The Northern Student Movement: “Free Speech” and “Participatory Democracy”

  • Van Gosse


In the late 1950s and early 1960s, while the New Left’s central focus was the Civil Rights movement in the South, a parallel student movement germinated among white youth in the North. This upsurge in northern campus radicalism was not organized around a single cause, but embraced many. As we have seen, in the 1959–1962 period these included both nuclear disarmament and the Cuban Revolution; but other struggles also came to the fore, including protests against the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) and campaigns demanding free speech on campus. Student activists also opposed the racial and religious discrimination practiced by many fraternities and sororities and denounced the “parietal” rules that regulated students’ social and sexual lives. Of particular importance was a new group, the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), which offered a comprehensive critique of American society and a new theory of social change it called “participatory democracy.”


White Student Free Speech White Youth Participatory Democracy Socialist Party 
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A Selected Bibliography

  1. The books already cited by Maurice Isserman, James Miller and Todd Gitlin are all central to understanding the student left, and all depart from Kirkpatrick Sale, SDS (New York: Random House, 1973). The volume edited byGoogle Scholar
  2. Paul Buhle, History and the New Left: Madison, Wisconsin, 1950–1970 (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1990) captures much of the distinctive char-acter of the Madison New Left in the 1950s and after.Google Scholar
  3. W. J. Rorabaugh, Berkeley at War: The 1960s (New York: Oxford University Press, 1989) is a fine, panoramic study linking town and gown in the East Bay.Google Scholar
  4. Douglas Rossinow, The Politics of Authenticity: Liberalism, Christianity and the New Left in America (New York: Columbia University Press, 1998) is the most in-depth local history, covering all the phases of the white left at the University of Texas in Austin from the late 1950s on. On the Free Speech Movement, see the remarkable collection of analytical essays, mainly by participants, inGoogle Scholar
  5. Robert Cohen and Reginald Zelnik, The Free Speech Movement: Reflections on Berkeley in the 1960s (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002).Google Scholar

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© Van Gosse 2005

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  • Van Gosse

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