At the heart of the tumult that marked the 1960s was the
unprecedented scale of student protest on university campuses
around the world. Identifying themselves as the New Left, as
distinguished from the Old Left socialists who engineered the
historic labor protests of the 1930s, these young idealists quickly
became the voice and conscience of their generation.
The People of This Generation is the first comprehensive
case study of the history of the New Left in a Northeast urban
environment. Paul Lyons examines how campus and community activists
interacted with the urban political environment, especially the
pacifist Quaker tradition and the rising ethnic populism of police
chief and later mayor Frank Rizzo. Moving away from the memoirs and
overviews that have dominated histories of the period, Lyons uses
this detailed metropolitan study as a prism for revealing the New
Left's successes and failures and for gauging how the energy
generated by local activism cultivated the allegiance of countless
Lyons explores why groups dominated by the Old Left had limited
success in offering inspiration to a new generation driven by the
civil rights movement and opposition to the Vietnam War. The number
and diversity of colleges in this unique metropolitan area allow
for rich comparisons of distinctly different campus cultures, and
Lyons shows how both student demographics and institutional
philosophies determined the pace and trajectory of radicalization.
Turning his attention off campus, Lyons highlights the significance
of the antiwar Philadelphia Resistance and the antiracist People
for Human Rights-Philadelphia's most significant New Left
organizations-revealing that the New Left was influenced by both
its urban and campus milieus.
Combining in-depth archival research, rich personal anecdote,
insightful treatment of the ideals that propelled student
radicalism, and careful attention to the varied groups that
nurtured it, The People of This Generation offers a moving
history of urban America during what was perhaps the most turbulent
decade in living memory.
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