Last Look

Prepared for the worst

J. Press—and Yale and New Haven—were ready for trouble on May Day 1970.

Tom Strong ’67MFA

Tom Strong ’67MFA

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This 1970 photograph of J. Press—the “Gentlemen’s Tailors and Furnishers,” boarded up and covered with pro–Black Panther graffiti—gives an instant impression of what May Day 1970 meant in New Haven and at Yale. One year earlier, Panther leader Bobby Seale and others had been charged with ordering the murder of a suspected informer. Their 1970 trial in the city made New Haven the destination for a national May Day protest—not just for the Panthers, but for the gamut of radical causes of the time. Some called for riots. President Nixon sent in the National Guard.

Henry “Sam” Chauncey Jr. ’57, then assistant to Yale president Kingman Brewster Jr. ’41, played a key role in averting violence that day, in part by opening Yale’s gates to the protesters. Chauncey has written the text for a new book of May Day 1970 images, most of them never-before-published photos by John T. Hill ’60MFA and Tom Strong ’67MFA. As May Day at Yale, 1970: Recollections tells, in the end the rally on the Green was peaceful. The city and university succeeded in warding off the kind of tragedy that would ensue just three days later at Kent State.

1 comment

  • Robert W. Emmaus '70 DIV, '71 GRD
    Robert W. Emmaus '70 DIV, '71 GRD, 5:34pm July 08 2015 | Ico flag Flag as inappropriate

    The sad thing about May Day 1970 at Yale was that the New Left Radicals intimidated the administration and faculty and students into shutting down classes. Romanticism is not the same as education, and some of us suffered as a result of this political madness.

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