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The Shattering

America in the 1960s

Kevin Boyle (Northwestern University)



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26 November 2021
On July 4, 1961, the rising middle-class families of a Chicago neighborhood gathered before their flag-bedecked houses, a confident vision of the American Dream. That vision was shattered over the following decade, its inequities at home and arrogance abroad challenged by powerful civil rights and antiwar movements. Assassinations, social violence, and the blowback of a silent majority shredded the American fabric.

Covering the late 1950s through the early 1970s, The Shattering focuses on the period's fierce conflicts over race, sex, and war. The civil rights movement develops from the grassroots activism of Montgomery and the sit-ins, through the violence of Birmingham and the Edmund Pettus Bridge, to the frustrations of King's Chicago campaign, a rising Black nationalism, and the Nixon-era politics of busing and the Supreme Court. The Vietnam war unfolds as Cold War policy, high-stakes politics buffeted by powerful popular movements, and searing in-country experience. Americans' challenges to government regulation of sexuality yield landmark decisions on privacy rights, gay rights, contraception, and abortion.

Kevin Boyle captures the inspiring and brutal events of this passionate time with a remarkable empathy that restores the humanity of those making this history. Often they are everyday people like Elizabeth Eckford, enduring a hostile crowd outside her newly integrated high school in Little Rock, or Estelle Griswold, welcoming her arrest for dispensing birth control information in a Connecticut town. Political leaders also emerge in revealing detail: we track Richard Nixon's inheritances from Eisenhower and his debt to George Wallace, who forged a message of racism mixed with blue-collar grievance that Nixon imported into Republicanism.

The Shattering illuminates currents that still run through our politics. It is a history for our times.
Imprint:   Norton
Country of Publication:   United States
Dimensions:   Height: 239mm,  Width: 160mm,  Spine: 41mm
Weight:   807g
ISBN:   9780393355994
ISBN 10:   0393355993
Pages:   480
Publication Date:  
Audience:   General/trade ,  ELT Advanced
Format:   Hardback
Publisher's Status:   Active

Kevin Boyle is the author of Arc of Justice, winner of the National Book Award and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. He is the William Smith Mason Professor of American History at Northwestern University and lives in Evanston, Illinois.

Reviews for The Shattering: America in the 1960s

[A] rich, layered account of the 1960s. -- Jennifer Szalai - The New York Times [A] luminous guide to a tumultuous decade...Boyle elegantly narrates the '60s through his three lenses - race, militarism, and sexuality - and grounds his narrative with individuals caught in the whirlwind. -- James A. Morone - The New York Times Book Review A lively popular history of the 1960s....Boyle enlivens his narrative with emblematic vignettes. -- Glenn C. Altschuler - Minneapolis Star Tribune

  • Long-listed for Museum of African American History Stone Book Award 2022

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