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Will Someone Please Explain It To Me, I've Just Become A Radical

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Twelve digital c-prints in six pairs
The student demonstration against the Dow Chemical Company at the University of Wisconsin Madison on October 18, 1967, marked turning points in both the anti-
Vietnam war movement and in law enforcement’s response to that movement. What began as a peaceful sit-in against campus recruitment by Dow Chemical, manufac-
turers of napalm, ended in a bloody police action against the protesters. UW chancellor, William Sewell, who was himself opposed to the war, made the controversial decision to replace campus security with poorly trained Madison city police officers, giving them authority to use force to stop the protest. That night, after the melee, demonstration organizers met to plan their next moves. The sight of officers personally assaulting students—beating them with nightsticks—had caused many students and faculty to reevaluate their positions on the war. The meetings overflowed with those who had previously felt the Vietnam war had nothing to do with them. One young woman announced, "I’m a radical! I’m a radical! I don’t know what it means, but will someone please explain it to me. I’ve just become a radical."* For other UW students, such as political science PhD candidate and future U.S. vice president, Dick Cheney, the incident served as a reminder of a war he supported but wished to avoid personally and politically.

The Commerce Building, where the incident took place, has now been renamed Ingraham Hall and is home to the University’s African, American Indian, and women’s studies programs, among others. Despite the changes in curriculum, the facilities remain almost unaltered physically. The twelve photographs in this series focus on the narrow east-west hallway of the building’s ground floor where the sit-in took place, and the entrances, exits, stairways, escapes and refuges, such as bathrooms, that determined the movements of the demonstrators, police, fellow students and faculty on October 18, 1967.

*Maraniss, David. "They Marched Into Sunlight: War and Peace, Vietnam and America, October 1967." New York: Simon and Schuster, 2003; p. 397.

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