Free the New Haven Panthers: The New Haven Nine, Yale, and the May Day 1970 Protests That Brought Them Together

Tuesday, May 4, 2021 - 12:00am
This exhibit has been curated by Yale College student Kathryn Schmechel ’21 based on her senior essay in history.
Kathryn describes her exhibit: “For as long as I can remember, I’ve been fascinated by the Black Panthers. Imagine my surprise, then, when I learned that the Black Panther movement played a pivotal role in New Haven during the 1970 May Day Rally. “Free the New Haven Panthers” explores the roles of the Black Panthers and Yale in creating a successful protest movement, representing the varying positions and perspectives that Yale affiliates and Black Panther organizers brought to the table in their disparate but related fights for justice and fairness.
“This exhibit is an attempt to grapple with just a small selection of critical archival holdings at Yale to give some sense of what the Black Power movement involved, what May Day constituted, and what happened after the arrest of those known as the “New Haven Nine.” Fifty-one years later, the events surrounding May Day 1970 still feel relevant, especially in the aftermath of last summer’s global protests for racial justice after the horrific murders of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and too many other Black Americans. Much work remains to be done, but I hope that looking at the May Day Rally in a new light can be a part of this work.”
Kathryn’s exhibit highlights materials from Yale University Library collections, including the May Day Rally and Yale Collection in Manuscripts and Archives.
The senior essay exhibit program provides one rising senior with funding, training, and staff support to curate and produce a library exhibit based on the student’s senior essay topic using materials from library collections.