The Hidden 1970s: Histories of Radicalism

The Hidden 1970s: Histories of Radicalism

The Hidden 1970s: Histories of Radicalism

The Hidden 1970s: Histories of Radicalism

Synopsis

The 1970s were a complex, multilayered, and critical part of a long era of profound societal change and an essential component of the decade before-several of the most iconic events of "the sixties" occurred in the ten years that followed. The Hidden 1970s explores the distinctiveness of those years, a time when radicals tried to change the world as the world changed around them.

This powerful collection is a compelling assessment of left-wing social movements in a period many have described as dominated by conservatism or confusion. Scholars examine critical and largely buried legacies of the 1970s. The decade of Nixon's fall and Reagan's rise also saw widespread indigenous militancy, prisoner uprisings, transnational campaigns for self-determination, pacifism, and queer theories of play as political action. Contributors focus on diverse topics, including the internationalization of Black Power and Native sovereignty, organizing for Puerto Rican independence among Latinos and whites, and women's self-defense. Essays and ideas trace the roots of struggles from the 1960s through the 1970s, providing fascinating insight into the myriad ways that radical social movements shaped American political culture in the 1970s and the many ways they continue to do so today.

Excerpt

Dan Berger

Barack Obama’s successful 2008 presidential campaign generated much attention to the many barriers broken by his candidacy and subsequent election. His campaign energized many people who previously had been disinterested in or, by virtue of their age, ineligible from participating in national electoral politics. Several pundits and Democratic Party insiders openly hoped, and some even proclaimed, that the ascendance of Obama—two years old when Kennedy was killed and nineteen when Reagan was elected—would herald the end of the longrunning 1960s-backlash culture wars.

But the sixties era, which extended well into the 1970s, still loomed large in the election. Most directly, of course, John McCain ran on his status as a Vietnam War veteran and former prisoner of war. the decade of the 1970s in particular was also central to Republican criticism of Obama, first through the sensationalist response to the incendiary, if not especially unique, views of his former pastor, Jeremiah Wright, and then through his association with former Weather Underground leader (now Distinguished Professor of Education at the University of Illinois at Chicago) Bill Ayers, with whom he sat on a board of directors for a Chicago philanthropic organization. This combination revived two standard 1970s bogeymen: fiery black nationalists and violent New Leftists. As is often the case with the media-fueled pseudo-scandals of a campaign season, these controversies were long on shock and short on substance. Yet both Wright and Ayers proved salient symbols for a conservative attack on Obama. Controversial in their heyday, both black nationalism in general and the Weather Underground in particular were repackaged and resold as even more dangerous commodities in the days of a global war on terror. That these tactics failed to defeat Obama’s presidential bid should not distract us from the many ways in which the 1960s and 1970s remain malleable and potent reference points in U.S. politics.

The 1970s seems not only to inform the current era but strangely to be reappearing in it. Since the turn of the century, more than a dozen partisans of 1970s . . .

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