It’s 1968 all over again. That’s been the familiar 2020 refrain, and it makes a certain sense. It was a tense election year, rife with mass protests in response to racist misdeeds, escalating inequality, and law-and-order rhetoric. There also happened to be a flu pandemic that year that killed roughly 100,000 Americans.
The news headlines of 1968 and 2020 might rhyme, but Eric Burns’s 1957: The Year That Launched the American Future suggests a more intriguing comparison point: 1957. That year was defined by more than one failure, the first postwar moment when America was forced en masse to confront its fallibility. And it contained the seeds of the 60s, and in turn our current existential crisis.