Cornell '69: Liberalism and the Crisis of the American University

Front Cover
Cornell University Press, 1999 - Education - 359 pages
0 Reviews

In April 1969, one of America's premier universities was celebrating parents' weekend-and the student union was an armed camp, occupied by over eighty defiant members of the campus's Afro-American Society. Marching out Sunday night, the protesters brandished rifles, their maxim: "If we die, you are going to die." Cornell '69 is an electrifying account of that weekend which probes the origins of the drama and describes how it was played out not only at Cornell but on campuses across the nation during the heyday of American liberalism.Donald Alexander Downs tells the story of how Cornell University became the battleground for the clashing forces of racial justice, intellectual freedom, and the rule of law.

Eyewitness accounts and retrospective interviews depict the explosive events of the day and bring the key participants into sharp focus: the Afro-American Society, outraged at a cross-burning incident on campus and demanding amnesty for its members implicated in other protests; University President James A. Perkins, long committed to addressing the legacies of racism, seeing his policies backfire and his career collapse; the faculty, indignant at the university's surrender, rejecting the administration's concessions, then reversing itself as the crisis wore on. The weekend's traumatic turn of events is shown by Downs to be a harbinger of the debates raging today over the meaning of the university in American society. He explores the fundamental questions it posed, questions Americans on and off campus are still struggling to answer: What is the relationship between racial justice and intellectual freedom? What are the limits in teaching identity politics? And what is the proper meaning of the university in a democratic polity?


What people are saying - Write a review

Cornell '69: liberalism and the crisis of the American university

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

The scenes recalled here of armed black students leaving a Cornell University building in 1969 speak loudly of the rule of law, radicalism, racism, power politics, intellectual honesty, and the ... Read full review


Student Militancy
The Rise of Racial Politics
Racial Justice versus Academic Freedom
Separation or Integration?
Progress or Impasse?
Liberal Justice or Racism?
The Takeover and the Arming of the Campus
The Deal
Student Power
A New Order
Cornell and the Failure of Liberalism

A Revolutionary Situation

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

References to this book

All Book Search results »

About the author (1999)

Donald Alexander Downs, an undergraduate at Cornell during the uprising, is the Alexander Meiklejohn Professor of Political Science, Law, and Journalism and the Glenn B. and Cleone Orr Hawkins Professor of Political Science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His other books include More than Victims and Restoring Free Speech and Liberty on Campus .

Bibliographic information