This collection of posters from May 1968 depicts—through startlingly raw and graphical imagery—the explosion of protests that swept across France and nearly toppled the government of Charles de Gaulle.
May '68 holdings at the Beinecke
Johan Kugelberg Collection of Paris May 1968 includes 85 street posters (75 of which were produced by the Atelier Populaire), and an assemblage of ephemera retrieved during the uprising, and safeguarded after, by Atelier Populaire founder Phillipe Vermès. There is no discrete page collating this collection, but search for the collection title in Orbis or click here.
Gabriel Paris Collection relating to France, May 1968-1978 is a collection of material related to the events of May 1968, collected by Paris, a French artist and activist. The collection consists of 3 screenprint posters produced at the Atelier populaire in May/June 1968, signed lithographs produced between May and July 1968, original maquettes from 1968-1970, 2 of the artist's sketchbooks, each of which contains numerous drawings and sketches that were used in the production of protest posters, 45 black and white photographic prints that document the May 1968 protests, and over 200 printed political tracts, which were collected between 1968 and 1978.
The Philippe Zoummeroff Collection of May 1968 Paris Counterculture features 244 posters and ephemera from the time of the May 1968 protests, printed in both color and black-and-white.
Following the Algerian War in the 1950s, France entered a period of relative stability in the 1960s; the country’s colonial outposts were given up and the economy improved. Many people, however, remained discontent with the current social systems. Young people in particular criticized the antiquated national university system and were frustrated by limited employment opportunities for recent graduates. Sporadic student demonstrations for education reform began in 1968. At a protest at the Sorbonne, the most distinguished of the colleges, on May 3, the police broke up the gathering; dozens of students were injured and several hundred were arrested. Courses at the Sorbonne were subsequently suspended and students continued to protest in the streets of the Latin Quarter, surrounding the university colleges, building barricades to keep the police at bay. The student protesters extended their demands beyond education reform, calling for radical, systematic economic and political change in France. Union leaders planned strikes in support of the students, and the situation escalated as a general strike spread to factories and industries across the country, paralyzing newspaper distribution, two major rail lines, and air transit. By the end of the month, millions of workers were on strike.
In an effort to diffuse the situation, Prime Minister Georges Pompidou announced that the Sorbonne would reopen on May 13. On that day, however, students took over the buildings and converting the university into a commune. From this base, students and striking workers continued to protest in the streets of the city. Unrest spread to other French universities and industries around the country over the next few days, eventually involving several million people. The worst fighting occurred on the evening of May 24, when students temporarily seized the Paris stock exchange, flew a communist flag, and then attempted to set it on fire. As the radical student protesters increasingly called for full revolution, they began to lose the support of the mainstream community and union leaders. On May 30, President Charles de Gaulle declared the dissolution of the National Assembly and announced open elections, but also appealed for a return to order, and implied that he would use military force if necessary. The labor strikes were gradually abandoned, although the student protests continued until June 12, when they were banned; shortly thereafter, all protestors were evicted from the Sorbonne. In the two rounds of voting later in June, the Gaullists won a majority in the National Assembly. However, in the wake of the protests, the government implemented a series of reforms, including higher wages, improved working conditions, and a bill to modernize higher education.
Selections from the Philippe Zoummeroff Collection of May 1968 Paris Counterculture
The May 1968 posters were featured in the exhibition Postwar Avant-Garde and the Culture of Protest, 1945 to 1968 and Beyond at the Beinecke, October 1, 2009-December 19, 2009.
The May ’68 Paris Uprising Collection of Posters and Ephemera now at Yale University, description and images on Boo-Hooray website.
The French Revolution of May 1968: A History, Alan Woods, International Marxist Tendency.
"Marking the French Social Revolution of '68," NPR, May 13, 2008.
May 1968: 40 Years Later, essays by Christopher Hitchens, Kay S. Hymowitz, Stefan Kanfer, Guy Sorman, Harry Stein, Sol Stern, City Journal (Spring 2008).