4.3: Here We Stand: Manifestos for Change

The Early 1960s and The Rise of Youth and Liberalism

The postwar years provided a marked contrast to the years of economic depression and wartime deprivation.   Judging from the Kitchen Debate and the content of television advertising, Americans experienced new levels of comfort, convenience, and choice.  Yet during the next decade, racial tensions would rise dramatically, cities would be set on fire, students would protest against war (and discover sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll), and women would demand liberation.  Soon Native Americans, gays and lesbians,  Chicanos and Hispanics, and other groups would also demand their own rights.  The decade appeared to many (including Paul Johnson) to herald a mass breakdown of society.

The documents linked below were all written in the early 1960s, not long after JFK took office. You will be looking for the sources of discontent that was brewing beneath the seemingly calm surface of American postwar domestic life.

1.  Everyone. Identify Mario Savio, and watch this short video.

2. Source and Read.  Each team member will read one of the following documents. Make sure all of the documents are represented. Overlaps may occur.  (Note the dates of the documents. Speculate why your doc is in the early ’60s or later in the decade.)

3. Print and Turn in. Briefly address, in complete sentences, each of the points below as they relate to “your” document.   (Remember name and team# go at the top.)

  1. The major problem addressed.
  2. Secondary and/or related problems addressed
  3. Why the problems cannot be solved or are not being solved
  4. Solution(s) offered.
  5. Method of solving the problem.


a. Martin Luther King, “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”, April 16, 1963.
b. Students for a Democratic Society [SDS], “Port Huron Statement,” 1962
c. Michael Harrington, excerpt from The Other America, 1962.
d. Betty Friedan excerpt from The Feminine Mystique, 1963.
e. N.A., “To the Great White Father,” c. 1969.
f.  “Get the Mafia and the Cops out of Gay Bars,” 1969,


Researching/ an aside:  The increasingly strident and radical voices heard within American protest movements and an ongoing fear of their potential link to communist ideologies caused the FBI, headed from its inception by J.Edgar Hoover, to collect massive files on everyone from John Lennon to Caesar Chavez.  Here’s a link to the FBI Vault, in case you might be interested. The 6700 documents it features may not represent the full extent of its efforts, which may prompt to to approach a search from a different angle.  For example, searching John Lennon FBI yields this website. Or, visit this website devoted to Leonard Peltier, a leader in AIM.


1. Identify the author of the source and record answers to set of questions (see above)

2.  After class: After participating in the team discussion, would you regard the authors (and their followers) as primarily radicals or reformers?  Explain.

Bonus:  If you imagine the 1950s as a grid of social behavior,  how many ways can you see the boundaries of race, class, and age being challenged in this one clip of   Elvis Presley?

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