DAYGLO AND NAPALM – In Closing: The Making of a Dissident

Peace March, New York City, April 15,1967.
Howard S. Goldbaum Collection of Connecticut Daily Campus Negatives.

The following essay is an extended closing remark to the exhibition Day-Glo and Napalm: UConn from 1967-1971, by guest curator and contributor, George Jacobi (’71).The exhibition runs until Friday, October 25th, 2019.

Thanks to the GI Bill, the Fifties are a favorable time for most Americans home from the war to build a career and raise a family. Powered by Unions as well, the rise of the largest middle class in history finally includes some Black and Latino citizens. Suburbia is invented. The 1964 World’s Fair in New York promises we’ll all be working far fewer hours and getting there in a flying car, asserting that technology only benefits mankind. Robots will do the tough jobs. The future seems so far away that this is almost believable. Are white kids in New England spoiled? Compared with previous generations, sure we are, and so has each generation since. Growing up then is generally benign, and the result is a chance to examine ourselves and America with less national responsibility than our parents. Our patriotism thus leans toward social betterment, not defense or personal economic progress.                                                              

Under the veneer of white middle-class American life rumblings of unrest have begun. Academics are suggesting that modern society is unfulfilling. Rachel Carson has shown America that it is in the process of killing nature with chemicals. Kerouac has been “On the Road” and Jackson Pollock has blown up the art world. Jazz has turned from big band dance music into individual expression. Ginsburg writes “Howl” and thus comes out as a gay man; the book is immediately banned. Yet in Greenwich Village people are “suddenly free of the shackles, the baggage of tradition”: Liam Clancy. Nevertheless, beatniks are portrayed as a joke on TV.                                                                                                                                                  The political and cultural events that took place at UConn during the years 1967 to 1971 of course reflect wider American historical forces. For simplicity, label these Politics, Spirituality, Culture, and the Arts. In reality, they are jumbled together; breaking them down in order to clarify each is a rare side benefit of the passage of time.                                                                                                                                         

The following account lists this history, phenomena that took place or began prior to 1967. By that year, society is increasingly seen by an influential youth minority as hypocritical or empty of value. It has become apparent that the norms are mythological and serve only the powerful. Alienation results with what is initially a quiet insurrection against uncritical acceptance of the status quo. While most of the country isn’t paying attention, there is a cultural shift; all of a sudden something changes. Several small groups at first, an anti-establishment minority slowly appears. Most folks in America and at UConn in the mid-1960s go about their own lives whether they are sympathetic to this rebellion or not. A majority of UConn students, including us, will spend most of our hours being students.                                                                                                                                                                                                                       

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DAYGLO AND NAPALM: Singular Sixties Stories

The following guest posts by alumni Ken Sachs (’71), Michael Pagliaro (’72), Lori Wallach (’70), and Janet Rogers (’72) are in conjunction with the current UConn Archives exhibition Day-Glo & Napalm: UConn 1967-1971 guest curated by George Jacobi (’71). The exhibition is on display until October 25th in the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center.

Guest Post by Anonymous:

In 1969 I had a IIs deferment at UCONN that would run out in January 1970 when I completed my B.A. My roommate had served in Vietnam where he survived the battle that has been called “Hamburger Hill.” When I received my physical notice, he informed me that I needn’t worry about the draft as he would “kill me” before I was drafted rather than let me participate in that ill-advised war. Fortunately, T_____had access to some black beauties (little black capsules containing an amphetamine commonly referred to in those days as “speed”).

On the morning of my physical in the fall of 1969, I popped one of the “beauties” into my mouth and headed off to our local draft board. At age 22, I was the oldest on the bus, surrounded by a lot of naïve 18-year-olds, many just out of high school. Before the bus left, the middle-aged clerk at the draft board got on the bus waving a little U.S. flag and telling us all “how proud” she was of us all. Frankly, I wanted to strangle her for her “patriotism.” Before the bus arrived in New Haven I popped my last black beauty.

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Day-Glo & Napalm: Committed Sixties

The following guest posts by alumni Chris Malis (’72) and Ellie Goldstein/Erickson (’70) are in conjunction with the current UConn Archives exhibition Day-Glo & Napalm: UConn 1967-1971 guest curated by George Jacobi (’71). The exhibition is on display until October 25th in the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center. The Gallery is open Mon-Fri 9-4pm, with a Saturday viewing on October 12th, 9-5pm.

Guest Post by Chris Malis (’72):

We Are Stardust

Coming of age in the Sixties (c.1965-c.1972) was a gift; it made me who I am now. Contrary to the changes of many as they age, I have not grown more conservative over the years. Am I the same person I was then? Of course not. Would my 20-year-old self like my 70-year-old self? Perhaps not so much. Would I do (or not do) certain things differently if I could go back in time? Sure. But on the whole, I feel grateful to have come of age in that time and space. It was the most magical, earth-shaking decade of the 20th Century. I won’t say earth-changing, because … look around. Who would have thought that, 50 years later, we’d still be fighting racism, poverty, war, women’s reproductive rights, income inequality, sexual violence, and impending environmental collapse?

In the words of Lincoln’s first inaugural address on March 4, 1861: “We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell … when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

The Sixties, for me, was a time of better angels coming to the fore. I desperately hope they return in force… and soon!

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Day-Glo & Napalm: Conflicted Sixties

The following guest posts by Asst. Prof. Charlie Brover and Alumnus John Palmquist (’71) are in conjunction with the current UConn Archives exhibition Day-Glo & Napalm: UConn 1967-1971 guest curated by George Jacobi (’71). The exhibition is on display until October 25th with an evening reception on September 19th, from 6-8pm in the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center.

Guest Post by Asst. Prof. Charles Brover:

My Lear year reflection: Was it pissing in the wind?

I will be 80 in September. I’m King Lear’s age. (“Fourscore and upward, not an hour more nor less”). Some 50 years ago in my course on Shakespeare’s tragedies, we talked about how much easier it was to identify with Hamlet, that flashy student on spring break from Wittenberg, than the benighted old man who hath ever but slenderly known himself. Lear began his education at 80, and one hell of an education it was—a fierce warning against the unreflected life. So now in the fifth act of my own education I am grateful to my old comrade Larry Smyle for reaching out to me and to George Jacobi and Graham Stinnett for the opportunity to reflect on those superheated days at UConn 50 years ago. Were they formative in my life? Were they just an episode of frothy anti-authoritarian rebellion?

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UConn Archives Punk Photography at Counter Weight Brewing Co.

The next installation of the traveling exhibition, Live at The Anthrax, is currently hosted at Counter Weight Brewing Co. in Hamden, CT and will run from September 5th-December 15th, 2019. This exhibition features 20 black & white photographs from the Joe Snow Punk Rock Collection, taken by Joe in the late 1980s during the final years of The Anthrax club in Norwalk, CT.  Bands featured in the selection include local CTHC staples such as Wide Awake and NY Hardcore bands Up Front and Absolution to seminal acts such as Fugazi.  This curated exhibition highlights the dedication, energy and lived values of those who formed the hardcore scene and turned it into a community.  This exhibit seeks to expose the public to archival collections outside of a traditional archives setting in order to promote access to rich cultural materials like those of the Joe Snow Punk Rock Collection in everyday spaces like record stores, breweries and community spaces. This exhibition is free and open to the public.

Anarchism at UCONN (Believe It or Not!); The Inner College Experiment

This guest post by Prof. Len Krimerman is in conjunction with the current exhibition Day-Glo & Napalm: UConn 1967-1971, an exhibition guest curated by alumnus George Jacobi (Class of ’71) on the student times of the late 1960s and early 1970s at UConn and in recognition of the 50th anniversary of the Woodstock Music Festival of 1969. Currently on display until October 25th, 2019.

By Len Krimerman*

BEFORE THE BEGINNING

“Anarchism at UCONN” may seem a baffling title or an attempt at dry humor. We are, after all, not talking about the ‘60s and ‘70s at UC Berkeley or Ann Arbor’s University of Michigan. And today our own state’s flagship university is safely and securely nestled within what its region delights in calling itself – “the quiet corner”.

But I can assure you, there really were years, not days or months, when anarchy, or something very much akin to it, had a place within and was tolerated by UCONN. Though there is now no tangible trace of this anarchic educational venture, and no documentation of it in the official histories of this University, it actually did emerge, and it had a great run.

So let me tell a bit of this radical experiment’s story. The idea of it came to life in an undergraduate course in social and political philosophy I was teaching in the Fall of 1968. We were discussing social critic Paul Goodman’s The Community of Scholars, which certainly sounds tame enough. But his book’s challenging anarchic thesis was that several of Europe’s finest universities were founded, during the Italian Renaissance, by “secession”. Faculty thwarted by rigid state or clerical bureaucracy simply quit, taking with them dozens of their students, and created self-directed places like the University of Florence.

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DAY-GLO AND NAPALM: UCONN FROM 1967 to 1971

Formal Dinner, McMahon Hall, 1968. Personal Collection of George Jacobi.

August 5th – October 25th, 2019

Reception: September 19th, 2019 6-8pm at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center Gallery

Archives & Special Collections Gallery

Thomas J. Dodd Research Center

An exhibition guest curated by alumnus George Jacobi (Class of ’71) on the student times of the late 1960s and early 1970s at UConn and in recognition of the 50th anniversary of the Woodstock Music Festival of 1969. Jacobi has curated materials from the Archives & Special Collections photography, periodicals and Alternative Press Collections and incorporated personal collections and narratives from those who lived through it to create a robust personal exploration of the times.

The following essay is an extended introduction to the exhibition Day-Glo and Napalm: UConn from 1967-1971 by guest curator and contributor, George Jacobi (’71).

DAY-GLO AND NAPALM: UCONN FROM 1967 to 1971

Recollections and Impressions for my University of Connecticut Archives Exhibit

George Jacobi ©2019

A small innocuous on-campus house is surrounded by angry UConn students, its front porch protected by armed, helmeted State Police and University Security Officers. The Riot Act has already been read to the 100 or so protesters, whose shoulders are hunched in Navy pea coats against a bitter north wind. It’s the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, 1968. Some of those students spent the previous night with faces lit only by black lights, psychedelic music swirling around them. Smoke from illegal hash pipes drifted out dorm windows. A relaxed but resolute fellowship, they temporarily dwelt in an imaginary world.

Today, back in the daylight, they want UConn to divest itself from the military industrial complex, to end its involvement with Olin Matheson, manufacturer of missiles for the Vietnam War. In fact, they insist. They chant, they yell, they watch as the most committed among them climb onto the recruiting location’s porch to put their bodies in the way of the war machine. This world is far from imaginary. Clubs swing, rocks fly, heads are bloodied. Twenty-one are arrested.

Within two years, the Student Union Mall will be filled with 4000 UConn students – now the entire college is on strike. What is it with these young people? For many, trust in the establishment, from government to church to the University, has completely evaporated. Something is badly broken. How have these middle-class kids, in just a year or two, come to a point of complete resistance to America herself?

The 50th Anniversary of 1969 is more than an appropriate time for this exhibit; it’s also the last significant anniversary when many participants in this bit of history will be alive. Most of the counter-cultural political drama at UConn took place between 1968 and 1970 – ‘69 is a fitting centerpiece. Despite continued racial and anti-war protests, such communal events as the Woodstock Music Festival made 1969 almost feel like a short respite between the more violent bookends of the other two years.

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The Prison and its Past

Prisons and Prisoners, Selections from the Alternative Press Subject File Collection.

On display at the UConn Archives Gallery in the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center from March 20 – May 31, 2019, an exhibition of research collections on incarceration.  Drawn from ephemera, art, and personal and political papers, this story is Illustrated with the writings of the incarcerated from inside Connecticut prisons, the state’s documentation and formation of prisons, artists’ and activists’ responses to Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp, and advocacy from inside and out.  This exhibition is in conjunction with the Humanities Action Lab States of Incarceration exhibit at the Hartford Public Library, March 11 – April 18, 2019 and the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center from March 25th – April 18th, 2019.

Materials on display in the gallery were drawn from the Alternative Press Collection, Cal Robertson Papers, Thomas J. Dodd Papers, Connecticut Politics and Public Affairs Collections, and Storrs Experimental Station Records.

UConn Protest and the Alternative Press 1968-2018

Moments of student protest on UConn’s campus demonstrate the continuity and relevance of student activism for the Alternative Press Collection held at Archives and Special Collections.  While the topics of protest often change with the political and social context of the moment, sometimes the similarities can be uncanny.

WHUS News Director Daniela Doncel reported on the student protests held during the recent university sponsored event Lockheed Martin Day:

“On Thursday, September 27, students protested the partnership between the Lockheed Martin company and the University of Connecticut due to a Lockheed Martin bomb that killed 40 children in Yemen in August, according to CNN.”

 

Sign Protesting Lockheed Martin Day 2018

History, so the cliché goes, has repeated itself.

The circumstances of the Lockheed Martin’s presence on campus and the student protests resembled a smaller scale, and decidedly non-violent version, of the student and faculty protests of military recruiting that happened during the Vietnam War.  In 1967 & 1968 students and faculty staged multiple sit-ins protesting the ties between the University of Connecticut and weapons manufacturers such as: General Electric, Olin-Mathieson, Dow Chemical, and Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation (which was sold to Lockheed Martin in November of 2015).  In particular the recruitment attempts of Dow Chemical, a producer of napalm during the Vietnam War, and Olin-Mathieson drew large turn outs from students and faculty who thought that weapon manufacturers had no place trying to recruit students for jobs on the university campus. Continue reading

“U. Roberto Romano Papers: Photographs of Child Labor in Coastal Countries” On Display At Avery Point

On display at the UConn Avery Point campus this fall is U. Roberto Romano Papers: Photographs of Child Labor in Coastal Countries. This exhibition is an exciting mix of student work, fine art prints from the archives, and never before exhibited work from the fishing platforms off the coast of Indonesia.

U. Roberto (Robin) Romano (1956-2013) was a prolific photographer and documentarian in the late 20th century. He created work all over the world primarily in Africa, India, the Middle East and the United States that documented child labor and human rights issues. He created the first feature length film on child labor titled Stolen Childhoods with his long time creative partner Len Morris. On display at Avery Point are fine art prints from Stolen Childhoods that were donated to the archives in 2009. These prints are beautiful examples of his early analog work that was shot in both color and black and white. The descriptions of these photographs detail the lives of children trapped in the horrors of child labor in the late 20th century.

In addition to fine art prints, this exhibition will also showcase the student work that has been created from this collection. Dr. Fiona Vernal, Associate Professor of History at UConn, led her students this past spring to create an exhibition on child labor in Africa called The Hidden Costs of Chocolate: How Child Labor Became a Human Rights Crisis. The panels that they created utilize Robin’s photographs to put faces to the countless children that have been victims of child labor in the chocolate industry. They explain what the children are doing on the cacao farms, the tools they use, and how the industry is slowly eliminating the use of child labor through legislation. It is an excellent example of how the Romano papers are being used on campus to educate students, scholars and the public on child labor. There will also be samples of work created by Professor Anna Lindemann’s Digital Media & Design students.

The final element of this exhibition are the never before exhibited jermal prints. These prints were created specifically for this exhibition and showcase Robin’s work from the jermals off the coast of Southeast Asia. A jermal is a fishing platform about the size of a tennis court perched out at sea. Children on these platforms are out there months at a time working for as much as 20 hours a day fishing for tiny fish called teri. They leave their families to do this work, working long hours out at sea for little pay. Robin’s photographs show the lives of these child workers and the greater system that they are victims of. The photographs on display are just a sample of robin’s oeuvre which can be seen in the repository through the following link: https://lib.uconn.edu/libraries/asc/collections/the-u-roberto-robin-romano-papers/

U. Roberto Romano Papers: Photographs of Child Labor in Coastal Countries will be on display from September 13, 2018 to December 16, 2018 at the Alexey Von Schlippe Gallery in the Branford House on the Avery Point Campus at the University of Connecticut.

When: 9/13/18 – 12/16/2018 (Opening Reception 9/12/18 from 5:30-7:30pm)

Where: Branford House on the Avery Point Campus (1084 Shennecossett Rd, Groton, CT 06340)

Locked Down and Speaking Up: Prison Riots, Reform, and Writing from The Alternative Press Collection

Patrick Butler, Assistant Archivist for the Alternative Press Files Collection and Human Rights Collection, is a 2018 Ph.D. graduate of the UConn Medieval Studies Program.  During his time as a graduate student he worked in the UConn Archives to broaden his materials handling experience and develop skills as an archivist.  He has specialized training in medieval paleography and codicology.  

On August 21, 1971, African-American activist and author George Jackson took hostages in order to escape San Quentin State Prison.  Five of Jackson’s hostages: three prison guards and two inmates, died in the ensuing violence.  The attempted escape ended with a prison guard shooting and killing Jackson.

Two weeks later, on September 9th, 1971 approximately 1000 inmates at the Attica Correctional Facility rioted and ultimately took control of the prison facility.  The inmates took 42 staff members of the facility hostage in a bid to negotiate for prisoners’ rights.  During the four days of negation, prisoners made 27 demands among which included: better medical care, better sanitation, the end of racial discrimination, updated labor policies aligned with New York State law, and the end of the violent abuse of inmates by guards and prison administrators.

While negotiations with Corrections Services Commissioner Russel G. Oswald and the Attica inmates had initial success, the dialogue would ultimately breakdown when Governor Nelson Rockefeller refused to appear at the prison in a bid to help quell the riot.  In the wake of the Governor’s refusal Oswald stated that they would retake the prison by force; Rockefeller agreed.

When the New York State Police had regained control of the prison 43 people were killed, 10 of which were hostages.

These two moments served as a flash point to bring prison conditions and prisoners’ rights into sharp focus during the seventies.  However, part of the danger that comes from thinking of prisons and prisoners exclusively in terms of the violence is that it risks reducing the bodies of prisoners as little more than sites for violence.  The aim of developing this exhibit has been to examine how materials within the Alternative Press Collections focus on the vulnerability of prisoners to the violence of the systems that shape their incarceration, how they respond to the systematic pressures that seek to justify subjecting their bodies to abuse and neglect, and the power that comes from forging communities in response to these pressures.  A quote from an Attica inmate Roger Champen distills the physical, social, and bureaucratic pressure of incarceration succinctly and eloquently, “Everything is done to you, not for you.”

We Are Attica, 1972.

While the killing of George Jackson and the Attica Prison Riot serve as a starting point for the exhibition’s historical and social context, the materials in this exhibit come from a broad historical range and include a focus on documents produced by and for Connecticut Prisons.  The Alternative Press Collection contains a wealth of material that document how prison communities develop and sustain themselves through creative writing, activism, correspondence, and even revolt.  In order to accomplish this, I looked at the materials prisoners created while in prison, or shortly after leaving prison: newsletters, protest writing, creative writing, and original artwork.  Even work published under the auspices of prison administrators allows for an avenue of expression and solidarity centered on vulnerability;

“To Be Black”

To be Black is to be seated

in Jim Crow vain

in the lonely south on a bus or

train

Because you’re Black and

your Blackness is symbolic of shame

To be Black is to hear a baby’s

screams in the rain

while be eaten by rats

in some dilapidated tenement

in Harlem

or some other place the same

To be Black is to see your mother’s

brow

after caring for another person’s home

somebody else’s child

the long lines of distress

strain

as they disfigure the make-up of her

frame

To be Black is to search in deep

despair

some other place

Freedom somewhere

Abdur Rahman (Clinton Fields) from Inside: Writings by Attica Inmates 1977-1978.

While the specific concerns of an individual piece of writing vary between violence against inmates, unjust imprisonment, political oppression, and basic human rights concerns, the language used throughout these writings, creative or otherwise is a desire for their concerns to be legible to others – to understand and to be understood.  Distinct from sympathy, the specific vulnerabilities that emerged among prison writers seems to stem from a lack of acknowledgement of their embodiment as genuinely human.  Almost reflexively, there is a recurrent theme to dismiss sympathy as a pressing desire among inmates.  Sympathy is antithetical to the goals of these writers, a source of dismissal that does not seek to understand a fundamental connection between the prison author and the audience of the text.

A Special Report from behind the walls of Massachusetts Prisons 1972.

The relentless desire for community, intelligibility – to not be forgotten or silenced by their isolation – makes the writings of prisoners within the Alternative Press Collection a powerful and humbling selection of materials.  It holds its audience accountable for the undeniable connections that are present between individuals despite legal and societal practices of separation.

You can do two things in prison. You can be a man or you can be a robot.  See, if you be a robot, you stand a very good chance of going home.  But notice this, all the papers record this is a fact, that those who stay in here become submissive.  When they get outside, all the things that they have inside, boil over onto society after they come back.

Roger Champen We are Attica, 1972.

The exhibition: “Locked Down and Speaking Up: Prison Riots, Reform, and Writing from The Alternative Press Collection” will be on view in the John P. MacDonald Reading Room of the Archives & Special Collections at the Dodd Research Center from June 15th – August 20th.

For more information on the Cal Robertson Papers please consult the Archives & Special Collections Finding Aid.

The Search and Struggle for Intersectionality Part II: Other Minorites and the Feminist Movement

 

Anna Zarra Aldrich is majoring in English, political science and journalism at the University of Connecticut.  As a student writing intern, Anna is studying historical feminist publications from the collections of Archives and Special Collections. The following guest post is the final post in the series.

The feminist movement has long struggled with incorporating different groups’ concerns and modes of oppression into the movement. This problem was exacerbated by the multifaceted, turbulent U.S. political atmosphere that characterized the 1960s and 1970s. The differences between black and white women’s views of the movement clashed on several essential dimensions. But the issues of other minority groups were given less attention by the feminist movement, and by society in general, due to the fact that their ethnic/racial factions were much smaller than African Americans’.

Another marginalized group that galvanized in the activist culture of the 1960s and 1970s in America were Native Americans. These men and women sought to have their tribal autonomy recognized. They were also fighting issues such as environmentally harmful mining practices on their resource-rich lands and high rates of substance abuse and poverty within their communities.

Native American women had a unique relationship with the feminist movement because the issues this minority group faced were different from those that white or black women faced, and the ethnic population of which they were a part was a severely marginalized minority. U.S. Census data from 1970 shows that a whopping 98.6 percent of the total population was either white or black/African American (87.5 percent and 11.1 percent respectively). Native Americans constituted less than .004 percent.

Native Americans were fighting for their unique political rights as well as larger environmental concerns during this period.

The March 1977 issue of “Off Our Backs” includes an article summarizing the findings of a report by the Association on American Indian Affairs (AAIA), a non-profit organization founded in 1922 to promote the well-being of Native Americans and Alaskan Natives. The report found that Native American children are placed outside of their families at a rate 10 to 20 times higher than that for non-Native American children.

The AAIA argued that this practice deprives Native American children of the ability to be raised with a proper awareness of and appreciation for their culture. This concern emphasizes the fact that Native American women who were involved in the feminist movement during this time were simultaneously combatting the United States government’s systematic efforts to diminish their independence and culture as well as the wide-spread sexism that was the feminist movement’s main concern.

Native American culture celebrates its strong connection to and appreciation of nature. When Native American tribes were forced off their lands in the nineteenth century, they were put on reservations in states like Oklahoma and South Dakota. The U.S. government later came to realize these areas were rich with natural resources such as oil and uranium.

“In the days of diminishing U.S. energy resources, the push is on to take what’s left of Indian land,” according to an article in “Off Our Backs.”

The U.S. government used environmentally hazardous practices to extract these resources, exposing people living on the land to cancer-causing radioactive materials. It also paid the Native Americans working in these hazardous mines very low wages. These practices led to outcry by Native American men and women.

The Longest Walk was a major event in the Red Power movement.

In 1978, thousands of Native Americans participated in The Longest Walk, a protest organized to bring attention to threats to tribal lands pose by several pieces of proposed legislation.

“In effect, these bills could force Native Americans to complete assimilation into the U.S. mainstream and destroy all sovereignty of the Indian nations,” the article on the march said.

In the same August/September 1978 issue that covered the march, “Off Our Backs” included coverage of a conference in New Mexico that addressed the upsurge in domestic violence against Navajo women. This increase was attributed to a “pressure cooker syndrome” created by white culture: “women-battering and child abuse (were) once practically non-existent…and has now reached crises proportions.”

The attempted forced assimilation of native people into white culture created a class system that did not exist in Navajo tribal society. This led to high poverty and unemployment rates which in turn came to be correlated with high rates of substance abuse and domestic violence.

The writers draw attention to the fact that few of the speakers at the conference were from the Navajo or from any other Native American community. Calling attention to the lack of authentic representation at this conference may be an indication of the evolution of “Off Our Backs” in how it dealt with minority issues. When the paper first began in 1970, it struggled to expand their coverage to minority women’s issues, as evidenced by its problematic coverage of a black feminist group’s conference in 1974.

Similar to black women who were involved with groups like the Black Panthers, politically active Native American women were part of efforts led by men. Women of All Red Nations (WARN) was a Native American women’s group that brought attention to issues that affected their community including the displacement of their children, forced sterilization, tribal rights, resource exploitation and racism in the educational system. The group invited several Native American men to speak at a conference it held in South Dakota in 1978 as it did not “believe in the separation of men and women who were working for the same objective.” This serves as a perfect parallel to black women activists who wanted to be a part of the black and feminist movements.

Burning Cloud’s letter serves as a quintessential example of a woman’s struggle to find a way to be politically active as someone with a complex set of oppressed identities.

In the December 1978 issue of “Off Our Backs,” the editors printed a letter from Burning Cloud, a self-described “Filipina/Indian Dyke.” In the letter, Burning Cloud shared a sentiment common with those expressed by black women — that she was “Indian first and above all other matters.”

Burning Cloud felt she could not be both an Indian and a gay woman in society. She also expressed frustration with the fact that non-black minorities’ concerns are much more widely disregarded because there are comparatively few of them in number.

Burning Cloud’s letter included a call to action for environmental activism which, from her perspective, was something of which native people were much more conscious due to their spiritual cultural connections to the earth.

“If Mother Earth is to die WE ALL DIE. Think about that one. What is the future of your children and sisters and mothers to be?” she wrote. “Are we not killing each other because we allow such things as racism, classism, separatism right here in the Lesbian community. How shall wimmin be totally free when three-quarters of the (Coloured Wimmin) are dying?”

(Feminists took to using alternative spellings of “women” and “woman” in order to avoid using the masculine root of those words.)

Native American women also faced the issue of forced or coerced sterilization. In “Off Our Backs” article from December 1978, WARN said that 25 percent of Native American Women were forcibly sterilized.

During this period, the United States government instituted polices of population control that targeted minority, underclass women. One third of Puerto Rican woman of reproductive age had been sterilized in 1976. This policy was veiled as a necessary method of population control that would help Puerto Rico develop economically. However, many argued that the problem was not overpopulation, rather that the available resources were concentrated in the upper echelons of society.

In her 1976 University of Connecticut Ph.D. thesis “Population Policy, Social Structure and the Health System in Puerto Rico: The Case of Female Sterilization,” Peta Henderson found that in addition to medical reasons, the law in Puerto Rico regarding female sterilization allowed for women to be sterilized or use other contraceptive methods in cases of poverty or already having multiple children. Henderson found that most sterile Puerto Rican women said they voluntarily chose to have the operation. However, she explores how this choice was corrupted by the fact that government actors worked to persuade these women that sterilization was in their best interest.

The U.S. Government put forth the idea that having fewer children was the surest path to wealth for minority women, ignoring institutional issues including racism and sexism that impeded their social mobility.

These kind of population control polices were also implemented elsewhere in Latin America.

The April 1970 issue of “Off Our Backs,” a female member of the Peace Corps who went to Ecuador said, “Providing safe contraceptives must be a part of a comprehensive health program,” Rachel Cawan said. “Most importantly, however, there must be available other emotionally satisfying alternatives to child raising.”

The prevailing feminist interpretation of these population control programs was that they masqueraded as liberating family planning alternatives when, in fact, many of these women were being coerced or forced to stop having children.

The Young Lords Party was founded in 1960. The men who founded the organization had a series of objectives including self-determination for Puerto Rico, liberation for third-world people and, problematically, “Machismo must be revolutionary and not oppressive.”

Early in the party’s history, the men in the movement did not listen to women’s ideas and concerns during meetings. These women were limited to essentially being glorified secretaries for the party according to a November 11, 1970 New York Times article.

The women in the movement soon tired of this dynamic and demanded to be taken seriously – and they succeeded. Several women were able to assume leadership positions in the party and the pillar relating to machismo was changed to one supporting equality for women. However, this victory did not mean women were automatically able to achieve true political and social equality within the party or on a larger scale.

In a subsequent issue of “Off Our Backs,” a black/Native American woman wrote a response to Burning Cloud’s letter, which had also said black people should support Native Americans’ issues, saying that: “There is a need for Dialogue, a conversation, between Indian people and Black people…We have been divided in order to be conquered, even though for many, our blood flows together.”

A theme that emerges again and again when studying the second-wave of the feminist movement is that by separating women into sects with seemingly irreconcilable differences, men have managed to prevent them from forming a powerful united front capable of combatting not only sexism, but racism and other social ills that afflict them.

 

-Anna Zarra Aldrich