Foreword Reviews

Foreword Foresight: 1968

End of Innocence art

Bobby Kennedy
1968 was the capstone of a decade of extremes. While often characterized as a time of free love, expanding sexual options, and belief in the possibility of peace and freedom, these books pull us up hard with reminders that 1968 was also marked by assassinations, riots, fears of imminent nuclear war, the generation gap, global unrest, and how America, trapped in a lingering, unwinnable war, lost its sense of invincibility. While a great cultural divide had some, including Republican presidential candidate Richard Nixon, calling social change activism “the shock wave of a new, frightening vision of America that was antithetical to everything the country had supposedly represented,” these books reveal that worldwide movements for change were making major strides.


The Rise and Fall of the New American Revolution

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Robert C. Cottrell
Blaine T. Browne
Rowman & Littlefield
Hardcover $38.00 (324pp)
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Robert C. Cottrell and Blaine T. Browne’s book is a reminder that the year 1968 saw the United States on the brink of a revolution, one that was virtually apocalyptic in scope. Race riots led to torched American cities, and outrage and rebellion against the Vietnam War prompted student revolts on campuses across the land. Conspiracy trials were held in an attempt to halt the radical challenge to authority. Major political figures and other leaders were gunned down, with the images broadcast to a horrified population.

It was a time of extremes. Cottrell and Browne show how the events that shattered the belief in “US invincibility” unfolded against the backdrop of a great generational divide and global unrest, contrasted with the pull to nonviolence and peace, free love, and the rise of communal and back-to-the-land living, all topped off with a good dose of sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll.

Remembered here, the sixties also saw the second wave of the feminist movement and its more radical members’ claim that the real enemy was not war, the draft, the government, or racial issues, but men. Calls for women to rebel against patriarchy by remaining single or taking periodic sabbaticals from married life, living in all-female communes, learning karate, and practicing self-imposed celibacy resounded. And, while 1968 marked a turning point for American environmentalism with the passage of the Wild and Scenic Rivers and National Trails System acts, it also saw the unveiling of some frighteningly draconian ideas on population control.

The year 1968 “added more to a sense of unease, disillusionment, and distrust of government institutions than any other year during the turbulent decade and a half that followed the start of the 1960s,” Cottrell and Browne write. But it also brought a “small but bright glimmer of hope” that continues to light the path today.

KRISTINE MORRIS (June 27, 2018)

Ballots and Bullets

Black Power Politics and Urban Guerrilla Warfare in 1968 Cleveland

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James Robenalt
Chicago Review Press
Hardcover $27.99 (384pp)
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As recalled in Ballots and Bullets, July 23, 1968, was a night of terror in Cleveland, Ohio. Six people were killed and at least fifteen wounded as police battled black nationalists in the beginning of days of fierce rioting. The cause is still shrouded in mystery.

James Robenalt exposes the roots of the violence in Cleveland, the first major American city to elect a black man as mayor, and one prominent in the civil rights movement. Cleveland hosted Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, standing for Christian faith, nonviolence, and integration, in 1963, as well as Malcolm X and his black Muslims, who advocated for racial separation and being armed, in 1964.

The book asks some hard questions, foremost among them that of why, fifty years later, the racial divide and the neglect of inner cities is still as bad, or worse, than it was in 1968? And why does police brutality, including the murder of unarmed black citizens, go unpunished?

“Racism in America has its own peculiar pathology,” writes Robenalt, citing how Americans are in denial about the degree to which it permeates the culture, politics, economics, justice system, and relationships at all levels of society.

“The heartbreak is that in 1968 we had made a start; we had taken a first step on honestly acknowledging our nation’s racial sickness, and we at least groped for solutions,” he writes, suggesting that massive investment in the nation’s inner cities and antipoverty programs, and enforcement of gun laws and strict regulation of gun ownership, might be good places to start anew.

“We cannot expect our police to solve the problems of poverty and racism. That is a job for all Americans,” Robenalt writes, calling on all to recognize their fellow citizens as brothers and sisters and act accordingly.

KRISTINE MORRIS (June 27, 2018)

Beginner’s Luck

Dispatches from the Klamath Mountains

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Malcolm Terence
Oregon State University Press
Softcover $19.95 (240pp)
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Caught up in the heady magic of 1968 in California’s Haight-Ashbury district, journalist Malcolm Terence found that the world was changing fast—much faster than the attitudes of his employer, the Los Angeles Times. Terence chose to go with the world; free love, free food, and a sense that capitalism was about to be replaced by something better were impossible to resist.

After leaving the Times, his Brooks Brothers suits, and his buzzed hair behind, Terence managed a traveling rock band, then settled in for communal living with San Francisco’s “Diggers.” His long hair, scruffy beard, and outspokenness made him an instant “cop magnet.” “It started to creep into my head that this is what young guys of color had always faced,” he writes.

Ultimately, his path led him to Black Bear Ranch, a new commune in the Klamath Mountains. Members led a simple life homesteading, farming, having babies, picking up jobs as loggers or miners, and battling wildfires with the US Forest Service. Growing marijuana was a common side hustle.

Life wasn’t easy. “Everybody in those days was so thin it was a little scary,” writes Terence. In winter, the crowd of “underfed hippies” would be snowed in for weeks at a time, and it didn’t take long for Donner Party jokes to lose their punch.

Though the ranch still exists, many of its early residents moved on to city life. Terence chose to live in nearby river towns, and his vivid and moving descriptions of how rednecks, Natives, and hippies could be counted on to help each other when needed are filled with gratefulness and respect for the basic goodness of the human spirit.

Humorous, ironic, and witty, Terence’s stories bring the people and events of the late 1960s to life in all their tie-dyed splendor.

KRISTINE MORRIS (June 27, 2018)

The Bad Sixties

Hollywood Memories of the Counterculture, Antiwar, and Black Power Movements

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Kristen Hoerl
University Press of Mississippi
Hardcover $70.00 (192pp)
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Kristen Hoerl’s The Bad Sixties examines Hollywood’s take on 1960s America. It reveals that the entertainment industry, which could have been a potent force for progress, dropped the ball by avoiding serious engagement with the powerful, radical ideas that moved people to take to the streets. Instead, she says, it chose to focus on what it saw as the breakdown of “traditional American values.” The result was a distorted, stereotype-ridden picture of the decade’s social movements and its leaders—disturbing, considering the important role that film and television play in molding the attitudes of new generations.

Citing several popular television shows and films of the era, Hoerl shows how they contributed to the “bad” image of the 1960s, portraying it as a nation-dividing decade marked by sexual experimentation and drug use as much as it was by antiwar protests, urban riots, and the rise of feminism.

She argues that there was much of real value going on, including the exploration of ways in which citizens could participate in their democracy in a time when their voices were going unheard, and declares that the dismissive, even hostile attitude of Hollywood and television toward the issues of the sixties contributed to a kind of “selective amnesia” surrounding the reasons for its social conflicts and rebellions. As a result, generations born after that pivotal decade will find, in films, neither accurate information nor the inspiration they need to engage in their own activism.

Hoerl shows how Hollywood’s characterization of the sixties as “bad” has hindered the progress that could have been made with the help of potent reminders of the passion, anger, and belief in the possibility of change that characterized the decade.

KRISTINE MORRIS (June 27, 2018)

The Contest

The 1968 Election and the War for America’s Soul

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Michael Schumacher
University of Minnesota Press
Hardcover $34.95 (560pp)
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In a very real sense, the presidential election of 1968 was a battle for America’s soul. Taking place against the backdrop of a protracted and unpopular war overseas and assassinations, student protests, race riots, and cities in flames at home, this election—one of the closest, most bitterly contested in US history—would decide whether the country would respond by leaning in the direction of social justice and Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal policies or by imposing a regime of law and order.

In The Contest, Michael Schumacher not only covers the events that made headlines in 1968 but takes an intimate, moving, and often surprising behind-the-scenes look at the major players who made it a pivotal year in American history. We learn that Lyndon Johnson, suffering from nightmares and insomnia, would shuffle down the White House hallways with a small flashlight to calm himself by touching the portrait of Woodrow Wilson; how Robert Kennedy, though haunted by the fear of assassination, loved physical contact with his supporters and would not give it up despite the danger; of Richard Nixon listing the pros and cons of running for president on a yellow legal pad with entries that included “Personally, I have had it” and “I don’t give a damn”; and of quiet family conversations that decided a candidate’s direction. Schumacher follows each candidate from preprimary events and the chaos surrounding the conventions to the general election that proved to be a turning point in America’s history.

The end result is a rigorously researched and detailed book that not only conveys all the volatility, rage, intrigue, and belief in the possibility of change that characterized the election of 1968 but provides a deeply human record of the lives of the powerful figures whose decisions would chart the course of history.

KRISTINE MORRIS (June 27, 2018)

Kristine Morris

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