The Sixties: Class Papers, Spring 2019
- Ready for Revolution
- Supplementary Reading
Czech radicals confront Soviet tanks in Prague, August 20, 1968
Ready for Revolution, due April 1
A five-page paper (about 1500 words) in response to Kwame Ture's autobiography is due at outr first seminar meeting after the spring break. Focus the paper on this question: Like Malcolm X (b. 1925), Rosa Parks (b. 1913), and Yuri Kochiyama (b. 1921), Kwame Ture (b. 1941) devoted himself to the Black Freedom Movement, but he belonged to a younger generation of activists. In what ways did that distinguish--or not distinguish--his experience and politics from theirs?
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on Supplementary Reading -- various books and due dates
Over the course of the term, every student will present a short paper (3-4 pages; 900-1200 words) on a book related to seminar reading. Focus your paper on the most important things the books adds to our understanding of the U.S. sixties based on reading assigned to the whole seminar. See the class schedule for assignments and due dates.
Click here for papers on...
Melba Pattillo Beals, Warriors Don't Cry: A Searing Memoir of the Battle to Integrate Little Rock's Central High
Clayborne Carson, ed., The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr.
Chana Kai Lee, For Freedom's Sake: The Life of Fannie Lou Hamer
George Jackson, Soledad Brother: The Prison Letters of George Jackson
Johanna Brand, The Life and Death of
Anna Mae Aquash
Leonard Peltier, Prison Writings: My Life Is My Sun Dance
Breanne Fahs, Valerie Solanas: The Defiant
Life of the Woman Who Wrote SCUM (and Shot Andy Warhol)
Roxanne Dunbar Ortiz, Outlaw Woman: A Memoir of the War Years, 1960-1975
Karla Jay, Tales of the Lavender Menace:
A Memoir of Liberation
Martin Duberman, Midlife Queer: Autobiography
of a Decade, 1971-1981
Amber Hollibaugh, My Dangerous Desires: A Queer Girl Dreaming Her Way Home
Rick Perlstein, Before the Storm: Barry
Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus
Dan T. Carter, The Politics of Rage: George Wallace, the Origins of the New Conservatism, and the Transformation of American Politics
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Rebecca Lee on Warriors Don't Cry: A Searing Memoir of the Battle to Integrate Little Rock's Central High, by Melba Pattillo Beals
The book Warriors Don't Cry is a memoir written by Melba Pattillo Beals, one of the nine black teenagers who attended the previously all-white Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, as part of the desegregation effort. The book follows her experience as a young black girl from early childhood, but focuses primarily on the time leading up to school integration and integration itself. As a child, she visits Cincinnati, where for the first time in her life she feels respected by the white people that she interacts with. This experience allows her to picture what integrated society would look like. Soon after this experience, she decides almost on a whim, to add her name to a list passed around her class asking for volunteers to attend and begin the desegregation of Central High. The results of this decision eventually affected almost every aspect of her life, from her education to her family to her dating.
On the first day that she is meant to attend Central High, she goes to the school to find not only angry parents who do not want the school to integrate, but also National Guardsmen who turn her away at the door. She and the other students have defend their right to attend Central High in court before they are able to start school, despite segregation's already being declared unconstitutional. When she finally is able to enter the school, she is harassed by the other students, and the violence in the school forces them to leave the building before the first day is over. While eventually it is declared "safe" enough for the students to return, for the whole year, she is harassed every day, regularly puts up with death threats, and at one point is attacked with acid. Towards the end of the year, even her family is threatened--her mother is threatened with being fired.
From a number of places, Melba finds ways to deal with the dangers of her situation. For one, she gathers a great deal of support from her family. She is raised by her mother and Grandma India, after her father divorced her mother. While they often fight with Melba about the freedoms that she should be allowed (as Melba's status as a target makes a very traditional parent/teenager relationship argument much more intense), they are a consistent source of support for her. Notably, they never blame or punish Melba for the effect that her choice to attend Central High has on the family, which, in addition to the obvious dangers, includes near constant press attention. Melba also forms her own sort of family with the other black students who are attending Central High. In the opening and closing of the book, when she writes about the unveiling of a new monument to the nine students in the present day, the thing that she focuses on most on is the happiness she feels at being among her fellow students again. She particularly notes her close friend Minnijean Brown, whom she lived very close to and was close to in age. Minnijean faces her own particular challenge that the other students do not. After an incident in the cafeteria, she is suspended and then expelled from Central High. It is clear in how she writes about Minnijean how important she is to Melba, as she writes about two overwhelmingly strong but conflicting feelings--happiness that Minnijean will no longer have to face the challenges of Central High, and a great sadness that she will no longer have her by her side.
Additionally, Melba gains an important advantage from two unlikely sources--the guard watching her, Danny, and a white son of a school segregationist, Link. Danny protects Melba from life threatening attacks, but he also provides her some comfort at the beginning of the year, just when she needs it most. After he leaves, Melba is protected by Link, who secretly clues her into where and when the worst of the harassment will be, so that she can avoid it. It is worth noting that these men do not give up very much to protect her. Neither of these men gives her everything she needs, or is totally understanding of her, but they provide her a little bit of extra safety just when she needs it.
What strikes me most about this book is its depiction of the teenage experience. In many ways, Melba is just like any other teenage girl--she has crushes, she argues with her mother, and her world is centered on her school life and her friends. The writing style of the book emphasizes this--the language is simple, and focuses on things that would stand out to a teenager, not an adult reflecting on a teenage experience. Additionally, she does not explain things that she would not have had an explanation for at the time. However, much of the book is about how Melba didn't get to have many of the experience typical of a teenager because of her choice to attend Central High--she is socially isolated, does not feel safe participating in afterschool activities and has to deal with constant harassment and media attention. Each moment where she seems like any other teenager brings this sacrifice she is making into shaper contrast. It is clear that this form of activism cost her many aspects of a normal teenagehood. With a few exceptions, most of the stories told about activists in the black freedom movement are about adults, who fully understood and were willing to make the sacrifices needed to make the strides that they were hoping to make, and had the resources to make those changes happen.
Melba talks about feeling as if she is two separate people--the girl and the
warrior. Clearly, towards the beginning of the book, she feels that the girl
is her true self- the more typical teenage girl who is not part of a bigger
struggle. However, as time goes on, she finds herself becoming the warrior,
or the person who can deal coolly deal with anything, and forgetting how to
be the girl. Melba provides an example of how young people were able to cope
with the negative effects of being a part of the black freedom movement and
other similar movements in the 60s--by living their lives as young people to
the greatest extent that they could, then separating themselves as teenagers
from themselves as activists. This book brought the movements and ideas that
we are learning about, and have learned about for years, into a place much closer
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Thomas Hernandez on The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr., edited by Clayborne Carson, ed.,
Whether you see the U.S sixties as a time best represented by the "good
sixties"/"bad sixties" complex, or the Long Sixties chronology,
the life and work of Martin Luther King Jr. will tell you much about political
and social sentiments of the time. Clayborne Carson's edited assortment of letters,
essays, and speeches from Dr. King presents his struggles as a promoter of nonviolent
protest, the roads he walked to achieve social progress, and insight into his
King grew up in Atlanta, a relatively middle class town, which was the case
across racial divides in the community. He was taught at an early age to not
accept Jim Crow, or any other systems put in place against him. He grew to become
highly educated, going first to Morehouse College, followed by Crozer Theological
Seminary, and Boston University. During this time you see two facets that influenced
King's nonviolent perspective. The first influence is Christian ideology, by
which his family was enveloped. He often wondered (as he did later in life as
well) why this nonviolent concept was not evident in white Churches in the South.
His second nonviolent influence was Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhi's ideals of using
love for change affected King greatly, as well as his ideals of liberalism.
This led to a conflict which King soon after confronted head-on, which was essentially
faith versus politics.
When King arrived in Montgomery this conflict was at the forefront. Although
he worked as a pastor, he showed great potential to be a leader for civil rights.
This caused him to wonder which role would serve him best, and which would prove
him most intellectually sound. His place in both the Civil Rights Movement and
the Christian church would be cemented with his involvement in the NAACP and
the Alabama Council on Human Relations, and the creation of the SCLC (Southern
Christian Leadership Conference). The Montgomery Bus Boycott, however, was a
catalyst for his later successes in the movement. What is important to note
with this (and as well with his later roles) is that King progressed in an expansionary
manner, starting with Montgomery as a basis. The bus boycott was a precedent
for King's later endeavors. The nonviolent manner of the movement also set up
foreseeable difficulties. Montgomery's bus boycott was so effective in mobilizing
the black community because it defied stereotypes, and presented little ways
to counteract the local government. Oftentimes, this meant violent repercussions
for King's nonviolence. King describes his home and homes of others in the black
community being bombed by members of the Ku Klux Klan. This was followed by
arrests due to the bus boycott, and threats made to a majority of the community.
One of the biggest struggles King faced as a Civil Rights leader was this effect.
King almost always tells about the restraint practiced by those in the nonviolent
movement. Further events such as the Sit-In Movement in Atlanta, the Albany
Movement, and the Birmingham Campaign further presented the conflict of nonviolence
versus constant violent reaction.
Another catalyst for the Civil Rights Movement was the SCLC's stay in Birmingham,
Alabama. Originally, King had seen Birmingham as nearly a lost cause. King describes
Birmingham as, "A city whose fathers had apparently never heard of Abraham
Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, the Bill of Rights, the Preamble to the Constitution,
The Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments, or the 1954 decision of
the United States Supreme Court outlawing segregation in the public schools."
(Carson, 171). Needless to say, King needed help from others such as Harry Belafonte,
to gather volunteers and sufficient funds for bail bonds. What later resulted
was a famous conflict between the movement, and Eugene "Bull" Connor,
the city's commissioner of public safety. King tells that this conflict no longer
included the white community, only the government and those it employed. This
of course led to desegregation in Birmingham, which set off a chain reaction
of events later championed by Martin Luther King. The most notable event that
occurred in the aftermath of Birmingham was the March on Washington. This was
one of the first events that gathered more communities in the Civil Rights Movement.
White communities, various faiths, and even white Christian churches joined
in the March on Washington.
One of the most important concepts to gather from Martin Luther King Jr.'s
autobiography besides his works and narrative is his life's philosophy. King
talks frequently about the three largest conflicts confronting mankind: racial
injustice, war, and poverty. The conflict of racial injustice is what King is
most known for fighting against, but he also acted much against war and poverty.
Martin Luther King was heavily and decisively against the Vietnam War. This
was a stance he shared, but was ultimately criticized for. The reason for this
was his departure from the conflict of civil rights. Many people felt that he
was reaching for a topic not his own. "Peace and civil rights don't mix,"
he was once told. He even writes that a majority of the criticisms came from
the black community itself. The fact is that King's message of nonviolence transcended
civil rights, and bled into the conflict of war itself. However, this stance
was little seen because of the backlash he faced. His stance against economic
inequality, however, was acted upon. When King traveled to Chicago, his goal
was not only to assist in civil rights struggles, but also to address inherent
poverty. The difference between racism in the South and racism in the North
is that they are expressed differently. In the South (as shown by King's many
movements), racism was systematically ingrained. Jim Crow had made race a socio-political
matter, and that of the state rather than the people. In the North, racial inequality
was both social and economic. Racism was rampant in white communities as a whole,
and the black community often suffered for it in income and quality of life.
King even lived in the ghettos of Chicago to observe the wrongdoings placed
upon the communities. In this, King focused on economic assistance of the black
communities of Chicago. King also later assisted (along with the SCLC) the sanitation
workers' strike in Memphis.
Martin Luther King Jr. was ultimately a man passionate for the progression
of society in many facets. His work is not limited to that of civil rights,
but also includes nonviolence, economic equality, and ideals of liberalism.
To understand what King accomplished, you need to look at his passions, and
his worries. These concepts are those that he advanced not only in American
society, but also internationally.
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Corinne Davenport on For Freedom's Sake: The Life of Fannie Lou Hamer, by Chana Kai Lee
Fannie Lou Hamer (born Townsend) was born in Mississippi on October 6, 1917 to two sharecroppers and grew up with 14 older brothers and 5 older sisters. Growing up in rural Mississippi, Hamer was tricked in to picking cotton on a plantation when she was six years old, and by the time she was twelve she had to drop out of school completely so she could help her family make enough money to get by. This wasn't a unique story in rural Mississippi at the time, but Hamer became an extraordinary public figure because of it, inspiring people in the civil rights movement for years with her tenacity and ability to connect to people, never giving up on her community and always working to represent the interests of poor people who weren't allowed to have a voice. One of the most important things that studying Fannie Lou Hamer adds to our understanding of the 1960s and the civil rights movement is a focus on grassroots movements that were more focused on a single state or county rather than the entire country. Even in the endeavors that Hamer undertook on the national scale, like the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party's appearance at the Democratic convention in 1964, the outcome was based on local politics and demands, not national issues. When the Civil Rights Movement is discussed, it's generally through the lens of national movements, goals, and laws, but studying Hamer brings to light what grassroots movements can look like, and how they can both succeed and fail, as she faced her fair share of both outcomes.
Hamer would often tell stories of her childhood to explain why she became an activist for the poor working class, especially sharecroppers. One of these stories was from when she was 12 years old. Her family was in extreme poverty and often went through cycles of debt, but when she was 12, her family had enough money to rent some land for themselves, buy some livestock and farming equipment, buy a car, and renovate their home, all of which would allow them to finally become economically independent. The renovations meant that the Townsends had to stay elsewhere for a bit, and one of the nights they were staying in a different house, a white man put poison in the stock feed for all their livestock, so by the time the Townsends returned the following morning, all of their livestock was either dead or too sick to survive. The actions of that man, in one night, destroyed any chance the Townsends had to escape from sharecropping and debt, and this event is what prompted Hamer to leave school completely so she could help make money for her family year-round. This is one of the stories that she would tell often in at speaking events and fundraisers, and it's understandable why. Through her own experience in this one example, we can understand why Hamer focused so much on political and economic independence for sharecroppers and other poor, working class Mississippians.
One of the most important aspects of her story is that she also
brings to light the brutality black people faced in Mississippi in their everyday
lives. I fear that sometimes when classes focus on the peaceful protests and
the reactions to larger acts of solidarity, it can overshadow the violence that
people could face for doing nothing illegal, which Hamer can serve to show in
one story that she often used herself as an example of the brutality of rural
Mississippi. One day, she and a group of people were on the bus back to Ruleville
from South Carolina, and the bus driver pushed some of the members of her group
to the ground before forcing all the black passengers to board after the white
ones. As they traveled, the driver would get off the bus at every intermediate
stop and use the phone, and eventually, when they got to a stop with a short
break, they got off the bus to find a highway patrolman and sheriff. Some went
inside to get lunch and sat at the lunch counter, and the police followed them
in and harassed them. Those outside saw this and started to write down the license
plate numbers of the officers so they could report them, and this led to all
but 2 in the group getting arrested, including Hamer. After being taken to the
local prison, each member of the group was taken in to a separate cell one at
a time and beaten nearly to death. Hamer has said in interviews that as she
was being beaten, she began to hope that one of the blows to her head would
kill her so she wouldn't be able to feel the pain anymore. Injuries she and
others sustained while in that prison for a few days stayed with them for the
rest of their lives as a permanent reminder of the brutal reality of the rural
Hamer was one of the leaders of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic
Party (MFDP), which was established to challenge the white Democrats in Mississippi
who maintained their power through intimidation of people attempting to register
or vote. Although they did participate in multiple congressional elections in
Mississippi, the largest scale effort they made was at the Democratic convention
in 1964. Sixty-eight delegates from the MFDP, vice co-chaired by Hamer, travelled
to the convention to challenge the seating of the all-white delegates that had
been sent by Mississippi. Although the MFDP wanted to replace all of the delegates
sent by the state, that was never going to be on the table, but two offers were
made. One would require all the delegates, state-sent and MFDP, to sign a pledge
of loyalty to the party, and then split up the votes the delegation as a whole
would have evenly between those who did, and one from President Johnson that
would replace 2 of the state-sent 68 delegates with two specific members of
the MFDP, neither of whom was Hamer. Although the MFDP agreed that they would
only go for the first deal, they somehow gave the impression that they would
take the Johnson deal. While discussing the details of it (without Hamer present),
"Bayard Rustin asked whether the two-vote compromise might include Hamer
for seating, [Hubert] Humphrey added, 'The President will not allow that illiterate
woman to speak from the floor of the convention" (95) even though Hamer
was, of course, quite literate, a great public speaker, and a well respected
figure in Mississippi and the Civil Rights Movement as a whole. Ultimately,
this two-seat compromise was seen as a loss for the MFDP, and was quite hard
for Hamer to swallow, but she did and continued to work.
One of her last major projects that exemplifies her focus on
combatting poverty is the Freedom Farm Corporation, which was meant to help
poor black families in Sunflower County become economically independent. The
first part of this project was a "pig bank," which started with 50
pigs donated by The National Council of Negro Women. A needy family would receive
a pregnant female pig from this "bank" and take care of it until it
gave birth. The mother would be returned to the bank and when two female pigs
from the litter were pregnant, that family would donate those pigs to two families
in need. The second part involved the purchase of nearly 700 acres of land by
1971. Although they didn't, at first, have the tools or infrastructure to grow
any cash crops, by 1971 the farm began acquiring the equipment necessary to
do so, and they could keep up with expenditures, although most of the land was
always used to grow vegetables. The third part of this project was housing,
using crop revenues and small loans from banks to help families buy rather than
rent, and build affordable homes on plots of land that they purchased. The fourth
project was providing grants for students so they could keep going to school,
and the fifth was a business development plan, lending support, loans, and grants
to local small businesses to help them get started or keep going and serving
as a referral service that helped unemployed people find work. Membership at
the farm cost a dollar a month, but no one who couldn't afford this was ever
turned down when requesting services.
Although Hamer participated in and experienced so much more
than these few examples, I feel that they show her specific role in our study
of the '60s and the Civil Rights Movement. She worked for decades as an advocate
for the worst off in the deeply racist and violent rural South, and no matter
how many losses she seemed to face, she continued to work hard and help people
around her. It adds nuance to how we see success and failure in the era and
movement. Sure, the MFDP didn't achieve its goal in 1964 and it made the party
lose steam, but the Freedom Farm and other anti-poverty organizations that Hamer
was a part of helped families across her county and state, and raised awareness
through her fundraising tours across the country, having a very positive impact
on lives everywhere in the United States, at times quite directly. She shows
the power of local activism and that you don't need to win every battle, but
help as many people as possible as you keep fighting them.
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Wyatt Button on Soledad Brother: The Prison Letters of George Jackson
George Jackson was born in Chicago in 1941, the second-born of five children. As a youth, he spent time in and out of juvenile correctional facilities, charged with burglary, assault, and armed robbery. At the age of eighteen, he was arrested and charged with the armed robbery of a gas station, accused of stealing $70. Though there was little evidence against Jackson, his lawyer convinced him to plead guilty, as his previous criminal record would ensure he'd be convicted. With this, he was sentenced to one year to life in prison. He would remain incarcerated until his killing, one month shy of his thirtieth birthday. Seven and a half of his years in prison were spent in solitary confinement. While incarcerated, George educated himself, formulating ideas of revolution, and language that he could only express through letters he wrote back home; letters that were compiled into the book Soledad Brother: The Prison Letters of George Jackson. The letters published begin in the year 1964. All previous letters were destroyed, as he believed they were too overtly bitter, and unaligned with the message and mindset he wanted expressed.
George Jackson and Jonathan Jackson were two men who dedicated their lives, for better or worse, towards the Black Power Movement, and the liberation of black people. Both men were connected with Black Power organizations. Both men were killed by legal authorities. On August 7th, 1970, George Jackson's seventeen-year-old brother, Jonathan, was killed in the Marin County Courthouse Incident, an incident in which Jonathan attempted to kidnap Superior Court judge Harold Haley, in order to coerce the release of the Soledad brothers, a group of three African American men accused of murdering a white prison guard at California's Soledad Prison. One of these men was Jonathan's older brother, twenty-eight-year-old George Jackson. The prosecution claimed that the three men killed the guard in retaliation for another officer's killing of three black prisoners a few days prior.
During the courthouse siege, Jonathan armed three black convicts who were being held in the courthouse. Together, they took five hostages, demanding that the Soledad Brothers be released in thirty minutes. The ensuing shootout between the police and kidnappers led to four deaths, including Jonathan's. George's letter home following the event recognized his brother's nobility, reading, "I want people to wonder at what ones created him, terrible, vindictive, cold, calm man-child, courage in one hand, the machine gun in the other, scourge of the unrighteous." He goes on to say "it's just not popular or safe-to say I love him."
Jackson wrote of his experiences in the prison system as one familiar to his people, writing in one letter, "Blackmen born in the US and fortunate enough to live past the age of eighteen are conditioned to accept the inevitability of prison." In this, he refers to both himself, and his brother, he, being incarcerated at the age of eighteen, and his brother killed at the age of seventeen. "Being born a slave in a captive society and never experiencing any objective basis for expectation had the effect of preparing me for the progressively traumatic misfortunes that lead so many blackmen to the prison gate. I was prepared for prison. It required only minor psychic adjustments." In this he brings his experience into the large scope of the common trauma experienced by the large population of black people in the United States. Having been brought to this country in chains, kept in chains for two hundred years, and then remaining in chains under the legal system of the United States, Jackson presents the concept of familiarity, connecting his own experience to the overall experience of the American black person.
It is clear in the letters how Jackson spoke differently to the different people he wrote to. When writing to his mother, Jackson spoke with a sensitivity and optimism that he rarely expressed when writing to people like his comrades of the Black Power Movement. Writing to his mother, he typically ended his letters with a positive, or comforting closer, like "You don't know it but there is a better life...Believe me there is a better life." In another letter, he asks his mother if she could learn to play chess, so they could play together during one of her visits. He recognized his mother's understanding of the greater injustice towards black people, and was not afraid to express that towards her, sometimes expressing what he had come to terms with regarding their history. "Isolated as we were, or are, from our land, our roots, and our institutions, no group of men have ever been so thoroughly terrorized, dehumanized, and divested of those things that from birth make men strong." These strong words connect to the greater problem, rather than directing her attention towards the mistreatments against himself. In one letter to another in his family, Jackson wrote "Take care of yourself, Pop. Comfort Mom as well as you can and tell her I'm all right, healthy, happy, content. Of course, this is a lie, but she likes to be lied to." Jackson was much more intimately expressive with his friends, and brother. His mistreatment in prison, including regular harassment from the guards, physical abuse, mail interception, money interception, food withholding, and the stealing of his possessions are written of. He writes of the systematic destruction of the black psyche, writing "The broken men are so damaged that they will never again be suitable members of any sort of social unit since in every instance they are sent out of the prison more damaged physically and mentally than when they entered." It is a description of the system of government-mandated oppression of black people, both in and out of the prison system. The economic and educational repression forced him to act the way he did before he was incarcerated, as it did for so many people.
George Jackson held the reputation as a revolutionary within prison walls,
as a prison activist, and founder of the Black Guerrilla Family, an African-American
Marxist Leninist revolutionary organization that still exists within prison
walls today, connected with nearly 50,000 current and former prisoners. His
frustration developed further upon the killing of his brother, and it is believed
that from that time, he began devising an escape attempt. George Jackson was
shot to death by a tower guard on August 21st, 1971, during this stated escape
attempt, but as writer James Baldwin wrote, "No black person will ever
believe that George Jackson died the way they tell us he did."
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Pilar Beddall on Johanna Brand, The
Life and Death of Anna Mae Aquash
The sixties were a time of social upheaval and resistance in the United States. The governments response to these movements was almost as significant to the movements themselves. Anna Mae Aquashs body was found on February 24, 1976, on the side of state road 73 by Robert Amiotte. At the scene the young doctor on site noticed a wound to the back of the head, indicating that she did not die of natural causes. However, the initial autopsy performed by Dr. W. O. Brown determined that she had died of exposure less than two weeks before being found. He then severed her hands and sent them to the FBI headquarters to be fingerprinted. At the time Aquash had yet to be identified and law enforcement encouraged that she be buried in an unmarked grave before the death certificate was completed. So in early march, Anna Mae was buried in an unmarked grave in a Catholic ceremony. (Anna Mae practiced Indian religion and hated churches.) A few days later her body was identified by fingerprints and her family was notified. However when Candy Hamilton from the Wounded Knee Legal Defense/Offense Committee (WKLDOC) called to inquire after the identity of the body, she was told it had yet to be identified. The description Hamilton was given of the woman was nothing like Anna Mae. Later that day, however, the news broke that the body found on the side of the road was Anna Mae Aquash.
Immediately Aquashs friends sprang into action to find out what had actually happened to her. They ordered her body exhumed in order for a second autopsy to be performed. When Brown performed the first autopsy he only took X-Rays of her jaw, prompting many to believe that he had missed something. The second autopsy was done by Dr. Gary Peterson, who noticed immediately after observing the body that there was a bulge in her left temple and dried blood in her hair. The bulge turned out to be a .32 caliber bullet. Anna Mae Aquash had been shot in the back of the head at close range, execution style. A more detailed examination of the body revealed that, not only had Dr. Brown not noted the bullet wound, he also had not examined most of her organs. Instead he put false measurements on the report. He lied about the contents of her stomach, he had not checked, as well as her kidneys. And he even noted her appendix being present and healthy, it was not present. All this is to say that the FBI had no interest in giving an Indian woman their due diligence, let alone one whose death they may have had a hand in.
The unfortunate death of Anna Mae Aquash and the subsequent
mishandling of the case by the authorities was a microcosm of the experiences
of many activists at the time. We now know that Aquash was killed by men associated
with the American Indian Movement (AIM) of which she was an important member
and organizer. However, many still suspect that the FBI had been the ones to
spread rumors of her being an informant in order for the movement to have reason
to get rid of her. The FBI had long been harassing and otherwise targeting activists
who they saw as posing a threat to them. A month before Dr. Martin Luther King
Jr. was scheduled to receive his Nobel Prize, he received a package with alleged
secret recordings from his hotel room. The note on it advised him to kill himself
before the award ceremony, or they would be released to the public and he would
wish he had. In May of 1976 the Socialist Workers Party submitted evidence in
a suit against the FBI, showing that the bureau had burgalled their offices
over 70 times in 6 years. They also showed that the FBI had infiltrated their
ranks with multiple informants, specially trained to weaken the organization.
They did the same to the American Indian Movement. Douglass Durham dyed his
hair black and wore colored contacts in order to fit in with the other members
of AIM. He worked his way up to important leadership roles in the movement all
while sabotaging different chapters. Among the female members of the movement
he was known to be a creep, and Anna Mae especially took issue with him. In
1975 he revealed that he was an informant. That information rocked the movement,
and perhaps increased suspicions of others.
Anna Mae Aquash was a very capable organizer and a very well-liked woman. However, she had been arrested twice and let go each time. She was also rumored to have heard Leonard Peltier admit to killing the FBI agents. Some in the movement believed she was likely an informant just as Durham had been, and that she would testify against Peltier. In my opinion the FBI were behind those rumors. Aquash was capable of making real progress within the movement and had many people supporting her. Her death at the hands of suspicious AIM members may have been somewhat unremarkable had the FBI not been so keen to cover it up. Their interest in not only her death, but her disappearance leads me to believe that they had invested interest in preventing her martyrdom and work.
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Amaya Demick on Leonard Peltier, Prison Writings: My Life Is My Sun Dance
"When the oppressors succeed with their illegal thefts and depredations, it's called colonialism. When their efforts to colonize indigenous peoples are met with resistance or anything abject surrender, it's called war. When the colonized peoples attempt to resist their oppression and defend themselves, we're called criminals" (44) Throughout this year we've been reading about how different groups of minorities are being oppressed, most commonly by the white man. During the first semester we mostly focused on the Third World Movement, but this semester we've turned our eyes towards the '60s in the United States. When most think of the Freedom Movement, their first idea is of the Black Freedom Movement. However, there were actually several different minority groups fighting for their rights at this time as well. One of them is Native Americans.
Now, I think it's safe to say that Native Americans were the first people in America to be oppressed. From the second that the pilgrims set their feet upon America's soil the fate of the Native Americans was sealed. I think that a lot of US History books do a bad job of telling Native American history, for an obvious reason--the US government doesn't want people knowing of all the injustices that Native Americans have had to face at the hands of the government. Native Americans today have such tiny percentages of the land that they used to own because the government has come in time and time again to take the land that they were promised. And you see, it wasn't even just the land. The US has managed to infiltrate every aspect of Native American culture and leach--whether it be the conversion schools they forced Native American children to attend, the resources beneath Native American land (uranium, especially), or maybe even the literal bodies of their ancestors, which would be taken and paraded around on display in a museum. The US Government does not care about Native Americans. They've made it clear from the very beginning that they view Native Americans as nothing more than a nuisance, and when they actually try to fight back for their rights, they're regarded to as 'dangerously revolutionary.'
Now, why is this, you might ask? Why would the government be so afraid of these
people if all they've done was try to protect what was theirs? Well, dear reader,
that would be because the government is comprised of rich (typically white)
people that care about other rich white people--not poor brown people. So, when
these poor brown people begin to fight back and demand their rights, the rich
white people want to do everything in their power to make sure that the poor
brown people don't mess anything up for them. Another huge reason for their
animosity would be the fact that they want to make money, and one way to do
that is via land--the American Dream, Manifest Destiny, whatever you want to
call it. One way that they can use the land is through building buildings/using
it as crop fields, but another, more prevalent reason is the fact that a lot
of these reservations are based atop of rich oil/mineral deposits, and you know
how America gets when oil is involved.
So, obviously Native Americans are going to fight back. Because of this, several different groups/organizations formed, but at the forefront perhaps was AIM (the American Indian Movement). Leonard Peltier, author of Prison Writings: My Life Is My Sun Dance, was one of the leaders of this movement. It's so clear to see through his writing just how much he cares about his people, his religion, his culture. And, as easy as it is to see that, it's just as easy to see how much pain he is in because of the way that the government is treating them. In 1977, Leonard Peltier was convicted of 2 counts of murder and sentenced to prison for 2 lifetimes plus 7 years. A decade later the FBI admitted they didn't have proof that Peltier committed the crime, leading them to instead charge him with aiding and abetting--despite the fact that they couldn't even prove who the murderer was/how Peltier would have a connection to them. Peltier is still in prison to this day. It has been 43 years and this innocent man is still behind bars. And you wanna know why?
It's because he's a Native American. If there's anything that you could take away from this course, it's the fact that oppressors view brown people as less than them and thus treat them as if they're nothing but mere stepping stools. If Leonard Peltier had been a white man he probably wouldn't have even been found guilty, much less be made to stay behind bars for their rest of their lives. But, because Peltier is a brown person that advocates for other brown people, the government wants to take him out. Because, after all, that's a "dangerously revolutionary" desire.
Overall, this book added a couple different facets to my knowledge of the '60s.
While I realize that, yes, obviously Native Americans were still fighting for
their rights back then, they also made a huge movement (AIM) just as the other
minority groups did (Black Panthers, Young Lords Party, etc.) It was nice to
see that Native Americans were also actively taking a stand for themselves--it
makes recognize that the Freedom Movement wasn't just about one set minority
group; everyone was riding that wave. Also, the prison system in America sucks.
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Jamie Taylor on Valerie Solanas: The Defiant Life of the Woman Who Wrote SCUM (and Shot Andy Warhol), by Breanne Fahs
In the book Valerie Solanas by Breanne Fahs, radical artist Valerie
Solanas's life and work is explored. To understand her subject, Fahs pieces
together leftover papers, works, and interviews with people who knew Valerie.
Mostly known for shooting Andy Warhol, Valerie also wrote SCUM Manifesto
in the mid-1960s to outline her beliefs. She believed all the problems in the
world had been caused by men, and that the solution to all the issues in the
world was to destroy the male race. Though she wrote highly of the female gender,
she did not consider herself a feminist by any means. Throughout her life, Valerie
was always seen as an outsiders even within the "outside crowd." The
isolation, loneliness, and mistreatment ultimately led her to a time of paranoia,
anger, paranoia, and mental illness. Valerie Solanas relates to our class about
the 1960s because her story gives us a unique angle of radical politics and
Between the years 1965 and '67, Valerie began to write SCUM Manifesto. It is a piece of satirical writing expressing the ideology that men have ruined the world, and women have to fix it by eliminating the male gender. Solanas didn't hate men, but she felt they were inferior to women. The manifesto covers many topics related to sexism and the institutions that limit women. Fahs cites the creation of the manifesto: "If SCUM Manifesto is mad, it bubbles from a collective madness brewing in many women, not just Valerie" (65). Solanas believed that men and their selfishness had ruined the world, and the only way to restore it was for women to be in charge. She also saw the need for and predicted the advancement of women's being able to procreate without men. Along with the manifesto, Valerie created forums to attract women to read it and follow its ideology. However, these forums generally attracted a different g crowd than what she was looking for. Within SCUM, Valerie created a men's auxiliary, a place for men who followed the beliefs of SCUM. This book demonstrates the frustration women had during the 1960s and the role of radical feminism within this decade. Valerie's creation of SCUM pushes forward the point which radical feminism was created. Other works written by Valerie include Up Your Ass, a play she wrote that is filled with disturbing language and antoi-male satire. Valerie spent a great deal of time attempting to get the work onto the stage, but could find no producer willing to create something so vulgar.
Valerie spent a lot of time attempting to get both of these works published. Originally she self published it by mimeographing copies and selling it to independent bookstores and to people on the streets. While trying to get Up Your Ass produced, she met a publisher by the name Maurice Girodias. She signed a book deal with him for a novel, then tried to publish her manifesto in its place. She became convinced that by signing the contract she had signed away her rights to her work. She became very paranoid over this and ultimately turned against Maurice. She also became convinced that Maurice had sold the rights to Andy Warhol, who had previously agreed to produce her play before changing his mind, which was one of the factors that led to her shooting Warhol. After the shooting took place, the public became very intrigued about who Valerie Solanas was. Maurice published SCUM Manifesto after making unauthorized changes which infuriated Valerie, including the statement that SCUM stood for Society for Cutting Up Men (Solanas later stated SCUM was state of mind rather an abbreviation). The publication of SCUM spread through the radical women movement like a forest fire. After reading the manifesto, Ti-Grace Atkinson, an activist who helped to establish the radical women's movement, became convinced Valerie was a symbol of anger women everywhere
The National Organization for Women (NOW) was formed in 1966 in response to the inequality and sexism women faced every day. The day before Valerie's shooting, Ti-Grace had received a copy of Valeries manifesto. When she heard of the shooting the next day, she and fellow activists and civil rights lawyer Florynce Kennedy (nicknamed Flo) became heavily involved with Valerie's case. At the time, feminism was a rising concept. Women were scared to express anger towards male figures. After reading her manifesto, Atkinson became interested in making Valerie a symbol of the radical feminist movement. Valerie had no problem standing up for herself against males and Ti-Grace thought that she represented the anger women had. Along with offering pro bono legal aid, Atkinson also supplied her with money and stamps and offered much support and empathy to her. Valerie refused those who offered her help and pushed back against Ti-Grace. In many letters to multiple people, Valerie attacked her. Valerie Solanas was one of many issues that created a rift within NOW. The radical feminists of the group wanted to help all women, especially Valerie, whom they saw as a political prisoner. The liberal feminists of NOW wanted nothing to do with her and resisted offering help. The movement also became divided over many other issues, including martial rape and abortions, and how to approach them, which ultimately left to Ti-Grace Atkinson's resignation from NOW.
Atkinson and many other radical feminists regarded SCUM Manifesto as "one of the most influential tests of radical feminism." Roxanne Dunbar started a radical organization called Cell 16 that followed the Manifesto as its guide. Radical feminists saw Valerie's work and theories as firm criticism of the patriarchy while others saw them as a the stuff of a bad rep for feminism. Valerie had no interest in participating in the feminist movement, and wouldn't consider herself a feminist. Still, many radical activists hailed her as a hero for the writing of the book. When asked why she shot Andy, she replied "He had too much control over my life" (163). Eventually Valerie turned on the radical women's movement, something she had never considered herself a part of. As Fahs writes, "Although the SCUM Manifesto was influential, Valerie Solanas was never in the movement, either creating or building. She was an outsider, at most an admired one, and her action against Warhol was an individual action" (290). The manifesto had a large impact on the movement however, and many new radical organizations formed around its ideology.
Valerie Solanas's life as a writer and artist fits into our class because her manifesto allowed women to express the anger the patriarchy had caused them. Our class this semester has focused on the movements and politics in America during the 1960s. Valerie's writing had a large impact on radical feminism. This book helps our understanding of the 1960s because it allows us to enter the minds of women who were tired of the way they were being treated. SCUM represented a wave of women who were tired of being pushed around and tired of not being aloud to get angry. Radical feminists endorsed Valerie's manifesto so heavily because it was a radical notion that grabbed attention. In relation to our class, we study many movements that reach a point of frustration. The political change is slow, as is the social and the groups of minorities fighting for their rights become angry at the lack of change. Although it was not her direct intention, Valerie Solanas spoke out in angerthat in turn represented a wave of angry women who were tired of being forced to stay quiet.
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Peyton Kullander on Outlaw Woman: A Memoir of the War Years, 1960-1975, by Roxanne Dunbar Ortiz
Outlaw Woman: A Memoir of the War Years, 1960-1975, by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz,
details Dunbar-Ortiz's life of activism, starting with her gaining consciousness
after starting college in San Francisco. Dunbar-Ortiz spent her undergraduate
years getting involved with the Civil Rights Movement, and the anti-war movement,
all while gaining an anti-imperialist, anti-capitalist, anti-racist perspective.
While she noted the discrepancies between men and women and dreaded her marriage,
it wasn't until she read S.C.U.M Manifesto by Valerie Solanas and became
intrigued with the Solanas that she became invested in Women's Liberation. She
then founded a radical feminist group, originally called Female Liberation,
then Cell 16, headquartered in Boston. The most intriguing part of her memoir
is her description of these years, and her getting more and more involved in
One of the most pertinent aspects of her memoir is the struggle of the radical feminist movement to reconcile with other forms of activism. During her time as a mainly feminist activist, Dunbar-Ortiz thought of women's liberation as absolutely necessary for any revolution (see her pamphlet Female Liberation as the Basis for Social Revolution) and blamed the failure of other revolutions on the lack of freedom for women. She thought that it was because women weren't allowed to be at the frontlines, and the fact that the family unit (the most basic suppressive structure) still existed that the other revolutions failed.
Much of the memoir discusses her trying to get other activists on board with a women's-liberation-first campaign, but the effort ultimately failed due to perceptions of the women's liberation movement as a white, middle-class movement. Despite Dunbar-Ortiz's coming from a working-class family in Oklahoma and her being part Native American, that perception still prevailed, and other activist groups thought of women's liberation as racist and apologetic for imperialism. Even Dunbar-Ortiz struggled with her own movement, as she found that, after she had periodically left Cell 16, their magazine No More Fun and Games lacked any pieces having to do with the anti-imperialist, anti-racist struggle. This eventually led Dunbar-Ortiz not to leave the women's liberation movement altogether, but rather to put it on the backburner when compared to her activism not directly related to feminism.
This account of the radical feminist movement's failure to continuously fight
for other aspects of The Movement, and the lack of recognition that radical
feminism got when it actively supported other social issues adds the most to
our understanding of the Sixties. It is easy to perceive that women's liberation
ly served only to split the movement further than it had only been split, despite
the fact that much of the original theory was in support of other social issues,
and even contextualized the fall of imperialism and the institution of socialism
in the United States within a feminist framework. The writing off of the radical
feminist movement by other activists was often ill-educated and based off misunderstanding.
Outlaw Woman also adds to our understanding of feminist movements. Almost all feminist movements form out of women's discontent with male chauvinism within individual movements, and while the same is true of the radical feminist movement, radical feminism differs greatly from these other feminisms due to its placement of female liberation at its forefront. While other feminisms, such as black feminism, Chicana feminism, and socialist feminism, almost acted as add-ons to the movements in which they originated--like women's liberation through black liberation and fighting for both women's rights and black rights at the same time--radical feminism was different in that it placed women's liberation at the forefront, flipping the script of "[black] movement first, then women's liberation" (169). Radical feminism, while still deeply entrenched in other social movements, appears to have been the only feminism solely about feminism, aside from the mainstream women's liberation movement, which had already been discredited by many activists as middle-class and white.
This understanding of the role of radical feminism within the context of other social movements, especially other feminisms, is crucial to our understanding of activism in the Sixties. Radical feminism sought to change the way women's liberation is viewed in the context of other forms of activism, not as an add-on, not even as an equal aspect of a larger movement, but as paramount to the end of western imperialism and capitalism.
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Lillian Silver on Tales of the Lavender Menace: A Memoir of Liberation, by Karla Jay
"The struggle for liberation was now more important to me than my personal well-being. As Gandhi had put it, to find something to live for, people have to find something they are willing to die for. I had found not just one, but two causes-- women's liberation and gay liberation. I knew that the day I stopped organizing and protesting because I was afraid, I would already be admitting defeat." -- Karla Jay, Tales of the Lavender Menace
Tales of the Lavender Menace is a memoir of the radical lesbian feminist
Karla Jay. She was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, and attended Barnard
College from 1964 to 1968. She wasn't always the radical lesbian feminist that
she became later in life. For most of her time at college, she remained in the
closet and was fairly apolitical. She always identified with feminist ideals,
but she also had many reservations about becoming a full-fledged "feminist"
or "activist." It wasn't until she witnessed the student protests
at Columbia University in spring 1968 and the brutal police action taken against
the students that she decided she could no longer maintain an apolitical mindset.
She joined a feminist organization called the Redstockings in 1969, where she
met with many radical feminists in the New York City area. Karla was still struggling
significantly with her sexuality, and there was no support given from the Women's
Liberation Movement that she was now a part of. A significant theme I noticed
throughout Tales of the Lavender Menace was the feeling of not belonging.
Jay joined the Women's Liberation Movement because she felt oppressed by mainstream
patriarchal society. In this movement, she felt like she belonged because the
women in this group all faced the same struggles. But within a group that was
supposed to be "pro-women," she was an outcast because she was a lesbian.
There was extreme homophobia within the Women's Liberation Movement. Straight
women in the movement saw lesbianism as taking away from the significance of
women's liberation. Leading feminist Betty Friedan of the National Organization
for Women (NOW) was extremely homophobic and claimed that lesbians were a threat
to the feminist movement because they distracted from the goals of the movement.
Karla also joined the Gay Liberation Front, where she was more accepted as a
lesbian, but still felt as though she wasn't being treated fairly by the majority
of gay men in the GLF. It wasn't until she helped form "Radicalesbians"
in 1970 that she felt she was finally valued as her whole self.
Karla was involved in a lot of activism in the late 1960s and 1970s. She was
involved in the Gay Liberation Front from the very beginning, she helped plan
many of the politically driven dances that the GLF hosted in gay bars around
the city. Many thought these dances were useless, but Jay supported them stating
dancing with someone of the same gender was a political act, because it was
illegal at the time. There are several big actions that Karla was a part of
in the late sixties and seventies. One of the first was the zap of Rat
and the Ladies' Home Journal. Rat was a leftist publication that
Karla wrote and edited for when she had time. The publication did touch upon
feminist and gay issues, but it was run by an all-male group of activists who
had no consciousness of their own sexism. The women who worked for the publication
had little to no part in writing. In January of 1970, a collective of women
including Jay took over the Rat, converting it into an extremely feminist
publication. While Jay was writing for the Rat about feminist issues
she was also participating in the feminist sit-in at the Ladies' Home Journal.
Jay took part in organizing the sit-in to demand changes for the women's magazine.
This was a popular female magazine at the time that was written and edited exclusively
by white men. The list of demands was as follows: 1. John Mack Carter (chief
editor of the magazine) had to be replaced by a woman. 2. Women would fill all
positions as editors, staff people, and writers. 3. Black editorial workers
had to be hired in proportion to the Black leadership. 5. The magazine had to
agree to eliminate degrading advertising and columns. 6. An entire issue of
the magazine, to be renamed the Women's Home Journal, would be written
and edited by Media Women ( a group that Karla worked with). The sit-in was
successful although not all the demands were met. Karla was instrumental in
getting a whole issue of the journal dedicated to feminist issues.
Karla also organized and participated in an action that she coined "The First National Ogle-In." This was in response to a woman that caught media attention by being harassed on Wall Street by white businessmen. The ogle-in was a protest that turned men's harassment of women in the streets back on themselves. Jay and many other of her feminist friends from the Redstockings and the GLF went to Wall Street before the stock exchanges opened and followed men on the street around and whistled at them, made comments about their bodies, and hugged men against their will. The men were horrified, and the ogle-in caught media attention, making it a success for Jay and the feminist movement. Karla was also a part of writing and editing the pioneering anthology, Out of the Closets, with Allen Young. This was one the first books of its kind and gave a voice to Radicalesbians, and many queer activists and writers.
One of Jay's biggest contributions to radical feminism and lesbianism in 1970 was the Lavender Menace zap. On May 1st, 1970 Jay and over 40 other lesbians formed a group to protest at the Second Congress to Unite Women, an event run by NOW that was openly anti-lesbian, and would ignore lesbian issues. Karla and the other lesbians formed what they called Lavender Menace. They wrote a manifesto called "Woman-Identified Woman" which called for lesbian pride. The group embraced the term Lavender Menace, which is what Betty Friedan called lesbians in the Women's Liberation Movement. The group created shirts, sporting the name Lavender Menace, and they created signs with slogans such as "TAKE A LESBIAN TO LUNCH!," "WOMEN'S LIBERATION IS A LESBIAN PLOT," and "SUPERDYKE LOVES YOU!" Then, on May 1st, they pulled the plug on the planned agenda for the Second Congress to Unite Women. One of the members of Lavender Menace cut out the lights and the microphone, and when the lights came back on there were Lavender Menace members filling the aisles. Karla was planted in the audience, stood up and screamed, "Yes, Yes, sisters! I'm tired of being in the closet because of the women's movement." She then ripped off her blouse and revealed her own Lavender Menace t-shirt. There was then an open discussion about lesbian inclusion and representation in the Women's Movement. The group changed their name after this action and Jay was one of the founding members of the Radicalesbians. This zap was one of the most successful actions of radicalesbian feminists and was a major turning point within the second wave of feminism in the United States.
Jay is an extremely important figure in lesbian and feminist history and deserves much more credit than she is given. Her journey through life is so relatable to queer individuals even today. She struggled with her sexual identity for a long time, but preserved and came out of the closet a strong, educated, and inspiring lesbian activist. She was involved in almost all of the revolutionary action of radical feminists and the Gay Liberation Movement. All of her contributions to the feminist and lesbian communities have been so impactful for each movement and without her work, lesbian feminism would not be what it is today.
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Jo Barber on Midlife Queer: Autobiography of a Decade, 1971-1981, by Martin Duberman
Martin Duberman is a historian, professor, playwright, activist and member
of the gay community. While he came out midway into his life, Duberman took
no time to question whether or not he should participate in the gay and lesbian
liberation movement. As an academic, Duberman shows the perspective and experiences
of a gay man in a more formal setting such as that of academia. In Duberman's
autobiography Midlife Queer, there are several chapters centered on gay
life and activism within academia. Because it is an autobiography and not strictly
about his involvement in the gay liberation movement, there are also chapters
more centered on different therapies Duberman tried out-not to change who he
was, but to better understand who he was. He also discusses his health issues
at the time and how they helped him get back to his activism.
The first political group Duberman mentions is the Gay Academic Union, or the
GAU. The GAU was founded in 1973 and served to protect the rights of openly
lesbian and gay students and faculty on campuses. Their focus was on the needed
areas of research on homosexuality, and starting courses in gay and lesbian
studies. The GAU would hold an annual conference to shed light on the mistreatment
of gay and lesbian members of academia as well as to bring these members together.
Despite the large number of members who joined in these conferences, a larger
number of gay academics remained closeted in fear of the consequences caused
by coming out. Duberman claimed that the GAU was placed at the forefront of
a far-reaching revolution to re-characterize human sexuality. Despite efforts
from more radical members, such as Duberman himself, the conservative side of
the group became more prominent. This in turn pushed the lesbians in the group
further to the margins than they already were. Many female members of the GAU
became fed up with the already patriarchal set-up of the group and the increasing
conservatism made them feel even less heard and acknowledged and led most of
them to believe more strongly in lesbian separatism. By 1975, Duberman had moved
himself to the sidelines of the GAU and eventually left the group altogether.
In 1973, during the formation of the GAU, Duberman was offered a place on the
board for the National Gay Task Force (NGTF). The NGTF emerged from growing
dissatisfaction with leaders of the Gay Activists Alliance (GAA). The GAA held
many militant street confrontations on behalf of gay civil rights, fair housing,
and job equity but because of their lack of actual action, many members felt
as though nothing was really being done. The NGTF founders were known as "incremental
pragmatists" because of their ability to listen to opposing views without
growing angry or impatient. Duberman's only initial doubt about the NGTF was
that it was too much "in the liberal, reformist mode: 'let us in' rather
than 'let us show you new possibilities'" (66). Despite these doubts, the
NGTF was able to accomplish quite a few things, even if they had loopholes one
could get around. Examples include the first introduction into Congress of a
federal gay civil rights bill in 1974. Though this had no chance of passing,
it gave hope which eventually sparked the ruling of the 1975 US Civil Service
Commission that homosexual applicants for federal jobs would no longer be automatically
disqualified and the 1977 State Department institution of a policy which would
allow all gay applicants to be considered for jobs on a case-by-case basis.
Despite all of the progress made while in these two organizations, Duberman
retired from his activism in 1977.
Because of a lack of other things to occupy him, Duberman went on a journey
of self discovery. He began with LSD Therapy which ultimately terrified him
and used pressure of him not 'being a real man' to have him take more drugs.
The experience was overall not very helpful to him but allowed him to say goodbye
to his father who had died much earlier in his life. The next journey he went
on was that of theatre. Duberman began writing plays in the 60s but had turned
off of it to focus on his activism and his job. His plays were often turned
down for production because they 'weren't what the production company was looking
for' but in truth it was often because his plays contained gay themes and characters.
After a second stint in theatre, Duberman turned once again to alternative medicine.
This time it came in the form of bioenergetics. He encountered Dr. Pierrakos,
who had been recommended by a friend and who ultimately made Duberman perform
humiliating acts to get him to a breakthrough. Following therapy sessions with
the bioenergetics doctors, he decided on a Ten Day intensive. The intensive
involved concentrated "self-exploration," very intense visions and
roleplaying scenarios. He was eventually told during this intensive that his
involvement in politics was taking away from his attention to himself and that
his activism was useless. He was also told that being gay was much harder and
that it would move against his needs for multiple outlets. After this intensive,
Duberman decided to stop believing anything he was told by a doctor or other
Following this time of experimentation, Duberman began to feel symptoms of
a heart attack but was told by several doctors that he was in too good of shape
to be having a heart attack. Finally, he was admitted into the ICU where he
was monitored by the best doctor and was put in a room with a gay, working-class,
ironworker who had been laid off and had no insurance. Through his new roommate,
Duberman became aware of how difficult it was for lower-class gays. His roommate,
Grabinski, also helped Duberman realize that he had been feeling empty hearted
because he had left behind his passion for politics and activism.
Through the GAU's focus on reeducation and education in general about what it meant to be queer and the history of queerness, this aspect of the movement greatly resembled many other movements also happening at the time. Also, as in other movements, women were often overshadowed and turned to separatism because of the ever-present sexism in the 60s. Even Duberman's various medical treatments reflect the treatment of queer people during the time period. At some point during all of his medical experiments, Duberman faced someone who told him that being gay would be much harder on him than being straight and that his activism had a negative effect on his life.
Overall, Duberman's contribution to our understanding of the long sixties is
pretty significant. He offers a perspective which we have not yet seen very
well through our class readings: the academic perspective. As a daughter of
two academics, I have grown up in the academic world so it was especially interesting
to read about past struggles within the community. With Duberman's involvement
in the GAU, NGTF and various other organizations and movements, he was able
to create a sense of togetherness amongst a group of people who could quite
easily have been persecuted for something like coming out if they weren't in
high standing, a full professor, and tenured. While this is a very privileged
group of people, it is important to understand the struggles faced by those
in such social classes.
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Jocelyn Ksenak on My Dangerous Desires: A Queer Girl Dreaming Her Way Home, by Amber Hollibaugh
Amber Hollibaugh identifies herself as a femme, working-class, communist, lesbian, sex worker, and activist who came from poverty and struggled with the interaction of each of those aspects of her identity. Given her social and economic status, Amber never felt that stories like hers were supposed to be told in a country that values only "normal" ways of life. She then realized just how important it was for people to know about her struggles and experiences, because many people were experiencing those very things and did not have the information to support themselves. The general message Hollibaugh gets across in this book is that desire is dangerous, and that it is risky to say what you want when your society revolves around middle-class, white heterosexuals. It is simply unsafe to stray outside of the image that is expected of you and Hollibaugh learned that through years of fear, trauma, and self-discovery.
Hollibaugh grew up in poverty in Bakersfield, California, under traumatic conditions.
She was physically abused by her mother, receiving daily whippings from a young
age. She was also sexually abused by her father and each parent overlooked the
other's wrongdoings. She would hide in a crawlspace, waiting for the tension
in her home to pass. She found comfort in reading and would read whenever she
could, which was difficult given their financial situation. She saw books as
an escape from her home life and they helped her realize that her current reality
did not have to be permanent. When Hollibaugh was a teenager, her mother sent
her to boarding school in Switzerland. She felt like an outsider there among
all the rich, educationally experienced scholars. Soon after returning from
boarding school, Amber left home with the realization that there were indeed
opportunities in the world for her.
Hollibaugh became involved in and worked for several organizations and movements
such as the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), the Black Panther
Party, and the feminist movement, and she helped launch the Lesbian AIDS Project
while simultaneously pursuing sex work at night. There was a lack of intersectionality
among all these movements, which made it extremely difficult for Amber to balance
her involvement in each cause as well as accept her own identity as a femme
woman and as a working-class lesbian.
The feminist movement failed to address women's sexuality except when it related
to men or in a political sense. Hollibaugh believed the feminist movement needed
to pay attention to all sexual issues and promote sexual freedom. In one of
Hollibaugh's interviews, Gayle Rubin says "When women can have sex without
losing their chance of economic security, without necessarily having to bear
children, without losing their chances to go to school, without taking a lot
of risks, then I think we'll have a different attitude toward it" (159).
Women are taught to be afraid of sex, and society and life itself enforces that
belief. Being a sex worker was also not accepted in the feminist circle. It
was seen as an action against feminism when, really, Amber claimed that when
she became a sex worker she felt power over men for the first time. Overall,
the feminist movement was homophobic, and the gay liberation movement was sexist
and Hollibaugh felt like an outsider in her own identity groups.
Hollibaugh was also deeply involved in AIDS activism for lesbians. She was
the director of the Lesbian AIDS Project, helping to spread awareness about
the disease occurring in queer women. Most people at the time only thought of
AIDS as a gay male issue. But in reality, lesbians can transmit the disease
as well through unprotected sex and through sharing needles in drug use. People
would say "real lesbians don't get AIDS" because to them, that implied
they must be sleeping with men (204). Hollibaugh worked at several AIDS organizations
throughout her career and when she wasn't employed, she was an AIDS activist.
In 1978, Hollibaugh attempted suicide after a San Francisco Gay Pride March.
The gay liberation movement had felt so exclusive of her own identity, one that
was supposed to be accepted and praised along with all of the other queer people.
She felt that her sexuality, although queer, had no place in the current sexual
politics. After feeling so helpless in a movement that was supposed to empower
and include people like her, she wanted to make sure no one else felt that way.
After Hollibaugh's identity as a femme lesbian was suppressed for so long in
the feminist movement as well as the gay liberation movement, Hollibaugh decided
she needed to redefine what these concepts meant to her. She considered herself
a feminist, but not in the same ways the feminist movement promoted. She did
not believe in the gender binary and the systems that enforce that belief. She
did not believe that sexuality as a part of this gender system should be centered
on heterosexuality. What she did believe was that the gay liberation movement
should be inclusive of all sexualities, desires, and backgrounds in order to
create an inclusive platform for all identities.
The concept Hollibaugh brings up about inclusivity in social movements reminds
me of Kwame Ture's autobiography. Ture, like Hollibaugh, greatly emphasized
strength in diversity. He believed that Africans from all different origins--the
Caribbean, Africa, America--should be considered equals in the Black Freedom
Movement. His idea of pan-Africanism was the result of this belief. Hollibaugh
wished that movements such as the feminist movement and the gay liberation movement
would be more tolerant of everyone's differences, whether it was in terms of
class, gender, sexuality, or race.
In general, social movements stemming from the 60s that we have learned about
could have benefited greatly from more intersectionality. There was definitely
some overlap, like how the Black Freedom Movement's causes and key figures often
intersected with the anti-war movement. However, if more people saw the importance
of diversity and understanding each other's differences, the movements would
be much stronger with a larger array of ideas and backgrounds. The Third World
Women's Alliance did this, where they held educational discussions on the different
types of people and experiences in the movement. This formed a greater understanding
of their cause as a whole and as a result, strengthened the bond among women
who shared common struggles.
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Ry Cullen on Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus, by Rick Perlstein
In 1964, the year that Barry Goldwater ran for president, the dominant media
narrative was that conservatism was dead. Not only was Lyndon Johnson about
to win a huge electoral landslide, but both houses of Congress, governorships,
and state legislatures were overwhelmingly Democratic and liberal. Even many
Republicans, like Nelson Rockefeller, considered themselves liberals. As expected,
Goldwater went down in a historic defeat, winning only six states in the Deep
South and his home state of Arizona (which he barely won). But the legacy of
Goldwater's ideology would go on to reshape American politics for the next 55
years. Rick Perlstein shows how this happened, using a thought experiment at
the outset to make his point. "Think of a senator winning the Democratic
nomination in the year 2000 whose positions included halving the military budget,
socializing the medical system, re-regulating the communications and electrical
industries, establishing a minimum guaranteed income for all Americans, equalizing
funding for all schools regardless of property-and who promised to fire Alan
Greenspan, counseled withdrawal from the World Trade Organization, and for good
measure, spoke warmly of adolescent sexual experimentation," Perlstein
wrote in 2001, when his book was published (x). But, Perlstein also said that,
if the logic of 1964 continued, such candidates would be routine. Which, in
a way, is true-we do have people like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren calling
for such things. But it's taken a half-century to get there.
Goldwater was a native of Arizona, born there in 1909 before it became a state.
His family was in the furniture business. His father was Jewish, but Goldwater
would convert to Episcopalianism. He came of age during the New Deal, which
he opposed--but he also opposed the internationalist wing of the Republican
Party led by Wendell Willkie. He loved Calvin Coolidge, and considered the isolationist
Robert Taft to be one of the few pro-Americans left in Washingto.n (Perlstein
conveys all this in the second-person prologue of the book). Goldwater stood
by Joe McCarthy until the end, railing against the Eastern Establishment press.
His political mentor was Herbert Hoover, who had a long retirement after leaving
the White House in 1933.
Goldwater is important in American political history as the voice of the New
Right of the postwar era. But in order to understand what that means, you have
to understand what was known as the Old Right. This was the Republican Party
of the 1920s and '30s, which fought FDR, upheld business interests, and opposed
US involvement in World War II. The Old Right was dealt a serious blow in the
presidential election of 1936, when FDR crushed Alf Landon of Kansas, as well
as amassed the largest Congressional majority of any president in US history.
By the early 1940s, even many Republicans, like Thomas Dewey, regarded the New
Deal as here to stay. So, for that matter, did Dwight Eisenhower, who was elected
for two terms as a centrist Republican.
But Goldwater kept the old faith. He began his career in politics in 1949 when
he was elected to the Phoenix City Council. In 1952, he won an upset victory
in a race for the U.S. Senate, defeating Senate Majority Leader Ernest McFarland.
For the next twelve years, he defined the libertarian wing of the Republican
Party. In 1964, Goldwater defeated Nelson Rockefeller in the Republican primaries
to get the GOP nomination. One key factor was the publication of his 1960 manifesto
The Conscience of a Conservative, which was ghost-written by L. Brent Bozell,
who was the son-in-law of William F. Buckley, who founded the National Review
as the voice of the new conservative movement in 1955.
Yet, at the time, Goldwater was considered a loser by most. His slogan was
"In your heart you know he's right," which led the incumbent Lyndon
Johnson to respond, "In your guts you know he's nuts." Goldwater famously
said "Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice," which led many
to conclude he was a dangerous figure who would escalate the Vietnam War. He
also opposed civil rights legislation, which did get him some traction in the
South. It's important to note, though, that Goldwater was not an opportunist
or racist in the way Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, or George Wallace of
Alabama, was. He personally hated segregation and fought it in Arizona, but
felt strongly that the government had no right to regulate it.
On election night in 1964, Goldwater got 38% of the vote, in one of the biggest
defeats in American history. Johnson used his mandate to ram through the Great
Society programs as well as the Voting Rights Act. In many minds, Goldwater
was considered on the ash heap of history.
But Goldwater's defeat was not as decisive as most observers believed. His
breakthroughs in the South were a forerunner of what would become an important
electoral bloc. Even more important, Goldwater had an heir in Ronald Reagan,
whose speech on Goldwater's behalf at the GOP convention in 1964 launched a
career that would lead to Reagan's election to the presidency in 1980. Reagan's
political program was built on Goldwater's foundation, and would dominate American
politics for the next three decades--at least.
For the rest of his career after 1964, Goldwater remained in the Senate, where
he moved to the left on social issues like gays in the military and abortion
rights, which he framed in libertarian terms. When Richard Nixon got embroiled
in Watergate, it was Goldwater who went to the White House with a group of senators
who told Nixon it was time to resign. Goldwater was also a critic of the religious
right. When Goldwater retired in 1986, John McCain, who considered Goldwater
a mentor, took his place. Goldwater died in 1998.
Donald Trump's Republican Party has ditched much of Goldwater's libertarian legacy. It opposes free trade, for example. But Goldwater represents an important strain in American conservatism that is still represented by people like Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and the Tea Party.
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Jonah Morgulas on The Politics of Rage: George Wallace, the Origins of the New Conservatism, and the Transformation of American Politics, by Dan T. Carter
George Wallace was an American politician, holding the position of governor
of Alabama for 16 years, though not consecutively, and making four bids for
the United States presidency. Three of these attempts were made on a Democratic
ticket, with Wallace running in the primaries, while one (in 1968) was made
on an independent ticket, that of the American Independent Party, with Wallace
running in the general election. Wallace attended the University of Alabama
School of Law and later went on to serve as a state representative in the Alabama
House of Representatives and then as a state judge before his various terms
as governor or de facto governor when his wife Lurleen Wallace held his position
for him due to term limits. Though Wallace never ultimately succeeded in any
of his bids for the presidency, he held a quality that many politicians have
been criticized for lacking; Wallace was consistent in his political ideology
and his presentation of his principles them, not adjusting his outward stance
until the tail end of his political career.
He consistently took a hardline segregationist position, which unsurprisingly managed to maintain his extended time as Alabama's governor and enabled Wallace to win some southern states in each of his presidential runs. Though Wallace never succeeded within national politics in the traditional sense, his combined populist and segregationist stances greatly contributed to developing our current political climate. In practice, Wallace's triumphant opponents won Pyrrhic victories. As seen by the results of his numerous presidential bids, there were certainly plenty of Americans eager to vote for someone of Wallace's persuasion, but this was not a large enough voting bloc, or perhaps just not a sufficiently mobilized one, to secure any hope for his election to the presidency. Within his personal and political circles, Wallace was, as one might expect, highly competitive--as well as intolerant of those whose positions on the issues of his time did not mimic his own. This included most politicians; while some may have held the same views as Wallace, they were not as eager to make them known, for an awareness of their current political climate would inform them that openly taking a segregationist stance would not benefit their campaigns for election, and the primary concern of career politicians is their careers. Even in settings considered to be more private, the uptick in election coverage by television and the print press meant that nearly everything about a candidate was fair game for reporting, and many journalists would frequently breach the verbal promises of confidentiality that gave them the chance to speak to an individual to begin with. Wallace was content to jockey for political success, aware that his victories would present great difficulties for those of similar persuasion who were but less vocal about their support for segregation for fear of alienating other voting blocs which they were appealing to.
Though Wallace ran on a Democratic ticket for much of his political career,
his platforms did not resemble those of most other Democrats of his time, and
given his role in destructive intra-party conflict, Wallace was effectively
a Republican. The rhetoric of Wallace's campaigns was consistent but was best
exemplified during his campaign in 1972, when the opposing Democratic primary
candidate, George McGovern, was effectively utilized as a foil for Wallace.
Mass media depicted McGovern's campaign as scrambled; constantly shifting headquarters,
complete disarray from an outside perspective, rife with internal conflict,
especially during the weeks when McGovern's running mate was Thomas Eagleton,
a politician with a history of severe mental health complications, something
heavily stigmatized at this point in time. McGovern was anti-war, opposed segregation,
did not seem to mind the mentally ill in a social climate where minor depression
could be conflated with schizophrenia, and maintained close ties with deeply
controversial figures like Hunter S. Thompson, a fact that could be used to
argue that McGovern had a tolerance for users of illicit substances. Wallace
sought to present himself as the exact opposite of this.
The long decade of the sixties in the United States is generally, and inaccurately, split into a "good sixties" and a "bad sixties"; but it can be said that everything that composed these two sixties conveyed an aura of a disillusioned, dilapidated society. No matter one's opinions on the Hell's Angels, Altamont, Ken Kesey and his multicolored, day-glo-covered bus Further, they represented general disarray in comparison to the common narratives of civil order. Most of these individuals had either enough wealth to feel comfortable forgoing traditional paths, or had so little they could feel comfortable throwing it all to the wind; but in most narratives of this decade there is little mention of the middle class. Though most of what the sixties was was portrayed as alien to American society, it was not actively combated, and to those who saw the upheavals as a disruption to their lives for whatever reason, it seemed that the upheavals had a kind of passive government endorsement. Wallace was one of many politicians who, thanks to a populist approach, took advantage of this sense of chaos in order to insert himself into a place of power as an individual supposedly capable of restoring order.
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