The 1968 Project aims to highlight some of the historic events of the year. From protests and famous battles to chart-topping popular hits and box office smashing film, 1968 was a huge historical year with reverberations that we still feel today. The 1968 Project looks to grab snippets of these events on a monthly basis and list them here with links for further exploration.
A Wizard of Earthsea is first published by Ursala Le Guin, which cemented her place in the science fiction genre.
This is the front cover art for the book A Wizard of Earthsea written by Ursula K. Le Guin. The book cover art copyright is believed to belong to the publisher, Parnassus Press, or the cover artist.
The twelfth album by Glen Campbell, Wichita Lineman, is released. It would later become the 1969 album of the year.
November 5th Shirley Chisholm becomes the first African American woman to be elected to the United States Congress.
Shirley Chisholm on the presidential campaign trail of 1972.
Richard M. Nixon, the former U.S. Vice-President and Republican Party nominee is elected President of the United States, defeating Democrat Hubert H. Humphrey and Independent Party candidate George C. Wallace.
November 6th Head, the psychedelic movie by the band, The Monkees, is released in theaters.
The film poster for Head.
The last member of the Great Train Robbery of August 8th, 1963, Bruce Reynolds is finally captured by Scotland Yard.
The U.S. Supreme Court issues a 9-0 ruling in the Epperson v. Arkansas case. In 1928, the state of Arkansas declared the teaching of evolution to be illegal. The U.S. Supreme court invalidated that statute, stating that the state had violated the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Yale University announces that it will admit women students for the first time in its history, beggining with the 1969-1970 school year.
November 17th Mervyn Peake, British author and illustrator, passes away in a care home at the age of 57 after battling with health problems for close to a decade.
November 20th Glen Campbell wins Male Vocalist of the Year and Entertainer of the Year at the 2nd Annual Country Music Association Awards. Tammy Wynette wins Female Vocalist of the Year.
On this day, 78 coal miners were killed in the Number 9 mine in Mannington, West Virginia, owned by the Consolidation Coal Company. After days of trying to rescue the trapped minors, a decision was made on November 30th, to seal the mines due to gas leaks and fires, entombing the men forever in the mines.
Commonly referred to as the “White Album,” The Beatles release their double length, self-titled album.
The first ever interracial kiss on television is shown an episode of Star Trek. The kiss occurs between white actor William Shatner (Captain Kirk) and black actress Nichelle Nichols (Lieutenant Uhura).
The film, Faces, is released in theaters.
Most famous for his book about a Lithuanian immigrant family in Chicago working in the meat packing industry, Upton Sinclair passes away at age 90. While speaking about his book, The Jungle, Sinclair stated, “I aimed at the public’s heart, and by accident I hit it in the stomach.” His book would later be credited as part of the reason for the creation of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
November 26th After gaining 3,187 yards and scoring 21 touchdowns for the University of Southern California during the 1968 season, running back O.J. Simpson wins the Heisman Trophy by the widest margin in Heisman history.
Children’s author, Enid Blyton, 71, passes away in a British nursing home.
Van Morrison releases his album, Astral Weeks.
Be sure to come back at the end of next month for events from the final month of 1968!
Tracy K. Smith, Poet Laureate of the United States, spoke on November 1 at the Lewiston Public Library, leading a conversation about poetry and community in a room packed with Mainers. A mic was passed around, and we heard from each other—from kids, high school students, grown-ups—on the power of poetry, voices, identity, connection, being, and being together. Smith also read from a long poem of hers, drawn from historical documents in which veterans who fought for the Union in the Civil War wrote letters advocating for the rights that were being denied them. And so, from across the years, we heard their voices, too.
The historical era we’re living through today is marked by civil and human rights movements and individuals and communities working for social change. In November our staff looks at related themes, including new books on historical figures making a difference past and present, and how explorations of many issues also shine through novels, poetry, short stories, and science fiction.
We just touch base on a few subjects and titles, and don’t cover all the important ground there is to cover in this one blog post. There are many more resources at the library (and available through the wider reach of Interlibrary Loan) to keep exploring, as well as booklists and ideas for resources that we’ve created that may not be represented in this month’s post.
-Elizabeth, Reference Staff
I can’t stop thinking about The Book Smugglers: Partisans, Poets, and the Race to Save Jewish Treasures From the Nazis by David Fishman. It’s the true story of prisoners in the Vilna Ghetto, led by artists, teachers and librarians, who risked their lives to hide Jewish books and religious documents. Many young workers smuggled materials page-by-page in the linings of their clothes; the poet Abraham Sutzkever built a bunker 60 feet underground to safely store art, including drawings by Marc Chagall. It’s the best kind of nonfiction: dense and well-researched but also a page turner.
Related recommendation: The Librarian of Auschwitz is a new YA novel by Antonio Irtube, based on the life of Holocaust survivor Dita Kraus. She was only fourteen when she took responsibility for 8 contraband books and painstakingly hid them inside the concentration camp. It’s beautiful, harrowing (recommended for ages 14 or older), and would be a great companion read for anyone who connects with The Book Thief or Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl.
Finally, I must mention the excellent YA nonfiction book Beyond Courage: The Untold Stories of Jewish Resistance During the Holocaust, by Doreen Rappaport. Did you know there were documented acts of resistance in EVERY single ghetto & concentration camp in Europe? This accessible, captivating and inspiring read tells dozens of stories of ordinary people taking extraordinary risks, big and small, to protect themselves, their neighbors and their cultural legacy during the Holocaust. To me, these are not just stories from history that deserve to be told, but critical reminders for us all to amplify and preserve the voices of the oppressed.
Learning the history that has been left out of textbooks is, for me, an act of civic responsibility. There are many people who have come before us—including LGBTQ+ people, people of color, people with disabilities, women, and individuals and communities with economic disadvantages—whose complex lives and stories have been historically forgotten, neglected, or diminished instead of being sought out, taught, and shared. As a parent, I feel responsible for helping my children discover a wider range of history, so they can see where we’ve come from and help write new narratives in the future.
For a book chock full of biographies of inspiring women, check out Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls: 100 Tales of Extraordinary Women, also available on audio and narrated by a diverse cast of powerful women. My daughter discovered a love for the marine biologist Sylvia Earle, tells me facts about fossils and paleontologist Mary Anning, and chats about the crampons and skirts the Cholita Climbers wear to scale mountains in Bolivia.
If you have older readers looking for stories of world-changing women from history, check out Bygone Badass Broads, a collection of stories written by Mackenzi Lee, diving all the way back to 2700 BCE with Empress Xi Ling Shi to the 1950s with playwright Lorraine Hansberry. Lee tells the tales of women who led revolutions, changed medicine, and will prove to your teenagers that history is anything but boring.
Adults looking to learn more about the role of contemporary women and non-binary people as leaders of social change could take out Modern HERstory by Blair Imani, illustrated by Monique Le. It’s an inspiring collection starting with those who laid the foundations for modern-day activist movements and discussing women and non-binary people of all ages who are making a difference today.
Can We All Be Feminists?: New Writing from Brit Bennett, Nicole Dennis-Benn, and 15 Others on Intersectionality, Identity, and the Way Forward for Feminism is a new anthology that goes deep. Editor, writer, and feminist activist June Eric-Udorie observes in her introduction: “For those not already versed in the challenges facing, and debates within, feminism today, reading this anthology is a great place to start. For those of you who, like me, live and breathe these issues, I hope you’ll find some common truth, or see experiences like yours represented in this collection, which includes only marginalized voices and so puts them front and center…Gabrielle Bellot and Juliet Jacques remind us of the precarious position in which trans women find themselves. Frances Ryan chronicles the issues facing disabled women. And Wei Ming Kam demonstrates immigration is a feminist issue. These are just some of the voices in these pages.”
Pick #2: an uplifting, heartening book about climate change? Climate Justice: Hope, Resilience, and the Fight for a Sustainable Future investigates how hurricanes, drought, deforestation, permafrost degradation, extreme heat, and rising seas impact marginalized communities and countries, showing how human rights and climate change go hand in hand. At the same time, Mary Robinson (the former president of Ireland and UN Special Envoy on Climate Change) shares all that IS truly possible through stories of those who are impacted turning to grassroots work in climate justice that goes on to change their communities, countries, and the world.
We see how Sharon Hanshaw of East Biloxi, Mississippi became an activist for the rights of her community after Hurricane Katrina. Constance Okollot, who calls herself a “climate change witness,” advocates on behalf of women farmers in Uganda who are experiencing the crippling fallout of drought. Jannie Staffansson is a powerful voice for how climate change has affected Europe’s indigenous Saami people. Vu Thi Hien, in the mountains of Vietnam, works with local authorities and village leaders to organize communities of forest protectors who are paid for their work to reduce illegal logging, which has also empowered women in ethnic minority groups. And Ken Smith, a union leader for a former mine in Canada, protects workers and their families and communities by calling for “just transition strategies” as mines are closed and the advocacy for transition to green energy jobs begins.
With many other stories of individuals making a difference (some who helped to shape the Paris Agreement through their testimonies), Climate Justice reminds us of our own impacts as well as how many people and countries continue to be devoted to our planet’s future—and to each other.
On to new fiction: Friday Black is a powerful, unforgettable new collection of short stories by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah that offers a bloody critique of violence, racism, capitalism, and most especially questions of morality and humanity. Friday Black is a clarion call and a reminder that dystopian fiction (like The Handmaid’s Tale) goes to extremes so that readers are horrified: so that we are moved, so that we don’t dull in our responses to real horrors, and maybe even so that we might, if we are willing, recognize injustice and act. As Tommy Orange (author of this year’s phenomenal There There) observes in The New York Times Book Review, this writing packs tenderness and heart, too. Orange writes: “Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah has written a powerful and important and strange and beautiful collection of stories meant to be read right now…Violence is only gratuitous when it serves no purpose, and throughout Friday Black we are aware that the violence is crucially related to both what is happening in America now, and what happened in its bloody and brutal history…More often than not his characters struggle with not knowing what to do, given these seemingly impossible, extreme circumstances, and not all of them figure it out. But we don’t need them to: Adjei-Brenyah’s many truths, insights and beautifully crafted sentences just sing on the page.”
Reviewer Jeff Chang writes, “Those concerned with justice and liberation must always persuade the mass of people that a better world is possible. Our job begins with speculative fictions that fire society’s imagination and its desire for change. In adrienne maree brown and Walidah Imarisha’s visionary conception, and by its activist-artists’ often stunning acts of creative inception, Octavia’s Brood makes for great thinking and damn good reading. The rest will be up to us.”
The most recent category to be opened up for requests is the Videoport Pop Music section. This includes concert videos, documentaries, and movies featuring music. In addition to our display at the Main Branch, we’ve put together some lists for you to browse: Pop Music Videos and Criterion Films Featuring Music. Or search the keywords “dvd” and “music,” and get your groove on.