Jerry L. Avorn
Up Against the Ivy Wall is a detailed account of the April-May 1968 student uprising at Columbia University. This brief and highly concentrated event involved, most dramatically, the occupation of administration offices and other campus spaces by dissident students led by Mark Rudd and his chapter of Students for a Democratic Society, a national organization for leftist students. The uprising had many different dimensions to it, but it largely stemmed from student opposition to Columbia’s contributions to military research, and the expansion of the wealthy university’s campus into impoverished Harlem by dispossessing poor nearby residents of their homes for the purpose of building a new gymnasium.
The main thing that interests me about this book is that it appears to be an example of a book that’s no longer published. Up Against the Ivy Wall is a scholarly and densely detailed account of a brief moment in time, 307 pages describing four weeks of life in a tiny section of New York City. This was published in 1969, months after the events themselves, which almost indicates an urgency in publishing a clear account of the events in question. This book, in the density and quality of the detail it provides of a short period of time in the life of a social movement, is similar to Donn Teal’s The Gay Militants, which, in similar depth tells the story of year one of the gay liberation movement in America shortly after it concluded. I know that other such events, including the Occupy Movement and the 1999 Seattle WTO protests inspired books which were published quickly, but I haven’t read any such book that reaches the level of detail found in the two older texts.