Witness to the Revolution : Radicals, Resisters, Vets, Hippies, and the Year America Lost Its Mind and Found Its Soul


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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.

Advance praise for Witness to the Revolution

“Vivid, compelling, and addictively readable . . . Bingham has captured the lightning of the 1960s in a jar, where it blows the reader’s socks off. Whether you lived through this period or want to know what you missed, this is a popular history everyone should read.”—Jane Mayer, author of Dark Money

“For those who ‘missed the sixties’ (like most of us, whether demographically or spiritually), this vital book goes a long way toward explaining the original wound that festers in our ‘culture wars’ still.”—Diane McWhorter, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Carry Me Home

“A compelling history and an authentic testimony of a turbulent time. As we live through a new moment of political turmoil, it’s critical that we revisit an era when arguments over politics and culture were palpable, urgent, and revolutionary. Clara Bingham takes us there.”—Gay Talese, author of A Writer’s Life

“Moving, funny, horrifying, clarifying . . . the best sixties book since Edie.”—Evan Thomas, author of Being Nixon

“Takes you to the exact spot where the wave of the sixties, the Movement, and the Age of Aquarius crested. You can almost smell the tear gas.”—Nick Turse, author of Kill Anything That Moves

“A remarkable oral history, deftly weaving together vivid characters, traumatic events, and fractious movements.”—Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor and publisher of The Nation

From the Hardcover edition.

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Weight 27.19 oz



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