Unrest: Two Weeks of Protest at the University of Alabama, 1970

In May 1970, the shooting of student protesters at Kent State University sent a shock wave over the nation, especially on other college campuses. Perhaps surprisingly, the University of Alabama, deep in the heart of the conservative South, was no exception.

It’s often been described, then and now, as a period of student “unrest.” Perhaps that because there sometimes seemed to be no uniting vision to student marches, sit-ins, and vigils. There was just the boiling over of simmering anger and the desire to be heard.

View the sections below to read an illustrated narrative of events, grounded in primary sources, including contemporary newspaper articles and archival photographs from the University of Alabama Photo Collection.

Note: Each section begins with quoted lyrics from a popular song of the period, the majority from 1970-1971, many of which were overtly meant as a form of protest or means of raising social consciousness. Especially if you are not familiar with these songs, it may add to the experience to listen to them, before or while reading each section. The link provided with the title of each goes to a video on YouTube.com, provided here as a stable and reliable means of accessing the audio. All are versions that appear on the artist’s official channel (or, in the case of Crosby Stills Nash and Young’s “Ohio,” on the official channel of Neil Young.)


1. After Kent State (May 6-7)

2. Demands & Counterdemands (May 8-12)

3. Protest & Counterprotest (May 13-14)

4. Compromise (May 14-17)

5. After Jackson State (May 18-19)


Curated by Kate Matheny (kgmatheny@ua.edu), Outreach Coordinator, July 2020.