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Hidden History Tour of the University of Maine

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This is a contributing entry for Hidden History Tour of the University of Maine and only appears as part of that tour.Learn More.
Before jumping into the backstory of student activists on campus, please read the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. that are placed around this plaza named in his honor. Dr. King and other leaders of the ciil rights movement inspired students across the nation to join together in peaceful protest, and make their collective voices heard. From the Vietnam War, to apartheid in South Africa, to the recent death of George Floyd, students and faculty at the University of Maine have raised their voices for causes they felt strongly about, at all costs. The civil rights movement of the 1960s influenced generations that followed to fight for equality, justice, and inclusion. Students at UMaine, as on campuses nationwide, were largely at the forefront of these movements. Read more below.

Images of attack, destruction at 1969 SDS protest

Photograph, White, Black, Font

Article about shantytown apartheid protest in 1985

Newspaper, Publication, News, Font

While many UMaine students over the years, like those in the Class of 1944, chose to serve their country, there have always been those in opposition to war. This was especially true during the Vietnam War. Students nationwide filled university green spaces and administration buildings to protest the war.  

Here at UMaine, student Kenneth Kantro organized a local chapter of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) in 1965, the only chapter in Maine. Elsewhere across the country, chapters focused largely on civil rights issues, but initial efforts in Orono were centered around the Vietnam War and the draft. In May of 1969, members of the SDS and a few faculty members held a protest against U.S. policies in Vietnam. Over 300 counter-protesters threw eggs at the roughly 50 demonstrators, and destroyed banners.

Other student groups rallied for women's rights, abortion rights, peace, the environment, and other causes. Protests and student activism were not limited to the 1960s though. In 1985, students from UMaine, and at campuses around the country, set up makeshift shantytowns to draw attention to Apartheid in South Africa. This peaceful protest was led by the Maine Peace Action Committee, which is still active locally.

Check back soon for an extended post about other protests over time on campus.

Be sure to check out the link in the resources for more on current student groups on campus, like the Wilde Stein Club and Rainbow Resource Center in Memorial Union, the next outdoor stop on our tour.

Maine Campus, May 15, 1969

"Shantytown campers air grievance," Maine Campus, October 17, 1985.

Special Collections, Raymond H. Fogler Library, University of Maine, "Student Political Activity Collection (University of Maine), 1966-1978" (2015). Finding Aids. Number 43.

Image Sources(Click to expand)

Maine Campus, May 15, 1969

Maine Campus, October 17, 1985