Student Activism, Southern Style: Organizing and Protest in the 1960s and 70s

Starting Date: 03-19-2010
Ending Date: 03-21-2010

Columbia, South Carolina 29201
United States
Student protest is a signature element of the political turmoil of the Vietnam era. The spring of 1970 witnessed some of the largest student protests in U.S. history, many connected to the tragic events at Kent State University. Students at the University of South Carolina briefly occupied the Russell House student union, in a show of solidarity with Kent State and in protest of developments at home and abroad. Yet the histories of these students, and many others at campuses throughout the old south, tend to be neglected in the conventional narratives of student protest, civil rights activism, and broader accounts of the counter-culture.

While northern student protestors and activists are typically seen as agents of change, the south is typically seen as the subject of radical change, and as a field in which northern agents encountered resistance. Yet as the story of the Russell House illustrates, the south offered its own indigenous activism that was no less sincere, if less amplified, than its northern counterpart. “Student Activism, Southern Style” seeks to draw attention to and investigate this phenomenon in its own right.

The Departments of History at the University of South Carolina and Western Carolina University solicit paper proposals that address the topic of student activism at southern colleges and universities for a conference to be held March 19-21, 2010 at the University of South Carolina, Columbia. We seek a broad conversation about protest, organization, and political engagement across the political spectrum, including civil rights work, antiwar protest, the “New Right,” and other forms of political organization. We seek to examine the broad intersections among these political movements within the unique cultural and political environment that conditioned student activism in the region and throughout this critical period.

We welcome a broad variety of approaches. Possible topics include, but are not limited to:
How did antiwar and civil rights activists shape each others’ approach?
What role did southern students play in the rise of the “New Right”?
What linkages did southern activists forge with their northern peers?
The town-and-gown relationship, and connections to surrounding institutions, such as military bases.
How did public and private university students differ in their attitudes and approaches to political organizing?
What effect did southern culture, mores, or etiquette have on activism?
Sexuality activism in the south.
What were the regional variations to leftwing and rightwing organizing in the south?
Goldwater supporters and antiwar activism in the south.
How did national political strategies, such as Richard Nixon’s so-called “southern strategy,” effect southern student activism?
What role did historically black colleges play in organizing student politics in the south?
How did traditional forms of southern religion influence the antiwar movement?
Gender and political organizing on the southern campus.
The curricular legacy of campus upheavals, e.g., University Studies 101 courses or other institutional responses.

We hope to publish select papers.

We welcome proposals for full panels, though individual paper proposals will be considered. Send a brief panel or paper abstract, along with a CV, to by December 1, 2009. For full panels, include pertinent information for each presenter. Selected presenters will be informed by January 1, 2010.

Additionally, if you are interested in serving as a chair/commentator, please send a vita to

Further information including registration information, keynote address, meals and lodging will be forwarded in due course to presenters.
For more information contact conference organizers at
Geographical Scope: National

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