“The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” – William Faulkner
1968 is considered to be one of the most turbulent years in American history. The assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert F Kennedy that year shocked the nation. On the other side of the globe in Vietnam, a wildly controversial war was entering its most dramatic and decisive moment: the Tet Offensive. At home, political tensions (in large part caused by the war) had reached the breaking point, culminating in the divisive and even violent events surrounding the 1968 presidential election. Looking back on this time fifty years later during our own stormy present, it’s clear that many of the social and political fractures of 1968 are still visible.
To help commemorate such an important year, the Library has put together a few reading suggestions. They are:
A Hard Rain by Frye Gaillard
“Frye Gaillard has given us a deeply personal history, bringing his keen storyteller’s eye to this pivotal time in American life. He explores the competing story arcs of tragedy and hope through the political and social movements of the times ― civil rights, black power, women’s liberation, the War in Vietnam, and the protests against it. But he also examines the cultural manifestations of change ― music, literature, art, religion, and science ― and so we meet not only the Brothers Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr and Malcolm X, but also Gloria Steinem, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Johnny Cash, Harper Lee, Mister Rogers, Rachel Carson, James Baldwin, Andy Warhol, Billy Graham, Thomas Merton, George Wallace, Richard Nixon, Angela Davis, Barry Goldwater, the Beatles, Bob Dylan, and the Berrigan Brothers.” -From Amazon.com
Hue, 1968 by Mark Bowden
Hue, 1968 tells the story of one of the most pivotal battles of the Tet Offensive, which ultimately served as a turning point of the American war in Vietnam. After Hue (by far the bloodiest battle of the war), the American public began to take a decidedly negative view of the war, changing the debate from “how to win” to “how to leave as soon as possible.”
The Contest: The 1968 Election and the War for America’s Soul by Michael Schumaher
“An election year when the competing forces of law and order and social justice were on the ballot, the Vietnam War divided the country, and the liberal regime begun with Franklin D. Roosevelt was on the defensive, 1968 marked a profound shift in the nation’s culture and sense of itself. Thorough in its research and spellbinding in the telling, Schumacher’s book brings sharp focus to that year and its lessons for our current critical moment in American politics.” -From Amazon.com
The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr
“Relevant and insightful, the Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr. offers King’s seldom disclosed views on some of the world’s greatest and most controversial figures: John F. Kennedy, Malcolm X, Lyndon B. Johnson, Mahatma Gandhi, and Richard Nixon. It also paints a rich and moving portrait of a people, a time, and a nation in the face of powerful change. Finally, it shows how everyday Americans from all walks of life confronted themselves, each other, and the burden of the past-and how their fears and courage helped shape our future.” -From Amazon.com
Bobby Kennedy: A Raging Spirit by Chris Mathews
“Drawing on extensive research and interviews, Matthews pulls back the curtain on the public and private worlds of Robert Francis Kennedy. He shines a light on all the important moments of his life, from his early years and his start in politics to his crucial role as attorney general in his brother’s administration and his tragic run for president. This definitive book brings Bobby Kennedy to life like never before and is destined to become a political classic.” -Taken from Amazon.com
Best of Enemies (R, 88 minutes)
This 2015 documentary focuses on the televised ABC debate between two remarkably intelligent and influential figures: William F Buckley Jr. and Gore Vidal. As gifted as each man was, both were completely convinced that the other was dangerous for the country. The debate, meant to enlighten viewers about the 1968 presidential election (and boost ABC’s dismal ratings) proved to be a watershed moment in television history. On the one hand, it gave birth to the “punditocracy” that is so prevalent in the country today. On the other, it served to encapsulate the political divide in America that has never healed. Aside from being illuminating and poignant, both personalities make this documentary incredibly entertaining. (Available on Hoopla now!)
Thanks for reading!