May Day at Yale, 1970: Recollections
The Trial of Bobby Seale and the Black Panthers
By Henry “Sam” Chauncey, with an introduction by Henry Louis “Skip” Gates and photographs by John T. Hill and Thomas Strong
Hardcover, 120 pages 11 x 11
Official publication date: April 21, 2015
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This book comes from first hand experiences, both in word and in pictures. It offers a partial record of a community and an institution coming together to accommodate an event while deflecting its potential violence. The history of the New Haven Green bridges over four centuries. It has served as a place for worship, for grazing cattle, staging revolutions, witness to hangings, and various campaigns.
On the day before and on May Day of 1970, Yale University and New Haven prepared to host an agitated congregation of young civil rights activists with a diverse list of causes, but focused mainly on freeing Bobby Seale, the Black Panther leader. This book gives a glimpse of that diversity; diverse in cause, attitude, and dress. Marked changes in mood evolved over the approximate 32 hours. Yale and New Haven could be proud of avoiding real violence and bloodshed.
Like an archeological record, May Day at Yale, 1970 exhibits not only the New Haven Green on that one day, but marks a broader shift in direction for a county at large. For those who were there, it seems painfully near. For later generations, it is likely a remote abstraction, one that is well worth knowing something about, as emblematic of an important period in our history.
Henry Chauncey, Jr., known as “Sam”, was born in 1935. He graduated from Yale College in 1957. He worked in various administrative capacities at Yale from 1957 to 1982. He then was founding CEO of Science Park Development Corporation in New Haven; subsequently President and CEO of Gaylord Hospital in Wallingford, Connecticut and finally Lecturer and Head of the Health Management Program in the Yale School of Public Health. He is retired and resides in New Haven.
Professor and educator Henry Louis “Skip” Gates Jr. was born on September 16, 1950, in Keyser, West Virginia. Gates excelled as a student, graduating from Yale University in 1973 with a degree in history. He continued his education at Clare College, which is part of the University of Cambridge in England. He finished his doctorate degree in 1979, making him the first African-American to receive a Ph.D. from the university.
In the 1980s, Gates became known as a leading scholar of African-American literature, history, and culture. At the start of the decade, he began working on the Black Periodical Literature Project, which uncovered lost literary works published in 1800s. Gates received a grant from the prestigious MacArthur Foundation in 1981, which helped support his scholarship in African-American literature.
In 1991, Gates became the head of the African-American studies department at Harvard University. He is credited with transforming the school’s African American studies program.
Gates served an editor on several anthologies and collections of African-American literature and contributed to the field of literary theory with such works as Black Literature and Literary Theory (1984) and The Signifying Monkey: Towards a Theory of Afro-American Literary Criticism (1988). In 1991, Gates became the head of the African-American studies department at Harvard University. He is credited with transforming the school’s African American studies program. Gates is now the director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African-American Research at the university.
John T. Hill holds MFA degrees from both the University of Georgia and Yale. He taught at Yale for nineteen years, becoming its first director of graduate studies in photography. In 1975, on the death of his friend, Walker Evans, he became executor of that estate. After leaving Yale, he has designed and authored a number of books and exhibitions.
Thomas Strong has a BA from Dartmouth and a degree in graphic design from Yale School of Art and Architecture. Walker Evans was his principle instructor in photography. Since 1968, he and Marjorie C. Gordon have directed the design firm Strong Cohen on Chapel Street in New Haven.