Port Huron Statement
In 1962, a newly formed radical student organization called Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) held a meeting in Port Huron, Michigan. The group issues a declaration of purposes known as the Port Huron Statement. It called for university decisions to be made through participatory democracy so that students would have a voice in decisions affecting their lives. Activists who supported these ideas became known as the New Left.
Political protests of the New Left went hand in hand with a new counterculture that was expressed by young people in rebellious styles of dress, music, drug use, and for some, communal living. The apparent dress of the “hippies” and “flower children” of the 1960s, included long hairstyles, beards, beads, and jeans.
The folk music of Bob Dylan gave voice to the younger generation’s protests, while the rock music of the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and Janis Joplin provided the beat and lyrics for the counterculture. In 1969, a gathering of thousands of young people at the Woodstock Music Festival in upper New York State reflected the zenith of the counterculture.
The result of experimenting with hallucinogenic drugs such as LSD or becoming addicted to various other drugs destroyed the lives of many young people.
A “summer of love” in San Francisco’s Haight Ashbury district in 1967 drew hundreds of thousands of young men and women from all across the country to sample free sex, free drugs and free medical care (the later required to deal with the former two).
One aspect of the counterculture that continued beyond the 1960s was a change in many American’s attitudes towards sexual expression. Traditional beliefs about sexual conduct had originally been challenged in the late 1940s and 1950s by the pioneering surveys on sexual practice conducted by Alfred Kinsey. His research indicated that premarital sex, marital infidelity, and homosexuality were more common than anyone had suspected.
Medicine (antibiotics of venereal disease) and science (the introduction of the birth control pill in 1960) also contributed to changing attitudes about engaging in casual sex with a number of partners.
Overtly sexual themes in advertisements, magazines, and movies made sex appear to be just one more consumer product. There is little doubt, that premarital sex, contraception, abortion, and homosexuality became practice more openly.