Massacres and Civil Rights

After the Tet Offensive and the television reports, American and global opinion towards the war began to change.  Then, on February 1, photographer Eddie Adams took a photo that did more than words ever could.

In one photograph he encapsulated the viciousness, the violence, and the terror that was engulfing the Vietnamese people. His name may not be well known, but his photograph did a great deal to sway public opinion and earned him a Pulitzer Prize.

            The photo needs no comment, it speaks for itself. And here it is, along with video of the man being shot with commentary by the photographer.

Then the massacres began to mount. In February alone there was the Phong Nhi massacre, the Phong Nhat massacre, and the Ha My massacre. In March there was the My Lai massacre where upwards of 500 men, women, children, and infants were killed, many women being raped by the U.S. forces.

Colin Powell, Secretary of State during the George W. Bush presidency, was then an Army major and witness to My Lai, told Lary King about his experiences there. He said, “I was in a unit that was responsible for My Lai.”

This is where the past meets the present. These events changed public opinion.

Anti-Vietnam War protests spread from Harvard and Boston University, to England, to Canada, to West Berlin, and to Japan. Pressure on the Lyndon Johnson Administration began to mount as Democratic politicians began to seriously think about challenging the sitting Democratic president in the primaries, something almost unheard of and without precedent in American history.

Meanwhile, race relations within the United States crumbled further. On February 8 in South Carolina, 3 college students were killed while protesting racism at a white-only bowling alley in the state. Then, on February 13 there were civil rights protests at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

When things didn’t seem they could get worse they did in March.  The American political system was set in turmoil and events in Poland proved that as much as people in the Soviet satellite states wanted reform, the governing Communist Party in Poland was not going to let that happen.

They were prepared to do all that was necessary to ensure stability and the status quo.

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