Witness to the Revolution

Witness to the Revolution

Radicals, Resisters, Vets, Hippies, and the Year America Lost Its Mind and Found Its Soul

Book - 2016 | First edition
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Random House, Inc.
The electrifying story of the turbulent year when the sixties ended and America teetered on the edge of revolution


As the 1960s drew to a close, the United States was coming apart at the seams. From August 1969 to August 1970, the nation witnessed nine thousand protests and eighty-four acts of arson or bombings at schools across the country. It was the year of the My Lai massacre investigation, the Cambodia invasion, Woodstock, and the Moratorium to End the War. The American death toll in Vietnam was approaching fifty thousand, and the ascendant counterculture was challenging nearly every aspect of American society. Witness to the Revolution, Clara Bingham’s unique oral history of that tumultuous time, unveils anew that moment when America careened to the brink of a civil war at home, as it fought a long, futile war abroad.

Woven together from one hundred original interviews, Witness to the Revolution provides a firsthand narrative of that period of upheaval in the words of those closest to the action—the activists, organizers, radicals, and resisters who manned the barricades of what Students for a Democratic Society leader Tom Hayden called “the Great Refusal.”

We meet Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn of the Weather Underground; Daniel Ellsberg, the former Defense Department employee who released the Pentagon Papers; feminist theorist Robin Morgan; actor and activist Jane Fonda; and many others whose powerful personal stories capture the essence of an era. We witness how the killing of four students at Kent State turned a straitlaced social worker into a hippie, how the civil rights movement gave birth to the women’s movement, and how opposition to the war in Vietnam turned college students into prisoners, veterans into peace marchers, and intellectuals into bombers.

With lessons that can be applied to our time, Witness to the Revolution is more than just a record of the death throes of the Age of Aquarius. Today, when America is once again enmeshed in racial turmoil, extended wars overseas, and distrust of the government, the insights contained in this book are more relevant than ever.

Praise for Witness to the Revolution

“Especially for younger generations who didn’t live through it, Witness to the Revolution is a valuable and entertaining primer on a moment in American history the likes of which we may never see again.”—Bryan Burrough, The Wall Street Journal

“A rich tapestry of a volatile period in American history.”Time

“A gripping oral history of the centrifugal social forces tearing America apart at the end of the ’60s . . . This is rousing reportage from the front lines of US history.”O: The Oprah Magazine

“The familiar voices and the unfamiliar ones are woven together with documents to make this a surprisingly powerful and moving book.”New York Times Book Review

“[An] Enthralling and brilliant chronology of the period between August 1969 and September 1970.”Buffalo News

“[Bingham] captures the essence of these fourteen months through the words of movement organizers, vets, students, draft resisters, journalists, musicians, government agents, writers, and others. . . . This oral history will enable readers to see that era in a new light and with fresh sympathy for the motivations of those involved. While Bingham’s is one of many retrospective looks at that period, it is one of the most immediate and personal.”Booklist

Baker & Taylor
Offers a riveting oral history of American society in the turbulent years of the Vietnam War as told by the people in the thick of it, including Jane Fonda, Daniel Ellsberg, Bill Ayers, and many more.

& Taylor

An oral history of American society in the years of 1969 and 1970 offers a narrative look at the anti-war movement told in the words of the activists, organizers, criminals, bombers, policy makers, veterans, hippies, and others who challenged nearly every aspect of American society.

Publisher: New York : Random House, [2016]
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9780812993189
Branch Call Number: 303.484 BINGHAM
Characteristics: xxxv, 611 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm


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Oct 10, 2017

I'm not sure if we need yet another book about the 60s, although this book finds a somewhat different angle by adopting the oral history format. The advantage it the immediacy of the voices, but the disadvantage is that it can be lacking in context and analysis. The narrative that the participants tell and the author endorses is that the social movements of the decade, many of which originated on campuses (SDS, SNCC, the Free Speech Movement), were rousing successes and there's little about the legacy, both negative and positive. There are many familiar names like Tom Hayden, Jane Fonda, Daniel Ellsberg (The Pentagon Papers), and Seymour Hersh. Clara Bingham focuses on a tumultuous, epochal period (the 1969-1970 school year), which included the My Lai massacre, the re-election of Nixon, the Manson murders, Altamont, Woodstock, and the increased profile (And government targeting of. more radical groups like the Weathermen and the Black Panthers. If you're familiar with the period, this doesn't add much. I'd recommend "Days of Rage" for a look at violent protest and "Nixonland" for a look at the political friction of the period.

Oct 26, 2016

The interviews clarified many issues that I didn't understand at the time, especially what happened to SDS. The only missing perspective is from the mainstream antiwar movement which hung together for the big demonstrations but experienced many internecine battles between various New Left groups and parties.

Aug 01, 2016

"For three years, I traveled the country talking to the leaders and foot soldiers of the sixties peace movement." From these conversations, the author offers paragraphs detailing the news of mostly the late 1960s and early 1970s in a form the author describes as a "narrative oral history," gathering personal accounts eventually ringing like they are not necessarily an objective group. The challenge as a reader comes from following a coherent timeline of the era presented. Lots of paragraphs and views leading one to believe many of these names covered had no real answers, just slogans. The real bomb of change went off in 1968. The aftermath plays out in these pages.


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