1968. The Year that Rocked the World (Mark Kurlansky)

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On 4 April 1968 Martin Luther King was assassinated. The great driving force behind the civil rights movement was killed in cold blood and riots broke out in several American cities. Would King’s assassination mean the end of non-violent action and peaceful marches? For a short time it looked as though the Black Power movement would take over King’s role, though in a more radical way, and using violence if necessary. Support for the Black Power movement could be witnessed all over the world during the Olympic Games in Mexico: Tommie Smith and John Carlos, two African-American athletes, raised their fists during the medal ceremony. But 1968 was also the year that American presidential candidate Robert Kennedy was murdered and elsewhere in the world too, there was tension, resistance and needless violence. In Vietnam the war grew increasingly bloody, and more and more American soldiers returned home killed or maimed …

There were student protests in Paris and other European cities student protests, while in Eastern Europe there was growing opposition to the communist regime, which could only respond by bringing in tanks… In this book, American journalist Mark Kurlansky jumps from one event to the other, but at the same time lays out the general context within which the assassination of King and all these other events took place.

Kurlansky shows how the media was a decisive factor. Better means of communication – especially faster transfer of television images – meant that protests against regimes or evidence of needless violence could no longer be kept within a country’s borders. Today we see a similar trend. During the Arab Spring, information was disseminated all round the world in a split second through facebook and other social media.

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