Most people my age nowadays don’t give a horse’s patootie about politics, human rights, justice, activism, or change. In my research I’m really interested in understanding what inspired/fueled the social and political movements of the counterculture (’65ish-’75ish), and what led to its demise.
Here’s what I’ve been into lately for my research:
- I read Waiting for the Midnight Hour by Peniel E. Joseph- a narrative history of the Black Power Movement. This book took a little time to get into, but has been the best monograph I’ve read so far on the successes and failures of Black Power.
- I watched Howl with James Franco starring the Beat poet Allen Ginsberg before and during the famous obscenity trial over his similarly-titled seminal work.
- And this week I’ve begun reading And the Crooked Places Made Straight: The Struggle for Social Change in the 1960s by David Chalmers which is amazing.
While the first two chapters elaborate on the, economic, social, and legal motivations for youth activism in the 1960s, the third chapter focuses on college campuses where much of the fervent radicalism sprung forth.
But before I share a segment, you should check out the “documentary” Chicago 10, which combines archival footage, animation, and music examining the 1968 Democratic National Convention and the subsequent trial. You can rent the film from Netflix and read more info from the wiki page. Here’s a clip:
Here is a selection from Chalmer’s book, in which he describes the extent of youth activism during the counterculture, as well as the violent repercussions of their actions. I’ve included some links for more information:
“Students and recent graduates from more than two hundred colleges and universities – public, private, and parochial – took part int he 1964 Mississippi Freedom Summer. Swarthmore College students were arrested in Chester, PA; and University of Florida Students went to jail in St. Augustine. Penn State had its Committee for Student Freedom; a Campus Freedom Democratic Party was organized at the University of Nebraska; and University of Texas students campaigned to desegregate college bathrooms, with the slogan “Let my people go.” During 1964-1965, there were some kind of protest on a majority of the nation’s four-year campuses.
Vietnam and the draft changed the pattern and intensified the conflict. Militancy increased on Southern black campuses. Police and National Guardsmen shot students at South Carolina State, Jackson State, and North Carolina A & T.
Black student occupied administrative offices at Chicago, Brandeis, and dozens of other colleges, and brought rifles into the Willard Straight Union at Cornell. At numerous colleges, students sat in against military recruiting and napalm’s manufacturer, Dow Chemical. Campus ROTC buildings were set on fire. University officials were help hostage at Connecticut’s Trinity College and at San Fernando State, as well as at Columbia University.
In the final year of the decade, bombing threats ran into the thousands. People were injured in explosions at Pomona College, San Francisco State, and Santa Barbara, and a graduate student was killed by a bomb at the University of Wiconsin…The National Guard…was called on more than two hundred times in civil disorders on American campuses.” (72-73)
When Nixon sent troops to Cambodia, violence on college campuses escalated:
“The burst of anger on the campuses became an explosion when National Guardsmen fired into a crowd, killing four students and wounding others at Ohio’s Kent State University. Ten days later, in an unrelated incident, police fired into a women’s dormitory at Mississippi’s black Jackson State University and killed two more.
There were strikes and protests on nearly one-third of the nation’s twenty-five hundred colleges and universities, and tens of thousands of student protestors converged on Washington to gather around the White House and the Lincoln Memorial.” (77)
As a result of all this student outrage, President Nixon appointed a Commission on Campus Unrest. Where has all this passion gone?