Alternative UF: Counterculture Through the Decades exhibition

Alternative UF

Counterculture Through the Decades


The Alternative Press, 1959-1972
Anastasia Bower

The Legacy of the Johns Committee
Ian Gaffney

Demonstrations Against the Vietnam War
Bronwyn McCarthy and Candice Ellis

The 1971 Sit-In and Campus Civil Rights
Bronwyn McCarthy and Candice Ellis



Selections from an exhibition on display April 20 - May 31, 2009 in the Smathers Library Exhibit Gallery


This exhibition, created by undergraduate student interns enrolled in HIS 4944 Preserving History, focuses on campus activism at the University of Florida during the Age of Protest. Covering three decades of UF history and culture, the exhibits feature photographs, counterculture newspapers, yearbooks, artifacts and other items from the holdings of the University Archives, the P.K. Yonge Library of Florida History, and the Department of Special and Area Studies Collections. The exhibition covers political activism, sit-ins and other Civil Rights demonstrations, protests against the Vietnam War, the alternative press at UF, and the hunt for homosexuals and other "subversives" on campus by the Johns Committee in the 1950s and 60s.

During the 1960s and early 1970s, students at the University of Florida published a number of underground and alternative newspapers and magazines. At one time The Orange Peel was ranked the number one college humor magazine in the country. The Charlatan, a counterculture magazine published by students at UF and Florida State University, appeared in the 1960s. The main student newspaper was the Alligator, which had to fight an uphill battle against UF administrators for editorial freedom. A host of alternative newspapers, including The Eye, The Hogtown Orifice, The Hogtown Press, The University Report, and The Crocodile, focused on the political issues of the day.

Political activism also swept across the University of Florida in the 1960s and ‘70s. The Civil Rights movement was well underway and the Vietnam War spurred fervent, occasionally violent protest. On campus, students staged a number of notable demonstrations with varying degrees of success. The Gentle Protests, held in October and November of 1969, sought to mobilize students and faculty as part of a national-level peace demonstration against the Vietnam War. In May 1970 when four student demonstrators were killed at Kent State, UF students heeded a call to strike and brought classes to a halt for three days. A similar commemoration two years later in 1972 ended in mass protests and rallies.

Several other protests held between 1968 and 1970 focused on the threat against racist academic policies at the University of Florida. The most famous demonstration was the April 15, 1971 sit-in at Tigert Hall organized by the Black Student Union. Its aim was to force the university to recruit and support more African American students and faculty.

Other exhibits that are not included in this online exhibition focus on student life at UF in the 1960s and 1970s, controversies regarding co-ed dorms, and life for women on campus.

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