Social Issues Uncovered in Playboy

by Phillip Cunningham, Head of Research Services

When cataloging titles donated to the Amistad Research Center Library Collection, we often come across unique publications that pique our interest. This is one such case.

A collection of books was separated from the papers of John O’Neal (a community and civil rights activist who co-founded the Free Southern Theater) to be added to the library collection. Between the National Roster of Black Elected Officials and Manifesto for a Black Revolutionary Party peeped out the iconic brow-raising rabbit head symbol of a Playboy magazine. Although not typically a publication that falls within our library’s collecting scope, I decided to investigate further before making a final determination of whether to catalog it.

Cesar Chavez, circa 1970s.

No pictures, no centerfold, but nonetheless provocative, Bring Us Together is a reprint of four articles that had originally appeared in the January 1970 issue of Playboy, featuring some big-name authors. In George McGovern’s “Reconciling the Generations,” he talks about what must be done to recapture the respect of the younger generation (yes, he’s talking about the baby boomers). Cesar Chavez, in “Sharing the Wealth,” writes about the exploitation of the poor by the government and the need to develop economic and political independence. Julian Bond writes not about class, but about race, in his piece “Uniting the Races”; he says that power has for too long been monopolized and that the government must apply and enforce egalitarian legislation to foster peace in the United States. And Tom Wicker of The New York Times examines social ideals that conservatives and progressives share in his piece, “Forging a Left-Right Coalition.” Together, the articles call on Congress and President Richard Nixon to keep their promises to the American people.

Julian Bond.

The years that followed the (re)publishing of Bring Us Together add to the exceptional brilliance captured in such a short publication (only 12 pages). McGovern, a senator at the time of writing, would announce his candidacy only a year later and become the main contender against Nixon in the 1972 presidential election. The Watergate scandal that surfaced after the election would lead to Nixon’s resignation. Cesar Chavez had gained national attention as a leader of the United Farm Workers union (UFW) and he continued his organizing efforts, changing the landscape of the farm labor union in the United States. Julian Bond, a revered civil rights activist who helped establish the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), was only three years into his 20-year stint as a Georgia legislator. A year after his publication in Playboy, Bond would graduate with a bachelor’s degree in English from Morehouse College. And Tom Wicker, The New York Times’ thumb on the pulse of the nation’s capital for many years, earned himself a place on the infamous “Master List of Nixon’s Political Opponents,” one of the highest honors bestowed in journalism.

Tom Wicker, 1975. Photo by Tipery.

According to Worldcat, the Amistad Research Center is the only library with this unique and fascinating title in its collection.

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