By the light of burning dreams The triumphs and tragedies of the second American revolution

David Talbot, 1951-

Book - 2021

"The political landscape of the 1960s and 1970s was perhaps one of the most tumultuous in this country's history, shaped by the fight for civil rights, women's liberation, Black power, and the end to the Vietnam War. In many ways, this second American revolution was a belated fulfillment of the betrayed promises of the first, striving to extend the full protections of the Bill of Rights to non-white, non-male, non-elite Americans excluded by the nation's founders. Based on ex...clusive interviews, original documents, and archival research, By the Light of Burning Dreams explores critical moments in the lives of a diverse cast of iconoclastic leaders of the twentieth century radical movement: Bobby Seale of the Black Panthers; Heather Booth and the Jane Collective, the first underground feminist abortion clinic; Vietnam War peace activists Tom Hayden and Jane Fonda; Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta and the United Farm Workers; Craig Rodwell and the Gay Pride movement; Dennis Banks, Madonna Thunder Hawk, Russell Means and the warriors of Wounded Knee; and John Lennon and Yoko Ono's politics of stardom. Margaret and David Talbot reveal the epiphanies that galvanized these modern revolutionaries and created unexpected connections and alliances between individual movements and across race, class, and gender divides. America is still absorbing--and reacting against--the revolutionary forces of this tumultuous period. The change these leaders enacted demanded much of American society and the human imagination. By the Light of Burning Dreams is an immersive and compelling chronicle of seven lighting rods of change and the generation that engraved itself in American narrative--and set the stage for those today, fighting to bend forward the arc of history" --

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New York, NY : Harper, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers [2021]
First edition
Physical Description
390 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 24 cm
Includes bibliographical references (pages 335-373) and index.
Main Author
David Talbot, 1951- (author)
Other Authors
Margaret Talbot, 1961- (author), Arthur Allen, 1959-
  • Introduction
  • The purity of protest and the complexity of politics: Tom Hayden, Jane Fonda, and the Red Family
  • Revolution has come, time to pick up the gun: Bobby Seale, Huey Newton, Eldridge Cleaver, and the Black Panthers
  • Sisterhood is blooming: Heather Booth and the women of Jane
  • The martyr complex: Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta, and the righteousness of La Causa
  • Liberation day: Craig Rodwell and the making of pride
  • We all shine on: John Lennon, Yoko Ono, and the politics of stardom
  • The great escape: Dennis Banks, Madonna Thunder Hawk, Russell Means, and the warriors of Wounded Knee
Review by Booklist Review

Salon founder and former editor-in-chief David Talbot and his sister Margaret, a longtime staff writer at the New Yorker, together survey the seismic sociocultural changes that transpired in the U.S. during the 1960s and 1970s--what they call the Second American Revolution--by identifying seven discrete yet often intertwining movements or events of consequence: Tom Hayden, Jane Fonda, and the antiwar movement; the rise of Black Power; feminism and abortion rights; the farmworkers movement; gay rights; John Lennon, Yoko Ono, and music as political power; and the standoff at Wounded Knee. In these self-contained accounts, the authors clearly admire the courage, political savvy, and sheer physical effort required to create and then sustain such critical movements, but they're also unsparing in saying that mistakes were made, such as the entrustment of the Black Panthers to leaders as unsteady as Eldridge Cleaver and Huey Newton; Lennon's misdirected, often self-destructive political activism following the breakup of the Beatles; or Hayden's off-putting ego, which set him at odds with those who could have helped his cause. As a result, the Talbots have created a coherent narrative of mid-century political activism, from which readers can see the through lines of modern-day success or failure, and proceed from there.

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission. Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Charismatic but flawed figures dominate this vibrant portrait of 1960s radical movements. Salon founder David Talbot (The Devil's Chessboard) and his sister, New Yorker scribe Margaret Talbot (The Entertainer), profile well-known leaders of Vietnam-era liberation groups, including Black Panthers Bobby Seale and Huey Newton, whose strategy of armed confrontation with police devolved into criminality; Heather Booth, founder of the underground abortion services collective Jane; United Farm Workers chief Cesar Chavez, whose tactics of nonviolence, fasting, and boycotts curdled into an authoritarian spiritual cult; Craig Rodwell, who raised the cry of "Gay Power!" at the Stonewall riot; and American Indian Movement activists Dennis Banks and Russell Means, who held off federal agents at the 1973 siege of Wounded Knee. The authors duly delve into the period's excesses and indulge in a few of their own, speculating, for example, that Beatle John Lennon was assassinated as part of a government conspiracy. Still, their vivid depictions of the era's mix of revolutionary organizing and heady breakthroughs--at New York's first Gay Pride Parade, "marchers strode up Sixth Avenue arm in arm, three or four across; some practically danced, spinning around, half delirious, half determined"--make for an exhilarating, inspiring outing. Agent: Sloan Harris, ICM Partners. (June)

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved Review by Library Journal Review

The U.S. civil rights movement of the early 1960s heralded the beginning of a new era, this book argues. Movements inspired by the work of Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders sprang up across the United States to demand that the country provide equality for all. Journalists David Talbot (The Devil's Chessboard) and Margaret Talbot (The Entertainer) focus their book on charismatic, often flawed activist leaders of the U.S. anti-war movement, Black power movement, United Farm Workers Union, American Indian Movement, Pride and liberation marches, and women's liberation movement, as well as celebrity activists John Lennon and Yoko Ono. These movements were united in their opposition to the Vietnam War, and many activists routinely worked on several different causes and across movements, which the Talbots (a brother-sister writing team) argue created a network of radicals who applied the lessons they learned in one movement to their other causes. Based on numerous interviews with participants and activists, this is a loving but critical portrait of a generation whose effects are still felt today. VERDICT The Talbots cover a lot of ground in this wide-ranging yet accessible work. Readers interested in 1960s counterculture and activism will enjoy this history, especially when it discusses less written-about leaders.--Chad E. Statler, Westlake Porter P.L., Westlake, OH

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. Review by Kirkus Book Review

Salon founder David Talbot and New Yorker writer Margaret Talbot offer admiring portraits of radical activists who sparked enduring social changes. Through sharp reporting and good storytelling, the authors enliven a journalistic genre that in less skilled hands might have gone flat: the "Where are they now?" story. They devote a chapter to each of seven flashpoints of the 1960s and '70s that created "the second American Revolution." These include Black Power, gay pride, the anti-war movement, the siege of Wounded Knee, the battle for abortion rights, the rise of the United Farm Workers, and the "celebrity activism" embodied by John Lennon and Yoko Ono. The authors show how and why each movement unfolded, focusing on key figures like Bobby Seale and Dolores Huerta and describing their subjects' early activism as well as their later lives. They aim partly to enlighten students, such as those who, a professor lamented, know the Panthers "only by their cool regalia…the black leather coats, the berets, the dark glasses." But an abundance of fresh material gives this book an intergenerational appeal. In their portrait of the feminist abortion clinic the Jane Collective, the authors note that before Roe v. Wade, one doctor who did abortions took startling safety precautions: "An assistant picked the women up on street corners, blindfolded them, and brought them to undisclosed locations." The authors also vividly portray events such as Cesar Chavez's trailblazing efforts to organize grape pickers, Craig Rodwell's quest to open America's first gay and lesbian bookstore, and the Ojibwe leader Dennis Banks' bold escape from Wounded Knee as federal officials swept up Native resisters. Some readers may fault a few of the choices--particularly that of Lennon rather than Bob Dylan as the main representative of "protest songs"--but even the dissenters may appreciate that the authors avoid Allan Bloom--style crankiness in recalling the '60s and evoke the '70s without using the word disco. An intelligent and sympathetic reappraisal of the political upheavals of the '60s and '70s. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.