Date of Award

January 2020

Document Type


Degree Name

Medical Doctor (MD)



First Advisor

Naomi Rogers

Second Advisor

Anna Reisman


In the Spring of 1970, Bobby Seale, one of the founders of the Black Panther Party was being held in New Haven, Connecticut, on false charges of murder, kidnapping, and conspiracy to murder a fellow Black Panther. If convicted, Seale faced the electric chair. The Black Panthers, mobilizing to fight for Seale’s life, found unlikely allies in the administration and students of Yale University. Working together with Yale students, citizens of New Haven, and radical New Left leaders from across the country, the Panthers organized a massive May Day Rally in order to protest Seale’s trial and demand his release.

Others have documented the legal history of the Seale trial, and, to some extent, the involvement of Yale administrators and undergraduate Yale students in helping to organize the Rally. A few of those who participated in the Rally have penned personal accounts of their experiences. Working chiefly with primary documents, first-person interviews, and institutional and media archives, this thesis tells the little-known story of how Yale medical students partnered with the Black Panther Party, Panther allies in New Haven, Yale undergraduates, and even some Yale faculty, to organize medical aid for the May Day Rally. It also explores the politics of medical presence at protests for racial justice and locates the May Day Rally within the broader racial landscape of student protest in the 1960s and 70s.


This thesis is restricted to Yale network users only. This thesis is permanently embargoed from public release.