SDS Origins

Lesson Plan from the New York School of Marxist Studies (With notes connecting to SDS added by Mariann Wizard)

The first page of Mariann Wizard's notes. The study questions include a handwritten addition pertaining to SDS. 

Students for a Democratic Society was a radical political advocacy group founded in 1962. SDS objected to a variety of United States policies and social practices. Their initial activities were dedicated to opposing drafting for the Vietnam war, and advocating for students to have more autonomy on college campuses. As the decade progressed SDS adopted communist, and then Leninist principles that divided the group's national cohesion.

In the Dolf Briscoe Center for American history, the papers of Mariann Wizard record her experience as a leader of the Austin branch of SDS. The first image is one page of roughly sixty stored among the Mariann Wizard Papers in the Briscoe Center. The pages are outlines that accompanied classes from The New School with added notes by Mariann Wizard, that frequently connect the Material to SDS. One such connection can be seen in the "Study Questions" section of this page. These notes illustrate the class of radical social ideas SDS adopted in the late sixties. 

SDS Letter concerning the Southern Region

Mariann Wizard's letter describes the fracturing of the "Southern Region" and trials of organizing a regional conference. 

The discoordination of SDS can be seen in the second two images. This two page letter, in Wizard's handwriting, demonstrates the fracturing of SDS. Though some factions of SDS would eventually associate the organization with violent acts, this letter is an indication that they were not a well trained homoginous guerilla army. Rather, SDS was a broad coalition of people who held differing opinions on what their means and ends ought to be.

The scope of this exhibit focuses specifically on the Austin chapter during the late 1960's when SDS came into conflict with the University of Texas at Austin. People who interact with the University of Texas on a daily basis, may take its relationship with student politics for granted. However, by studying the history of SDS in Austin, it is posisble to note the changes and consistencies of that relationship over time. 

Some Ideas for Investigation Into the SDS Archives

Magidoff and Gormlie provide their argument for why scholars should implement their method of approaching SDS history. Afterward a series of focusing questions are provided to guide thoughts as the history is discovered.

The final images are a commentary by former SDS members on the best methods to engage with the history of SDS. It is worthwhile to recognize the perspective of the members in this history, therefore, it is necessary to address this document. The necesity is emphasized by the authors, Dickie Magidoff and Frank Gormlie, when they argue that interactions with history are different depending on the author and reader. Since the guiding philosophies of SDS were based on the practice of historical materialism, the authors ask that scholars of SDS's history apply that practice. Historical materialism can be described as the process of attempting to understand a subject by tracing it from its origins. Magidoff and Gormlie assert that SDS is entangled with the origins of many leftist movements in the later 1900's, therefore, the history of SDS is vital to the history of radical politics in America.