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Open Access Thesis
Master of Arts (M.A.)
Year Degree Awarded
Month Degree Awarded
Historians recognize that there was an increase in political repression in the United States during the Vietnam War era. While a number of accounts portray the Federal Bureau of Investigation as the primary driver of repression for many groups and individuals during the 1960s and 1970s, particularly those on the left, historians typically overlook the role played by local and state law enforcement in political intelligence-gathering. This thesis seeks to advance the study of one aspect of this much larger topic by looking at New York State Police surveillance of the Vietnam-era student peace movement. Drawing extensively on State Police spy files housed at the New York State Archives, the thesis makes several significant contributions to the existing historiography on this period. First, it demonstrates how state and local police contributed to the climate of political repression and surveillance during the Vietnam era. Second, while this thesis encompasses state police surveillance at all types of institutions, including elite private universities and second-tier state colleges, in doing so it provides the first-ever detailed look at how community college students organized against the war. Since a majority of community college students were from relatively low-income backgrounds, chronicling the history of protest on two-year campuses gives historians another angle from which to counter the persistent myth that antiwar activism failed to penetrate the most working-class sectors of U.S. society.
Kershner, Seth, "“A Constant Surveillance”: The New York State Police and the Student Peace Movement, 1965-1973" (2021). Masters Theses. 1057.