‘Rising’ Awareness

Libraries Exhibit Looks at Century of Student Activism

Violent skirmishes during the Vietnam War between police and student protesters may be UMD’s best-known example of activism, but its campus protests have more than a one-chapter history.

“Rising Up: 100 Years of Student Activism at the University of Maryland,” a University Libraries exhibit that opened in August, highlights protests led by Terps from marginalized communities. Lae’l Hughes-Watkins, associate director for engagement, inclusion and reparative archiving, led a team of curators in assembling photos, T-shirts and sweatshirts, posters, fliers, correspondence and oral histories from actions related to undocumented students, sexism, the rights of Indigenous students and other issues.

closeup of holding hands

Photo courtesy of University Archives

While chants and marches are common, some demonstrators have gone for cozier methods. One protest featured in “Rising Up” is the 1992 “kiss-in” by 10 same-sex couples, organized by the gay rights group Queer Nation at the Stamp Student Union to affirm their right to exist safely.

The exhibit also deals with the university’s origins as the Maryland Agricultural College, and its founder, slaveowner Charles Benedict Calvert, as well as segregation in the institution’s past.

“We want to provide visitors an immersive experience ... to learn about the unvarnished truth of our past and feel inspired by the role student organizing has played in forging a stronger and more inclusive community,” says Hughes-Watkins.


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