On “Anti-war protest in Barton Hall” by Wylie Rechler

When organizing an exhibit on revolt, it’s important to recognize the fact that a large portion of political protesting or uprising is enacted by college students, like ourselves. This trend makes complete sense because university campuses are where young, bright minds congregate for four years of higher education. On campus, we are exposed to peers from different walks of life, coursework that opens our minds and fills them with knowledge of the past, and different modes of thinking that can change our perception of the world.

Revolt on campus exists not only today, but can also be traced far back into history. The U. S.’s involvement in the Vietnam War was one political issue that caused much uproar from students across the country. From Claes Oldenburg’s 1969 installation of Lipstick (Ascending) on Caterpillar Tracks at Yale University, to the organization of SDS (Students for a Democratic Society), campuses have seen a variety of different demonstrations protesting this involvement.

One image that shows our own campus’s involvement in this moment in American history is a photograph entitled “Anti-war protest in Barton Hall” taken on April 10th, 1970. Just one year after Oldenburg’s demonstration at Yale, Cornell saw it’s own anti-Vietnam war protest. This work is a black and white negative print showing thousands of students organized in Barton Hall, listening to a speech by Cornell’s own Father Daniel Berrigan who, at the time, was convicted of destroying draft cards using napalm—a flammable, jelly-like substance that U. S. troops adhered to flamethrowers while attacking villages in Vietnam—while in government office. While Father Berrigan was able to appear at Cornell’s two-day long, anti-Vietnam rally called “America is Hard to Find,” he was found by the FBI two months later and subsequently incarcerated for two years. This photograph not only documents an important moment of revolt in out nation’s political history, but also speaks to Cornell’s student body today—so often there are opportunities for activism on campus that we (myself included) take for granted.

It is important to note that the “American is Hard to Find” rally is just one of many student-run protests in Cornell’s history. Stay tuned for more representations of revolt on Cornell’s campus.


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