Smile Politely

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the Dow Chemical sit-in at Noyes Lab

On October 25, 1968 about 300 students marched into Noyes Lab on the UIUC campus, filling the hallway and blocking a particular door.

In that room sat a Dow Chemical recruiter, who expected to quietly interview  students who wanted to work for a corporation that mostly made household products to make American homes clean and safe. What he got was a rowdy and antagonistic crowd of students who knew the truth about the company: 

Dow had decided to make money by colluding with the Department of Defense to make an anti-personnel gel called “napalm” that stuck to flesh and burned like Hell’s fires.

The students who flocked in that day to block the interviews probably couldn’t know that Dow and the creation and use of napalm would end up creating perhaps the most iconic image from the ghastly war; it depicted a very young, naked, Vietnamese girl running down a dirt road, her arms flung in the air, her face contorted in pain, her body aflame with napalm.

The University said we were interfering with the right of students to get jobs. We said the military was violating the bodies of humans, inflicting a terrible pain agent on civilians who was just an innocent victim of this war.

The Sit-In lasted for three days and nights. The students refused to leave. The University threatened to call the police and arrest everyone. But, avoiding the riots that police action had caused on other campuses, they didn’t, finally relenting and canceling the interviews. It was a small victory, but, even today, millions of older Americans are still against the unjust wars our country continues to foment.

Photo of Noyes Lab Sit In courtesy of Michael Metz
Photo of UIUC Quad unknown and unrelated to this Sit In

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