Cover image for Cornell '69 : liberalism and the crisis of the American university
Cornell '69 : liberalism and the crisis of the American university
Downs, Donald Alexander.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Ithaca, NY : Cornell University Press, 1999.
Physical Description:
x, 359 pages : illustrations, 1 map ; 24 cm
Overview of the crisis -- Student militancy -- The rise of racial politics -- Racial justice versus academic freedom -- Separation or integration? -- Progress or impasse? -- Liberal justice or racism? -- Day 1: the takeover and the arming of the campus -- Day 2: the deal -- Day 3: a "revolutionary situation" -- Day 4: student power -- Day 5: a new order -- Reform, reaction, resignation -- Cornell and the failure of liberalism.
Reading Level:
1350 Lexile.
Format :


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LD1370 .D68 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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In April 1969, one of America's premier universities was celebrating parents' weekend--and the student union was an armed camp, occupied by over eighty defiant members of the campus's Afro-American Society. Marching out Sunday night, the protesters brandished rifles, their maxim: "If we die, you are going to die." Cornell '69 is an electrifying account of that weekend which probes the origins of the drama and describes how it was played out not only at Cornell but on campuses across the nation during the heyday of American liberalism.Donald Alexander Downs tells the story of how Cornell University became the battleground for the clashing forces of racial justice, intellectual freedom, and the rule of law. Eyewitness accounts and retrospective interviews depict the explosive events of the day and bring the key participants into sharp focus: the Afro-American Society, outraged at a cross-burning incident on campus and demanding amnesty for its members implicated in other protests; University President James A. Perkins, long committed to addressing the legacies of racism, seeing his policies backfire and his career collapse; the faculty, indignant at the university's surrender, rejecting the administration's concessions, then reversing itself as the crisis wore on. The weekend's traumatic turn of events is shown by Downs to be a harbinger of the debates raging today over the meaning of the university in American society. He explores the fundamental questions it posed, questions Americans on and off campus are still struggling to answer: What is the relationship between racial justice and intellectual freedom? What are the limits in teaching identity politics? And what is the proper meaning of the university in a democratic polity?

Reviews 1

Library Journal Review

The scenes recalled here of armed black students leaving a Cornell University building in 1969 speak loudly of the rule of law, radicalism, racism, power politics, intellectual honesty, and the relations between academia and society. For Downs (political science, Univ. of Wisconsin), the author of several books, including Nazis in Skokie (LJ 3/1/85), the context for the Cornell uprising was shaped by the history of liberalism in 20th-century American higher education as well as campus events and university policies. A Cornell undergraduate that infamous spring, Downs narrates the issues argued by the Afro-American Society, other student organizations, and factions among administrators and faculty. He clearly details the complex, rapidly unfolding events, which embodied contested notions of progressive education, academic freedom, racial justice, and identity politics and which made the Cornell uprising more significant than most American student revolts of the 1960s. Readable, at times fast-paced, and based solidly on interviews and primary sources, this is highly recommended for academic libraries.√ĄCharles L. Lumpkins, Pennsylvania State Univ., State College (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. ix
Chapter 1 Overview of the Crisisp. 1
The Road to the Straightp. 23
Chapter 2 Student Militancyp. 25
Chapter 3 The Rise of Racial Politicsp. 46
Chapter 4 Racial Justice versus Academic Freedomp. 68
Chapter 5 Separation or Integration?p. 97
Chapter 6 Progress or Impasse?p. 124
Chapter 7 Liberal Justice or Racism?p. 145
The Straight Crisisp. 163
Chapter 8 Day 1: The Takeover and the Arming of the Campusp. 165
Chapter 9 Day 2: The Dealp. 192
Chapter 10 Day 3: a """"Revolutionary Situation""""p. 211
Chapter 11 Day 4: Student Powerp. 231
Chapter 12 Day 5: a New Orderp. 253
The Aftermathp. 267
Chapter 13 Reform, Reaction, Resignationp. 269
Chapter 14 Cornell and the Failure of Liberalismp. 305
Chronologyp. 309

p. 316

Notesp. 324
Indexp. 355