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Bill Ayers is best known for his involvement with the Weather Underground, a militant group created to end the Vietnam War.
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Activist, educator, author, member of the Weathermen (later known as the Weather Underground). Born William Charles Ayers on December 26, 1944, in Oak Park, Illinois. A former radical activist, Bill Ayers has established himself as an educator and author. He grew up as the middle child of five in the Chicago suburb of Glen Ellyn. His father was a business executive and his mother was a homemaker.
As a high school junior, Ayers was sent to Lake Forest Academy, a prep school north of Chicago. He joined his older brother Tim to University of Michigan in Ann Arbor after graduating from the academy. At the university, Ayers became politically active, joining the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), which sought social and political change and opposed U.S. involvement in Vietnam. He took a break from college to work at an experimental private school in Ann Arbor in 1965 and then moved to Cleveland, Ohio, to help with a new school there. Returning to the university, Ayers continued to be involved in political and social causes, especially the anti-war movement. He graduated in 1968 with a bachelor’s degree in American studies.
After college, Ayers devoted much of his time to his activism. He was among the demonstrators at the 1968 Democratic National Convention. Developing a more militant version of the SDS, Ayers helped found the Weathermen the following year. The group thought more drastic measures were needed to end the war in Vietnam. In October 1969, the Weathermen took to the streets in what was called the “Days of Rage” protests. The event started off with the bombing of a statue in Chicago’s Haymarket Square and then erupted into a clash between the group members and the police. During the conflict, 287 Weathermen were arrested.
Later that year, the group took responsibility for bombing several police cars in Chicago in retaliation for the killing of Mark Clark and Fred Hampton of the Black Panther Party by the police. By early 1970, many members of the group were in hiding, including Ayers. The organization was rocked by tragedy in March of that year when three members—Theodore Gold, Terry Robbins, and Ayers’ girlfriend Diana Oughton—were killed while making bombs in New York City.
Even after these deaths, the group remained active. Ayers participated in the 1971 bombing of the Capitol building and the 1972 bombing of the Pentagon, according to his 2001 book Fugitive Days: A Memoir. He remained underground for a decade. While on the run, Ayers became involved with fellow Weather Underground member Bernardine Dorhn. The two decided to come out of hiding in 1980 after the birth of their second child together, a son named Malik.
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