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Student Activism at Brown University

An overview of student activism at Brown University.


This subject guide provides an overview of University Archives and Manuscripts collections related to student activism at Brown University.  Topics include civil rights, Vietnam War, CIA recruitment, divestment, harassment and violence, and need-blind admission.  


While several of the record collections listed below are administrative records, the records contain significant correspondence with students, faculty, and staff that reflect alternative points of view on issues related to activism, social change, and University policies.


There are over 60,000 photographs depicting campus scenes, buildings, groups, events, and student activities preserved and accessible in the University Archives.

A selection of student protest photographs have been digitized and are available in the Brown Digital Repository.

In addition, the Images of Brown digital collection presents digital facsimiles of original documentary images in the Brown University Archives.

Images of Brown (digitized)

Please review the Subject list of photographs to locate additional photographs of events or activities:

Subject (buildings, events, student activities,etc.)



Protests during the late 1960s include:

  • Anti-CIA Protests (1967)
  • 1968 Walkout


University Records

Ray Lorenzo Heffner papers, 1966-1969 (OF-1C-13)
Ray Lorenzo Heffner was university president during a period of intense social change, student unrest, and student political activity on campuses. Some of the topics documented in the collection, that reflect the changes which occurred in this period, include: the status of Naval and Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps, the introduction of co-educational housing, the role of the university in governing student conduct, the establishment of an Afro-American Studies concentration, and curricular reform and the implementation of new curriculum. 


Ronald A. Wolk files, circa 1969-1976 (OF-1CA-W1)
Ronald Wolk's papers contain administrative material from his tenure as Brown's Vice President for University Relations and Development.


Brown University Corporation minutes and reports, 1925-2001 (OF-1B-1)


Personal Papers

Robert F. Cohen, Jr. papers, 1952-1984 (bulk 1966-1972) (MS-1U-C8)

The Robert F. Cohen, Jr. papers relate to his activist work as a student at Brown from 1964-1968, and as a community organizer in Providence and other Rhode Island communities, and New York City around welfare rights, housing discrimination and education between 1968-1972. 



Brown Student Leaders Take Stands on Vietnam: A Symposium of Student Opinions. Providence, RI: The Brown Vietnam Committee (Cammarian Club), April, 1968.  Contributors were from the Afro-American Society, Alpha Delta Phi, B'nai B'rith Hillel Foundation, Brown Classes 1968-1971, Brown Daily Herald, Brown Young Republicans, Bruin Club Cammarian Club, Campus Action Council, Conservative League, Graduate Student Council, Interfraternity Council, International Relations Club, Kappa Delta Upsilon, The Literary Magazine of Brown University, National Student Association, Pembroke Academic Affairs Committee, Pembroke Class of 1969, Pembroke Record, Res Publica, Student Government Association, Young Americans for Freedom.


1970 Student Strike


University Records

Merton Philip Stoltz papers, 1969-1970 (MS-1C-13a)

Consists of subject files created while Merton Stoltz was Acting President of Brown University from 1969 to 1970. Subjects documented in the collection include the Brown University Corporation and its committees; buildings and grounds; faculty; budget and finance; and students, including student conduct, the University Council on Student Affairs, the Student Conduct Advisory Committee, and student unrest. 


Donald F. Hornig papers, 1970-1976 (OF-1C-14)

Donald F. Hornig's papers document issues related to Afro-American and minority students; faculty; building and grounds, including campus planning; Air Force and Naval ROTC programs; and civil rights and the Equal Employment Opportunities office. The final merger of Brown University and Pembroke College, the women's college, into a fully co-educational institution occurred during Hornig's administration.


Protests during these years include:

  • Cyanide for Peace (1984)
  • Anti-CIA Protests (1984, 1987)
  • harrassment and violence (1985)
  • 1987 Divestment
  • 1992 University Hall Takeover


University Records

Howard Robert Swearer papers, 1976-1990 (bulk 1977-1978) (OF-1C-15)
Subjects documented in the Howard Swearer's papers include alumni and alumnae; athletics; admissions; the Bio-Med program; the Corporation; commencements; physical planning; faculty; libraries; students; the cooperative program between Brown University and Tougaloo College; and gifts to the University. Civil rights and minority affairs on the Brown University campus, including issues about status of women; Afro-American studies; Asian-American students; Hispanic American students; the American Civil Liberties Union; sexual harassment; and discrimination are documented. Student topics documented include the university radio station, WBRU; issues pertaining to Iranian students (ca.1978-1980); campus organizations; and protests about Central Intelligence Agency recruiting on campus.

Manuscripts - Faculty Papers

William Gerald McLoughlin papers, 1700-2004 (bulk 1960-1992) (Ms.2009.003)

Professor William Gerald McLoughlin taught history at Brown University from 1954-1992 and was an active and vocal participant professionally and personally in all of the issues and events during those years: freedom of speech, civil rights, racial equality, gender equality (Louise Lamphere sex discrimination case), nuclear energy, improving the Providence education system, the Vietnam War, divestment from South Africa, and US intervention in Nicaragua during the 1980s. His papers are particularly useful for studying the changes in America and their effect s at Brown University during his tenure. His major areas of scholarship were religion in America (particularly Baptists and Evangelicals), the Cherokee Indian Nation, antislavery movement, African Americans, and Rhode Island history.