Demonstrators greet military police with jeers outside the Democratic National Convention headquarters, August 29, 1968.
“A key figure in and historian of the New Left, Todd Gitlin was president of Students for a Democratic Society in 1964–65 and helped organize the first national demonstrations against the Vietnam War. He is the author of The Sixties: Years of Hope, Days of Rage, among many other books, and a professor of journalism and sociology at Columbia University, where he teaches an American-studies course on the 1960s. Sasha Abramsky spoke with him in April.
Sasha Abramsky: Fiftieth-anniversary dates for the events of 1968 are rolling out thick and fast. Let’s talk about what happened at the Democratic Party convention in Chicago that summer. Perhaps more than any other protest in that momentous year of upheaval, the street fighting in Chicago in August came to symbolize the crisis at the heart of American politics. You were there during that week of protest, and you’ve written extensively about it in the decades since. What made the events in Chicago so emblematic of the broader moment?
Todd Gitlin: 1968 was the crystallization of a lot of forces. Lyndon Johnson had been president for four-plus years. He had undertaken the most sweeping policy of domestic reform since [Franklin] Roosevelt. But he had also massively escalated the war in Vietnam. And beginning in April 1965, there had been repeated mobilizations against the war. By the fall of ‘65, they had settled into a pattern—big mobilizations on both coasts in mid-April and again in October. They had grown from the 25,000 who showed up in Washington in April 1965 to hundreds of thousands. The anti-war movement was like a counter-nation. It was everywhere: in small towns, cosmopolitan centers, in the East and the West, but also in community colleges, state schools, high schools, and in every profession—doctors and nurses, clergy, social workers, and teachers. And also in labor, even though the leadership of American labor was hostile to the anti-war movement. …”
amazon: The Sixties: Years of Hope, Days of Rage
NY Times: TEARS AND RIOTS, LOVE AND REGRETS
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