“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. Evening keynote events take place in Room 100 of the Harlan Hatcher Graduate Library; daily panels are held in the Michigan Union, both on the University of Michigan campus. All events are free and open to the public.
This large, international conference enjoys the support of a wide range of individuals and programs at the University of Michigan. Please see the link for Sponsors to view a complete list.