The letter below fell out of a book I was flipping through at a thrift store. Dated August 26, 1968, it’s from the Chairman of the Chicago Host Committee for the 1968 Democratic National Convention, welcoming delegates to that convention.
If you’re old enough to remember the shocking violence of the 1968 Democratic National Convention, this makes for a fairly arresting document.
If you’re not old enough to know about the 1968 DNC, I’d definitely recommend you learn about it. It took place August 26-29. The violence that rocked the nation there began on August 25, and lasted five days. On one side of the clashes were 12,000 Chicago police, 7,500 Army troops, 7,500 National Guard troops, and 1,000 Secret Service agents. On the other were desperately determined protesters of the Vietnam War. (If you’ve ever heard of the “Chicago 8,” that’s who they were: eight protesters of the Vietnam War arrested for inciting violence at the 1968 DNC. They include such famous 60’s icons as Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, Bobby Seale, and Tom Hayden.)
Earlier that year, in April, Martin Luther King, Jr. had been assassinated. On June 3, Andy Warhol was shot. Two days after that, Robert Kennedy was assassinated.
Throughout that year, protests against the Vietnam War had been building in intensity. On March 31, President Lyndon Johnson announced he wouldn’t seek re-election. His favorability ratings were extremely low; only 23% of voters supported his policies on the Vietnam War.
And it all came to a head in the violence outside the 1968 Democratic National Convention. That violence was captured by television cameras and broadcast live across the nation, forty years ago next week.
How things don’t change.
How things do.