Required Readings: 

This week we are reading a series of short articles and primary sources about the 1950s and 1960s. We will also be watching Berkeley in the 60s. You can watch the entire film on both Netflix and Youtube. I hope this documentary (which begins on the Harvard campus and moves West) will be of interest in context of the Divest Harvard protests. We have spoken a few times about using film analysis to better understand how narrative films are constructed, but what about documentaries? How are primary sources, oral history, and video techniques being used here to create a historical argument visually?

Blog Post Assignment 

This week both of our blog post exercises are centered around primary source extraction to develop your research and writing skills with the ultimate goal of strengthening your final paper.

1. Primary source identification assignment: Find a primary source related to the larger social movements of the 1950s & 1960s West to share with a partner in the class. Possible topics could include the United Farm Workers, Free Speech Movement, Occupation of Alcatraz, Fish-Ins, environmental movements, Black Power, Gay & Lesbian rights, Vietnam protests, etc. You do not need to write about it, but be prepared to talk about it knowledgeably in class. How does it complicate this week’s readings? Two great places to start looking would be Calisphere or the Digital Public Library of America.

2. Writing assignment: Write approximately 500 words of descriptive and polished prose, analyzing one of the primary sources you are using for your final paper. Take inspiration from A Land So Strange, Warmth of Other Suns, and other texts we’ve read this semester that aggressively and creatively use every detail from a single source to portray a vivid world for the reader that engages the senses. Be prepared to share with a partner in class.


Below are a few clips to explore. I decided not to link to assassination footage for John F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy or the Manson Family murders, but they are arguably three of the most distinctive news moments in the 1960s West lodged in popular historical memory.

Atomic Bomb Testing -Nevada 

The House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) Hearings – Hollywood 

Disneyland Dedication – Anaheim, CA – 1955

To watch the full-length televised coverage click here.

Rebel Without a Cause (1955) Gender Role / Family Disintegration Scene

John F. Kennedy Inaugural Address

Beach Boys “Surfin’ Safari” 

Patsy Cline “Crazy” (Written by Willie Nelson)

Johnny Cash performing “Ring of Fire” Written by June Carter Cash 

Bob Dylan “Like a Rolling Stone” 

1965 Watts Riots Newsreel 

Black Panther Party for Self Defense (1966) Excerpt from “Eyes on the Prize” 

Scott McKenzie – San Francisco (Flowers in Your Hair)

Beach Boys “Good Vibrations” 

1968 Democratic Convention Protests 

President Richard Nixon Inauguration




Dr. Rhae Lynn Barnes is a member of the Society of Fellows at USC and Assistant Professor of American Cultural History at Princeton (beginning 2018). She earned her Ph.D. at Harvard University and B.A. at U.C. Berkeley. She is the co-founder of U.S. History Scene.