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Presented By: Port Huron 50

A New Insurgency: The Port Huron Statement in Its Time and Ours

Keynote Address: Tom Hayden, "The Future of Participatory Democracy"

Tom Hayden, former California state senator, is a long-time proponent of radical activism in the United States. An early member of SDS in Ann Arbor, he led the SDS community-organizing project in Newark, N.J., and became a prominent leader of the movement against the Vietnam War. He was the principal drafter of The Port Huron Statement. Tom Hayden drafted and finalized The Port Huron Statement in June 1962. He is editor of Participatory Democracy (Paradigm, 2012), and author of The Long Sixties, The Lost Gospel of the Earth, Street Wars, and The Zapatista Reader, among others. He served in the California Legislature (1982-2000), where he chaired committees on labor, environment and higher education. His writings are at


“A New Insurgency: The Port Huron Statement in its Time and Ours” brings together world-renowned activists and scholars to mark the 50th anniversary of The Port Huron Statement , the historic manifesto of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) first issued in June 1962. Tapping the viewpoints of those present at the creation of the Statement as well as those historians, humanists, and social scientists who have studied that period, “A New Insurgency” draws attention to the complex scene of social-justice and leftwing activist movements that laid the seed-bed for The Port Huron Statement –and then helped spread and amplify its visions of social change.

The legacy of those movements, and the ideals of The Port Huron Statement, have returned to center-stage amid the stunning sweep of mass protest in pursuit of democracy and social justice over the past two years, from the Arab Spring to Occupy Wall Street and continuing collective action against the hardships of austerity. This gathering at the University of Michigan will test the significance of the new insurgency of the early 1960s for the new insurgents of 2011-2012. We welcome a broad audience to the conversation.

SDS’s Port Huron Statement offered the most comprehensive analysis of American society and most eloquent vision for radical reform to be generated by the emerging movement known as the New Left. Young radical intellectuals–including, in crucial leadership roles, undergraduate and graduate students from the University of Michigan–produced the document, but their inspiration stemmed from the energy and moral example already set by activists in the civil rights and peace movements, anticolonial struggles abroad, new signs of dissent from Latin America to Eastern Europe, and older leftwing ideas in need of renovation.

Drafters of The Port Huron Statement were keenly aware of many of these forces; in 1962, they may not have recognized others that were stirring as well. Speakers at the conference will examine the open, and sometimes hidden, elements of the new insurgent spirit of that time–including trends in feminism, Black nationalism, Latina/o and Native American struggles for recognition and power, rebellious currents around the world, gay liberation, and developments in the arts that tracked the course of rising protest.

“A New Insurgency” will engage today’s generation of students and activists in all the conference proceedings. Following this year’s summer-reading programs focused on The Port Huron Statement (for incoming UM first-years in several special college programs), the conference will feature an all-student panel on the meaning of the Statement’s New Left principles today. A concluding panel on Friday, November 2, will feature representatives of current campus activist groups discussing the present and future course of movements for equality, social justice, and democracy. Lunch-time sessions on Thursday and Friday will provide “open mic” discussion by veterans of the “Port Huron” moment and newcomers to the history of that time.

“A New Insurgency” runs from Wednesday, October 31, 7:30 pm, through the evening of Friday, November 2. Daily panels are held in the Pendleton and Anderson Rooms of the Michigan Union on S. State St. Wednesday's Keynote Address (Ruth Rosen) will be held in Angell Hall Auditorium B, 7:30-9:00pm. Thursday's Keynote Address (Tom Hayden) will be held in East Hall 1324, 7:30-9:00pm.

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