1968 was a year that left Americans in pain. Everything about the country was changing, people were rioting in the streets, students were organizing to change the democratic party, Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated, Lyndon Johnson had announced he would not run for president, and Robert Kennedy was assassinated. People were downright angry, they were angry that young men were still dying in Vietnam and they were angry that Martin Luther King had been killed at the hands of a racist. The people felt that the American dream was lost.
Students organized for a change in the democratic party, they changed the way that candidates ran for president. Students from New Hampshire created a map in which people could go door to door asking Democrats and independents to vote for McCarthy. McCarthy, in my opinion, was a surprising choice. He is shy and quiet, and he really didn’t even seem like he wanted the presidency. I guess that is what the students of the New Democratic movement wanted. They didn’t want someone who would tell them what to do they were looking for someone who would trust them. The students wanted someone who would look to them to make decisions. McCarthy had an attitude that he was doing everyone a favor by running for president and the students should thank him for letting them use his name. The students were looking for a name to push their agenda, they wanted the war in Vietnam to end. They were tired of Johnson pushing further and further into the war and they wanted change. They wanted their friends who were there doing the fighting to come home. The students really believed that America could be great if it made some major changes. They believed in democracy and had faith that with McCarthy the troops would come home, and change could be made.
Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated on April 4th, 1968. That day changed the civil rights movement in a drastic way. Now that the champion of nonviolence had died violently people turned to violence. “The assassin’s bullet not only Killed Dr. King, it killed a period of history. It killed Hope, and it killed a dream.” (B&B, 381) The assassination of Dr. King by a white American meant that any hope of change through peaceful nonviolent actions was no longer possible. It was clear that the only way that black Americans could ever get the fair and equal treatment they deserve was through violent means. Black Americans had to fight violence with violence. In a way, many black Americans thought that the dream of peaceful liberation had been gone for a long time, but King’s assassination proved that.
In conclusion, 1968 meant a new wave of anger in the US. Young people were angry that Johnson’s war in Vietnam was still seeing American casualties. Black Americans were angry and full of grief from the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King. All of this anger led to change, students created a new democratic party and put faith into a leader who would listen to them. African Americans saw that nonviolence was not working and that in order to see real change they had to fight violence with violence. 1968 left the United States very divided.
Since America’s foundation, African Americans have been badly mistreated and oppressed. From slavery to Jim Crow and onward African Americans have been regarded as second-class citizens. Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream in which black citizens and white citizens could live together in peace. However, not everyone agreed with King’s ideas of peace. For leaders such as Malcolm X, the black population in America had suffered far too long to move to a peaceful world. Malcolm X even went as far as saying he didn’t even see himself as an American. (BB, 120) At first, I didn’t understand how he could say that but after some thought, I have come to realize that my own circumstances do not allow me to understand that feeling because I have never seen oppression of this nature personally. For Malcolm X and the people who back him, oppression is so apparent. How could anyone who lives in oppression feel that they are apart of the state that is oppressing them? Malcolm X wanted a voice for black Americans. The primary reason for his movement was to give African Americans representation. Malcolm X on the service seems to be a negative and angry, but he was able to transform the black freedom struggle from what it was to a new movement in which African Americans would have a voice at all cost.
Virginia Tech on March 5, 1965, was, like most places in the US, divided. Up until this point in the presentations, Virginia Tech seemed as though it was the land that time had forgotten, but it is evident through The Virginia Tech that the issue of racial inequality was an area that the university could not ignore. On the Friday before this paper was issued the Corps of Cadets put on their annual Minstrel show (pictured below). This year, however, the students would not stand by and accept this kind of racism on their campus so a group of students stood outside Burras hall and picketed the show. In the paper, we see a letter to the editor that discusses how this student cannot understand how a group of college-educated people could watch this show. He is offended by the use of the “N” word and feels the Corps misjudgment poorly represents the student body and compares it humorously to the “Drunks of Radford” The editor responses by defending the Corps and attacking the picketers. He first states that the picketers made an active attempt to “humiliate” the audience for attending. He blames the picketers for trying to insight racial controversy through their picketing and that they could have attempted to reach their goal of a show cancellation through the academic council for evaluation since it was on the schedule for a long time. The editor says that VPI through “understanding and restraint” the students have reached peace with cultural differences since 1952 when the first black student was enrolled. He claims that VPI is the center for diversity and that any practice besides restraint and understanding could lead to a boilover. It is fascinating that a school with very little racial equality can see themselves as equal. It is so interesting to see someone defend a minstrel show and then claim that Virginia Tech was a peaceful place of equality. Another response to this letter is from a student who doesn’t understand the issue with the minstrel show and blackface. He essentially feels that the jokes have truth to them, but are exaggerated stereotypes which makes it funny and okay. He for some reason feels that until recently Black Americans would attend and be okay with these shows, but now in order to attract attention, everyone has an issue with them. His thought is that it is just a joke. Both of these editors show the racism that existed on Virginia Tech’s campus. While their justifications for the Minstrel Show are different both sides try to play the “it’s not racist” card but, both fail to see the show for what it is.
I also found the advertisements particularly interesting in this newspaper, three of them stood out specifically. The first was an ad for employment at IBM. I think this is super interesting because the people who responded to that advertisement could have potentially helped to create the computer as we know it today and it’s so interesting to think those people could have come from Tech. I also found the Army ROTC ad very interesting because while Vietnam is not mentioned like at all directly in this paper the ROTC ad shows that people knew they were going to war. This ad plays off people’s emotions and fear of the war by saying that they are good enough to be an officer don’t settle for an enlisted or drafted position that is for the uneducated less fortunate.
Lastly, I found the ad for jobs in Europe interesting because it reminds me of our modern day study abroad except people go to work. Either way, it is another symbol of privilege on Virginia Tech’s campus and shows that people had money so that they could afford to go and work in Europe.