Arts and Culture

Author, former Newsweek reporter, and Louisville native Clara Bingham’s latest book is “Witness to the Revolution: Radicals, Resisters, Vets, Hippies and the Year America Lost its Mind and Found its Soul.” The book looks at the chaos that unfolded in the U.S. from August 1969 to August 1970.

Bingham spoke with me about that period and what we’ve learned. You can listen to our conversation in the audio player above.

Bingham on why she focused chose to focus her book on August 1969 to August 1970:

“I really see that school year of ’69–’70 as the crescendo of the 60’s. It was a moment when so many different movements that were taking place in the earlier part of the decade came together in what was really a perfect storm of rebellion. The Civil Rights Movement and Black Power Movement, the counterculture and the anti-Vietnam War movement all sort of exploded in this one year and were very much, you know, a one… You know, they acted together for pretty much the first time in the decade to create this incredibly violent and vibrant year of rebellion and change. And I really believe so much of the events that occurred that year have had a lasting impact on who we are as a country.”

On what we’ve learned from that year:

“We’ve learned a lot; obviously we have a long way to go. For example, in Charlotte, North Carolina there are terrible riots going on — and there have been in Baltimore and all around the country — because of police brutality. In the old days, in the 60’s, cops were shooting live bullets into crowds. And now, you know the farthest they have been going — at least from what I can tell — is teargas. And there’s a real sense of when you have a big crowd protest, if you use lethal force you’re going to get into real trouble.

“So that’s one thing I feel that law enforcement has learned and governments have learned not to use lethal force against a protest. Of course, they’re using lethal force against a lot of other things that is causing these protests. So that is an example of how we haven’t learned completely.”

Bingham will speak at the Louisville Free Public Library Author Series on Tuesday, Sept. 27 at 7 p.m. More information is available here

Bill Burton is the Morning Edition host for WFPL News.