Investing in Diversity at UNH: The Turbulent Years, 1968-1972

Crowd standing outside campus building
Photograph from University Archives, 1970

The call for the integration of the African-American experience into the curriculum and student body at UNH arose during a time of extreme social unrest in the United States.

The Civil Rights Era brought many social issues to the fore, including racial discrimination, gender discrimination, and military conscription. The speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr., racial rioting across the nation, and the assassinations of Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert Kennedy all stimulated action.

Some civil rights workers lost their lives in an attempt to ensure that all Americans could exercise equal rights. Some citizens were still being prevented from exercising their right to vote through intimidation and technicalities. Employers and landlords practiced discrimination, both blatant and subtle. Young men were drafted to fight an unpopular war in Vietnam.

Since academic institutions provide a forum for the analysis of critical social issues, American universities responded to the civil rights movement with the conscious inclusion of diverse populations beginning at San Francisco State. There, in February, 1968, a coordinator of black studies was hired following a five month strike.

Other institutions followed with changes in curriculum and student/faculty population in the late 1960s, including the University of New Hampshire in 1969. At UNH as at other campuses, change did not come easily. Administrative offices were taken over; academics went on strike; rhetoric became heated and threatening.

This exhibit highlights the actions of faculty, students, and administrators at UNH in addressing one of the challenging issues of their time.