The 1968 Columbia Strike at the Speed of Mimeograph

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Up Against the Wall / Mother Fucker, 1968

By the 1960’s, the Mimeograph was not a new technology, having been in widespread use for decades. Towards the end of the decade, however, something novel happens – various social movements began to use the cheap and easily available technology of the Mimeograph to respond to events with increasing speed, sometimes even during the event itself. In San Francisco, Com/Co and the Diggers begin use their Gestetner’s to respond to current events. At the Invisible Circus event at Glide Church, Brautigan and Com/Co set up the John Dillinger Computer Complex to print “news” leaflets covering the celebration. In New York, the Motherfuckers lug a mimeograph machine to community meetings with Bill Graham about the Fillmore East and issue leaflets denouncing his speaking points while he is still addressing the crowd. But no event embodies this tendency more than the occupation of Columbia University in 1968, when a network of groups issued an avalanche of mimeographed leaflets from occupied classrooms and off campus apartments in order to comment on the events and urge the participation of others.

It was a watershed moment in print culture that has interesting parallels to the use of social media during protests in recent years. Cataloguing a recently acquired collection of flyers from the strike has given us opportunity to examine this relationship between print technology and activism.

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Division Leap offers a collection of more than 150 pamphlets, leaflets, circulars, minutes, manifestos and communiques related to the 1968 Strike and Occupation of Columbia. Please inquire for more details.