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The Eve of Destruction: How 1965 Transformed Americaby James T Patterson
Synopses & Reviews
At the beginning of 1965, the U.S. seemed on the cusp of a golden age. Although Americans had been shocked by the assassination in 1963 of President Kennedy, they exuded a sense of consensus and optimism that showed no signs of abating. Indeed, political liberalism and interracial civil rights activism made it appear as if 1965 would find America more progressive and unified than it had ever been before. In January 1965, President Lyndon Johnson proclaimed that the country had no irreconcilable conflicts.”
Johnson, who was an extraordinarily skillful manager of Congress, succeeded in securing an avalanche of Great Society legislation in 1965, including Medicare, immigration reform, and a powerful Voting Rights Act. But as esteemed historian James T. Patterson reveals in The Eve of Destruction, that sense of harmony dissipated over the course of the year. As Patterson shows, 1965 marked the birth of the tumultuous era we now know as The Sixties,” when American society and culture underwent a major transformation. Turmoil erupted in the American South early in the year, when police attacked civil rights demonstrators in Selma, Alabama. Many black leaders, outraged, began to lose faith in nonviolent and interracial strategies of protest. Meanwhile, the U.S. rushed into a deadly war in Vietnam, inciting rebelliousness at home. On August 11th, five days after Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act, racial violence exploded in the Watts area of Los Angeles. The six days of looting and arson that followed shocked many Americans and cooled their enthusiasm for the presidents remaining initiatives. As the national mood darkened, the country became deeply divided. By the end of 1965, a conservative resurgence was beginning to redefine the political scene even as developments in popular music were enlivening the Left.
In The Eve of Destruction, Patterson traces the events of this transformative year, showing how they dramatically reshaped the nation and reset the course of American life.
"In a thoughtful look at a tumultuous period, Bancroft Prize — winning historian Patterson (Great Expectations) asserts that 1965 was 'a pivotal year in American life.' He sets the stage with a picture of 'buoyant and confident' white America in late 1964, before addressing the 'shifts of mood... politics, culture, and foreign policies' that many found unsettling and divisive. While Patterson covers a wide range of influences, including developments in cinema and music, the bulk of his attention is turned toward the civil rights movement and racial tensions, from Selma to Watts, the Great Society programs of President Johnson and the escalation of the Vietnam War. A complex portrayal of Johnson as a flawed yet ambitious leader helps Patterson to show how cultural discord and polarizing politics made 1965 'the inaugural year of the Sixties' after which, 'for better and for worse, the United States would never be the same again.' Writing in an informative, accessible manner, Paterson creates a strong narrative, his recitation of facts helping to build his case that 1965 — rather than 1968 or 1969 — marked a political, cultural, and military turning point for America. 16 pages of photos. Agent: John W. Wright, John W. Wright Literary Agency. (Dec.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
About the Author
James T. Patterson is Ford Foundation Professor of History Emeritus at Brown University. Author of Restless Giant: The United States from Watergate to Bush v. Gore, Brown v. Board of Education, and the Bancroft Prizewinning Grand Expectations: The United States, 1945-1974.
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