America had never seen a year like 1969. Vietnam War protests grew in every city. The My Lai massacre and other horrors in the news. At Harvard, the administration building was seized by students. James Earl Ray pled guilty to assassinating Martin Luther King, Jr. The Manson family murders rocked California, as did the “Zodiac killer.” Hurricane Camille pummeled the Deep South. What began at Woodstock ended in violence at Altamont.
Likewise, UNCG had never seen an unsettled year like 1969. A cafeteria workers strike, with many students joining in. A march on the chancellor’s house. Dr. Judy Penny ’70, ’74 MA, ’89 PhD recalls students at one point “blockading” Foust Building. Dr. Cherry Callahan ’71, PhD ’87 recalls the 1969 Greensboro Uprising, after a Dudley High School student government election was reversed. National Guardsmen raided the NC A&T campus and held a strong presence at UNCG.
The country, the city, and campus felt like a powderkeg.
And then. And then, for one blessed, brisk evening, as darkness settled, for a few hours, something changed.
The cacophony of the past 11 months subsided. There was sweet silence. Facilities staff turned off much of the outdoor lighting. Some students sang carols. A bonfire was lit behind Elliott Hall. Word had spread to the Greensboro community, and College Avenue was bumper to bumper with cars, the headlights off or dimmed. And the glow of 2,000 candles illuminated the walkways.