Chicago Citizens Commission to Study the Disorders of Convention Week. Dissent in a Free Society. 1969.
The work of the adhoc Chicago Citizens Commission was completely overshadowed by the Chicago Study Team of the National Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence (see below). The 65 page report of the Chicago Citizens Commission was released to the media nearly a year after the Convention, but was never formally published. Much of the report focuses on the city’s unwillingness to issue permits for almost all of the gatherings in Chicago.
Chicago Department of Law [Raymond F. Simon, Corporation Counsel]. The Strategy of Confrontation: Chicago and the Democratic National Convention. 1968.
The city’s first extended response to the events was prepared by the Chicago Corporation Counsel’s Office. There is a detailed chronology of the events of August 25-29, a defense of the city’s decision not to permit demonstrators to stay in the parks, and several appendices on injuries to police officers, a list of weapons reportedly used by demonstrators, etc.
Chicago Department of Law. Crisis in Chicago, 1968: Mayor Richard J. Daley’s Official Report—The Untold Story of the Convention Riots. New York: Beeline Books. 1968, saddle-stitched paperback, out of print.
This magazine-sized book reprints The Strategy of Confrontation, adding numerous photographs and lots of shrill headlines, like “Yippies March on the Sabbath!”
Farber, David. Chicago ’68. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1988, clothbound, in print; 1994, paperback, in print.
The most complete book on the events of Chicago ’68. Farber presents the disparate angles on the demonstrations: the Yippies, the MOBE, and the city and police. Farber excels at background, giving an excellent account of the birth of Yippie, the search for effective tactics by the organizers of MOBE, and the city’s efforts to professionalize the police force. His account of the events of Convention Week is based on the interviews conducted by the Chicago Study Team for the Walker Report.
» Read an excerpt from the book.
Hayden, Tom. The Whole World Was Watching: The Streets of Chicago: 1968. Davis, CA: Panorama West Publishing, 1996, paperback, in print.
Hayden’s account of Chicago ’68 first appeared in his memoir Reunion (Random House, 1988). This book reprints the relevant material about the build up to Convention Week, the events on the streets, and the conspiracy trial. Hayden includes a new introduction from the summer of 1996, written a few weeks before the opening of the 1996 Democratic National Convention, Chicago’s first major party convention since 1968. In 1968 Hayden was a MOBE organizer for the Convention Week demonstrations and he reflects that personal point-of-view in this book.
House Committee on Un-American Activities. Subversive Involvement in Disruption of 1968 Democratic Party National Convention HUAC hearings of October and December 1968.
About a month after the 1968 Democratic National Convention, HUAC convened hearings to plumb the extent of Communist direction of the protest activities. The committee, chaired by Richard Ichord of Missouri, heard from Lt. Joseph Healy and Sgt. Joseph Grubisic, both of the Intelligence Division of the Chicago Police Department; from Robert Pierson, a Chicago police officer who was undercover during the Convention and served as Jerry Rubin’s bodyguard; from Robert Greenblatt, national coordinator of the MOBE; from Dr. Quentin Young, of the Medical Committee for Human Rights, a group that rendered medical aid at demonstrations; and from three individuals who would later be indicted for conspiracy—Tom Hayden, Rennie Davis, and David Dellinger. The full text is available at the Internet Archive
Kusch, Frank. Battleground Chicago: The Police and the 1968 Democratic National Convention Westport: Praeger Publishers, 2004, cloth, out of print. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008, paperback, in print.
Chicago ’68 from the point-of-view of the cop wielding the baton. Kusch interviewed retired Chicago police officers who were on the streets and in the parks during the Convention. He primarily focuses on what was going on in the minds of the police and why they used the level of force they did. Did the police riot? Did policemen lose control and attack indiscriminately? Were they provoked into violence? Or were they following the implict or explicit orders of their superiors and/or Mayor Daley? Kusch’s narrative of the events is brief, but his examination of why the violence happened is thorough and well-argued.
» Read an excerpt from the book.
Lane, Mark. Chicago Eyewitness New York: Astor-Honor, 1968, clothbound, out of print.
Mark Lane came to Chicago because he was Dick Gregory’s running mate. Gregory and Lane were on the ballot in a number of states in the 1968 presidential election. Lane was on the streets of Chicago from Tuesday, August 27. He primarily relates the scene in front of the Hilton Wednesday night and Thursday’s attempted marches. Numerous photographs by Carolyn Mugar.
Myrus, Donald (editor). Law & Disorder: The Chicago Convention and Its Aftermath Chicago: D. Myrus, 1968, saddle-stitched paperback, out of print.
Pierson, Robert L. Riots Chicago-style Great Neck, NY: Todd & Honeywell, 1984, cloth, out of print.
Robert Pierson was a Chicago police officer who went undercover during the week of the Convention and became Jerry Rubin’s bodyguard. This book, in part, recounts his activities among the Yippies.
St. John, Jeffrey. Countdown to Chaos. Los Angeles: Nash Publishing Corp., 1969, clothbound, out of print.
Right-wing analysis of Chicago ’68. Blames the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions for the violence.
Schneir, Walter (editor). Telling It Like It Was: The Chicago Riots. New York: Signet Books/New American Library, 1969, paperback, out of print.
Reprints articles and essays by journalists, commentators, delegates, and participants in the demonstrations. Twenty pieces, from voices as disparate as Arthur Miller, Jimmy Breslin, Jean Genet, and Paul Krassner. Includes sixteen pages of photographs by Richard Fegley.
Schultz, John. No One Was Killed: Documentation & Meditation : Convention Week, Chicago—August 1968. Chicago: Big Table, 1969, clothbound and paperback, out of print. Riverside, IL: John Schultz Associates, 1999, paperback, out of print. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009, paperback (as No One Was Killed: The Democratic National Convention, August 1968 with a new foreword by Todd Gitlin and a new afterword by the author), in print.
Schultz covers events both inside the Amphitheatre as well as in the parks and on the streets. Captures the nightly confrontations at curfew time in Lincoln Park with cinematic clarity. Schultz’s narrative sticks close to the street action, close to the acts of demonstrators, rather than the activities of the soon-to-be-famous leaders. Read this to sense the full-bodied flavor of Convention Week.
» Read an excerpt from the book.
Stein, David Lewis. Living the Revolution: The Yippies in Chicago. Indianapolis: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, Inc., 1969, clothbound, out of print.
Stein was in Chicago to cover the convention demonstrations for the Toronto Star. He wasn’t a neutral news reporter, though, as he had already participated in several pre-convention Yippie meetings in New York and he shared a hotel room in Chicago with Yippie organizer Keith Lampe. Nonetheless, Stein relates the story straightforwardly, vividly capturing the scene in Lincoln Park and Wednesday night on Michigan Avenue in front of the Hilton.
Walker, Daniel. Rights in Conflict: The violent confrontation of demonstrators and police in the parks and streets of Chicago during the week of the Democratic National Convention of 1968. A report submitted by Daniel Walker, director of the Chicago Study Team, to the National Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence.
The Government Printing Office refused to print Rights in Conflict because it contained numerous unexpurgated obscenities. The Chicago Study Team printed 500 copies of the report. Several commercial publishers then rushed editions into print. The commercial editions have different introductory material and may differ slightly in their selection of photographs. All these editions are out of print.
Rights in Conflict: The violent confrontation of demonstrators and police in the parks and streets of Chicago during the week of the Democratic National Convention of 1968. Philadelphia: Braceland Brothers, 1968, paperback. [The Braceland edition is “an exact reproduction of the original printing” right down to the blue paper cover. It can be distinguished from the original edition by the publisher’s statement inside the front cover and the lack of cloth on the spine.]
Rights in Conflict: The Violent Confrontation of Demonstrators and Police in the Parks and Streets of Chicago. Introduction by Max Frankel of the New York Times. New York, E.P. Dutton, 1968, clothbound. Reprinted by New York: Bantam, 1968, paperback.
Rights in Conflict: The Chicago Police Riot. Special introduction by Robert J. Donovan of the Los Angeles Times. New York: New American Library/Signet, 1968, paperback.
Rights in Conflict: Chicago’s 7 Brutal Days. With an editorial comment by Lewis W. Gillenson. New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1968, clothbound.
The Walker Report (as it is commomly called), however flawed it may be in its conclusions, is essential reading for anyone interested in Chicago ’68. The report was publicly released on December 1, 1968 and is based on the Chicago Study Team’s review of over 20,000 pages of statements from 3,437 eyewitnesses and participants, 180 hours of film, and over 12,000 still photographs. The Walker Report attached the label “police riot” to the events of Chicago ’68—the notion that spontaneous acts of individual policemen were ultimately responsible for the violence on the streets and in the parks of Chicago.
» Read an excerpt—the summary to Rights in Conflict.
The Conspiracy Trial
Eight partipants in the Convention Week demonstrations were indicted on charges of conspiring to incite a riot and, individually, of inciting a riot. The 22,000+ pages of the official transcript are available in microform at the Federal Archives and at some libraries. There are at least four different abridged editions of the transcripts.
Edited by Judy Clavir and John Spitzer. The Conspiracy Trial.
Decribed as: “The extended edited transcript of the trial of the Chicago Eight. Complete with motions, rulings, contempt citations, sentences and photographs.” Introduction by William Kunstler. Foreword by Leonard Weinglass. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1970, clothbound and paperback, out of print.
The longest of the edited transcripts and probably best-described as the edition authorized by the defense team.
Edited and with illustrations by Jules Feiffer. Pictures at a Prosecution: Drawings and Texts from the Chicago Conspiracy Trial. New York, Grove Press, Inc., 1971, clothbound, out of print.
Feiffer explains in a preface that he has “rearranged sections of the transcript, lifted out of context, trifled with chronology” and he also dispensed with ellipses to indicate breaks. Still, the drawings are wonderful.
Edited by Mark L. Levine, George C. McNamee, and Daniel Greenberg. The Tales of Hoffman. Introduction by Dwight MacDonald. New York: Bantam, 1970, paperback, out of print.
Includes 32 pages of courtroom sketches by Verna Sadock of NBC-TV.
Edited by Jon Wiener. Conspiracy in the Streets: The Extraordinary Trial of the Chicago Eight. New York: The New Press, 2006, paperback, in print.
An abridged transcript of the trial edited and with an extensive introduction by historian Jon Wiener. Includes an afterword by Tom Hayden and drawings by Jules Feiffer.
Epstein, Jason. Great Conspiracy Trial. New York: Random House and Vintage Books. 1970, clothbound, out of print.
Epstein covered the Chicago 8 trial for the New York Review of Books. His account is thorough and steeped in history, for example, the roots of the legal concept of conspiracy.
Hayden, Tom, Ron Sossi, and Frank Condon. Voices of the Chicago Eight: A Generation on Trial. San Fransisco: City Lights Books. 2008, paperback, in print.
Ron Sossi and Frank Condon created the play The Chicago Conspiracy Trial from the trial transcript; it was first performed in March 1979 at the Odyssey Theater in Los Angeles and has been produced four times since. The playscript appears here together with Hayden’s account of the 1968 DNC protests and the trial, first published in his memoir Reunion (Random House, 1988).
Hoffman, Abbie and others. The Conspiracy. New York: Dell, 1969, out of print.
“The Chicago 8 Speak Out!” Includes Hoffman’s essay “Freedom and License.”
Lukas, J. Anthony. The Barnyard Epithet & Other Obscenities: Notes on the Chicago Conspiracy Trial. Drawings by Irene Siegel. NYC: Harper & Row, 1970, clothbound, out of print.
Lukas covered the trial for the New York Times. This is a short, impressionistic book.
Okpaku, Joseph and Verna Sadock. Verdict! The Exclusive Picture Story of the Trial of the Chicago 8. New York: The Third Press—Joseph Okpaku Publishing Co., Inc., 1970, cloth bound, out of print.
Text by Okpaku and drawings by Sadock, who sketched the trial for NBC-TV. Lots of drawings with an edited transcript, continuity text, and images of newspaper clippings.
Schultz, John. Motion Will Be Denied: A New Report on the Chicago Conspiracy Trial. New York: Morrow, 1972, clothbound and paperback, out of print. Reprinted as The Chicago Conspiracy Trial. New York: Da Capo, 1993, paperback, out of print. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009, paperback, in print.
Schultz covers not only the whole of the trial but also a special post-trial hearing convened to investigate aspects of the jury deliberations brought to light by his reporting. The revised edition has a new introduction by Carl Oglesby and a new afterword by the author discussing the appeal of the verdicts and the contempt citations.
» Read an excerpt from the book.
Audio and visual media
For an appreciation of the events of Convention Week, the television news footage is indispensable. However, it covers only a small portion of events. In 1968 there were no portable minicams, no mobile satellite hookups. Live television coverage was limited to events inside the International Amphitheatre. Everything else was shot with film cameras or video cameras. Several video cameras were in fixed positions outside the Hilton. The seventeen tumultuous minutes in front of the Hilton on the night of August 28th—broadcast while nominating speeches were being made at the Amphitheatre—thus have come to symbolize Convention Week.
The Museum of Broadcast Communications in Chicago has archives of the news footage.
Films by The Film Group The Film Group was a Chicago film production company that made television commercials and political documentaries in the late ’60s and early ’70s. They created a series of short documentaries about the events of Convention Week, which were collected under the series Urban Crisis and the New Militants. [All available on YouTube.]
The Right to Dissent: A Press Conference: Statements of David Dellinger, Rennie Davis, and Donald Kalish (all in the leadership of National Mobilization Committee) at a press conference prior to the opening of the Democratic Convention. Followed by footage from the Grant Park Bandshell rally on the afternoon of Wednesday, August 28, 1968.
Social Confrontation: The Battle of Michigan Avenue: Wednesday, August 28, 1968 in front of the Hilton Hotel.
Law and Order vs. Dissent: Footage from Wednesday, August 28, 1968 and remarks by Frank Sullivan, press secretary to Mayor Richard J. Daley, at a press conference the following day.
The People’s Right to Know: Police vs. Reporters: Chicago photographer Paul Sequeira recounts the circumstances of his being clubbed by police on Wednesday, August 28, 1968.
Police Power and Freedom of Assembly: The Gregory March: Attempted march to the Amphitheater on Thursday, August 29, 1968 led by Dick Gregory.
Medium Cool (1969) Cinema verité from Chicago ’68. Haskell Wexler sent his cast and crew into the streets; his fictional script about a Chicago TV cameraman culminates in scenes of the mayhem of Convention Week. As the tear gas billows, you can hear a crew member yell, “Look out Haskell. It’s for real.” Yeah, no kidding. View the opening sequence.
Films by Newsreel. Newsreel was a political filmmaking collective in the Sixties. Their films including coverage of Chicago ’68 are: Summer ’68 and Yippie. [Yippie can be viewed on YouTube (13 minutes).]
Films from Third World Newsreel. TWN emerged from Newsreel “as a result of organizational restructuring in the mid-70s" (quoted from their website). In addition to the Newsreel films above, TWN also lists Chicago Convention Challenge.
What Trees Do They Plant? (1968) Immediately after the events of August 1968, the city of Chicago defended the actions of its police in a one-hour documentary broadcast on 150 TV stations nationwide on September 15, 1968.
Seasons Change (1968) In response to What Trees Do They Plant? the American Civil Liberties Union produced a one-hour rebuttal. Directed by William C. Jersey. Later renamed America Against Itself.
Conventions: The Land Around Us (1970) Assembled by Kaye Miller and Gerald Swatez at the Social Sciences Research Film Unit at the University of Illinois at Chicago Circle, Conventions is a mix of footage from Chicago ’68, occasional footage from other events of the period (the Apollo 11 moonlanding, for example), with quotations from social theorists scattered in. A hodge-podge, but worth watching for the extensive archival footage. [Viewable on Vimeo (68 minutes).]
The Great Chicago Conspiracy Circus (also known as Chicago ’70: The Conspiracy Circus) (1971) is a filmed version of Chicago 70, a play developed by George Luscombe’s Tornoto Workshop Productions as the trial was in progress and primarily based on the trial transcripts. Chicago 70 was produced off-Broadway in 1970 and the film version was first screened at the 1971 Cannes Film Festival. In the film, the Chicago trial is infused with the trial of Alice from Lewis Carroll’s Alice In Wonderland, playing the conspiracy trial mostly as cartoonish farce.
Conspiracy: The Trial of the Chicago 8 (1987) Directed by Jeremy Kagan; originally aired on HBO in 1987. Combines dramatization of the Conspiracy Trial with footage from Convention Week and new interviews of the defendants.
Chicago 10 (2007) Directed by Brett Morgen. Premiered at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival and released in theaters in February 2008. Uses archival footage and motion-capture animation to look at the Conspiracy Trial and the events of Chicago ’68. (8 defendants + 2 lawyers = 10.) Not a documentary in the usual sense, this film works on an emotional level more than an intellectual one. Don’t think of it as history but as a visual and aural tribute to the Yippies and especially Abbie Hoffman, whose brilliant rhetoric is the heart of the film. The implicit argument of the film is that the primary issue in 1968 and at the trial was about the free expression of unpopular opinion. View the trailer.
The Chicago Conspiracy Trial A two-hour adaptation of the trial transcripts by Peter Goodchild. Performed by L.A. Theatre Works in 1995, including Tom Amandes, George Murdock, Mike Nussbaum, David Schwimmer and Ron West.
Convention Week and the Conspiracy Trial
Terry Southern’s 1968 Esquire article about Chicago ’68.
James P. Turner was a civil rights attorney in the US Justice Department in 1968; he was in Chicago to observe the demonstrations. Later that year he was involved in the indictment and prosecution of eight Chicago police officers on civil rights charges. In 1996 he wrote a short essay about the Convention Week violence.
The Chicago 8 Trial—an extensive website on the Conspiracy Trial, by Douglas O. Linder.
The Whole World Is Watching: Medium Cool and the 1968 Chicago Convention was created by Alexis Luckey while a graduate student in the American Studies program at the University of Virginia. Luckey’s “Historical Context” (which draws on the chronology of this site) has an outstanding collection of video clips—from Medium Cool and documentary sources.
1968 Revolution Rewind is Pacifica Radio’s collection of broadcasts from 1968 about the major events of the year.
The Whole World Was Watching: an oral history of 1968—a joint project of South Kingstown High School (R.I.) and Brown University’s Scholarly Technology Group.
LBJ phone conversations—audio files of some of LBJ’s telephone conversations from throughout his presidency.
The National Security Archive at Georgetown. This very rich source of declassified documents includes material relating to the Pentagon Papers. Also there is material here on the student uprising in Mexico: Tlatelolco Massacre—Declassified U.S. Documents on Mexcico and the Events of 1968
[Please send me URLs for relevant websites: firstname.lastname@example.org]
The interviews and statements collected by the Chicago Study Team, which became the basis for the Walker Report, are held in the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library in Texas.
The Cornell University Library holds the collected papers and audio-visual material of Sarah Elbert. In 1968 she was Sarah Diamant and made video and tape recordings of the demonstrations as well as conducting interviews, all as research for her dissertation. The library has a guide to her papers.
The files of the Chicago Red Squad are archived at the Chicago History Museum.
The Wisconsin State Historical Society has an extensive Social Action Collection which archives records from the peace and civil rights movements of the Sixties.
The campaigns and conventions of 1968
Chester, Lewis, and Godfrey Hodgson, and Bruce Page. An American Melodrama: The Presidential Campaign of 1968. New York: The Viking Press, 1969, clothbound, out of print.
The authors covered the campaigns and election of 1968 for the Sunday Times of London.
Cohen, Michael A. American Maelstrom: The 1968 Election and the Politics of Division. New York: Oxford University Press, 2017, hardcover, in print.
Cohen is a national political columnist for The Boston Globe. He tells the story of the 1968 election by focusing on the campaigns of the nine major candidates for the presidency. Ultimately, Cohen seeks to explain why 1968 has been a ghostly presence in every election since. It’s a superb top-down look at the 1968 election, with all the essential material for understanding the political drama. Necessary, but not sufficient for understanding what happened; you will need to look elsewhere for the story from the point-of-view of the grassroots volunteers, organizers, and other ordinary participants. The changes in the nominating process after 1968 cannot be appreciated without knowing the history of those grassroots participants.
McGinniss, Joe. The Selling of the President 1968. New York: Trident Press, 1969, clothbound, out of print.
McGinniss focuses on Richard Nixon’s advertising—especially the television ads—during the Presidential race. Fascinating book.
Mailer, Norman. Miami and the Siege of Chicago: An Informal History of the Republican and Democratic Conventions of 1968. New York: Signet Books/New American Library, 1968, paperback, out of print. Reprinted with a new introduction by Tom Wicker; New York: Primus/Donald I. Fine, 1986, paperback, out of print. Reprinted with photographs in Some Honorable Men: Political Conventions 1960-1972; New York: Little, Brown and Co., clothbound, out of print. Reprinted in its original form; New York: Random House, 2016, paperback, in print
History as literature. It’s unfortunate that Mailer’s account of the 1968 Democratic convention often gets billed as the best description of the extracurricular events in the parks and on the streets of Chicago during Convention Week. Mailer was too often too far from the action to be a real eyewitness to the events. It’s good literature but a cursory history. Mailer is strong on character and weak on events; his descriptions of key actors are dead-on, but all-too-often he relies on extended quotes from other sources for descriptions of what is happening. Read it, but not only it.
O’Donnell, Lawrence. Playing with Fire: The 1968 Election and the Transformation of American Politics. New York: Penguin Press, 2017, hardcover, in print.
O’Donnell has been a legislative aide to Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a writer and producer for the series The West Wing, and a host on MSNBC. A narrative arc is his stock-in-trade, and his book dramatically recounts the political story of 1968. An exciting rendition of the political year, but one that also gets some facts wrong and mis-interprets others. Read it critically and quote it carefully.
White, Theodore H. The Making of the President 1968 New York, Atheneum Publishers, 1969, clothbound, out of print.
A narrative history of the whole campaign season of 1968, told by a distinguished journalist/historian in whose measured words the character of the times never really breaks through.
Witcover, Jules. The Year the Dream Died: Revisiting 1968 in America New York: Warner Books, 1997, clothbound, out of print. New York: Warner Books, 1998, paperback.
Like White, this is a narrative of the presidential campaigns of 1968. Everything else that happened during the year gets only cursory attention. A top-down history of a bottom-up year.
Other key books for background
Dissent and Disorder: a Report to the Citizens of Chicago on the April 27 Investigating Commission. April 27 Peace Parade. Chicago: American Civil Liberties Union. 1968
The April 27 Peace Parade began with a rally at the Grant park bandshell and ended with xx arrests amid club-swinging. Even at the time, it was seen as “a dress rehearsal” for the Convention Week demonstrations. Dissent and Disorder is the report of a blue-ribbon (but, to be fair, not impartial) citizens committee.
Last update: April 11, 2018
All original material is written by Dean Blobaum; © 2017 by Dean Blobaum. This text may be quoted in accordance with the Fair Use provisions of the US Copyright Act. It may be archived and redistributed in electronic form, provided that no fee is charged for access and provided that this entire notice is carried and the author of the review is notified. Archiving, redistribution, or republication of this text on other terms, in any medium, requires the consent of the author.