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00:00:00 - Session One Introduction 00:00:52 - Parental Lineage

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Partial Transcript: I do want to talk a little bit about your parents...

Segment Synopsis: Paul Buhle (PB) offered an overview of both his mother’s and father’s lineage. He started with his mother’s upbringing in Illinois; his father’s family came from Germany and Indiana; they settled in Moline, IL. His father’s family claimed Belle Boyd within its family tree.

Keywords: Belle Boyd; Germany; Indiana; Moline, IL; family lineage

00:04:37 - Family Occupations and Employment

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Partial Transcript: I can go a little further by saying my father was a geologist...

Segment Synopsis: PB continued his thoughts on this family, focusing her on his father and mother’s occupations. His father was a geologist/geo-physicist; he found water in rural Illinois. His mother took a degree in nursing but became passionate about social work. She worked in Chicago and New York, but she chose to marry PB’s father, moving to Champaign to live with him. PB found out later that his mother’s unhappiness stemmed from moving back to Champaign.

Keywords: Illinois; geology; social work

00:06:52 - Siblings and Ideology

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Partial Transcript: Did you have any siblings? Yes, I have a sister, blood sister, who is four years older than me...

Segment Synopsis: PB ended up with two sisters, one blood and one adopted, each about four years older. PB offered a brief overview of their current situations, which led PB to talk about a book he wrote (for kids) on Abraham Lincoln, where AL’s upbringing made him hide his free-thinking. PB saw that part of his upbringing similar.

Keywords: adoption; evangelical; sister(s)

00:08:26 - Influential Teachers and Cohorts in Champaign

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Partial Transcript: So, growing up in Champaign and going to school, were there teachers or cohorts...

Segment Synopsis: PB mentions three: an African-American history teacher, who affected greatly PB’s worldview; a cohort of PB’s, whose family held great family discussion, which PB’s participated; and an African-American saxophone player, who PB listened to when he traveled into Champaign’s “ghetto.” PB’s cohort indirectly led to PB’s signing his first petition—Hands off Cuba—which he put the Kize family address instead of his own.

Keywords: African-American; Teacher(s); cohort(s); ghetto

00:12:00 - Political Epiphany

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Partial Transcript: So, I grew up with, well they still are, very Republican parents...

Segment Synopsis: He focused on a couple of things, including seeing the civil rights movement on TV (as well as later when it came to U of IL), browsing the sci-fi comic books at the local drug store, and reading two books, one by MLK and the other by C. Wright Mills. He noted before that, he grew up Republican because his world offered no other choice. As he grew into his teenage years, he noted he quickly moved to be a “beatnik cynic to a socialist with little in between.” Before moving onto other topics, the interviewer asked PB about a comment in his article about being in Madrid. PB offered the anecdote explaining why the family ended up in Spain and the violent beating of a man that the family witnessed while there.

Keywords: MLK; Republican(ism); Television (TV); civil rights movement

00:16:29 - Choice to attend U of I and the University Christian Church

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Partial Transcript: So again in this piece you talk about going to, I'm guessing, Champaign for undergrad...

Segment Synopsis: Before answering the interviewer’s question about why to attend Champaign for undergrad, PB talked about joining the University Christian Church’s youth group during his summer, teenage years. The Christian Youth Fellowship gave PB a chance to proselytize regarding civil rights. He moved into a leadership role, but eventually events, including a “riot” in Champaign, left him disillusioned with the group. So, getting back to why Champaign, he graduated high school early and matriculated into the U of Illinois in January 1962. Because of his upbringing and finances, he saw that school as “his only choice.” As he entered there, he had enjoyed socializing each summer, so he thought about being a high school (history) teacher, because it would free up his summers.

Keywords: Champaign; University Christian Church; civil rights; undergrad(uate)

00:20:59 - Moving to San Francisco and JFK's Assassination

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Partial Transcript: One of those touchstone moments of American history is around this time...

Segment Synopsis: This question allowed PB to clarify that he started at UIL in early 1962 [reflected in index] not 1963 as he earlier spoke. He “joined” a beatnik group on campus early on, which included a young woman. PB and this woman went out West in 1963 to hopefully end up at Berkeley. So, By November 1963 PB and his girlfriend (wife, Mari Jo) lived in San Francisco. PB was going to distribute socialist leaflets on 11/22/1963, Mari Jo (wisely PB noted) argued otherwise. PB concluded this section with the difference between San Francisco State, where PB mainly hung out, and the other Catholic universities in the area to describe some subtle differences in how people reacted to the murder.

Keywords: JFK; San Francisco; beatnik

00:24:37 - Return to Champaign

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Partial Transcript: You and Mary Jo decided to return to Champaign? We had no choice...

Segment Synopsis: Because of the difficulty of getting into Berkeley, PB and Mari Jo returned to Champaign. PB then discussed his change in mindset upon his return. He now wanted to be a “professional revolutionary.” PB explained what that meant for him. He also noted that the U.S. increased involvement in Vietnam made being drafted a real possibility. So, when PB graduated in 1966, he found a place (University of Connecticut) to immediately attend graduate school.

Keywords: Berkeley; Champaign; University of Connecticut; Vietnam; graduate school; revolutionary

00:26:28 - Memories of U of I: Professors, Gays, and the FBI

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Partial Transcript: So I asked the question about possible teachers of note, or cohorts of note...

Segment Synopsis: This question led PB to offer a couple of professors of note, including one who pointed him toward UConn and graduate work. Here, he spoke of his involvement in U of IL’s SDS (Students for a Democratic Society) chapter, including attending a meeting in Washington, DC, and becoming the chapter’s spokesperson. He explained the group’s (probable) rationale for giving him that role. PB also discusses gays and lesbians on the U of I campus. He mentioned that those who came out to him did so slowly and hesitantly; he offered an anecdote about a woman who he and others found attractive but who, herself, showed no attraction to him or any man. This led to a question about the FBI on the U of IL campus during the 1960s. PB said he discovered the link between campus security and the FBI when he realized one of his sisters joined a group (Civilian Air Patrol) and told the members, including local FBIers about PB’s radical ideas.

Keywords: FBI; Students for a Democratic Society (SDS); U of I; gays; lesbians

00:33:30 - Transition from U of I to UConn

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Partial Transcript: You've said you went to Connecticut, you and Mary Jo went to Connecticut to try to get into graduate school...

Segment Synopsis: While a physically beautiful place, Storrs, CT—UConn’s home—was not conducive to SDS activities. The lack of a critical mass of people led PB to looking at other ways to reach them, i.e. a newsletter or journal. During this time in the Northeast, PB and Mari Jo stayed in New York City, where PB worked at the National Guardian. While doing menial tasks there, PB also took a class at the Free University of New York. It was around the time that PB saw a vacuum that needed filling—with the loss of Studies of American West—so he published an issue of Radical America.

Keywords: National Gaurdian; New York City; Storrs, CT; Studies of the American West; UConn

00:36:40 - Arrival in Madison and the Birth of Radical America

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Partial Transcript: By the time I came to Madison, a SDS activist and creator of SDS pamphlets on various subjects...

Segment Synopsis: By the time PB arrived at Madison, he found a group willing to help him publish more issues of Radical America, including Henry Haslach. Soon after PB arrived in Madison, it seemed like they met most of the “left-wingers” in Madison. He said coming to Madison felt like coming home. Speaking of the physical nature of publishing, PB called it laborious. He noted a revelatory moment when Haslach and Jim O’Brien introduced the saddle stitch stapler. He called it more cumbersome than current electronic publishing, but it called it incredibly cheap.

Subjects: Students for a Democratic Society (SDS); publish(ing)

00:41:13 - Life on the East Side of Madison

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Partial Transcript: So you said you and Mary Jo found an apartment on Spaight Street...

Segment Synopsis: They found an apartment on Spaight Street. This comment led PB to talk about coming into the East Side of Madison during a period of change. This “transformation” also helped PB (and Mari Jo) quickly develop a sense of community or home by putting them in a neighborhood with like-minded (and aged) people.

Keywords: East Side; Madison; community

00:43:30 - Memories of the Dow (Police) Riot

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Partial Transcript: September 1967, the next month is the Dow Riot...

Segment Synopsis: PB offered his memories of this event, including attending the sit-in, being stunned by the violence, and commenting on Madison Police, including its then leader Herman Thomas. This led to a discussion on an alternative newspaper, Connections, including his friendship with its leadership, including Dave Wagner, who became a good friend.

Keywords: Connections; Dow Chemical; Riot; violence

00:48:26 - Working at UW-Madison

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Partial Transcript: Paul I want to shift gears slightly, although I think it relates. You talk about students being engaged...

Segment Synopsis: PB talked about the complexity of being in Madison, in regards to history professors. PB worked as an RA for the Wisconsin Historical Society his first semester. He said, as far as the Americanists, most had retired, with the exception of W.A. Williams, who left for Oregon State soon after PB’s arrival. He did note that George Mosse and Harvey Goldberg influenced PB heavily. But, overall, his cohorts provided the advice and support he needed. He called it “intense and rich.”

Keywords: Americanists; George Mosse; Wisconsin Historical Society

00:52:03 - MA Thesis and a History of Marxism

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Partial Transcript: So, what did you chose to...well I think I read that you came here with an MA. Is that correct?

Segment Synopsis: He wrote a biography on Louis Fraina (aka Lewis Corry); he offered an overview of this work, showing the change in Fraina/Corry over time. When PB arrived in Madison, his intent became to write a history of Marxism in the U.S. This led to a follow-up question about PB’s dissertation. He answered this question, highlighting the complexity in it. To do his work justice, PB realized he needed to learn Yiddish to really get at the texts. The dissertation really took a back seat to an oral history of the American Left and An Encyclopedia of the American Left.

Keywords: Louis Fraina (Lewis Corry); Marxism; Yiddish

00:56:22 - Session Two Interview 00:56:53 - Recollection of Professor Williams

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Partial Transcript: So the first one is, what was Professor Williams like to work with? Well my actual work with him...

Segment Synopsis: Paul Buhle (PB) took only one class from Williams, an undergraduate course, which he took for graduate credit. He noted that he met with Williams frequently during that semester, and that Williams helped him get a grant to help with the publication of his journal. When asked, PB offered his memory of the final assignment for that class.

Keywords: Professor Williams; W.A. Williams

00:59:50 - Teaching as a Graduate Student

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Partial Transcript: So lets talk a little bit about your teaching, if any, that you did in graduate school. Maybe it's easier to start...

Segment Synopsis: PB chose to focus first on his work for the Wisconsin State Historical Society. After offering an overview of his work there, he then talked about his teaching assistant (TA) experience. He told of asking his students to be historians by assigning them current topics, such as the 1967 Dow Riot as a research topic, and spoke glowingly about students at UW. PB listed the classes he taught, primarily either 20th Century U.S. History or the second half of the U.S. History overview. He also discussed two professors that he assisted. When asked about undergraduates he taught, he remembered only two. One became a professor of labor history; the other was Leo Burt. He noted, however, that he only recalled Burt as being an “affable” student. Burt only stuck in PB’s memory because of the Sterling Hall Bombing.

Keywords: Teaching; Teaching Assistant (TA); U.S. History; Wisconsin Historical Society; research

01:06:27 - Graduate Student Cohorts

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Partial Transcript: So, you talked last time about how it was really your cohort, your graduate students, that you had the closest bond...

Segment Synopsis: PB focused on three: Jim O’Brien, Henry Haslach, and Ann Gordon. He explained why each stuck out in his mind.

Keywords: Ann Gordon; Henry Haslach; Jim O'Brien

01:10:24 - Involvement in SDS

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Partial Transcript: Well since you mentioned SDS a couple of times, Paul, I wonder if you could talk about your involvement...

Segment Synopsis: PB reminded the interviewer of his pre-UW Madison involvement in SDS. He said his focus elsewhere at UW (such as publishing the journal) made his SDS involvement here minimal. He then offered an anecdote about his post-UW career, when he shared a train with Evan Stark; the two of them talked about SDS at UW-Madison.

Keywords: Evan Stark; SDS; journal

01:15:08 - Discussions with Cohorts

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Partial Transcript: The question was, you referenced earlier in the graduate student question about having discussions with some...

Segment Synopsis: PB discusses where student discussions took place. He lists Memorial Union, outside SHSW, at other locations too. PB recalled that Jim O’Brien announced and led some of these informal discussions. This led to a follow-up question about off-campus locations, such as the Nitty Gritty as places for these discussions. PB noted that Rads author Tom Bates sometimes took his arguments too far, such as the importance of the Nitty Gritty. PB did recall that he and his wife, Mari Jo, listened to Muddy Waters there one afternoon. He also said that spaces such as the 602 and the Green Lantern held as many or more “discussions” at the Nitty Gritty.

Keywords: 602; Discussions; Memorial Union; Nitty Gritty

01:20:38 - Memories of the 1968 DNC, 1969 Black Strike, and 1970 TAA Strike

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Partial Transcript: So Paul I want to hit on your memories, if any, of a couple of other pre-Sterling Hall events...

Segment Synopsis: PB spoke briefly on both these events. He and Mari Jo were not in Chicago in 1968; they sensed that it might end in violence. And while PB went on strike in 1969 to support the Black People’s Alliance; he saw some tactical issues in it that made it less than a success. PB also discusses the 1970 TAA Strike. PB said that for him the TAA Strike stood out as the “most dramatic.” He detailed why. When asked, he offered an overview of a typical day. He recalled standing on the picket line during that cold spring and talking to his cohort and to undergraduates, either while on the line or at their dormitories.

Subjects: 1968 Democratic National Convention (DNC); 1969 Black Strike; 1970 TAA Strike; Chicago; violence

01:29:00 - Thoughts on the Vietnam War and Protests

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Partial Transcript: So, the TAA Strike ended almost on the heels of then Nixon's press conference about...

Segment Synopsis: PB talked about the most interesting thing of those weeks. He said the National Guard reacted well (i.e. primarily non-violently) in April/May 1970. He compared this to October 1967, when the Madison Police Department overreacted to the students protesting Dow Chemical Company. PB then spoke more about the Madison Police Department in the late 1960s/early 1970s. He also offered the Fire Department, particularly its eventual chief, as using a different approach.

Keywords: Cambodia; Dow Chemical; Jackson State; Kent State

01:34:28 - Thoughts on Counterculture in Madison

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Partial Transcript: Let me make sure to give you space if there are things on your mind about this timer period...

Segment Synopsis: PB focused on the area around campus as a “counter-culture” zone; he explained what he meant. He also noted that this area (and others nearby where students lived) became a rallying point for a change in Madison politics, seen by the rise of Paul Soglin as an elected official. He saw the resistance, city wide, by both Cold War Republicans and Democrats. PB noted that when he and Mari Jo came back in 1973, they returned to a different city, which he attributed to the youth vote.

Keywords: Counterculture; Paul Soglin

01:37:23 - Thoughts on the Draft

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Partial Transcript: Paul, I remembered what I was going to ask, if you have a couple of minutes. I don't recall whether I asked you this...

Segment Synopsis: PB took a physical six months before coming to Madison; he was labelled 1-Y, which meant they would not draft him. Even so, PB saw how the draft adversely affected both young men and women on campus. And being able to see the war through TV reports helped to increase these students’ stress levels too.

Keywords: 1-Y; Draft; TV

01:39:26 - Session Three Introduction 01:40:00 - The New Left and Studies on the Left in Madison, WI

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Partial Transcript: I was interested in how the New Left in Madison, in the 60s, conceived of its political engagement...

Segment Synopsis: Buhle explained that there were 3 distinct generations from the founding of Studies on the Left to the departure of Radical America from UW in 1971. The first journal was started by (mostly) history graduate students trained by “radicalism of the disclosure”—having a background with the old Communist party but disillusioned by events in the 1950s and 60s and interested in the New Left formed in part by E. P. Thompson in the UK. Financed by James Weinstein, who had considerable money, Studies on the Left criticized the corporate state as in bed with business.

Keywords: Radical America; Studies on the Left; The New Left

01:47:10 - The Demise of Studies on the Left and the Rise of Radical America

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Partial Transcript: But at some point, around 1964/1965, they mostly moved to New York City...

Segment Synopsis: He discussed why Studies on the Left folded in the late 1960s. As it moved to NY in 1964/65, a division grew between new editors who more openly embraced social movements (anti-war, etc.) and older editors, who saw their role as producing scholarship, not promoting activism. With the demise of Studies on the Left, a new generation of students who had no experience with the old left, but “cast around” to determine the historical roots of what could be a New Left, formed Radical America. This journal didn’t entertain a lot of theoretical debates, but tried to bridge the division between scholarship and activism. Coming back to the question of whether the New Left had theory, he responded that the generation that came into the anti-Vietnam movement of 1965 were younger and hadn’t had time to engage with the theoretical developments. Nevertheless, as mostly graduate students in history at UW, he said this cohort took ideas seriously and many became academics, but didn’t see a conflict in this with their activist role. He speculated that had the New Left lasted longer, more theoretical work would have emerged from this cohort.

Keywords: Anti-War Movement; Editor(s); New York City; SDS; Social movement(s)

01:56:19 - The Merging of the Young New Left and Academia

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Partial Transcript: So, [younger generations of students] kind of merged with the academic milieu...

Segment Synopsis: PB clarifies that the merging of students with academia was truer for Studies on the Left than the Radical America generation, who “lived an extended life as graduate students,” and worked in radical history projects of the working class, etc. Responding to a colleague’s comment, he noted that there was an expectation that the largest strike wave in recent history would result in a working class movement that would succeed where the campus movement had failed, which led Radical America editors to move to cities where university and workers were connected.

Keywords: Radical America; Studies on the Left; academia; academics; generation(al)

02:02:32 - Madison's Fertility for Social Movements

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Partial Transcript: I assume you already spoke of what a fertile ground Madison was for a movement like this to evolve...

Segment Synopsis: PB reiterated what he’d said before, how evocative an experience the student strike of 1968 was that students felt they had to change the world. He contrasted the warmth that developed between undergraduates and graduate students during the late 1960s, and the distance created between professors and students by the same events. While the trauma for students was the urgency of the war, which they believed was unacceptable, the trauma for professors was caused by students’ attitudes toward them. PB also discussed the contrast of political pressure on Brown and UW. He observed that most administrators weren’t willing to risk their careers to engage in campus reform. But for students and for highly conservative town police and politicians, the protests were not a game.

Keywords: 1968; Madison; radical(ism)

02:12:35 - The Effects of Army Math on the New Left

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Partial Transcript: So, you alluded to Army Math, and we didn't get to talk about Army Math last time. So I'm wondering...

Segment Synopsis: PB thought that the “standard narrative” that a) the conflict was between overly radical students and staunch and talented administrators and b) Sterling Hall tamped down protest was narrow. Rather, well-organized protest movements simply saw 1970 as a dead end at Madison and moved elsewhere. Continuing to talk about the Sterling Hall bombing, he related his opinion that investigative organizations knew what Burt and others were up to and allowed it to happen in order to strengthen their own hand and build the “accepted version” expressed by Maraniss’ They Marched into Sunlight.

Keywords: Army Math; New left; Sterling Hall; The Marched into Sunlight; protest

02:17:30 - The Graphic Nature of Radical America

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Partial Transcript: I want to ask about the graphic nature of Radical America...

Segment Synopsis: PB explained how RA developed at just the moment when the underground press was emerging in the US, the popularity of which encouraged “an explosion of art.” Buhle explained how each person involved in the publication of the magazine had an artistic contribution and how he sought to find an artist for each issue. Buhle discusses the notion connected to their belief that RA should be produced artistically was that it should take poetry seriously. He discussed some contributing poets.

Keywords: Radical America; art; underground press

02:24:30 - Continuation of Graphic Art and Design

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Partial Transcript: Maybe just to bring this forward in a sense, so your interest in graphic art didn't end with Radical America...

Segment Synopsis: PB explains how he left RA in 1973 and founded a new journal, Cultural Correspondence, he said he continued to support radical graphic art, a varied interest in art which culminated in the 1990s with his effort to publish art books. Explaining how he was “alive with the idea of finding some new means of expressing socially critical” ideas, he shared anecdotes about RA’s 1969 comic issue and the “newspaper rich” culture of Madison in which it flourished

Keywords: Cultural Correspondence; Graphic art; design

02:30:21 - Settling Down: Back and Forth to Madison

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Partial Transcript: So, you and Mary Jo left, but then you came back in the early 70s...

Segment Synopsis: Between 1973 and 1982, he and his wife came back to Madison each year to work on their dissertations and turn them into monographs. After this, they didn’t come back to Madison until the early 2000s, when they realized that they needed to retire here. He explained the factors that were involved in this decision.

Keywords: Madison, WI; retirement

02:34:11 - History and the New Left

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Partial Transcript: So we're over, well we're roughly an hour now, and I at least want to get on the record...

Segment Synopsis: He spoke about this book, his biography of W. A. Williams, Comics in Wisconsin, It Started in Wisconsin and the 2011 Capitol protests “in one breath” as integrally related. He explained how Lee Baxandall initially solicited essays for the book, but could not carry it through due to his Parkinson’s disease; the project thus came to him through Dave Wagner, but he immediately realized the difficulties of rounding it out. He chronicled how he collected the essays and appendices that formed the volume. He related that he couldn’t explain why some people were included and others not, noting that there was no academic reward to writing a contribution, so some of it was just based on who he knew personally. He also talked about how some contributors would be uncomfortable with this interview, which would reveal too much about their personal life.

Keywords: Comics in Wisconsin; Dave Wagner; It Started in Wisconsin; Lee Baxandall

02:42:04 - Impacts on Williams and History and the New Left

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Partial Transcript: What I would like to add is that as I began to work on the biography of Williams...

Segment Synopsis: He added that his work on History and the New Left and his biography of Williams germinated the seed of his work with oral history as another form of valuable historical documentation. He continued to relate how his professors at UW encouraged them to find documents and write about them. He added that the new generation of historians trained by Curti, Jensen, Hesseltine, Mosse and others were more independent from the deeply-ingrained Wisconsin history tradition than generations before. Unlike Studies on the Left authors who were interested in the mechanisms of power, Buhle’s generation were interested in those who’d been understudied before.

Keywords: History and the New Left; Williams; oral history

02:49:27 - Sexuality and Gender in the New Left

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Partial Transcript: The only aspect, I don't know if you discussed the whole question of gender relations...

Segment Synopsis: PB explained that during the late 1960s a shift was underway with regard to gays and lesbians on campus. He related how female graduate students were fewer and more poorly funded than males, and this engendered both a toughness among women and an intolerance of women leaders for “weak women.” Prompted further, Buhle discussed the relationship between male and female leaders in the anti-war movement, though “exceptional women were less exceptional here.”

Keywords: Gender; Sexuality

02:55:36 - End of Interview