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xv Introduction Richard J. Jensen and David P. Schulz D uring the 1960s and early 1970s students, women, members of minority groups, gays, senior citizens, the disabled, the poor, environmentalists, and many other groups created social movements that demanded full rights, equality, recognition of their unique identity, and their fair share of the American Dream. The leaders of those movements used a variety of verbal and nonverbal rhetorical tactics to present their message to supporters, potential supporters, opponents , and the general public. The 1960s and early 1970s were one of the most controversial periods in American history. The dramatic events of that era and the actions and arguments used by activists still significantly affect people’s lives and perceptions today. As historian David Farber states, “In our public and private conversations the phrase ‘the sixties ’ has become a beguiling, shorthand way for either casting aspersions or offering praise—depending upon who is talking.”1 Roots of the 1960s In an effort to better understand the 1960s, scholars tried to discover the causes or roots of the protests of that decade. Historian Terry H. Anderson described the 1940s and 1950s as a “spawning ground” that “nurtured the development” of the movements of the 1960s,2 while Todd Gitlin referred to the 1950s as “a seedbed. . . . The surprises of the Sixties were planted there.”3 The 1950s were often described as being relatively quiet and a time of great conformity. One professor said that “American college students today . . . tend to INTRODUCTION xvi think alike, feel alike, and believe alike. . . . The great majority seem turned out of a common mold.” They were often referred to as the “Silent Generation.”4 One member of that generation, former student activist David Harris, expressed surprise that young people in the 1950s willingly accepted the myths and messages presented by their parents and leaders of the establishment: Part of me remains amazed that we swallowed all that, but we did. . . . We were the baby boomers, we watched Victory at Sea on TV and passed through puberty when Dwight D. Eisenhower was commander in chief. We were raised on World War II, our fathers’ war. It was the Americans who stopped Hitler and Tojo. It was the Americans who made sure those guilty of the most heinous of crimes were apprehended and punished. And since the war it was the Americans who had drawn the line against the Stalinist nightmare. We were convinced that everything and everyone we touched was the better for it. God seemed to have given America a blank check.5 But even in those seemingly placid times there were individuals who were beginning to question American society and its values. In his book Reunion: A Memoir, Tom Hayden identified cultural figures that had an effect on young people and inspired them to protest: There were several alternative cultural models beckoning to those of us who in a few years were to become activists: the fictional character Holden Caulfield [Catcher in the Rye], the actor James Dean, and the writer Jack Kerouac. The life crises they personified spawned not only political activism, but also the cultural revolution of rock and roll. . . . These characters, in their different ways, were responding to the human absurdity and emptiness of the secure material life parents of the fifties had built.6 Young people were also taught to question their lifestyle by a group of older intellectuals who were writing in the 1950s, academics who stood up to the anticommunist crusade, comics like Mort Sahl and Lenny Bruce who used comedy to ridicule society, publications like Mad magazine that mocked society, rock-and-roll music, and the writings and lifestyle of beatniks (beat poets). Anderson held that the intellectuals of the 1950s “would influence a small group of future activists—students and professors who read and discussed their books at elite universities. . . . These young intellectuals brought about the rise of the new left.”7 Debates about the 1960s In his book The Movement and the Sixties, Anderson provides an excellent overview of the decade and describes why there is continued interest in that period: Ever since those turbulent times, Americans have been debating the era that began in 1960 at Greensboro [with the sit-ins by black students] and ended in the 1970s when Congress passed the Equal Rights Amendment and the U.S. Army came home from the Vietnam War. The long decade was an endless pageant of political and cultural protests, from sit-ins at lunch counters to...


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