It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

JFK, MLK, LBJ, and RFK. Hawks, doves, panthers, and pigs. Black power, red power, brown power, and flower power. Folk rock, garage rock, acid rock, and throwing rocks. Sit-ins, teach-ins, love-ins, and be-ins. Revolutionaries on the left, reactionaries on the right, and a great mass of mystified in the middle.

The sixties were without doubt one of the most turbulent decades in American history, a time of tremendous and remarkably rapid social, political, and cultural change.

And the tiny Midwestern town of Ann Arbor, Michigan, was right in the thick of it.

Ann Arbor doesn't get as much recognition for its contribution to the sea change of the sixties as do other places such as Berkeley or Madison, Wisconsin. But it was just as important to the growth and evolution of the sixties as either of those two cities.


Ann Arbor saw the birth of Students for a Democratic Society — one the biggest and most influential youth groups of the sixties — in 1960, and was the home of the SDS leadership for the first half of the decade. Ann Arbor spawned the first "teach-in" of the sixties, in March 1965, about the widening war in a small Southeast Asian country most Americans had never heard of. (That would soon change.) Ann Arborites also played a key role in the establishment of the Peace Corps, following a speech by presidential candidate John F. Kennedy on the steps of the Michigan Union in October 1960.

Ann Arbor was the birthplace of the White Panther Party, which would eventually play an important role (although an indirect and highly ironic one) in the downfall of the Nixon administration. In addition, Ann Arbor (not San Francisco) was the city that saw the election of the first openly gay person to public office in the United States in early 1974.

Many important leaders of the sixties movement came out of Ann Arbor, including Tom Hayden, Dick and Mickey Flacks, Bill Ayers, and Carl Oglesby. A host of other notable and interesting people contributed to and were influenced by the social, political, and cultural energy of Ann Arbor during that time, including Bob Seger, Gilda Radner, Dennis Machinegun Thompson (center of collage), Cathy Guisewite, Larry Brilliant, Christine Lahti, Ken and Ric Burns, Robin Wright, Larry Kasdan, and Carole Simpson — as well as countless others who are not as well known but whose contributions were equally as important.

Modern Major Films is currently at work developing a documentary film about Ann Arbor in the sixties, with a working title of, straightforwardly enough, Ann Arbor in the Sixties. (At some point we'll choose a different title.) The film will cover what historians would call "the long sixties," in this case the years 1960-1975, approximately. It will chronicle the contentious transformation of a small Midwestern town of stern German heritage, proudly embodying the conservative ideals of mid-century middle America, into an epicenter of social, political, and cultural radicalism in just a few tumultuous years.


Jon Campbell said...

Cool Kim...BUT, a HUGE undertaking to sort out that story!

Toni Sheposh Sheffield said...

Remember when people sort of made fun of Twiggy because she was too skinny (hence, the name)? I wonder if she'd be considered too thin
today...probably not; may even consider her not thin at all. My goodness how times have changed!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...