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AADL Talks To: Bill Ayers

Bill Ayers
Bill Ayers, director of the Children's Community School in Ann Arbor, May 1968

Bill Ayers is a retired Distinguished Professor of Education at the University of Illinois at Chicago. During his time in Ann Arbor during the 1960s, he served as director of Ann Arbor's experimental Children's Community School; Education Secretary for the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS); and co-founder of the militant Weather Underground organization, which originated in Ann Arbor in 1969 as a far left-wing revolutionary party. 

Ayers traces the path of his political awakening from wide-eyed college freshman to seasoned student organizer and educator. He reflects on the tumultuous moral dilemma he and many activists faced as the Vietnam War raged on in the late 1960s and early 1970s. He discusses the factionalism within the SDS leadership that resulted in the formation of the Weather Underground; how the strands of student activism during this turbulent time were rooted in the moral agenda outlined by Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.; and his lifelong pedagogic commitment to education.

Bill Ayers, 1993
Bill Ayers at a Borders book signing, 1993

Students Discuss Racism at Pioneer High School's "Race Relations Teach-In", October 1994 Photographer: Larry E. Wright

Students Discuss Racism at Pioneer High School's "Race Relations Teach-In", October 1994 image
Published In:
Ann Arbor News, October 21, 1994
Adrienne Hunter, left, and Laura Luitje raise their hands to ask a question during discussions on race relations at Pioneer High.

Arab Student Association Teach-In, June 1967 Photographer: Duane Scheel

Arab Student Association Teach-In, June 1967 image
Published In:
Ann Arbor News, June 2, 1967
Arabs Present Their Point of View: A member (left) of the Arab Student Association at the University raises his hands to emphasize a point during a discussion with Jewish students and their sympathizers over the Middle East Crisis. The Arab students yesterday set up tables containing pro-Arab literature as part of a day-long "teach-in" on the Diagonal in front of the U-M General Library. As many as 150 persons at a time gathered around the tables to take part in or listen to heated arguments that flared throughout the day between Arab and Jewish students.