A Nation on Fire: America in the Wake of the King Assassination

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A Nation on Fire: America in the Wake of the King Assassination

"A solid and compassionate account of a week that proved a graveyard for the liberal dreams of the 1960s, and a seedbed for the backlash against them."
—Rick Perlstein, author of Nixonland and Before the Storm

"A compelling, original history of the tumult that followed Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination. Clay Risen's sobering account of the riots of April 1968 sheds new light on how the racial divisions of the ...

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Overview

A Nation on Fire: America in the Wake of the King Assassination

"A solid and compassionate account of a week that proved a graveyard for the liberal dreams of the 1960s, and a seedbed for the backlash against them."
—Rick Perlstein, author of Nixonland and Before the Storm

"A compelling, original history of the tumult that followed Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination. Clay Risen's sobering account of the riots of April 1968 sheds new light on how the racial divisions of the late 1960s reconfigured liberal and conservative politics and transformed American urban life."
—Thomas J. Sugrue, author of Sweet Land of Liberty: The Forgotten Struggle for Civil Rights in the North

"Clay Risen's A Nation on Fire is the long-awaited, definitive account of one of the most important, underreported events of the 1960s. As important for its historical aspect as it is for understanding where we are today, it is an exciting, important document, excitingly told."
—George Pelecanos,author of The Turnaround and The Night Gardener

"America is still coming to terms with the legacy of the 1960s. A Nation on Fire powerfully demonstrates the impact of urban riots on the politics of race and democracy following Martin Luther King's assassination. With clarity and insight, Clay Risen chronicles the tumultuous week in 1968 that indelibly transformed American race relations."
—Peniel Joseph, author of Waiting 'Til the Midnight Hour: A Narrative History of Black Power in America

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Editorial Reviews

Ian Shapira
Risen's city-by-city reconstruction of the riots, tucked into his larger analysis about the Civil Rights era, offers a useful evocation of those times.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
Starred Review.

Writer and editor Risen accounts for the lead-up to Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination, and the waves of violence that swept the nation in its wake. Risen's work is eye-opening, emphasizing cagey analysis as well as a recreation of the atmosphere and events following King's brutal slaying. Unquestionably important, Risen's detailed narrative documents each riot individually, offering both statistics and accounts from witnesses and participants in the rioting, looting, and arson. Risen also documents President Johnson's personal struggle to maintain order in a wounded country that increasingly disapproved of him, and speeches made by Robert Kennedy and Stokely Carmichael which are believed to have quelled (at least temporarily) the violence. Perhaps more important than his acute historical knowledge is Risen's perspective on the causes of each riot and the emotional toll they took on the American public, which he correlates directly to subsequent loss of support for the civil rights movement. Debut author Risen, formerly of The New Republic and currently founding manager of Democracy: A Journal of Ideas, has crafted a crucial addition to civil rights history, sure to absorb anyone interested in the times, the movement or MLK Jr. 16 b&w photos.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Library Journal

When Martin Luther King was murdered on April 4, 1968, riots erupted in 125 cities and resulted in 39 deaths, 2600 injuries, and 21,000 arrests. Risen, a former editor at the New Republic, presents a well-crafted narrative describing the chaos and fear that gripped Americans, as their homes, businesses, and cities went up in flames during the weeks after the assassination. The author hones in on Washington, DC, Baltimore, and Chicago, the sites of some of the worst rioting, where federal troops were sent to bolster the beleaguered local police forces and state national guards. Included are sympathetic portrayals of African Americans, few of whom rioted, driven to desperation because of decades of substandard living conditions in urban ghettos. As whites continued their exodus from the cities, the suburbs became the new center of political power, fueling the emergence of the modern Republican Party led by Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew. While Risen does not claim the riots alone destroyed liberalism and led to the Republican ascent, his is a cautionary tale of what could happen when a government ignores the needs of many of its citizens. Recommended for all public libraries.
—Karl Helicher

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780470177105
  • Publisher: Wiley, John & Sons, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 1/9/2009
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 312
  • Product dimensions: 6.50 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Clay Risen, formerly an editor at the New Republic, is the founding managing editor of Democracy: A Journal of Ideas. He's also written for Smithsonian, Slate, the Atlantic, and the New York Times Sunday Magazine.
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments.

Prologue.

1 King, Johnson, and the Terrible, Glorious Thirty-first Day of March.

2 April 4: Before the Bullet.

3 April 4: The News Arrives.

4 April 4: U and Fourteenth.

5 April 5: Midnight Interlude.

6 April 5: “Any Man’s Death Diminishes Me”.

7 April 5: “Once That Line Has Been Crossed”.

8 April 5: “Official Disorder on Top of Civil Disorder”.

9 April 5: The Occupation of Washington.

10 April 5: “There Are No Ghettos in Chicago”.

11 April 6: Roadblocks.

12 April 6: An Eruption in Baltimore.

13 April 7: Palm Sunday.

14 April 8: Bluff City on Edge.

15 April 9: A Country Rent Asunder.

16 April 10 and 11: Two Speeches.

17 A Summer Postscript.

18 1969 and After.

Notes.

Index.

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