This blog post comes from Eduardo, a graduate student in History at California State University Northridge, and he has just completed a Summer internship at the Reagan Library.
During my recent internship at the Ronald Reagan Library I examined the Reagan Gubernatorial collection, which involved correspondence letters from conservative and liberal historical perspectives on American student activism. As I examined these letters, I realized that social issues in the 1960s are similar to the ongoing issues our country is experiencing in today’s world. For instance, Berkeley and the right to free speech has been a topic of discussion in recent days since controversial conservative figures such as Steve Bannon, Milo Yiannopoulos and Ann Coulter canceled their visit at Berkeley during the “Free Speech Week.” In addition, these letters also demonstrate the negative relationship between African-Americans and law enforcement officers. Overall, these letters mainly focus on the protests and riots that were occurring in universities across the state of California. Business owners, students, and parents were angry over the lack of police presence during these protests because of Reagan’s tax boost during his term as governor of California. Most importantly, the Vietnam draft also sparked the student uprising. As a result, many conservatives labeled liberals as Marxist and communist because liberal students refused to enter the draft. As a matter of fact, I discovered a newspaper that published an article stating that students would earn college credits if they protested against the Vietnam War. Moreover, a few letters describe why parents refused to enroll their children in universities such as Berkeley and San Francisco State. Finally, I discovered that U.S. flag burnings were common during student uprisings. For instance, two female Berkeley students were accused of burning a U.S. flag in Spain. Subsequently Spain deported both students.
Questions for students:
- Why would a college offer class credits for participation in a political demonstration or march?
- In Jefferson Davis’ letter to Ronald Reagan he stated that the United States is, “in a state of civil insurrection and internal war.” How does he support this claim, and do you believe that terminology is justified? Why do you believe or not believe Davis’ statement is justified?
- Why would students burn the United States flag? What is the purpose and symbolism behind the burning of the flag?
- What were some of the reasons parents refused to enroll their children in certain colleges? Are there any schools you would not let your child attend? Why?
- Do you believe Reagan had an appropriate response to the protests and demonstrations? State your reasoning