Background for Chicago 10
Chicago 10, the innovative documentary that revisits the tumult of the 1968 Democratic National Convention and the Chicago 8/7 conspiracy trial of key antiwar activists a year later, opens Friday in select theaters. The film is directed by Brett Morgen and combines archival footage of the chaos of August 1968 with animated reenactments of scenes from the trial. Plus a soundtrack ranging from Black Sabbath and Steppenwolf to the Beastie Boys and Eminem.
Morgen has been quoted as saying that he “wanted to do the myth of Chicago rather than the history,” and “if you want to know the history of what happened in Chicago so long ago, then read a book.” Well, we think understanding history is pretty darn important and are happy to oblige.
Twenty years ago we published the most complete account of the events surrounding the 1968 DNC, David Farber’s Chicago ’68. That book is innovative itself, creating multiple perspectives reflecting both police and demonstrators. Farber shows the developing plans of the antiwar movement for protesting the war in Vietnam during the convention, as the shocks of 1968 shift the ground—the Tet offensive, President Lyndon Johnson’s withdrawal from the re-election race, the assassination of Martin Luther King and subsequent riots in cities across the country, and the assassination of Robert Kennedy.
Next month we will release a paperback edition of Battleground Chicago: The Police and the 1968 Democratic National Convention by Frank Kusch. Battleground Chicago is essential for understanding what is completely absent in Chicago 10—any insight into the motivations, thoughts, and feelings of the individual policemen who were enforcing order on the streets of Chicago. (Or, as Mayor Richard J. Daley famously misstated it: “the policeman is there to preserve disorder.”) Kusch interviewed eighty former Chicago police officers who were on the scene and uncovered the other side of the story of ’68.
If you want to get a taste of 1968, go see Chicago 10. But if you want to understand 1968, read a book.
Update: We now have an excerpt from Battleground Chicago and an excerpt from Chicago ’68.