Give Research Topics a Chance

I hope my title has resonated with some of you – yes, it is a reference to John Lennon’s 1969 anthem “Give Peace a Chance”. The Beatles’ frontman, along with other prominent musicians of the time, spoke to a certain chord of uneasiness towards American policy in Vietnam. I have many historical interests that span over the course of the twentieth-century America, especially the crusades that tackled the social and political landscape of the 1960s and 1970s. Out of my interests in the Vietnam War and my upbringing as an activist, I plan to pursue a research project surrounding the anti-war climate on the homefront in the 1960s and 1970s. I want to take a special look at student activism at Chicago Catholic colleges and universities, including Loyola University and its affiliated Mundelein College, DePaul University, Rosary College (present-day Dominican University), and St. Xavier University. The social justice tradition of these Catholic institutions of higher learning certainly evoked a call to action in the wake of the Vietnam War.

President Lyndon B. Johnson’s entrance into the war in 1965 initially received wide public support in the effort to suppress communism. However, the late 1960s saw a correlation between the unprecedented number of American troops deployed in Vietnam and the major losses of life on both sides of the conflict, triggering anti-war sentiment on the homefront. Student groups, like Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), emerged out of the New Left movement in response to the formidable loss of life and human right violations occurring in Indochina. Inspired by activity at the University of Michigan, universities and colleges in Chicago hosted teach-ins and other events to engage the community in an open dialogue on the violent upheaval occurring in Vietnam.

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Students gather outside of Piper Hall at Mundelein College in May, 1970 for an anti-war demonstration.

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The Skyscraper, Mundelein College’s student newspaper, thoroughly reported anti-war activity on its campus, including this sit-in in 1967.

This is where my project comes into play. While I value the critical attributes of SDS, I am also curious about any other student organizations that surfaced out of the anti-war movement within the Chicago sphere of Catholic colleges and universities. I also want to explore the administration’s response to the rising outcry of this anti-war sentiment on their campus. Because this project will be focused on a certain region of the United States, I am looking forward to discovering any communication between these specific schools. Because of my close relationship with Loyola University and Mundelein College, I have a more well-rounded idea of the activism that occurred there in the late 1960s and early 1970s. However, I am excited to learn more about Rosary College (present-day Dominican University), St. Xavier University, and DePaul University’s activist presence in Chicago during the Vietnam War. I plan to utilize archival and library materials from each of these institutions to sew together a story of solidarity against the aching war in Vietnam.

My first semester in the Ramonat Seminar has already proved to be a rewarding experience. In September I made a goal to explore the tools of the historian, and have seemingly done so through various projects, including an Omeka exhibit. I want to contribute to the digital age by creating an online exhibit showcasing the anti-war movement in Catholic Chicago. I am excited to see what the next semester holds as my classmates and I tackle our respective research projects.

I hope you have enjoyed reading about my journey so far.. More to come next semester!

Peace,

Matthew Day

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