Prof. Bob Forrant forwarded the following quote about Jack Kerouac’s influence on the emerging political activist Tom Hayden in 1960. He’s reading a book by James Miller about the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and ther rise of the New Left to prepare for a history course he is teaching in the fall at UMass Lowell–”The U.S. Since 1960.” Tom Hayden spoke at UMass Lowell about 20 years ago. I believe he was there campaigning for a candidate in the New Hampshire Primary at the time. Someone reading this post may remember the details.—PM
“But it was Kerouac who proved instrumental in changing his [Tom Hayden's] life. After reading ‘On the Road’ in the spring of 1960, Hayden resolved to hitchhike across the country to California. His ultimate destination was Los Angeles, where he planned to cover the Democratic Convention for The Daily (University of Michigan student newspaper). But his first stop was Berkeley—the once and future Mecca of radical student politics.
” ‘I got to Berkeley,’ Hayden recalls, ‘and I went up to a woman who was giving out leaflets at Sproul Plaza. I asked if she knew anywhere I could meet with political people and maybe get an apartment or someplace to stay. I wanted to see where the sit-ins and other things happened, where students had been arrested.’ ”
—James Miller, “Democracy Is in the Streets: From Port Huron to the Seige of Chicago” (Harvard University Press, 1994, p. 45)