Sunday 3 May 1970. It was a rally on the New Haven Green to protest perceived unfairness in the trial of Black Panther Chairman Bobby Seale and seven other party members. Seale was charged in the murder of former Black Panther Alex Rackley, who was found dead on 21 May 1969. The trial and the protest became a primary concern of Yale University students, faculty, and staff. Mass meetings took place around campus, and publications such as the Dwight Hall Strike Newspaper were distributed to inform and update the community on Black Panther issues, as well as on other areas of national interest and unrest, including the Vietnam Conflict.

The issue of suspending normal academic activities indefinitely for the duration of the trial was brought before the Yale faculty on 23 April 1970 and, with some modifications, approved. Kurt Schmoke '71, who later became Baltimore mayor in 1987 and a member of the Yale Corporation in 1989, was the first student in Yale history to address the faculty on behalf of the student body. Yale President Kingman Brewster, Jr., also addressed the assembly. During his remarks, he stated, "...I am appalled and ashamed that things should have come to pass that I am skeptical of the ability of Black revolutionaries to achieve a fair trial anywhere in the United States." Brewster's statement drew sharp criticism from Vice President Spiro T. Agnew, who in a speech delivered on 28 April 1970 in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, called on Yale alumni to demand Brewster's resignation. The alumni, however, supported Brewster nearly four to one, based on written and telephone feedback. Brewster also received comprehensive support throughout the immediate Yale community.

Various sources predicted that 50,000 demonstrators would arrive in New Haven for the May Day rally. The Brewster administration decided to open Yale University for shelter, food, day care, and first aid throughout the weekend. Students hosted demonstrators in designated residential college rooms, and many faculty, staff, and students were assigned special duties to help maintain order. Fearing vulnerability to the large numbers predicted to attend, the Connecticut state government, against the wishes of Brewster, put federal forces into place in case of violent eruptions. Actual attendance, however, was lower than expected at approximately at 15,000. The events of Friday 1 May, including speeches given at various Yale sites by prominent protest leaders such as Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin, occurred peacefully. Throughout the night, there were sporadic incidents managed by local police. On Saturday 2 May fewer numbers gathered for rallies on the New Haven Green with no significant eruptions, in essence bringing to a close the events of May Day weekend. By Sunday 3 May all demonstrators had left the rally and campus activities resumed the following day. Students who elected to postpone final exams and projects were offered a number of options to fulfill their academic obligations without penalty.

General note

Forms part of Yale Record Group 2-A (YRG 2-A), Records of the President.
Title
Guide to the Office of the President, Yale University, Records Concerning the May Day Rally
Status
Under Revision
Author
compiled by Mark Bailey
Date
February 1996
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Manuscripts and Archives Repository

Contact:
Yale University Library
P.O. Box 208240
New Haven CT 06520-8240 US
(203) 432-1735
(203) 432-7441 (Fax)

Location

Sterling Memorial Library
Room 147
120 High Street
New Haven, CT 06511

Opening Hours