They called it “Czechago.” Nowhere else during that decade was dissension so dramatically opposed as on the streets of Chicago during the turbulent Democratic National Convention in August 1968. The barbed wire-laced jeeps in Grant Park evoked images of Russian tanks in the streets of Prague.
For many it was a watershed event. After the Tet offensive that January many Americans began to shift their opinions of the war in Vietnam; after Chicago ‘68 they began to doubt the ability of American institutions to tolerate active dissension.
Chicago ‘68 was more than just another in a series of antiwar protests, and it was more than just a riot—no matter, whose riot. Chicago ‘68 was a focal point of the decade. On the streets and in the parks of Chicago the social conflicts of the Sixties were on display.
Heads were cracked, tear gas billowed, police lines advanced through demonstrators—and television cameras captured some of the graphic scenes. The eyes of the nation focused on Chicago and we decided who we were, what side we were on, and what we would fight for. Chicago changed minds, Chicago changed politics, Chicago changed the Left, Chicago changed the media, Chicago changed those who were here and those who watched from far away, and Chicago changed Chicago.
What happened in Chicago in August of 1968 changed our political and cultural institutions, and so it shaped our current political and cultural life. If we understand Chicago ‘68 we will understand not only a major event in our history but we will also better understand who we are now.
For the Democratic party, Chicago ‘68 doomed the candidacy of Hubert Humphrey and set off shock waves of reform. For the Left, Chicago ‘68 hastened the demise of SDS and intensified the revolutionary fervor that would spawn street violence and bombings. For the media, Chicago ‘68 created a deep suspicion of the state and its minions. For Chicago, Chicago ‘68 weakened support for the last of the big-city bosses and fanned the flames of political reform.
The resources available on this site include:
A chronology detailing the events of Convention Week and placing them in the context of other events of the late Sixties. Links from the chronology will take you to documents such as FBI memos and material from Rights in Conflict, the official report of the events.
A bibliography of the books, films, and archival sources about Chicago ‘68.
The six myths of Chicago ‘68.
Reflections on the history.
And two pieces in response to the film, The Trial of the Chicago 7:
“Fact-checking Sorkin: Everything Aaron Sorkin Got Wrong in The Trial of the Chicago 7”
“Aaron Sorkin in Love With the Prosecution’s Case”
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All original material is by Dean Blobaum; ©1995, ©2021 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.