In the United States, Black Freedom Movement leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, as was Robert F. Kennedy, younger brother of slain President John F. Kennedy, and a candidate for the same office. An unpopular war was raging in Southeast Asia, and uprisings in major U.S. cities were sparked after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who was supporting a labor strike by black sanitation workers in Memphis, Tennessee.
College students in the U.S. played a major role in confronting the racist power structure and other forms of social injustice of the day. Examples of this can be found in the actions of students at Columbia and Howard Universities who occupied buildings to protest administrative policies that perpetuated discrimination. In Orangeburg, South Carolina, 3 young black men were killed after police opened fire on a group of South Carolina State College students protesting a racially segregated bowling alley near campus. University students in France joined workers in protesting class discrimination, bringing the country’s economy to a virtual standstill. In Mexico, officers fired on university students protesting political bureaucracy killing or wounding over one thousand in Mexico City, the site of the 1968 Summer Olympics.
As the games convened, the iconic image of Olympic Gold and Silver medalist track athletes John Carlos and Tommy Smith, in black stockinged feet and black leather gloves, raising their fists in protest punctuated the resolve of a younger generation to confront injustice. In 2018, just 50 years later, college students are navigating instances where they are face to face with a society that at times mirrors the socio-political atmosphere of 1968. With this in mind, the tides of resistance and awareness have become exponentially important to scholars who study the field of higher education.
Museum of Education Director Toby Jenkins, Ph.D. is co-leading a national team of professional and graduate student curators in developing the exhibition, Remember: 1968. This is an interactive exhibit that highlights a timeline of the year 1968, with particular emphasis on the sociopolitical contexts of higher education and campus activism.
The exhibit will debut at the 2018 Association for the Study of Higher Education (ASHE) in Tampa, FL. The exhibit will then travel to the University of South Carolina and be displayed for the Spring 2019 semester. This initiative is a partnership between Indiana University, the University of South Carolina, and the Association of the Study of Higher Education.