Taking Back the Academy! History of Activism, History as Activism

By Jim Downs; Jennifer Manion | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 7

The Glass Tower

Half Full or Half Empty?

NANCY A.HEWITT

I began my activist career in fall 1969, at the same time as my undergraduate career, and I almost immediately came to the conclusion that the two were incompatible. During my first year at Smith College I was introduced to the anti-war movement, the Black Power movement, and feminism. I had certainly heard of these movements and read about them in the newspapers, but I had never participated in them nor had any of my immediate friends or family members. What people in my hometown in western New York did participate in was the war in Vietnam itself. Close friends of mine from high school were serving as foot soldiers in that war, and they would come back with slides of their adventures and tell us how important a victory over the Communists would be to our future security. The young men I knew who served in Vietnam were not mean and vicious; they were patriotic and well-meaning and sometimes scared. I continued to write to them and to pray for them to make it home safely, even as I became more and more convinced that they, and we, were in Vietnam for all the wrong reasons. Coming to the realization that I opposed the war was painful, and finding out that much of the red, white and blue history I had grown up with was wrong, wrenched me into a new consciousness without ripping me apart from friends and family.

It was students just a year or two older than I was, but with much more political experience, who took me to my first demonstrations, discussed the Vietnam War and its history with me, and introduced me to ideas about women's liberation. Having grown up in a town where supporting Hubert

-93-

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