'Your Years Here Have Been Most Unreal': Political andSocial Activism during the Vietnam War Era at Northern AppalachianUniversities

by Thomas Bradley Weyant

Institution: University of Akron
Year: 2016
Keywords: History; Modern History; Peace Studies; Regional Studies; student activism; Vietnam War; Sixties; Appalachia; citizenship; antiwar; draft resistance; civil rights; students rights; anti-poverty; University of Pittsburgh; Ohio University; West Virginia University
Posted: 02/05/2017
Record ID: 2085208
Full text PDF: http://rave.ohiolink.edu/etdc/view?acc_num=akron1459955464


The following dissertation explores student political and social activism at northern Appalachian universities during the Vietnam War era. Drawing from student newspapers and archival sources, the dissertation argues that students forged a dual identity as students and citizens making claims to decision-making authority at their respective universities through seeing a correlation between their roles as citizens of the nation and citizens of the university. This student-citizen identity developed from student engagement with multiple strands of activism, including: antiwar, antipoverty, civil rights, and students’ rights. Students framed this identity against what they believed was a generational divide between them and their parents; for their part, the parents also framed their response to their children in this way, too. The dissertation shows these two generations were not as different as either believed, but in the end, the differences mattered more. Further, the dissertation investigates this development at schools in Appalachia because of the lack of scholarship on these schools both from historians of the Sixties and those of Appalachia. By highlighting the activism of students during the Vietnam War era, the dissertation helps to challenge the existing historiography of the Sixties in Appalachia which focuses primarily on poverty, unions, and out-migration from the region, presenting Appalachia as victimized and without internal agency. Additionally, by focusing on northern Appalachia, the dissertation adds to the overall field of Appalachian historiography that largely ignores the northern segments of the region. Through exploring how students at Ohio University, the University of Pittsburgh, and West Virginia University engaged with questions of war and dissent, patriotism and citizenship during the period 1964 to 1972, the dissertation offers new details to the study of student activism in the Sixties and Appalachia’s experience of the Vietnam War era. Advisors/Committee Members: Wilson, Gregory (Advisor).