The fall of the facade of a unified, homogenous America and the rise of activism in the streets and by students shook the 1960’s. That decade, sociologically stretched into 1973, is tracked here as a stirring prose anthem, celebrating the past and warning that the future requires citizens to keep aware and keep active. The book seizes some of the passion as well as the politics of that time.
Terry Anderson, a Vietnam War veteran and history professor at Texas A&M University, chronicles this recent past in a concise, even dense, style. With compelling detail yet an expansive eye for scope and scale, he produces notions of causes and effects. The history that emerges not only predates by chance but also precedes by extension the histrionics of political maneuverings of the 1990’s.
There was a sequence of disconnected events then that nevertheless tied together and influenced their future: integrating lunch counters and buses, mixing civil rights and student activists to demand voting rights. When dissent became routine, new energies ignited with President Lyndon B. Johnson’s escalation of the Vietnam War. Protest drifted to resistance, which in turn translated to combat and casualties, as black militants defended themselves and authorities engaged in violent shootouts with radicals.
The social and political Movement also splintered into counter culture, but its core confrontations and conflicts—white/black, student/administrator, hawks/doves—managed to yield a new chemistry and a new country.
Current leaders face a legacy of legend and reality in the 1960’s, not unlike the schisms that split society thirty years ago—differences in romance and reality. Anderson’s book helps put into perspective the real and the ideal roots and branches of mid-century reform, or rebirth.