A Forgotten Era of Activism

Historian Michael Stewart Foley explains that the 1970s and 1980s were actually full of political activism.

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What can members of contemporary political movements learn from your book?

The most important thing, and I say this as much as a historian as an organizer, is that it's important to speak to the American people in a way that resonates with them personally if you want to win them to your cause. It's better for our democracy; it's better for the health of the republic to have Americans more thoroughly engaged in their politics. If you can, find a way to engage Americans [so] that they feel they can channel their emotions and harness their concerns in a way where they're investing themselves personally.

What will surprise readers the most?

I think the thing that will surprise them is it's not the "me decade." This is not a period where nothing happened, where Americans retreated and kind of hunkered down and tried to ride out difficult economic times or at most looked to conservative politicians who promised to get government off their back. There's an enormous scale of protest and activism, and that's something we seem to have totally missed in the historical profession.

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