Hayden, Thomas Emmett ("Tom")
HAYDEN, Thomas Emmett ("Tom")
(b. 11 December 1939 in Royal Oak, Michigan), civil rights activist, founder and first president of Students for a Democratic Society, primary author of the Port Huron Statement, antiwar activist, and defendant in the conspiracy trial of the "Chicago Eight."
Hayden is the only child of John Francis Hayden, an accountant and World War II veteran, and Genevieve Isabelle (Garity) Hayden, a librarian. His parents divorced soon after the war, and Hayden's mother supported herself and her son. Hayden attended the Shrine of the Little Flower Church and parish school. Although the church's pastor was Father Charles Coughlin, the prominent "radio priest" and depression-era critic of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Hayden remembered nothing overtly political in his weekly sermons to his parish.
In 1957 Hayden graduated from Royal Oak High School, where he had been editor of the school newspaper; enrolled at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor; and soon began reporting for the campus newspaper, the Michigan Daily. Although he had been exposed to campus politics at Michigan, he gradually became more committed to activism following a trip to California in 1960. There he met students from the University of California, Berkeley, who had protested against the House Un-American Activities Committee, and he attended a meeting of the National Student Association, where he interviewed Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. "Ultimately, you have to take a stand with your life," King told Hayden.
During his senior year (1960–1961) Hayden used his position as editor of the Daily to promote the work of student civil rights activists in the South; he also made a trip to Tennessee to deliver food to black sharecroppers evicted from their land for registering to vote. Hayden graduated with a B.A. from the University of Michigan in 1961. Following graduation he married the civil rights activist Sandra ("Casey") Cason, and the two worked full-time for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in Atlanta. Hayden and Cason would divorce in 1963. As racist violence increased in Mississippi in response to SNCC's voter-registration drive, Hayden went to McComb, Mississippi, where he was attacked by segregationists and arrested. Later, he and Casey took part in a Freedom Ride by train from Atlanta to Albany, Georgia, where both were arrested for attempting to integrate the public train station in Albany.
By 1961 Hayden was one of a handful of people making up Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), an organization formed by some Michigan friends out of the Old Left Student League for Industrial Democracy. Inspired by the courage of the SNCC students in the face of southern hostility and believing that an entire generation could be aroused over issues of race, war and peace, and political apathy, Hayden called on his colleagues to make SDS a national organization and a counterpart to SNCC. In June 1962 students from across the country met in Port Huron, Michigan, where Hayden produced the first draft of the "Port Huron Statement," the defining document of the New Left. It began, "We are people of this generation, bred in at least modest comfort, housed in universities, looking uncomfortably to the world we inherit." It assailed the racism in American society and the peril of atomic weapons and suggested that, contrary to appearances, most Americans experienced "deeply-felt anxieties about their role in the new world." Even so, Hayden's optimism came through: "We regard men as infinitely precious and possessed of unfulfilled capacities for reason, freedom, and love.… We oppose the depersonalization that reduces human beings to things.… We see little reason why men cannot meet with increasing skill the complexities and responsibilities of their situation." In addressing social problems, the Port Huron Statement included a lengthy section on "participatory democracy." This was a central New Left tenet that called for "the individual [to] share in those social decisions determining the quality and direction of his life" and demanded "that society be organized to encourage independence in men and provide the media for their common participation." At the end of nearly seventy-five pages, the statement indicated that SDS planned to spread its vision to communities and campuses across the country. "If we appear to seek the unattainable, then let it be known that we do so to avoid the unimaginable."
In 1962 and 1963 Hayden served as SDS's first president, operating from a home office in Ann Arbor (where he also completed an M.A. degree in sociology in 1963). Eventually it became clear to him and the SDS leadership that a "participatory democracy" would not begin by itself. The organization, therefore, set up the Economic Research and Action Project (ERAP), intended as a northern equivalent to SNCC, sending students to organize the poor in urban slums. From September 1963 to July 1967 Hayden led the ERAP in Newark, New Jersey. Hayden and the other volunteers went door to door, inquiring about residents' grievances and arranging meetings to organize citizens into effective community groups. They helped organize rent strikes, elected poor people to the city's Anti-Poverty Board, held welfare demonstrations, and demanded that new playgrounds be built in poor neighborhoods. When the Newark riots erupted in 1967, Hayden, already under surveillance by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, challenged the official claims of a conspiracy in his book, Rebellion in Newark. As he put it, "Americans have to turn their attention from the law-breaking violence of the rioters to the original and greater violence of racism, which is supported indirectly by the white community as a whole."
In the meantime the 1965 escalation of the American war in Vietnam also captured Hayden's attention. That year, with the radical historians Staughton Lynd and Herbert Aptheker, he made the first of several trips to North Vietnam, and with Lynd he wrote The Other Side (1967), in which the authors attempted to explain the nationalist motives and goals of North Vietnam. In 1967, during a meeting between North Vietnamese officials and American peace activists in Bratislava, Czechoslovakia, he was invited to Cambodia to convey three American prisoners of war back to the United States.
At the beginning of 1968, however, with the war still escalating, Hayden moved from Newark to Chicago to serve as codirector of projected protests at the August Democratic National Convention. In his memoir Hayden said that he felt as though he were "living on the knife edge of history." That winter and spring saw the unfolding of the Tet offensive, a series of battles launched by the Vietnamese Communists to capture cities in South Vietnam. The short-term success of the campaign served as a psychological victory and undermined the claim of the U.S. government that the war in Vietnam was almost won. At the same time the senators Eugene McCarthy and Robert Kennedy challenged Lyndon B. Johnson for the Democratic presidential nomination. Hayden, who had grown fond of Kennedy, hoped that Johnson would be defeated. His aspirations for peace in the wake of Johnson's announcement that he would not run for reelection were quickly erased by the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Kennedy. In May 1968 Hayden also participated in the student strike and seizure of buildings at Columbia University by chairing the "commune" in charge of the mathematics building.
Meanwhile, the mayor of Chicago, Richard Daley, "in order to discourage the hippies from coming," refused to grant marching permits or overnight camping permits to Hayden's National Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam, or "Mobe," as it was often called. Attorney General Ramsey Clark sent Justice Department representatives to negotiate with the mayor and the demonstrators, but Daley would not budge. With thousands expected to descend on the city to demonstrate against the war, this virtually guaranteed that there would be street violence during the convention.
The protest plan for the convention involved four days of picketing, rallies, and concerts culminating in a ten-mile march from Grant Park to the convention headquarters at the International Amphitheatre. Most of the ten thousand people who came to Chicago had supported either McCarthy or Kennedy. Daley and the police, however, assumed that the few outspoken leaders, such as Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin of the Youth International Party, or "Yippies," who were threatening to kidnap delegates and dump LSD in the city's water supply, were representative of the whole. When the 11:00 p.m. curfew arrived in Lincoln Park on the eve of the convention's opening, Chicago police invaded the park and used tear gas and police batons to disperse the crowd.
Hayden was arrested twice the next day, once in Lincoln Park and again, around midnight, outside the Conrad Hilton hotel. The next day Hayden wore a disguise to avoid harassment. On 28 August, the day of the planned march to the convention center and after three days and nights of police attacks, the police once again moved in on Hayden and other Mobe leaders in Grant Park. When Mobe's co-director Rennie Davis was knocked unconscious, Hayden, furious, told the crowd that since the city would not allow them to march, they should move in small groups out of the park. "Let us make sure that if blood is going to flow, let it flow all over this city.… If we are going to be disrupted and violated, let this whole stinking city be disrupted and violated." The crowd scattered. The Illinois National Guard stopped some protesters, but a few thousand made it to the Conrad Hilton hotel, where again they were clubbed, gassed, and arrested by police. News crews filmed the chaos as the demonstrators shouted, "The whole world is watching!"
Hayden and seven others, known as the "Chicago Eight," were indicted for crossing state lines to incite a riot. In February 1970, following a sensational trial in which the defendants openly sparred with the judge, Hayden and four others were found guilty and sentenced to five years in prison. The convictions were overturned on appeal in 1972. On 20 January 1973 Hayden married the actress Jane Fonda, with whom he continued to work on the Indochina Peace Campaign. They divorced in 1990. Hayden lost an election bid for the U.S. Senate on the Democratic ticket in California in 1976 but was elected to the California State Assembly in 1982 and served until 1992. He also served Los Angeles as a state senator from 1992 to 1999. On 8 August 1993 Hayden married Barbara Williams; they have one son.
Few Americans personify the tumultuous decade of the 1960s like Hayden. From his 1962 authorship of the Port Huron Statement, which inspired thousands of young people in the 1960s and beyond, to his civil rights, ERAP, and antiwar activism, Hayden participated in many of the defining events of his generation and left an enduring mark.
Hayden has published eleven books, including his memoir, Reunion: A Memoir (1988). Biographical information about Hayden is in Kirkpatrick Sale, SDS: Ten Years Toward a Revolution (1973); David DeLeon, Leaders from the 1960s: A Biographical Sourcebook of American Activism (1994); and Hayden's personal website at http://www.tomhayden.com. Information about Hayden's activities in the SDS and the Chicago protests and trial is in Todd Gitlin, The Sixties: Years of Hope, Days of Rage (1987); Maurice Isserman, If I Had a Hammer: The Death of the Old Left and the Birth of the New Left (1987); James E. Miller, Democracy Is in the Streets: From Port Huron to the Siege of Chicago (1987); David Farber, Chicago '68 (1988); and Terry H. Anderson, The Movement and the Sixties: Protest in America from Greensboro to Wounded Knee (1995). SDS's papers are available on microfilm and are deposited at the University of Wisconsin.
Michael S. Foley