Mayday 1971: A White House at War, a Revolt in the Streets, and the Untold History of America’s Biggest Mass Arrest

Houghton Harcourt. Jul. 2020. 464p. ISBN 9781328766724. $28. HIST
In this debut, investigative journalist Roberts focuses on an act of civil disobedience: anti-war demonstrations on March 1, 1971, via detonation of a bomb inside in the U.S. Capitol. Roberts sets the time line by describing events leading up to the incident, such as the Kent State shootings in May 1970 and the America’s escalating presence in Vietnam. Using a variety of primary sources, Roberts highlights lesser-known players: activists Stew Albert and Judy Gumbo, lawyer Egil Krogh, Vietnam Veterans Against the War member John O’Connor, and educator Barbara Bowman, among others. He supplements these personal accounts with material from H. R. Haldeman’s (White House Chief of Staff for Nixon) diaries and Richard Nixon’s tapes. Roberts makes a compelling case of showing how 1970s anti-war activism was connected to class, ethnic, and racial conflicts, while noting that the National Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam was cross-generational, rather than primarily staffed by those most affected by the draft.
VERDICT Roberts conveys the personal and political impact of a pivotal event in American history in a narrative that will engage readers of the time period and resonate with today’s social justice activists.
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