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Washington and Lee and the May 1970 Protests


Washington and Lee University is a conservative campus today and was comparatively conservative in 1970 as well according to several members of the university community at the time. However in May of 1970 the University was caught up in the national Student Strike. May of 1970 was an extraordinary time when students at Washington and Lee and at campuses across the country stopped attending class to protest. Hundreds of thousands of students marched on Washington DC. These radical and nationwide events were immediately precipitated by the Nixon administration's decision to invade Cambodia and the shooting of students at Kent State by members of the National Guard on May 4, 1970 resulting in the deaths of four students. However longer arching sources of discontent and habits of protest had created the atmosphere that allowed this spectacular show of national student discontent. Student protest movements on Civil Rights in the early 1960s, the University of California Free Speech Movement in the mid-1960s, and growing anti-Vietnam movement throughout the middle and late parts of the decade had prepared students with the tools, the will, and the precedent to express their unrest.

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