1960s: A Decade of Revolution -- A Digital History Project
1960s: A Decade of Revolution is a digital history project using ArcGis software to create a digital map journal featuring 23 geographical locations for events ranging from the Human Be-In to Merritt College, the community college where Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale were educated, inspired and edified to become to founders of the Black Panther Party for Self Defense. Also including movements that advocated for ethnic studies programs, women's rights and gay rights including the musical inspirations and events driven by a desire to achieve justice and peace for all.
Mapping Project Points & Essays
Summer of Love 1967
In the summer of 1967, over 100,000 young people flocked to the streets of San Francisco. These young people, inspired by the Beat Generation of the 1950s, practiced a non-conformist way of life. They would be known as hippies, and were suspicious of government, and generally opposed to the Vietnam War. Some of these young people were recent high school graduates who watched their friends get drafted, then sent to fight a war in a country (Vietnam) that few had even heard of. Some were just runaways from troubled home lives. All were idealistic, seeking an avenue to make a difference in their own lives or in the world. Many rejected a materialistic lifestyle and choose instead to cultivate a highly cooperative ethic. Some hippies were political, others were more interested in the arts, meditation and burgeoning spiritual practices. Hippie fashion was colorful, loose and much less tailored than that of the previous decade. This movement was punctuated by music, free-love, drugs and Timothy Leary’s famous expression, “turn on, tune in, drop out” and that’s just what many young people did during this summer and beyond (Talbot, Season of the Witch).
On January 14, 1967, a Human Be-In was held at the Polo Fields in Golden Gate Park. The organizers expected 1,000 people, but according to The Nation magazine, more than 30,000 were in attendance. The event, subtitled, “A Gathering of the Tribes” featured legendary performances by The Grateful Dead, Santana, Steve Miller Band and others while speakers included Timothy Leary, Richard Albert, Jerry Rubin and Allen Ginsberg. The event, which was completely free, was part music festival and part political rally, is said to have been a prelude to the Summer of Love. Many radicals at the time viewed this gathering as a distraction from the political events of the time. Just eight weeks earlier, outspoken critic of hippies and protestors, actor turned politician, Ronald Reagan was elected governor of California. Future Be-Ins would be held in New York and Los Angeles.
Haight Street Free Clinic
As more and more young people flocked to San Francisco, a public health crisis emerged. Local hospitals, including St. Mary’s, the Catholic-run hospital nearest to Haight Street had a policy of turning away drug-overdose victims. None of the hospitals wanted to treat hippies and local agencies were required by law to report runaways to the police. Luckily, a 28-year-old intern, David Smith, who was working as the chief of alcohol and drug screening unit at San Francisco General Hospital, took action. He rounded up a bunch of volunteers, some with medical training, and opened a free clinic. Thanks to the Diggers, a street theatre group which developed in the Haight Ashbury district and operated between 1966-1968, and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee this concept of free medical clinics was brought to Haight Street from their experience in the South and Los Angeles. They found an abandoned, old Victorian at 558 Clayton Street and opened the Haight Street Free Clinic which opened its doors on June 7, 1967 (Talbot, Season of the Witch).
Black Panther Party
Just across the San Francisco Bay, about one year before the Summer of Love, a very different political reality was taking shape. Racial tensions were escalating in Oakland. Just one year earlier, the Watts Riots took place in Los Angeles precipitated by a routine traffic stop gone wrong. In Northern California, Oakland Mayor John Reading called a special session of the City Council where he warned that “if communication between the city government and low-income blacks did not improve, Oakland would become ‘another Watts’” (Bloom, 37). Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale had already taken notice of police brutality, discrimination and the unequal use of force in the African American neighborhoods of Oakland and began developing strategies of empowerment. Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) held a conference at UC Berkeley’s Greek Theatre on October 29, 1966 entitled “Black Power and Its Challenges” at which Stokely Carmichael was the featured speaker. It is not clear whether Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale attended the conference, but they were certainly inspired by it. The Black Panther Party for self-defense, as the organization Seale and Newton would form began by observing and policing the police in the predominantly black neighborhoods of Oakland to prevent police violence. They viewed these actions as instrumental in mobilizing the “boys on the block” to stand up for themselves and their neighborhoods and gave rise to the Black Power movement.
Merritt Junior College
The site of Merritt Junior College now serves as the north campus of the Children’s Hospital and Research Center and is located in the hills of East Oakland. But in the 1960s, Merritt College was the site of student activism and protest. In 1964, students formed the Soul Student Advisory Council (SSAC) which launched a campaign to bring Afro-American studies to the college. Although the administration resisted, they began making concessions and worked to develop Black Studies curriculum. Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale were both members of SSAC which according to historian Joshua Bloom, was a front organization for an anti-imperialist, Marxist black nationalist organization called, Revolutionary Action Movement (RAM). It was in these organizations that Newton and Seale were exposed to the ideas of Karl Marx, Franz Fanon, Fidel Castro, Mao Zedong, Che Guevara, Malcolm X and others.
Ten-Point Program - Market & 55th Street – October 15, 1966
On the Oakland Museum of California History website, Market & 55th Street is listed as a historic Black Panther Party site. The location is where the Panthers wrote the first draft of the Ten-Point Program and is also the location of a historic marker on a traffic signal (photo). The Ten-Point Program including the following, (read the full text at the link below): 1) We want freedom. We want power to determine the destiny of our black community. 2) We want full employment for our people. 3) We want an end of the robbery by the capitalists of our black community. 4) We want decent housing fit for the shelter of human beings. 5) We want education for our people that exposes the true nature of this decadent American society. We want education that teaches us our true history and our role in the present day society. 6) We want all black mean to be exempt from military service. 7) We want an immediate end of police brutality and murder of black people. 8) We want freedom for all black men held in Federal, State, County and City prisons and jails. 9) We want black people when brought to trial to be tried in court by a jury of their peer group of people from their black communities, as defined by the Constitution of the United States. 10) We want land, bread, housing, education, clothing, justice and peace.
The Panthers used the language from the Declaration of Independence, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…” to illustrate in a graphic way how these rights had been systemically denied to Black people in the U.S. for generations.
St. Augustine’s Episcopal Church
By the fall of 1968, calls were being received from all over the nation by people asking to start a chapter in their area. To improve the public image of the Party (Newton was serving prison time and Eldridge Cleaver was in exile), community programs became the cornerstone of BPP activity. In September 1968, the BPP launched its Free Breakfast Children Program. Father Earl A. Neil, pastor at St. Augustine’s Episcopal Church agreed to host the program in the Church Hall. Parishioner Ruth Beckford-Smith coordinated the program. Donations of food and money poured in. The first day, the program served 11 children. By the end of the week, 135 children were being served. Within about one year, the Party operating free breakfast programs for children in twenty-three cities in the nation. According to historian, Joshua Bloom, “at the height of the effort, between 1969 and 1971, at least thirty-six breakfast programs were operating nationwide with larger chapters running multiple sites.”
The most influential revolution in the 1960s was the anti-war movement. All the other struggles were inextricably linked to opposition to the war in Vietnam and the failure of the United States to achieve economic justice and international peace. Historian Howard Zinn argues that the turning point from the post-World War II era into this turbulent time was the “1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott, which set in motion a relentless series of challenges to white racism and Jim Crow segregation that included economic boycotts, student sit-ins, Freedom Rides, Mississippi Freedom Summer, voting rights marches, and Black Power. Inspired by the black freedom struggle, other movements soon emerged alongside it, including the student movement, the women’s liberation movement, and the peace movement, which played a central role in ending the war in Vietnam” (Zinn, 193). In this era, young and old started to question the very assumptions about America values and traditional liberal solutions that they had been brought up with.
Port Huron Statement (SDS)- 1962
According to historian Eric Foner, the Port Huron Statement “captured the mood and summarized the beliefs of this generation of student protestors.” The statement called for participatory democracy and would provide the guiding spirit was of what would soon be known as the “New Left.” This statement was the result of a meeting held at Port Huron, Michigan amongst sixty college students who were members of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). They noted that the declaration, “all men are created equal…” rings hollow for the “Negro of the South and the big cities of the North.” The racial discrimination experienced by so many and the lingering Cold War, with the existence of the Bomb, “brought awareness that we ourselves, and our friends, and millions of abstract ‘others’ we know more directly because of our common peril, might die at any time.” These realizations served as a wake-up call to the young people present. They proposed a replacement of “power rooted in possession, privilege, or circumstance by power and uniqueness rooted in love, reflectiveness, reason, and creativity” all of which would be grounded in participatory democracy.
Free Speech Sproul Hall, UC Berkeley Campus, December 2, 1964
Postwar liberalism was under attack in the higher educational system. Liberals’ view of Higher Education promoted that the state (by way of school administrations) could and should play and active role in students’ lives. The idea was loco parentis – that administrators would “act in place of the parent” by controlling students’ involvement in politics and with regard to moral issues. The idea of controlling student behavior came into direct conflict with the radicalization of students. Most college students in the 1960s were between 18-22 years old and fresh out of high school. Some of them had returned from the Freedom Summer in the South where they had visited some of the most segregated places and sought to help register blacks to vote. These experiences opened their eyes and inspired many to action. However, in 1964, administration officials on the UC Berkeley campus did not allow political organizations on campus. Protests were staged from October – December. Administration refused to make any changes to the rules, an threatened to expel students who violated the rules. Wide scale nonviolent, protests began, led by Mario Savio. Here is a quote from his “Machine Speech” delivered in December 1964: https://youtu.be/SI6fgZTqk14
“There is a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can’t take part; you can’t even passively take part, and you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop. And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!” (Brueck Lecture, California History, CSUEB)
Kent State Massacre, May 4, 1970
At the end of the decade, the protests were becoming more and more violent and volatile. Students at Kent State University in Ohio were angered by the expansion of the Vietnam War into Cambodia. John Kifner reported for the New York Times on the rally which turned violent. Two nights before the violence erupted, the Army Reserve Officers Training Corps building on campus was burned to the ground by protestors. Because of the draft, still active during the Vietnam War, draft dodging had become an effective and visible form of protest amongst those opposed to the war. As a result, the National Guard was called in an martial law was declared. Two nights later, another rally was held. Kifner wrote, “A National Guard jeep drove onto the Commons and an officer ordered the crowd to disperse. Then several canisters of tear gas were fired, and the students straggled up a hill that borders the area and retreated into buildings.” Later, a platoon of Guardsman appeared with loaded M-1 rifles and gas equipment and pursued the students. They opened fired. Nine protestors were wounded and four were killed as a result of the “crackle of the rifle volley” which went on for “a full minute of a little longer.” The horror of this event, National Guardsmen shooting young American college students, galvanized the nation against the war. Hundreds of universities, colleges and high schools closed, as four million students went out on strike. (Colbert, 518-519)
The Pentagon Papers – June 1971
Due to the sustained efforts of draft resisters, students and those fighting for civil rights, by 1970, the war was widely unpopular. Even those who had worked in the upper echelons of the governmental war machine were criticizing the war and joining the anti-war efforts. Daniel Ellsberg, a former aide to Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, and Rand Corporation employee, joined in the rebellion against the war. Zinn wrote, “In June 1971, defying a possible penalty of many years in jail, Ellsberg turned over to the New York Times and other newspapers part of a ten-thousand-page study of the history of American involvement in Vietnam.” This report, labeled “Top Secret” detailed the plans, deceptions and lies the government told to the American people about the war. Ellsberg and his accomplice, Anthony Russo were indicted on criminal charges including conspiracy, espionage and stealing government property. The trial began in 1973, but later all charges were dropped when prosecutors discovered that the White House had ordered Ellsberg’s psychiatrist’s office to be burglarized in order to find evidence that would discredit him. It is widely believed that the publication of the Pentagon Papers led to the end of the war in Vietnam.
Historians generally point to the Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1954 as the beginning of the modern civil rights era. However, historian Howard Zinn points to the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955 as the event which set in motion a series of challenges to Jim Crow segregation and institutional racism. Still other historians argue for a “long civil rights” movement which started in the early 1900s. For the purposes of this project, some key events from the 1960s will be highlighted. The movement had both radical and moderate organizations and leaders. Some were regional while others took the national stage. Some called for collaboration with the existing governmental structures to make changes through legislature, others pushed for more radical means to effect change. All had an impact on American society. The two most well-known leaders of the Civil Rights Movement were Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X.
March on Washington
On August 28, 1963, just three short months before President John F. Kennedy’s assassination, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and James Farmer of CORE and Charles McDew of SNCC organized a March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. More than 200,000 demonstrators took part in the march which was successful in pressuring the Kennedy administration to initiate a strong federal civil rights bill in Congress. During this event, Dr. King delivered his infamous “I Have a Dream” speech in which he said, “Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering justice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity. But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination…” After the march, King and other civil rights leaders met with President Kennedy and Vice President Johnson at the White House where the need for bipartisan support for civil rights legislation were discussed. The key provisions of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 incorporated the demands of the marchers.
Malcolm X Assassination – February 21, 1965
Whereas Dr. King represented the moderate wing of the Civil Rights Movement, Malcolm X represented the more radical, separatist wing. King relied on his theological and philosophical training, while Malcolm “named the grievances of the dispossessed with an eloquence forged in poverty, hardship, prison and social alienation” (Howard-Pitney, vii). King’s activism was primarily situated in the south were overt racism was the rule. Malcolm’s activism focused on the northern ghettos where discrimination was illegal, but existed de facto. Malcolm stressed blacks’ right to self-defense using any means necessary. Malcolm X had joined the Nation of Islam in 1947. About 5 years later, he became a minister in the Nation of Islam and spearheads successful evangelization efforts establishing new temples around the nation. He attended the 1963 March on Washington as a highly critical observer of the event. On February 21, 1965, Malcolm X was shot several times while speaking at an Organization of Afro-American Unity (OAAU) event at the Audubon Ballroom in New York after a falling out with the Nation of Islam. A NOI member was arrested for the assassination.
Bloody Sunday Edmund Pettus Bridge – March 7, 1965
On March 7, 1965, the first of three marches was held by a broad coalition of Civil Rights activists who were attempting to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge across the Alabama River in Selma, Alabama on their way to the Capitol Building in Montgomery. The bridge, named after a Confederate brigadier general and U.S. Senator became the site of Bloody Sunday as the armed police force attacked and beat protestors with horses, tear gas and billy clubs. Televised images of the marchers who were severely beaten roused national and international audiences to sympathy. All in all, 17 marchers were hospitalized and 50 were treated for lesser injuries. The day soon became known as Bloody Sunday. By highlighting racial discrimination, this event served to garner support for the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965.
Martin Luther King Jr’s Assassination April 4, 1968
Dr. King had repeatedly received death threats throughout his public life. In 1958, he survived a near fatal stabbing. Following the assassination of President Kennedy, his wife, Coretta said that her husband had predicted a similar fate for himself. In February 1968, the sanitation workers of Memphis, TN had staged a walkout to protest unequal wages and poor working conditions which had been imposed by the mayor. Shortly before the walkout, two workers had been tragically killed on the job. King went to Memphis to lend his support to the workers and bring attention to their struggle. On Thursday, April 4th, King was staying at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis. At 6:01 pm, he was struck in the face by a single bullet fired from a rifle. He fell onto the balcony unconscious. Dr. King was rushed to St. Joseph’s Hospital where doctors attempted to save his life. He died at 7:05 pm. He was 39 years old.
Gay Rights Movement
In 1969, sexual relations between two consenting adults was illegal in every state except Illinois. Being homosexual could result in the loss of career, family and could result in jail time. Having a “homosexual relationship” in the public, or any public displays of affection between two consenting adults was legally prohibited. Homosexuals (the word used at the time for gay men, lesbians, and drag queens) carved out places to meet, in bars, coffee houses, and night clubs in neighborhoods like Greenwich Village in New York City and the Castro District in San Francisco. In New York City, these places were often run by the mafia who were active collaborators with police. Bar owners would coordinate with police so raids would be conducted on weeknights to minimize the impact on the patrons. However, as political pressure to “clean up the streets” mounts in New York City, the bars, coffee houses and nightclubs become a police target. (American Experience: Stonewall)
On Tuesday, June 24, 1969, the police raided the Stonewall and arrested some employees and confiscated the liquor. Another raid was planned by the NYPD on Friday. They hoped that the second raid would close the Stonewall down for good. That Friday night, June 27th, eight plainclothes police officers (2 women, 6 men) entered the bar. They singled out drag queens and other “cross dressers” for arrest. In New York City, dressing as a member of the opposite sex, “masquerading” was illegal. More officers began arriving and the police began loading those to be arrested into the police van. The crowd erupted after the police were seen beating up a lesbian woman who was dressed in masculine attire after she complained that her handcuffs were too tight. Onlookers who had gathered on the streets began yelling at the officers calling them “pigs” and “coppers” and threw pennies at them. With this resistance, the police were forced to retreat and barricade themselves in the Stonewall. Some protestors used a parking meter which they had torn out of the ground as a battering ram to gain access to the Stonewall. The initial uprising settled down at about 4 am. The Stonewall, although it was smashed up by police, reopened on June 29th. It became a gathering spot for activists and taking advantage of the moment, used this place to spread information through pamphlets and word of mouth. This was the spark that gave rise to the Gay Rights Movement. As a result of Stonewall, the first Gay Pride March was June 28, 1970. https://www.history.com/news/stonewall-riots-timeline
“A Gay Manifesto”
In early 1969, Carl Wittman, a leader in the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), wrote “A Gay Manifesto” in San Francisco. In the manifesto, he announces, “In the past year there has been an awakening of gay liberation ideas and energies. How it began we don’t know maybe we were inspired by black people and their freedom movement…” The Manifesto calls for the following and would become the blueprint for a new movement: 1) Free ourselves: come out everywhere; initiate self defense and political activity; initiate counter community institutions. 2) Turn other gay people on: talk all the time; understand, forgive, accept. 3) Free the homosexual in everyone: we’ll be getting a good bit of shit from threatened latents: be gentle, and keep talking & acting free. 4) We’ve been playing an act for a long time, so we’re consummate actors. Now we can begin to be, and it’s be a good show! (Bronski, 208 & https://digitalcollections.lib.washington.edu/digital/collection/protests/id/416)
A Musical Revolution
The United States in the 1960s experienced a musical revolution as rock-n-roll from the 1950s morphed into many different sounds inspired by a sort of cross-cultural pollination from artists who came from England (The Beatles), and the American South (Little Richard, Elvis Presley), and artists who were influenced by greater freedom and experimentation. Inspired by the improvisation of Jazz musicians, lyrical poetry of the Beat poets and new technologies in electric guitars and amplifiers, these musicians made music that was familiar to no one. As in all sectors of society during this decade, there was a push for greater freedom and liberation to make the music that one was inspired to make without the imposed confines of older generations or industry. Young people pioneered these new sounds into the soundtrack for the generation. Music was taken into the streets and fields, first at the Human Be-In, then Monterey Pop Festival, Woodstock and Altamont.
Monterey International Pop Festival
The Monterey Pop Festival was a three-day concert held from June 16-18, 1967. The festival featured performances by Jimi Hendrix, and The Who as well as Ravi Shankar. This was also Janis Joplin’s first large-audience public performance and where Otis Redding was introduced to a mass American audience. The festival was organized by John Phillips (from the Mamas & the Papas) and Lou Adler and was intended to confirm the importance of rock-n-roll music as an art form. Adler recalled: “[O]ur idea for Monterey was to provide the best of everything – sound equipment, sleeping and eating accommodations, transportation – services that had never been provided for the artist before Monterey.” Crowd estimates for the festival ranged from 25,000 to 90,000. This was the first large scale outdoor music festival which gave legitimacy to rock music. It helped launch the too-short careers of Otis Redding and Janis Joplin. It also marked a changing of the guard in British music. The Beatles and the Rolling Stones were absent, while The Who and Eric Burdon and the Animals represented the UK.
Woodstock Music Festival
Originally slated to be located in Woodstock, NY, the town locals got nervous about being “overrun by hippies,” so the festival, billed as an “Aquarian Exposition: 3 Days of Peace and Music,” was held from August 15-18, 1969 at Max Yasgur’s dairy farm in Bethel, New York. An estimated 300,000 to 400,000 young people showed up for the three day festival which featured musical performances by Jefferson Airplane, Jimi Hendrix, the Grateful Dead, The Who, Janis Joplin, Santana and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. By Wednesday, already 60,000 people had showed up. The roads were so clogged with cars, vans and buses, that the artists had to be flown in by helicopter. Although tickets were sold for the event, it was impossible to collect tickets, so thousands attended the event for free. By Saturday, the news media had declared that the event was a disaster. The organizers had planned for the numbers of people who descended, so there were food shortages and rain which made the fields muddy and difficult to navigate. However, to the show-goers, this event was most certainly not a disaster. Thanks to the mantra of “make love, not war” and the efforts of commune leader Wavy Gravy, a children’s playground was set up, a free food kitchen helped keep people fed with donations from the community, and multiple “freak-out tents” for those who needed some assistance after taking psychedelic drugs. At the end of the festival, Max Yasgur addressed the audience, “You’ve proven something to the world…the important thing that you’ve proven to the world is that half a million kids, and I call you kids because I have children who are older than you are, a half million young people can get together and have three days of fun and music and have nothing but fun and music and God bless you for it!”
Altamont Free Concert
On December 6, 1969 another free concert was staged at the Altamont Speedway in Livermore, California. Billed as the “The West Coast Woodstock,” it was supposed to be an extension of the peace and love that was experienced at Woodstock a few months earlier, but it ended in chaos and death. About 300,000 people showed up for the concert that featured the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Santana, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young with the Rolling Stones headlining. Poor planning and an opportunism seemed to be the cause for the ensuing chaos. According to AP photographer, Bill Owens, there were no outhouses or food services set up for the people. Organizers asked the Hells Angels, a biker gang to provide security for the event since having the police present was not an option. David Crosby says that’s where it went wrong, “Hells Angels don’t do security. Hells Angels fight. They like to fight. It’s part of their M.O. They fight all the time. There’s good at it, okay? If you don’t want the tiger to ear your lunch guests, don’t invite the f---ing tiger to the lunch.” All told, four people would die that day. One person drowned in an irrigation ditch, two from a hit and run driver and 18-year old African American, Meredith Hunter who got stabbed in an altercation with a Hells Angel named Alan Passaro. Cultural commentators point to the tragedy of Altamont as the spiritual end of the counter cultural revolution. https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/lifestyle/altamont-rolling-stones-50th-anniversary/
In 1963, American feminist author and activist, Betty Friedan wrote The Feminine Mystique, in which she challenged the commonly held belief in the 1950s that “fulfillment as a woman had only one definition for American women after 1949 – the housewife-mother.” Despite the gains made in the half century since winning the right to vote, women’s lives still centered on the home. During World War II, women were actively recruited for the work force, especially in manufacturing and war-time industry to fill positions as men left employment for military service. Once the war was over, women were once again relegated to the domestic sphere where they were transformed into the “domestic goddesses” by the popular media. Most historians agree that the publication and popularity of this book sparked the Second Wave of Feminism.
National Organization for Women (NOW) – June 30, 1966
The National Organization for Women (NOW) was founded by Betty Friedan and Shirley Chisholm in 1966. According to their statement of purpose, they believed, “that the time has come for a new movement toward true equality for all women in America, and toward a fully equal partnership of the sexes, as part of the world-wide revolution of human rights now taking place within and beyond our national borders…” (Foner, 289). In the early sixties, women’s activism had focused on employment rights. By the later part of the decade, that vision was expanded to include a wide range of issues from equal pay and an end to discrimination in the work force to racial justice, anti-war and greater participation in civic life and politics. This organization, founded by and for women, inspired the creation of the Black Women’s Liberation Committee in 1968 and the Comisión Femenil Mexicana in 1970. These two organizations were founded to empower women to take a more active leadership role in the Black Power and Chicano movements. (DuBois, 606)
Miss America Pageant, 1968
In September 1968, a small collective of women activists called the New York Radical Women gathered outside the Miss America Pageant being held in Atlantic City, New Jersey. One of the women, Robin Morgan, said that she was responsible for the theatricality and described the scene in this way, “We placed a huge trashcan decorated with the words “Freedom Trashcan” on the boardwalk, and women were invited to throw in symbols of their oppression ranging from stiletto heels to dishrags and diapers to cleaning tools and corsets. There were bras thrown in, but nothing was ever burned. That was a myth started by a reported at the New York Post who thought it would make a cool headline.” Morgan noted in a 2018 interview that she, “never would have imagined we’d still be fighting some of the same fights” fifty years later. https://www.history.com/news/miss-america-protests-1968
American Indian Movement (AIM)
The American Indian Movement (AIM) was founded in Minneapolis, MN in July 1968. Originally founded as a grassroots organization to address systemic problems of police brutality and poverty against Native Americans. The organization formed as a result of organizing by George Mitchell, Dennis Banks, and Clyde Bellecourt following a meeting with about 200 Indian community members. According to the Minnesota History Center’s website, “AIM’s leaders spoke out against high unemployment, slum housing, and racist treatment, fought for treaty rights and the reclamation of tribal land, and advocated on behalf of urban Indians whose situation bred illness and poverty.”http://libguides.mnhs.org/aim
Occupation of Alcatraz
On November 20, 1969, just one week before Americans would gather for Thanksgiving celebrations, 78 Indians landed on Alcatraz Island in the San Francisco Bay to protest and occupy the land. The group called themselves, “Indians of All Tribes” and issued a proclamation, “We Hold the Rock.” In the proclamation, they offered to purchase the island for glass beads and red cloth, drawing attention to what white settlers paid to the Native Americans for Manhattan Island nearly 300 years earlier. This occupation, initiated by students and community members from around the Bay Area drew the attention and support of the AIM. Upon their occupation, they built a thriving village in which all members were given responsibilities, and everyone voted on all major decisions. Within three weeks, a school was established, and older adults taught native skills to the younger members. On orders from President Nixon, they were forced to evacuate the island in June 1971 after an eighteen month occupation. This movement contributed to the establishment of Native American studies program at the University of California, Davis. (Dunbar-Ortiz, pgs. 174-184)
In 1960, the total Mexicano population in the United States was 3.8 million people. A full 87% of the population was concentrated in the Southwest with 13% disbursed throughout the rest of the United States. Although the socio-economic status of Mexican Americans had improved, Chicano historian, Juan Gomez-Quinones, argued that “despite the organizational challenge by Mexican Americans to discrimination in the forties, fifties, and sixties and economic gains resulting from postwar economic booms, the unequal position between Mexican Americans and Anglo Americans probably expanded rather than contracted. Mexican advances in education, income, employment, occupational status, and political representation were dwarfed by the much larger gains of Anglo Americans (Gonzales, 197). Mexican Americans were inspired by the Civil Rights movement and anti-war movements. The Chicano movement was made up of many different organizations which focused on a variety of issues and included radical and moderate approaches.
United Farm Workers (UFW) – August 22, 1966
The United Farm Workers represented the moderate wing of the movement and were primarily concerned with labor issues. During World War II, a labor force was needed for American’s agricultural sector. Negotiations with Mexico were conducted, and the United States signed the Mexican Farm Labor Agreement which initiated the Bracero Program in 1942. 4.6 million Mexicans were brought to the United States between 1942 and 1964 to work in American fields. During that time, laborers were able to negotiate concessions from the owners of factory farms, but when the agreement ended, owners were not as amenable to workers demands. This set the stage for a large scale unionization attempt. In California’s San Joaquin Valley, a strike would be launched by Cesar Chavéz and Dolores Huerta in 1965.
The Delano Strike Sept 8, 1965
A Filipino union, Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee (AWOC) which was affiliated with the AFL-CIO, led by Larry Itliong initiated a strike against the local grape growers in the city of Delano in Kern County near Bakersfield, California. The Filipino workers struck for higher wages and recognition as a union. Because two-thirds of the agricultural work force in the state of California were Mexicanos, Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers were invited to help conduct the strike. Chavez and Huerta had come to embrace the militant non-violence of Ghandi and Dr. King, they insisted on implementing this philosophy during this strike. Also convinced that the Americans middle class would support their efforts if given the opportunity, they mounted a consumer boycott of grapes from 1968-1975 which was the first nationwide boycott of its kind. Nearly 12% of Americans honored the appeal to purchase only union grown grapes effectively wiping out the profits of some growers. In 1970, growers agreed to recognize the union and sign agreements (Gonzalez, 201-202).
Bloom, Joshua, and Waldo E Martin. Black against Empire: The History and Politics of the Black Panther Party, with a New Preface, 2016.
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