A Divided Union

The Student Movement

Young people were more affluent and educated, creating a Youth culture following stars such as Elvis Presley. The student movement was part of a wider trend throughout the World in countries such as France and the UK. Overall many students began rejecting ‘the system’ and backed campaigns for nuclear disbarment. The Vietnam War united student protests. Anti-war protests reached a peak in 1968-70 and often involved the burning of the US flag. Other young people merely dropped-out of society to become ‘hippies’ openly taking drugs.

1959: Students for a Democratic Society (SDS)
At first the organisation aimed to give students greater power at University. It began protests against racism occurring at their own university. In 1964 it organised rallies, some of the Universities tried to stop this. The SDS responded with the ‘free speech’ movement.
These protests often resulted in clashes with the police, the worst in 1970 at Kent State University in Ohio. It protested Nixon’s invasion of Cambodia and resulted in the National Guard shooting 4 students dead. The media and students were outraged.

Student protestors


Critics said the students adopted any radical cause without understanding it. Many Americans were shocked how they had fought to protect American values in WWII and the Korean War and now their children were rejecting their lifestyles. Many felt the student radicalism was an attack on traditional values threatening the social fabric. The SDS influence did decline in the 1970s and many of the more radical demands were not met.