The Weathermen formed in 1969 as a radical branch that derived from the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). The name itself came from a popular Bob Dylan’s song Subterranean Homesick Blues that features the line, “You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.”
Peaceful protests turned into street riots as The Weathermen organized attacks on federal buildings throughout the country in protest of the Vietnam War. The violent actions were meant to bring about a revolution, but failed to deliver.
The Story of Diana Oughton
Diana Oughton was born January 26, 1942. She came from a well-respected family; her parents founded both the Keeley Institute and the American Boy Scouts. Most of her family members earned Ivy League educations.
She was a promising student, too. Her childhood consisted of riding horses, playing the piano, and living in an upper-middle class neighborhood. Nevertheless, she had independent thoughts and strong opinions.
As she entered college, Oughton became influenced by community issues and social affairs, especially regarding poor, minority groups. She helped people register to vote and tutored underprivileged students.
After that, she began to travel; from Germany to Guatemala, Oughton learned new languages and once again became enthralled with political injustices.
Once her Latin America excursion ended, she continued to further her education at the University of Michigan and earned a teaching certificate.
She was involved with Children’s Community School, which is where she met Bill Ayers in 1968.
The Students for a Democratic Society
Before The Weatherman, Bill Ayers founded the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) in 1960 in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and was a prominent political leader of the organization.
Oughton joined, too, and her radical views bloomed. She demanded revolution. Her parents and other family members lost contact with Oughton after she joined the SDS; they knew her ideas were extreme.
In 1963, the SDS created the Economic Research and Action Project (ERAP), which helped poor, urban communities get involved with the democratic system. The ERAP was established in cities including Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Newark, and Philadelphia. Most of the projects did not last long, but as soon as one ended, another task was implemented.
The first generation of SDS dealt with domestic issues, but by 1964, the second generation of the SDS was focused on the Vietnam War. The group formed antiwar campaigns. In April of 1965, they marched in Washington D.C. to protest the bombing of North Vietnam just a couple months earlier.
As the war in Vietnam grew, so did the number of demonstrators. The SDS initially had around 250 members, but that number rose to 2,500 by December 1964. In October 1965, over 25,000 people claimed to be members of the SDS. The original founders thought politics and the government system, in general, would reform itself. In contrast, members who joined after 1965 did not feel the same way. As the years went on, and the war heated up, even the original members doubted their peaceful beliefs. In 1967, a new phase came over the SDS; they focused solely on the draft and the resistance to war. Due to poor records, it was estimated that the SDS membership reached between 80,000 and 100,000 people.