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Revisiting war protests

Photo by Stephanie Chukwuma Protest Poster for the Vietnam War, illustrated by Mark Podwall
Photo by Stephanie Chukwuma
Protest Poster for the Vietnam War, illustrated by Mark Podwall

Students, alumni and Queens College faculty gathered in the Godwin-Ternbach Museum for the Nov. 15 opening reception of a Vietnam War protest poster exhibition.

Posters and photos from the war-stricken period of the 1960s and 1970s covered the walls at the reception, organized by political science professor Michael Krasner, secondary education professor Jack Zevin, Townsend Harris High School Assistant Principal Susan Getting and GTM director and curator Amy Winter.

The exhibit is a means of “using art as a vehicle to discuss political issues,” Winter, who has been the museum director for 12 years, said.

The reception started off with a few welcoming words from Dr. James Muyskens, president of QC.

Afterward, QC alumnus and illustrator, Mark Podwell presented his illustrations from the war era, consisting of book covers, anti-war posters and drawings published in The New York Times’ op-ed pages.

“The exhibit is about more than nostalgia, it’s about what’s going on today,” said QC alumnus Mark Levy, summing up the intentions of the “Posters as History, Politics and Art: Teaching with Primary Sources” exhibit. “[It is about] art and musical resistance to war,” he said.

Later, Wally Rosenthal, another alumnus, spoke about a time when “thousands of people protested in the streets.” He recalled his brother and friend sitting out in front of the library refusing to do aerial drills.

Rosenthal serenaded the audience with a few songs as he strummed along with his acoustic guitar to lyrics that portrayed a “passive philosophy against all war.” The audience chimed in as he sang “Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream” — a song about ending war. He also sang Pete Seeger’s “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” — a song that draws attention to the loss of soldiers in the Vietnam War.

The audience, many of whom were QC alumni, spoke about their experiences during the anti-war period.

Elliot Linzer, a QC alumnus who was active in protesting and served jail time on five separate accounts as a draft resistor and protestor of the war, described the atmosphere as “a hot bed of political activism.” He recalled protests that took place in front of the Justice Department, picket lines at QC to diversify faculty members and claims that FBI agents were undercover as students and journalists.

Along the war posters are essays from students at Townsend Harris describing and defining each piece.  George Maroules, a QC graduate student who worked with the high school students, also had them analyze films, photographs and song lyrics to create their own protest for the Vietnam War.

“[This exhibit is] not just a walk down memory lane, but great relevance of what is going on today,” Winter said.

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