Dissent in the Heartland: The Sixties at Indiana University

By Mary Ann Wynkoop | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 4
A Precarious Peace

During the last academic year of the 1960s, students faced a series of challenges. President Richard Nixon, like most Americans, recognized the inherent class and race inequities of the selective service system, and therefore instituted a new draft lottery that was based on birth dates and called for younger men to be drafted before older ones. The first drawing was December 1, 1969. Although students still received deferments, this new policy removed some of the injustices that had provoked protests. The challenge for antiwar activists was to maintain the same level of personal commitment to the cause, even though many men no longer faced the threat of being drafted.

Another reason that fewer men were being drafted was President Nixon’s policy of Vietnamization of the war, which called for increased financial aid and armaments for the South Vietnamese army along with a gradual withdrawal of American combat troops. While this might seem likely to have placated the antiwar movement, it did not. Activists rose to the challenge and organized the largest antiwar demonstration in American history on November 15, 1969, when over seven hundred thousand people marched against the war in Washington, D.C.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, some antiwar activists reached out to include factory workers in their movement. Most Americans think of the 1960s as a time of division between students and workers. However, the student movement grew out of Old Left worker alliances and SDS received much-needed support in its early years from union leaders like Walter Reuther, head of the United Auto Workers, and Myles Horton,

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