In the heady days of the spring of 1970, Senator Edward M. Kennedy came to Yale on Earth Day (April 22, 1970) to speak, on the occasion of the nation’s first Earth Day, at a Yale Political Union luncheon in Commons. In the afternoon after Kennedy’s speech, a teach-in on “The Politics of Pollution” was scheduled in the Yale Law School auditorium.
Earth Day in 1970 coincided with the pre-trial proceedings for the “New Haven Nine” trials and increasing tensions in New Haven and on the Yale campus over the heavy-handed response of the Nixon administration and the FBI’s secret Counter-Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO) to the 1969 kidnapping, torture, and murder by members of the Black Panther Party of Alex Rackley, a New Haven Black Panther member who was suspected of being an FBI informant. These events ultimately led to the May Day strike/rally on May 1-3, 1970, and the temporary suspension of academic activities at Yale.
Student protests over the Black Panther trials spilled over into the Earth Day events when Ralph Dawson, Class of 1971 and moderator of the Black Students Alliance at Yale (BSAY), and Kurt Schmoke, Secretary of the Class of 1971, interrupted the Yale Political Union luncheon to appeal for support for the jailed New Haven Black Panthers. That cross-fertilization of activism was captured in this image from the May 1970 issue of the Yale Alumni Magazine, and can also found in the collections of Manuscripts and Archives.