Witness to the Revolution

Radicals, Resisters, Vets, Hippies, and the Year American Lost its Mind and Found its Soul (Random House, May 31, 2016)

 

The New York Post
January 1, 2017

Named one of “The 40 Best Books of 2016 You Must Read Immediately”!
This 600-page oral history about the end of the Sixties has no right to be as addictive as it is. Haven’t we said all there is to say about that era? Bingham proves that it’s all in the way we tell it, as she expertly pieces together narratives from names big and small, creating a story that is surprisingly nail-biting. READ FULL ARTICLE

St. Louis Post-Dispatch
December 5, 2016

Named one of the Best Books of 2016! READ FULL ARTICLE

Washington Monthly
November/December 2016

Witness to the Revolution describes 1969 to 1970 as modern America’s most radical, and possibly most transformative, period. It was a time in which nearly two million Americans dropped acid and the nation experienced eighty-four acts of arson and bombing, and when a major social transformation took place, an era in which various subordinate communities—blacks, Latinos, gays, women—began to emerge and challenge the status quo. READ FULL REVIEW

The American Prospect
Summer 2016

Exemplifying the genre, Clara Bingham’s vivid Witness to the Revolution sets many scenes well and gets many moods right in conveying the sheer wildness and horror of the year that ended in August and September 1970, when a bombing at the University of Wisconsin Army Math Research Center killed an anti-war graduate student. READ FULL REVIEW

Publishers Weekly
July 11, 2016

In this oral history of the American counterculture from August 1969 to September 1970, Bingham assembles an impressive who’s who of the activists, outlaws, and idealists who sought to bring America to its reckoning, for better or worse. READ FULL REVIEW

Minneapolis Star-Tribune
July 8, 2016

The great success of Witness to the Revolution is that it never veers toward the boredom one associates with history textbooks. The book builds chronologically in one-month or two-month blocks. Bingham’s voice adds context and clarity in the form of brief biographies and chapter introductions, which help give this massive work a good narrative flow. READ FULL REVIEW

Oprah Magazine
July 2016

A gripping oral history of the centrifugal social forces tearing America apart at the end of the ‘60s… This is rousing reportage from the front lines of US history. READ FULL REVIEW

Elle Magazine
July 2016

Bingham builds an indelible portrait of a traumatized, transforming nation… Bingham’s big take is brave, brash and bold. READ FULL REVIEW

St. Louis Post-Dispatch
June 25, 2016

For those who study the time as history, the first-person accounts in Witness to the Revolution will provide invaluable primary sources of facts and emotions, recollections and rationales. For those of us who lived through it, comparing our own experiences to those of these witnesses will serve as one more reminder of what a long, strange trip it was. READ FULL REVIEW

Washington Independent Review of Books
June 21, 2016

Clara Bingham’s excellent oral history brings us to what at times feels like a somber high-school reunion. Student organizers, FBI agents, Nixon officials, and others treat the interviews as confessionals. Many express regret, anger, and oftentimes an unshakeable feeling that most of what they did was wrong. Student organizers still agonize over bombs they set off, killing innocent civilians; FBI officials admit to being uncomfortable with over-the-top surveillance tactics. READ FULL REVIEW

The National Book Review
June 14, 2016

The kaleidoscopic effect of these stories is engrossing and inspiring. READ FULL REVIEW

The New York Times
June 12, 2016

The familiar voices and the unfamiliar ones are woven together with documents to make this a surprisingly powerful and moving book. READ FULL REVIEW

The Wall Street Journal
June 11, 2016

Excellent oral history of the tumultuous events of 1969 and 1970… [Clara Bingham] does a fine job conjuring the sense of a looming apocalypse… It’s surprising to be reminded how many of the decade’s signature events occurred in a single year. Woodstock. The trial of the Chicago Eight. The My Lai massacre. The first efforts to publish the ‘Pentagon Papers.’ Altamont. The rise of the Weather Underground. The invasion of Cambodia. Kent State. The bombing of the Army Math Research Center in Madison, Wis. Witness to the Revolution offers an impressive list of actual witnesses to these events and more, including some sharp contextual asides explaining the rise of the antiwar movement and the fallout from its messy end… Especially for younger generations who didn’t live through it, Witness to the Revolution is a valuable and entertaining primer on a moment in American history the likes of which we may never see again. READ FULL REVIEW

Maclean’s
June 6, 2016

Today it’s Black Lives Matter, not the Black Panthers, and Edward Snowden’s NSA revelations, not the Pentagon Papers. But the core issues that motivated millions of young people in the ’60s and ’70s are remarkably similar to those driving today’s youth. This book captures the raw emotion of those earlier decades through first-hand recollections of the period from August 1969 to August 1970: the ecstasy of Woodstock, the tragedy of the Kent State massacre. Bingham interviews about 100 people, from actor-activist Jane Fonda to Watergate journalist Carl Bernstein to government officials and those who played key roles in marches on Washington and sit-ins at universities. Her brilliance is as an editor. She weaves the interviews together with only the occasional footnote or brief chapter introduction. The voices speak for themselves. READ FULL REVIEW

Buffalo News
June 5, 2016

EDITOR’S CHOICE: Enthralling and brilliant chronology of the period between August 1969 and September 1970. READ FULL REVIEW

Women’s Voices for Change
June 2, 2016

How can anyone adequately explain the rare incendiary mix of the anti-war movement, student rebellion, drug culture, civil rights activism, and women’s liberation that created the culture we call “the Sixties”? It was a moment in time that now seems evanescent yet left an indelible mark on almost every aspect of our lives. Author Clara Bingham achieves this by means of an oral history. She interviewed dozens of the primary players in the various movements that coalesced into what amounted to fundamental changes in the way we viewed almost all facets of our lives. Witness to the Revolution is a great book. It is also an important one, a book that I predict will be a reference point for years to come in the effort to understand one of the most complex periods in our nation’s history. READ FULL REVIEW

Kirkus (STARRED REVIEW)
April 7, 2016

An engrossing oral history of the youth rebellion of the 1960s. Former Newsweek White House correspondent Bingham interviewed some 100 activists, veterans, government officials, and others – all now in their 60s and 70s – to produce this remarkable account of the anti-war movement. Bingham captures telling moments (from campus protests to bombings, from Woodstock to My Lai) in the voices of those present. There are revealing stories about Weathermen on the lam, government sabotage and surveillance, courtroom theatrics, police riots, President Richard Nixon’s late-night meeting with protesters at the Lincoln Memorial, the Pentagon Papers, and the incessant organizing behind events that “would profoundly and permanently change the nation.” People like Bingham (b. 1963), who “missed the party,” may be astonished by aspects of this tumultuous story. Baby boomers will find themselves infuriated once again by vivid accounts of the My Lai massacre, the Kent State and Jackson State shootings, and other tumultuous events. READ FULL REVIEW

 


Images from the late Sixties and from Witness to the Revolution

 

Book Synopsis

It is impossible now to imagine the apocalyptic atmosphere of America in the last years of the Sixties. From the start of the school year in 1969 until the beginning of classes September 1970, a youth rebellion shook the nation in ways we may never see again. It was the crescendo of the Sixties, when years of civil disobedience and mass resistance erupted into anarchic violence. While most histories dwell on the cataclysmic events of 1968, Witness to the Revolution chronicles the years that followed — gap years between 1968 and Watergate — when the ‘60s went wide and the country came as close as it ever would in the 20th Century to revolution. Hundreds of thousands of young Americans took to the streets in 1969 and ‘70. They were fueled by, LSD, marijuana, and rock ‘n roll, inspired by the third-world freedom revolutions of Che Guevara in Cuba and Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam, disillusioned by the assassinations of JFK, MLK, RFK, and Malcolm X, battered by the police at Berkeley, Chicago, and Columbia; and appalled by mounting US casualties and images of napalm-disfigured Vietnamese civilians.

Witness to the Revolution is just that: eyewitness accounts from people who were participants, who were arguing in the room, and fighting on America’s streets. People who witnessed history in the making, and who were unalterably changed by it. Depending on their talents, education, and politics, their journeys varied as if answering a calling. They all lived through an American crucible, and no one escaped unscathed. Instead of taking sides, I have explored what it felt like to be on the front lines of change. My hope is to help readers understand, through dozens of first-hand accounts, the circumstances that made such a large segment of the population become a generation of outlaws. Together the stories of the participants of the “awakened generation” create a portrait of a movement that deserves credit for having the courage to try–even if it failed in many ways — to make the nation live up to its ideals.