1968: Columbia in Crisis

Causes > Students for a Democratic Society (SDS)

Strike Coordinating Committee Press Conference

Mark Rudd and other SDS leaders at a Strike Coordinating Committee Press conference held on Friday, April 26, 1968

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Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) was established at the University of Michigan in 1962.  Undergraduate Tom Hayden’s “Port Huron Statement,” which served as a mission statement for the organization, expressed his generation’s disillusionment with the Liberal Establishment and the Old Left, the military industrial complex, and what it saw as an apathetic, consumption-driven mainstream American culture.

Reply to Uncle Grayson

Facsimile of the infamous letter from Mark Rudd to President Grayson Kirk entitled "Reply to Uncle Grayson" re-printed in Up Against the Wall, April 22, 1968 (p.1-2).  Rudd ends the letter defiantly by writing, in the words of LeRoi Jones, "Up against the wall motherfucker, this is a stick up."

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Columbia students established a small chapter of SDS in 1965. At no time was Columbia’s chapter of SDS any bigger than 50 core members.  At first, the organization was led by the “praxis axis,” a group of students focused on education, recruitment, and radical theory rather than large-scale action.  When Mark Rudd was elected chairman of SDS in the spring of 1968, however, he proposed and pursued a much more dramatic “action faction” strategy.  The March 1968 disciplinary action against the “Low Six,” the continued protest against IDA and open recruitment on campus, and the heated debates ensuing about the Morningside Park gymnasium gave Rudd and SDS a more thorough platform on which to act.  The group organized a major rally for April 23, to take place on Low Plaza at the Sun Dial.





SDS newsletter Up Against The Wall from April 22, 1968 .

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Columbia SDS Button, 1968.

Courtesy of Frank da Cruz ‘71GS,’76E

Columbia University Libraries / Rare Book & Manuscript Library / Butler Library, 6th Fl. / 535 West 114th St. / New York, NY 10027 / (212) 854-5590 / rbml@libraries.cul.columia.edu