Sunday, May 9, 2010

Forty Years Ago Today in Brooklyn: May 9, 1970: Brooklyn College reacts to Kent State

From our diary:

Saturday, May 9, 1970

A hot day - it hit 90° and was sunny. I got a letter from Mark [a friend in National Guard basic training] this morning. Things seem to be going all right, although his folder says "Pvt.
Mary Minsky" and he said he thought he could get out for being a transvestite.

At the college, the crowds were small. I attended a liberation class held by Prof. Vincent of the Bio Department on how to influence legislators. I took a list of names for a national political action committee.

I met Jeane as she was leaving and I drove her home. There was a rumor that more of those hardhatted construction workers were coming to the college, but none showed up.

The Washington rally was large and non-violent. The ball may be rolling for some sort of general strike. Nixon met with some demonstrators at dawn, but he may revert to Mr. Mean if this thing goes on.

I relaxed, got a suntan and read James Watson's
The Double Helix the rest of the afternoon. I got pictures back of [Paul] O'Dwyer [1970 Democratic U.S. Senate candidate and future City Council President] and all came out well.

Tonight I went out and talked with my parents, Lou and Evie, and our neighbor Jerry, who works for the telephone company. Evie tells me that Julie Ulanoff down the block is going to Fort Polk this week [for National Guard basic training]. Maybe I should give him Mark's name.

WBAI gave their excellent coverage of the Washington demonstration again. Free radio like that is good.

This was the week that was.

The next day, Sunday, May 10, was Mother's Day and our diary entry is mostly about going to see our Grandma Ethel in Rockaway and then our Grandma Sylvia at our Aunt Violet's house in Cedarhurst. Our cousin Scott, who went to Lawrence High School, told us "he had been thinking of applying to Kent State, but not anymore." The only other reference to the political situation in our May 10 entry was watching an NBC primetime special called A House Divided.

On Sunday, May 10, the New York Times had a story, "POLITICAL ACTION BY YOUTH IS GOAL; Reports Describe Progress Already Made in East and Future Plans," by William E. Farrell, that began
Representatives of student and faculty organizations at 29 universities met here yesterday to plan strategy for electing antiwar candidates to Congress that they hope will provide "a new trend for college students to get back into the electoral process."

The 875-word article ended with these four paragraphs:
At Brooklyn College, 100 students continued to remain in the office of the president, John W. Kneller, where they have been since the beginning of a student strike on Tuesday.

John W. Kneller, the president of Brooklyn College, issued a statement last night "terminating all classes for the remainder of the semester." College buildings will remain open, he said, to provide student and faculty groups with office space so that they can work for peace.

A fire on the Brooklyn Campus of Long Island University caused damage estimated at $100,000 to the Humanities Building [where we'd teach English from 1975 to 1978]. Twelve firemen were treated for smoke inhalation while fighting the fire. A Fire Department official said the fire was "definitely arson."

The blaze followed the receipt of a letter by the president of the school, Dr. Alexander Aldrich, warning that "fires and firebombs" would be set off on the campus unless the school remained closed indefinitely. The letter was signed "The Stop the War Coalition."

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