US Student Activism and Protests Against the Vietnam War

The Vietnam war which is a key part of history between the 1960s and 1970 is perhaps one which brought out the role and influence of students’ activism to the limelight. It was characterized by intense and prevalent protests among various college campuses in the United States, the students’ voice, opinion and power was amplified and showed to be effective in affecting the government and perhaps even her policies. Though students were not the only participants in the Vietnam war protest, their activism demonstrated great efficiency in advancing and propelling anti-war ideas to the public.

In this article, the attitude of US college students to the war in Vietnam would be examined, also their response to the course of events that were associated with the period of the war including protests against the Vietnam war, while we see the effect it had on the American authority and ultimately, the sufficiency or otherwise of the series of the students’ protests in bringing an end to the war as well as mentioning some of the consequences which resulted from the demonstrations.

Background to the Students Anti-War Protests

When the American public began to gain greater access to some uncensored information due to extensive coverage of happenings at Vietnam, the opposition which had been growing against the Vietnam war grew. This period happened to be just at the time of the rise of students’ activism, which followed the free speech movement and the Civil Rights Movement.

Theories and writings that surrounded the Vietnam war protests included opposition to the military draft and the moral imperative arguments that grew so popular among American college students – students believed that the United States had imperialistic goals in Vietnam, thus, making their interference immoral, according to believe of the students custom dissertation service. Also, civilian killings which were revealed by the media through released photographs that were not covered by the Western media also sponsored a great deal of the students’ outcry.

All of these factors, in addition to evidence of American military causalities revealed by certain media, increased the opposition of the United States interference in Vietnam. Thus, many more Americans were stirred against the war. This led to various groups emerging, or those that had already existed join the anti-war movements. Notable among them were the Women Strike for Peace, Business Executives Move for a Vietnam Peace, National Mobilization to End the War in Vietnam. But particularly among the students’ groups, the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) played a pivotal role.

Students’ Activities, Reactions and Protests Against the Vietnam War

The activities and reactions that students displayed against the war were in various forms, and different strategies – popular among the strategies were participation in marches, various boycotts, demonstrations as well as public rallies.

One of the major actions which took place was an examination of America’s Vietnam policy at the University of Michigan, this was in 1965. It was a teach-in which was aimed at discussing the steps that could be taken to change the policy. The teach-in was held collectively by the academics, and the students in the university creative writing prompts. This action was thus replicated in more than a hundred schools across the nation, thus, students employed a questioning strategy against the authorities to affect policies that tend to strengthen the moves they deemed inappropriate.

When President Richard Nikon allowed the Vietnam war to encroach into Cambodia in 1970, it stirred up a large student protest, which was held at the Kent State University. In response to this protest, the governor of Ohio employed the services of the National Guardsmen who hastily fired into this gathering of students, and this act resulted in the death of four students, this further led to an elevated tension across campuses in the country.

As the protest continued into the early 70s, the students’ protest became stronger, and became associated with more radical actions, such as the burning of their draft cards, picketing against buildings, petitioning against faculty researches that were funded by the Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency, they also attempted to close down draft boards. Thus, protesting daily became the lifestyle of about 750,000 students.

Effects of the Vietnam War Students’ Protests on the American Authority

It is expected that the effects of the demonstrations and radicalism of the students should lead to changes in policies that favored the persistence of the war. However, the students’ protests came with even a lot of other consequences;

The anti-Vietnam war opposition by students led to the shut-down of many college campuses with the aim of restoring peace and calm. Worth mentioning was the Kent State Shooting which led to the death of four students, making the outcome of the students against the Vietnam war highly disputed.

But despite these consequences, there were some good – although the contrasting opinions of many scholars believe that the students’ activism only seemed to generate only a little effect on the presidential policies of the Johnson and Nikon administrations, a host of Americans tend to hold the opinion that the students’ movement was considerably effective in influencing the United States policy.

It is worth mentioning that even if it appeared that the students’ anti-Vietnam war protest could not succeed in winning many Americans to its side, and its effect on the government policy was not massive, in spite of this, the impact of a united students’ voice still rings in the hearts of many till today and it was also able to win a good number to its camp, it was able to charge at the government to consider the judicious and state-conscious use of her powers and ensure the appropriateness of her policies.


On the overall, the students’ activism and protest against the Vietnam war proved to have a positive contribution on the lives of American students and citizens, as it encouraged them to always stand against what they believe is improper and actions that are against their rights. The student activism and protest in Vietnam has become a good reference point for a lot of other movements that stand today to make their voices known.