Milestones
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Civil Rights & University Protests

A 36-hour takeover of Willard Straight Hall at Cornell University symbolized a larger fight for civil rights happening in universities and cities throughout the United States.  At 3:00 am, a group of students took over Willard Hall during Parent's Weekend in protest against the campus’ perceived racism. Students called for the development of a black studies program; a program that was severely lacking in all university systems.

 

SDS students protesting outside Willard Straight Hall in the snow, April 19, 1969

SDS students protesting outside Willard Straight Hall in the snow, April 19, 1969. Image courtesy of the Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library.

 

Top of Page Image: Eric Evans reading a statement after end of takeover. Image courtesy of the Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library. 

Mexican-American Civil Rights

Cesar Chavez was a respected Chicano civil rights leader and labor activist. As head of the United Farm Workers (UFW), he lobbied for employment rights and living standards for farm workers. “Don’t Eat Grapes” became the slogan for the successful and high-profile UFW boycott of California table grapes as activists demanded growers stop using toxic chemicals harmful to farm workers. In 1969, the pesticide DDT was banned in residential areas.

 

United Farm Workers Poster
United Farm Workers Poster

Images Courtesy of the Library of Congress

The UFW was one organization of many involved in the Chicano Civil Rights Movement that called for greater land reforms, education, voting and political rights for Mexican Americans.

The Clearwater

Cleanup of New York’s Hudson River became the focus of folk singer and environmentalist Pete Seeger’s life work in the mid-1960s.  Seeger decided that a symbol was needed to bring awareness to pollution.  So, on May 17, 1969, a 106-foot replica of a Dutch sloop named Clearwater was launched. Clearwater is known as America’s Environmental Flagship, conducts science-based environmental education onboard the ship, and is on the list of National Register of Historic Places.

Pete Seeger on the Clearwater, June 1969

Pete Seeger on the Clearwater, June 1969 

The Clearwater

The Clearwater

Images Courtesy of the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater


 

Santa Barbara Oil Spill

On January 1969, an oil well blow-out at Union Oil’s offshore rig in the Santa Barbara Channel six miles off the California coast, began one of the worst oil spills in U.S. history.  Killing seabirds and marine mammals and washing up in a thick blanket of black crude oil onto miles of Santa Barbara beaches, the spill became a televised disaster. It spurred a national environmental movement, making President Richard Nixon and his Administration unlikely partners of Congress in creating a new federal framework of environmental protection laws.

President Richard Nixon visiting the beach in March 1969.
President Richard Nixon visiting the beach in March 1969.

Image courtesy of the National Archives 

 

Moon Landing

1969 moon landing crew.
"Prime Crew of the Fifth Manned Apollo Mission"

Image Courtesy of NASA

On May 25, 1961, President John. F. Kennedy announced to Congress his mission of sending man to the moon: “I believe this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to Earth.” This goal was accomplished on July 20, 1969, when over 500 million people across the nation watched live on television as American astronauts from the Apollo 11 touched down on the moon.  Astronauts Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Edwin "Buzz" E. Aldrin made up the Apollo 11 crew.

Man on the moon from 1969 moon landing mission.
Image Courtesy of NASA