America in 1964--the Beginning of the ``Sixties''
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Because history involves continual change, all years are transitional; some, however, are more so than others. As this well- written, often colorful work shows, 1964 unquestionably was such a year. For more than two decades the chief political correspondent for the Chicago Tribune, and also the biographer of British comedian John Cleese, Margolis uses dozens of short vignettes to provide a month-by-month unfolding of the major American political and cultural developments, from John Kennedy’s assassination in November 1963 through the culminating events of the Free Speech Movement uprising at the University of California, Berkeley, in December 1964. His focus rests largely on such society-transforming events as the long struggle over and passage of the first major civil rights act since Reconstruction, the Mississippi “Freedom Summer” and the murder of three civil rights workers (Goodman, Chaney and Schwerner) and the transition from American soldiers” role as “advisors” in Vietnam to active participants, thanks in part to the Gulf of Tonkin resolution (September), as well as the presidential campaign contest between Lyndon Johnson and Barry Goldwater. The year 1964 was also fascinating for both high and popular culture, with plays on Broadway by Edward Albee and Tennessee Williams, the flowering of pop art, and the first American tours of both the Beetles and the Rolling Stones. Margolis demonstrates how major developments and movements “feminism and environmentalism, for instance—all were rooted in or around 1964. His book is full of surprising information, e.g., Johnson was seriously considering not running in the weeks before the 1964 Democratic Convention; also, his acceptance speech was written by the novelist John Steinbeck. Like Barbara Tuchman and other deft popular historians, Margolis is a master of the revealing anecdote and pithy summary. This thoroughly enjoyable, informative look at America of 35 years ago will revive memories for aging baby boomers and lead all readers to realize how dramatically the country has changed in a mere generation. (16 pages b&w photos) (Author tour)

Pub Date: March 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-688-15323-2
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 1999


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