PARIS — Political conflict and social movements around the world in 1968 made it a year for the history books. The 50th anniversary of several signature episodes are being marked throughout this year, from the Prague Spring and monthlong French student uprising of May '68, to the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy in the U.S. and black power salutes at the Mexico City Olympics.
But the upheaval that year spread beyond just a handful of internationally iconic events. Among the other notable moments and movements of 1968 are four chapters that may not have made it into your high school history textbook:
Senegal: Dakar's May '68 student movement
While revolution burned in the air of Paris, that May, the capital of Senegal had its own student uprising against the country's government. Le Monde reported earlier this month that 50 years ago, then Senegalese President Léopold S. Senghor blamed the events in France for encouraging students in Dakar to challenge the country's single party system and bans on a free press. After initially ordering a heavy-handed crackdown of the protests, Senghor eventually released arrested students, increased university scholarships and raised the minimum wage with an end also on its way to the single party system and bans on press freedom.
Léopold S. Senghor, Senegal's President from 1960 to 1980 — Photo: Roger Pic
Spain: Protests against Franco's regime
Spain was still under dictator Francisco Franco's regime in the spring of 1968 when student protests erupted to demand democracy, workers' rights and education reform. The University of Madrid was shut down for 38 days. The demonstrations also denounced police violence and the Franco regime's authorization to have a mass in honor of Adolf Hitler. It was a "youth rebellion," journalist Mercedes Cabrera wrote last month in the Spanish daily El País. A coming out moment for the "children of the victors and vanquished," as they were known, a new generation that was eager to bridge the deep divisions of the Civil War and bring an end to he dictatorship it had spawned.
Jamaica: The Rodney riots
Another lesser-known 1968 student protest were the so-called "Rodney riots" in Kingston, Jamaica in October. Dr. Walter Rodney, a Guyanese-born lecturer at the University of the West Indies (UWI) and committed socialist and Black Power activist, was banned by the Jamaican government from returning to his teaching position. The decision sparked student riots that ended with several people killed. Students started by closing down the UWI campus before heading to the prime minister's residence and, finally, to the parliament building. As the Jamaica Observer wrote earlier this year, the movement would eventually help inspire a black political and social consciousness movement across the Caribbean, which in 1970 led to the Black Power Revolution in Trinidad and Tobago.
Student meeting at the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil, on Oct. 10, 1968 — Photo: Keystone Press Agenccy/ZUMA
Brazil: The "March of the One Hundred Thousand"
On March 28, Edson Luís de Lima Souto, a high school student was shot and killed by Brazil's military police at a protest in Rio de Janeiro asking for cheaper meals at a restaurant for poor students. His killing, as well as the death of 28 other people a few days later during other riots, led to one of the first major protests against the military dictatorship in the country on June 26, gathering students as well as artists, intellectuals and politicians. As the Rio de Janeiro-based O Globo recently recalled, the demonstration — dubbed "The March of the One Hundred Thousand" — is still remembered today as one of the most important protests in Brazilian history.
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