Brandeis Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (BOLLI)

Lessons for Social Change: The Legacy of Leftist Social Movements of the 60s and 70s

Course Number


Study Group Leader (SGL)

Zachary Fox


This course will take place virtually on Zoom. Participation in this course requires a device (ideally a computer or tablet, rather than a cell phone) with a camera and microphone in good working order and basic familiarity with using Zoom and accessing email

5-Week Course

Feb. 28 - March 27


Social justice movements in the 60s and 70s promoting civil rights, feminism, anti-war efforts, and free speech sought to change our society and shape it into a place with equal opportunities for all. The goals were to end racial oppression, poverty, sexism, and war. Highly motivated individuals formed movements and attempted to affect change in society. Yet we are still struggling with these issues. What tactics were used and where did they come from? What makes a social movement successful? These are questions that will guide our review as we explore the evolution of movements.   

There has been much debate about whether the Free Speech Movement, Students for a Democratic Society, the Black Panthers, and the American Indian Movement changed the world for the better or possibly for the worse. We will evaluate what criteria can help us understand the relationship between social change and social movements. Does social change stem from social movements? How have the goals of activists changed over time? By analyzing these movements and their historical contexts, we will attempt to answer these questions. We will also examine how social movements continue the struggle for equal rights and opportunities in the United States.

Group Leadership Style

More facilitated discussion than lecture.

Course Materials

All materials will be provided on a class website or by email links. 

The Free Speech Movement: Reflections on Berkeley in the 1960s edited by Robert Cohen and Reginald E. Zelnik – Thirty Years Later: Reflections on the FSM by Mario Savio.

The Whole World is Watching: Mass Media in the Making and Unmaking of the New Left by Todd Gitlin – Introduction and Chapter 1. 

Black Against Empire: The History and Politics of the Black Panther Party by Joshua Bloom and Waldo E. Martin Jr. – Chapter 7 “Breakfast”, second chapter TBD.  

Documentary: PBS American Experience “We Shall Remain” – Episode 5 “Wounded Knee.”

Preparation Time

1-2 hours per week. 


 Zachary Fox is a 4th year PhD student in the sociology department at Brandeis. His studies in sociological theory and the sociology of race and racism are particularly focused on collective memory and historical events and how these inform collective action in the present. Zachary’s master’s thesis explored the connection between media framing and social movements,particularly the framing of Antifa or anti-fascists and events like the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville and Trump’s inauguration in 2017. Before studying sociology, Zachary worked as a documentary and narrative filmmaker.