Mundelein and Loyola Speak Out: Social Activism in Student Publications (1967-2018)

Editor’s note: This post is part of a series of essays written by students of the Fall 2018 Public History course and based on research at Loyola’s University Archives and Special Collections. Check back over the next seven weeks for new stories.

With their Jesuit affiliation, social justice has been at the forefront of the missions of both Loyola University and Mundelein College.  With the approach of the 1960s, however, students and faculty felt particularly empowered to make their voices heard— at their home institutions, in their communities, and around the world.   In this post, we’ll look at a few examples of Loyola’s participation in social activism and political discourse over the past 50+ years.

Figure 1: Students and faculty debate the ramifications of the United States’ involvement in the Vietnam War (1967), Skyscraper, 1967

“Every time we’ve escalated it’s because another policy has failed,” Loyola sociology professor Clark Kissinger, one of the “doves” on the panel, is quoted as saying in the Skyscraper, addressing the motivations behind the United States’ escalation of its involvement in the Vietnam War [1]. Reporters at the entirely student-run, Mundelein College newspaper were covering the April 26, 1967 Vietnam War Teach-In, an opportunity for discussion and reflection about the causes and implications of our nation’s continued involvement in the conflict abroad.  While the headline clearly addresses the tension between those on either side of the debate, the panel distribution hints at the majority political leanings of the school’s student body and staff as well.

Figure 2: Students confront Loyola administration at 1969 Student Convocation, Loyola News, 1969

“…probably the first time university administrators were criticized to their faces…”  In 1969, Loyola’s “very best” students were invited by the administration to attend the Honors Convocation and share their “opinions and perceptions” about the past year. What the administration and attending parents got was a succession of admonishments about the university’s dismissal of students’ voices and the “radical change” that needed to occur within the university’s walls and policies.  While many parents in the audience responded with gasps and rebukes of the speakers, the Loyola News does note that “administration took the remarks graciously as the sincere reflection of responsible students’ opinions” [2]. 

Figure 3: Black students at Mundelein College demand change in the culture of their institution, skyPAPER, 1970

“The future of both cultures hangs precariously on our decision.” Black students at Mundelein spoke as one voice and presented a list of five demands to the university faculty. On May 26, 1970, they received a response at the town hall meeting in McCormick Lounge.  “We have chosen not to ignore [these demands],” responded Sr. Virginia McDermott to the “several hundred” people in attendance.  Money was pledged to assist the families and honor the memories of the two students who had been killed at Jackson State, recommendations were made to the white community at Mundelein, and university president Sr. Ann Ida Gannon promised that the administration would “move to meet the black students’ needs as quickly and as fully as possible” [3].

Figure 4: Blackacre’s editorial board reflects on the tumult of the past few years and the change it produced, Blackacre, 1975

“…the more or less calm satisfaction…” The September 25, 1975 editorial in Loyola Law School’s Blackacre speaks to the tumult that the university had experienced in the first half of the decade, and the present “contentment” felt after a year of “news and controversy.”  There had been faculty resignations, “publicity controvers[ies],” and a rift between the law school and the university about a proposed Legal Aid Clinic. However, the start of 1975 brought a year of all seats on the faculty being filled, a functional Legal Aid Clinic, and the redesign of classrooms.  The editorial attributes these changes to the “student activism of the past two years” that was “instrumental in effecting a change in the University’s position toward the law school,” as well as the new Dean Murdock [4].

Figure 5: The Loyola Phoenix’s political cartoon, titled “Castro, the archer,” Loyola Phoenix, 1982
Figure 6: Students and faculty call for the withdrawal of of military and economic aid from El Salvador, Chicago Tribune, 1990 

On March 19, 1982, the Loyola Phoenix published a political cartoon depicting Uncle Sam grabbing Central America and clenching it between his fists as Cuba’s Fidel Castro shoots arrows into his behind [5].  Later, in a continued attempt to shine a light on the United States’ military involvement in Central America, Loyola students and faculty published a full page ad in the Chicago Tribune, calling for the withdrawal of economic and military aid from El Salvador after a string of brutal killings of Jesuit-affiliates by the Salvadorian military [6].  

Figure 7: Loyola graduate students interrupt budget meeting in an attempt to negotiate with administration about pay and working conditions, Loyola Phoenix, 2018

Current examples of activism and it’s coverage in student publications is evident on October 17, 2018, as graduate students crashed a budged meeting “calling for higher wages and union recognition.”  Long a source of tension in university environments, the demands of many graduate students workers—demands that often require a set number of hours per week, in addition to grading papers, holding office hours, and attending their own classes—felt untenable to many, and they voiced these concerns.  “We are fed up,” members of the union are quoted in the Loyola Phoenix as saying.  To date, they have not been able to negotiate with the university, as Loyola representatives have expressed that graduate student workers are “students in every sense of the word” [7]. 

Like most Jesuit-affiliated institutions, the student bodies of Loyola University and the former Mundelein College have a deep sense of the importance of social justice and the power of political activism.  We look forward to seeing their ongoing commitment to social change and the reporting on it through their myriad student publications.

-Ericka Christie

When Police Brutality Protest Was White

The killing of Michael Brown by a Ferguson, Missouri police officer, and the resulting community reaction, has put police brutality protest in the spotlight. The mass marches, limited looting, and confrontations with aggressive or ‘militarized’ law enforcement that typified the Ferguson protests seem like a relic of an earlier age. Many have been quick to draw parallels to Harlem (1964), Watts (1965), Detroit (1967), and Camden (1971), among others. I would like to add one more historical note, pulled from a chapter that I just so happen to be drafting this month. My case involves several similarities to Ferguson, but it is remarkable mainly because of a difference. The August 12, 1966, Summerdale March in Uptown Chicago was almost exclusively white.

A bandaged Uptown protester marches on the local police precinct. (Edgewater-Uptown News, August 16, 1966)
A bandaged Uptown protester marches on the local police precinct. (Edgewater-Uptown News, August 16, 1966)

An uncommon density of vacant low-rent housing in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood and a postwar job crisis at home attracted tens-of-thousands of working-class and poor whites from Appalachia and the south through 1970. By 1960, many considered Uptown the nation’s foremost “Hillbilly Ghetto,” even though the area’s low-income community also consisted of American Indians, non-southern whites, a smattering of African Americans, and a growing Latino population. Uptown’s postwar southerness has been ‘discovered’ time after time by various segments of the dominant culture: urban renewal advocates, social workers, sociologists, psychologists, anthropologists, country music radio executives, the New Left, sisters religious, the War on Poverty, and on and on up through…urban historians.

When the SDS created the Economic Research and Action Program (ERAP) in 1964 to work towards an interracial solution to urban poverty, Uptown was a natural choice for one of the early projects. By 1966, SDS members were clamoring to be part of the Uptown ERAP effort known as Jobs or Income Now (JOIN). Noted organizers like Rennie Davis, Richard Rothstein, Vivian Leburg Rothstein, Todd Gitlin, and Casey Hayden lived in Uptown, undertaking the slow and uneven process of pushing locals towards political action. Early successes included a sit-in at the city welfare office, and tenant strikes that resulted in contracts between collectivized renters and landlords. These efforts antagonized most of the local political and social elites. The notorious “Red Squad” of the Chicago Police Department quickly placed JOIN under surveillance, and soon relied upon information from a local JOIN member who had become disgruntled with the outside activists’ “Unamerican” opinions about increased involvement in Vietnam. A law student soon infiltrated JOIN on the CPD’s behalf.

Meanwhile, patrolmen from the local precinct prosecuted an aggressive policing of Uptown low-income teenagers and young people. When outside JOIN organizers—operating under the banner of “participatory democracy”—sought to create political consciousness around the grievances expressed by locals, police brutality came to the fore. JOIN leaders were mostly unprepared and unwilling to base organizing around the issue, preferring instead to confront economic injustices and the shortcomings of the local War on Poverty “Urban Progress” program. Yet anger simmered, most notably with the politicization of the “Uptown Goodfellows,” a street organization of southern and Appalachian tough guys. The Goodfellows took cues from similar black and Latino groups that were beginning to evolve from gangs into political units.

Read the rest at dvhunter.com

Activism and Historic Preservation in Lakewood-Balmoral [Roundtable]

For the 10th Annual Loyola History Graduate Student Conference, the LUC Public History Committee will host a roundtable on “Social Justice, Sustainability and Activism in Public History.” This is a post that introduces a case study on the topic. The Committee welcomes participation both online and at the conference. If you have an example of Social Justice, Sustainability or Activism in Public History, please feel free to mention it as a comment on the blog, or contact the blog editors to request the opportunity to author a guest post. For more information on the Conference and the Roundtable–to be held November 9 at Loyola’s downtown Water Tower Campus – click here.

Activism is inherent in Historic Preservation. Whether the agent is a community group, a local government, or another interested party, the historic preservation process forces people to engage directly with the past and ask how it is relevant to the present and future. Additionally, preservationists actively shape built environments and public spaces which are shared and consumed by members of a more general public beyond those with a vested interest in the architecture of the past.

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Detail map of the Lakewood-Balmoral Historic District, Chicago, IL. (Mary Ann Smith Papers, Women and Leadership Archives, Loyola University Chicago.)

This notion about activism was central to my master’s research, a case study of the Lakewood-Balmoral Historic District in northern Chicago. I stumbled onto the research topic while I was processing the papers of former Chicago 48th Ward Alderman Mary Ann Smith at Loyola’s Women and Leadership Archives. Buried amidst CDOT memos and aldermanic menu fund budget breakdowns, the collection included several passionate letters written in the late 1990s by community members to the alderman with regard to the proposed boundaries of a historic district in the area. The letters were juicy. Community members were agitated due to conflicting opinions of how their shared space should and would be used. I was fascinated by the idea of community identity being tied up with historic preservation, and the resulting emotional responses.

Continue reading “Activism and Historic Preservation in Lakewood-Balmoral [Roundtable]”

Call For Participants: Social Justice, Sustainability, and Activism in Public History

Public History Roundtable: Social Justice, Sustainability, and Activism

Saturday, November 9, 2013

2:45pm – 4:30pm

In Conjunction with the 10th Annual Loyola University Chicago

History Graduate Student Conference

LUC Water Tower Campus

 You are invited to participate in a roundtable designed to foster discussion about the active roles of historians in promoting social justice as well as social and ecological sustainability. The roundtable features Dr. Paul Schadewald of Macalester College, graduate student conference participants, and public history professionals from the Chicago area.

Roundtable ImageMundelein College Civil Rights Students Mobilization, April 1968
Women and Leadership Archives, Loyola University Chicago

How to participate:

Follow the conference blog or the Lakefront Historian to view a detailed introduction to the roundtable, consider pre-circulated case statements, and offer your comments and contributions.

Attend the roundtable prepared to discuss your experiences with social justice and sustainability in public history as a patron, staff, or stakeholder in an institution that engages the public over historical topics

Attend the roundtable, and be willing to informally engage participants and fellow audience members about the topic.

Simply attend the roundtable and listen.

For more information or if you have any questions, please contact Rachel Boyle at rboyle1@luc.edu
Follow the conference Twitter hashtag #hgsa2013