Remembering 1968: the good, the bad, the significance

Sep 17, 2018

It's been a half century but the effects of 1968 are still being felt. The debate, says Professor Victoria Wolcott, Chair of UB's History Department, is often over the "good Sixties" versus "bad Sixties." Wolcott will explore the subject during a panel discussion at this week's Humanities Festival. "I think it's important to see these anniversaries as an opportunity to investigate our assumptions about the past."


Professor Victoria Wolcott is the Chair of UB's History Department.
Credit VictoriaWolcott.org

The 2018 Buffalo Humanites Festival is organized around the theme of "Revolutions."  Wolcott's Saturday panel discussion fits well.

"You Say You Want a Revolution?: Remembering 1968" is one of four such discussions taking place Saturday at 11:30 a.m.  More are scheduled for later in the day.

A brief conversation outlining her approach highlights the complex nature of the year.  Wolcot feels it's important to "tease out the legacy" of 1968's major happenings, including the assassinations, the student protests in the United States and abroad, and the rise of Richard Nixon.

The year's turbulence can be attributed to "the failure to some extent of Liberalism."

Young people expressed their disenchantment "with the so-called Cold War Liberalism, the ways in which the Democratic Party--the mainstream party--as well as other Liberals, had actually, both, fomented the Vietnam War and continued the Vietnam War."

Technological advances empowered the media as the Nation was now seeing images from around the world on a nightly basis. Demographics fueled the movement. Baby Boomers, Wolcott points out, were coming of age and their sheer numbers provided power to their protests.

Professor Wolcott also shared a firsthand perspective when comparing  today's college environment with the student activism of 1968.

"There definitely is an increased amount of student activism that I have noted just in the last few years," Wolcott asserted.

"So when I taught my Civil Rights class in the last semester I had over 100 students enrolled in that class. that has not happened before."

"The Black Lives Matter movement is part of that. The issues around immigration. You also have many Conservative students who are active as well . That's another piece of student activism we don't often talk about with 1960's but was important then and is important now."