Students for a Democratic Society A Graphic History

Written (mostly) by Harvey Pekar; Art (mostly) by Gary Dumm; Edited by Paul Buhle

Hill and Wang




224 Pages


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In 1962 at a United Auto Workers’ camp in Michigan, Students for a Democratic Society held its historic convention and prepared the famous Port Huron Statement, drafted by Tom Hayden. This statement, criticizing the U.S. government’s failure to pursue international peace or address domestic inequality, became the organization’s manifesto. Its last convention was held in 1969 in Chicago, where, collapsing under the weight of its notoriety and popularity, it shattered into myriad factions. Through illustrations and they-were-there dialogue, graphic novelist Harvey Pekar, artist Gary Dumm, and historian Paul Buhle illustrate the decade that first defined and then was defined by the men and women who gathered under the SDS banner. Students for a Democratic Society: A Graphic History captures the idealism and activism that drove a generation of young Americans to believe that even one person’s actions can help transform the world.


Praise for Students for a Democratic Society

“Powerfully dramatizes the broad panorama of mayhem and confrontation in the '60s. That's the best part of the SDS book: the history from below, telling us what we could never know otherwise about what life was really like in the belly of that beast.”—Mark Shechner, The Buffalo News

“In a new book, Students for a Democratic Society, Pekar and longtime collaborator Gary Dumm remember the definitive student revolutionaries of the 1960s in a gripping narrative that is one-half eulogy and one-half exposé.”—Gerry Canavan, Independent Weekly
“Interprets a groundbreaking political group of the '60s with words, pictures, and passion.”—Carlo Wolff, The Boston Sunday Globe
“Ambitious.”—San Francisco Chronicle

“Should serve as an introduction to SDS for curious students.”—Elsa Dixler, The New York Times Book Review

“Could easily inspire the next generation of activists.”—Rachel Kramer Bussel, Penthouse

Students for a Democratic Society: A Graphic History will make old timers remember, discuss, argue and laugh, while the young will bubble with questions. For me, it brought back untold memories and induced visions of the next great wave of social activism!”—Michael James, JOIN/SDS organizer, founder of Rising Up Angry, and proprietor of Chicago’s Heartland Cafe

“My own radical journey began with Mad Magazine, so it feels great that SDS should enter the culture of comic folklore thanks to Harvey Pekar and Paul Buhle. May this graphic history be an informing contribution as a new generation of SDS writes its own story.”—Tom Hayden, founding member of the Students for a Democratic Society

“Hey!  Did you know grandpa was a revolutionary?  If you want the inside story from SDS veterans themselves, with a minimum of rhetoric and a maximum of sex, drugs, violence, and internal faction-fighting, check out this wonderful graphic history . . . Grandma and grandpa’s bedtime stories are guaranteed to get the children dreaming of their own anti-imperialist movement.”—Mark Rudd, a founder of the Weather Underground, the last National Secretary of SDS, and the Chairman of the Columbia University chapter of SDS during the 1968 student strike

Students for a Democratic Society: A Graphic History brings the historical power of SDS to life for the new generation of SDS activists. At a time when the state repression and militarism of the 1960’s and 70’s finds its closest parallel in the Iraq War and the Patriot Act, this accessible book maps out the legacy of resistance our generation has inherited. This is mandatory reading for serious, young organizers who desire to combat oppression while avoiding the errors of their predecessors.”—Senia Barragan, Brown University/Providence SDS

"The story of the legendary 1960s student-activist group, in words and pictures . . . this graphic history of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS): written mostly by Pekar, supplemented by several former SDS members; edited by Buhle, founding editor of the SDS journal Radical America, who also wrote several sections; with effective art by frequent American Splendor collaborator Dumm. Although he's never been shy about his angry leftist political leanings or about shoving himself into a narrative, Pekar keeps almost entirely in the background here as the book parses the minutiae of SDS's creation, rise to prominence, post-Nixon splintering and, very briefly, its resurgence in 2006. Founded in 1960 as an offshoot of various lefty-labor organizations that traced their lineage back to Upton Sinclair in 1905, SDS quickly alienated more staid elements of the Old Left with its emphasis on personal freedom, solidarity with the civil-rights movement and vehement antiwar stance. Throughout the mid and late '60s, SDS grew in numbers, leading demonstrations and publishing agitprop journals in cities and campuses across the nation, while it was simultaneously riven from within by agent provocateurs and fractious infighting among factions like the Weathermen and doctrinaire Marxists. Eschewing a standard time line, many of the book's later pages offer journal-like contributions from rank-and-file members,who provide snapshots of the life-altering struggle they were engaged in-often with a self-deprecating nod to its more naive aspects. Learned, passionate and accessible history of the first order, casting a critical but mostly benevolent eye on an often-contradictory movement."—Kirkus Reviews

"[Pekar's] newest effort works on a variety of levels. For one, Pekar is not the sole author. He constructs a narrative of the history of the Students for a Democratic Society, but frequently steps aside to allow actual participants in that history to tell their own stories, using his casual first-person model of storytelling. The narrative moves through the decade of SDS history and then moves into the participant accounts, offering both a macro and a micro vision of the times. The artwork is mostly by frequent Pekar collaborator Gary Dumm, whose crisp, neutral realism . . . [moves] the story along and does a fine job of conveying the various settings. As a whole, the book acts like a sophisticated handbook on an often misunderstood organization. It's good comics and excellent history."—Publishers Weekly

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Harvey Pekar is best known for his graphic autobiography, American Splendor, on which comic artist Gary Dumm collaborated. Paul Buhle, a senior lecturer at Brown University, was founding editor of the SDS journal Radical America.
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  • Written (mostly) by Harvey Pekar; Art (mostly) by Gary Dumm; Edited by Paul Buhle

  • Harvey Pekar is best known for his graphic autobiography, American Splendor, on which comic artist Gary Dumm collaborated. Paul Buhle, a senior lecturer at Brown University, was founding editor of the SDS journal Radical America.
  • Harvey Pekar © JT Waldman