The sixties happened in Oklahoma too, argued Sarah Eppler Janda
in Prairie Power: Student Activism, Counterculture, and Backlash in Oklahoma, 1962–1972
(University of Oklahoma Press, 2018).
While not a hub of activism and student protest on the scale of UC-Berkeley or Columbia, schools such as the University of Oklahoma and (to a lesser extent) Oklahoma State nonetheless had active student organizations such as Students for a Democratic Society. Borrowing from the language of the activists themselves, Janda dubs midwestern student protest to be “Prairie Power,” which had its beginnings in administrative paternalism and the stifling of student dissent. While typically less radical than its coastal analogues, Prairie Power was nonetheless similarly rooted in youth rebellion against censorship, American foreign policy, social norms, and racial hierarchy. Janda, a Professor of history at Cameron University, makes a compelling case for telling a broader story of 1960s and 1970s counterculture that looks beyond the usual places to uncover nuanced currents of protest on the Great Plains.
Stephen Hausmann is an Assistant Professor of US History at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota. He teaches courses on modern US history, environmental history, and Indigenous history and is currently working on his book manuscript, an environmental history of the Black Hills of South Dakota and Wyoming.