Days Of Rage: America's Radical Underground, The Fbi, And The Forgotten Age Of Revolutionary…

Paperback | April 5, 2016

byBryan Burrough

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From the bestselling author of Public Enemies and The Big Rich, an explosive account of the decade-long battle between the FBI and the homegrown revolutionary movements of the 1970s
 
The Weathermen. The Symbionese Liberation Army. The FALN. The Black Liberation Army. The names seem quaint now, when not forgotten altogether. But there was a time in America, during the 1970s, when bombings by domestic underground groups were a daily occurrence. The FBI combated these and other groups as nodes in a single revolutionary underground, dedicated to the violent overthrow of the American government.
 
In Days of Rage, Bryan Burrough re-creates an atmosphere that seems almost unbelievable just forty years later, conjuring a time of native-born radicals, most of them “nice middle-class kids,” smuggling bombs into skyscrapers and detonating them inside the Pentagon and the U.S. Capitol, at a Boston courthouse and a Wall Street restaurant packed with lunchtime diners. The FBI’s fevered response included the formation of a secret task force called Squad 47, dedicated to hunting the groups down and rolling them up. But Squad 47 itself broke many laws in its attempts to bring the revolutionaries to justice, and its efforts ultimately ended in fiasco.
 
Drawing on revelatory interviews with members of the underground and the FBI who speak about their experiences for the first time, Days of Rage is a mesmerizing book that takes us into the hearts and minds of homegrown terrorists and federal agents alike and weaves their stories into a spellbinding secret history of the 1970s.

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From the bestselling author of Public Enemies and The Big Rich, an explosive account of the decade-long battle between the FBI and the homegrown revolutionary movements of the 1970s   The Weathermen. The Symbionese Liberation Army. The FALN. The Black Liberation Army. The names seem quaint now, when not forgotten altogether. But there ...

Bryan Burrough is a special correspondent at Vanity Fair and the author of five previous books, including The Big Rich and Public Enemies. A former reporter for the Wall Street Journal, he is a three-time winner of the Gerald Loeb Award for excellence in financial journalism.

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:608 pages, 8.4 × 5.4 × 1.2 inPublished:April 5, 2016Publisher:Penguin Publishing GroupLanguage:English

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ISBN - 10:0143107976

ISBN - 13:9780143107972

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AUTHOR’S NOTEWithout a doubt, this book is the single most difficult project I have ever attempted. During more than five years of research, I thought of quitting any number of times. When I began work in 2009, I had no idea of the challenges involved, or the complexities of dealing with veterans of the radical left. If you said I was naïve, well, I couldn’t argue with you.Eleven years ago I wrote a book called Public Enemies, in which I employed a million or so pages of newly released FBI files to tell the story of the Bureau’s pursuit of John Dillinger, Pretty Boy Floyd, and a half dozen other Depression-era criminals. In approaching this book, I assumed I would be able to draw on similar resources to document the rise and fall of the 1970s-era underground groups. Big mistake. FBI files, those the Bureau has made publicly available, are almost useless to a historian. Only a fraction of the paperwork these investigations generated has been issued, and almost all of it is dreck, either highly redacted headquarters summaries or page after page of highly redacted, and highly repetitive, “airtels” and telegrams. One could learn far more about the underground from newspapers.The existing literature was helpful, but contained gaping holes. Of the ten or so books and films dealing with the Weather Underground, few contain much detailed information on what interested me most: how the group actually operated underground. There are two good books about the Symbionese Liberation Army from the 1970s, but none on the Black Liberation Army, the FALN, or the United Freedom Front. John Castellucci’s 1986 book about the Family, The Big Dance, is packed with good information but so loosely structured it is often hard to follow.In the absence of fresh documentation, I was obliged to fall back on the basic skills I learned as a young newspaper reporter many years ago: pounding the pavement, hitting the phones. Veterans of the underground were easy enough to track down. The problem was getting them to talk candidly about decades-old crimes they had rarely if ever spoken of publicly, and which in some cases might still be the subject of law enforcement interest.During my first year of research, I cold-called any number of aging underground figures. The conversation usually went something like this:“Hello, my name is Bryan Burrough. You don’t know me from Adam, and I don’t share your politics. Would you be willing to tell me about that building you bombed in 1972?”Click.This became somewhat frustrating. A turning point came when, during the course of people’s deflecting my questions, I was directed to their attorneys. The group of radical lawyers who handled underground cases turned out to be surprisingly small; maybe fifteen attorneys, almost all in New York, Chicago, and San Francisco, handled just about every major case. A handful worked on dozens of cases spanning multiple underground groups. With the help of several of these attorneys—people motivated simply by a wish to accurately recapture a piece of little-remembered American history—I was able to begin building bridges to their clients, many of whom remain distrustful of anyone associated with the mainstream media. Some interviews took months to negotiate. Even once a veteran of the underground agreed to speak with me, it sometimes took four or five meetings to begin earning something like the trust that is necessary for someone to share secrets with a complete stranger. I am deeply grateful to all those who did.CAST OF CHARACTERSWEATHER UNDERGROUND, AKA WEATHERMAN, 1969 TO 1977BERNARDINE DOHRN: beautiful, brainy, first among equals, “la Pasionaria of the Lunatic Left”JEFF JONES: California-raised “surfer dude,” co-leader, Dohrn’s onetime lover, principal instigator of 1975–76 “inversion strategy”BILL AYERS: effusive child of wealth, enthusiastic writer, named to national leadership after the Townhouse bombingELEANOR STEIN: New York cell, national leadership, later married Jeff JonesROBBIE ROTH: thoughtful Columbia University SDSer, New York cell, named to national leadership after TownhouseMARK RUDD: hero of 1968 Columbia protests, early Weatherman leader, eventually marginalizedJOHN JACOBS, AKA “JJ”: Columbia organizer, Weatherman’s intellectual pioneer, principal author of founding Weatherman paperTERRY ROBBINS: SDS organizer, Bill Ayers’s best friend, intense and dedicated, leader of Townhouse cellCATHY WILKERSON: Townhouse survivor, later West Coast bomb makerKATHY BOUDIN: Townhouse survivor, longtime WeathermanHOWARD MACHTINGER: University of Chicago PhD candidate and intellectual, led first West Coast “actions”“PAUL BRADLEY”: pseudonym for San Francisco cadre active in California bombings“MARVIN DOYLE”: pseudonym for Bay Area radical who worked closely with national leadership circa 1971–72RON FLIEGELMAN: New York cell, explosives expertRICK AYERS: Bill Ayers’s brother, organized West Coast logisticsANNIE STEIN: Eleanor Stein’s mother, political adviserCLAYTON VAN LYDEGRAF: aging Seattle radical, Weatherman cadre, later led purge of Weather Underground and Prairie Fire Organizing CommitteeBLACK LIBERATION ARMY, AKA BLA, 1971 TO 1973ELDRIDGE CLEAVER: famed radical writer, BLA’s intellectual leaderDONALD COX, AKA “D.C.”: BLA’s military strategistSEKOU ODINGA, AKA NATHANIEL BURNS: Cleaver’s number three in Algiers, most important black militant of underground eraLUMUMBA SHAKUR: Odinga’s boyhood friend, BLA adviserZAYD SHAKUR: Lumumba’s brother, BLA intellectualRICHARD “DHORUBA” MOORE, AKA DHORUBA BIN-WAHAD: rangy, motor-mouthed street intellectual, instrumental in BLA’s formationJOHN THOMAS: Army veteran, leader of Georgia training campTHOMAS “BLOOD” MCCREARY: Brooklyn soldierTWYMON MEYERS: trigger-happy soldier, probably most violent revolutionary of the underground eraRONALD CARTER: Army veteran, leader of Cleveland cell, prime suspect in Foster-Laurie murders, January 1972JOANNE CHESIMARD, AKA ASSATA SHAKUR: last BLA leaderSYMBIONESE LIBERATION ARMY, 1973 TO 1975DONALD DEFREEZE, AKA CINQUE: escaped California convict, Berkeley radical, founder and first leader of the SLAMIZMOON SOLTYSIK: DeFreeze’s lover and aide-de-campBILL AND EMILY HARRIS: strident SLA membersKATHLEEN SOLIAH: SLA supporter turned recruitPATTY HEARST: California heiress, SLA memberFALN, 1974 TO 1980OSCAR LÓPEZ: leader, onetime Chicago community organizerCARLOS TORRES: López’s number twoMARIE HAYDEE TORRES: Torres’s wife, convicted of 1977 Mobil Oil bombingGUILLERMO “WILLIE” MORALES: FALN soldier, bomb makerDYLCIA PAGAN: FALN member, mother of Morales’s childDON WOFFORD AND LOU VIZI: FBI pursuersSAM MELVILLE JONATHAN JACKSON UNIT, AKA UNITED FREEDOM FRONT, 1976 TO 1984RAY LUC LEVASSEUR: charismatic leader, noted Maine radicalTOM MANNING: Levasseur’s number two man, convicted in 1981 murder of New Jersey State Trooper Philip LamonacoPAT GROS LEVASSEUR: mother of Levasseur’s three daughtersCAROL MANNING: Tom’s wifeJAAN LAAMAN: onetime SDS radical, late recruitRICHARD WILLIAMS: recruit, convicted in Lamonaco murderKAZI TOURE: recruitLEN CROSS: FBI pursuerMUTULU SHAKUR GROUP, AKA “THE FAMILY,” 1977 TO 1981MUTULU SHAKUR: leader, longtime New York radical, acupuncturist, stepfather of the late rapper Tupac ShakurSEKOU ODINGA: co-leader, governor on Shakur’s engineTYRONE RISON, AKA “LB”: Army veteran, subleaderMARILYN BUCK: leader of white-radical contingent, among most determined white radicals of the underground eraSILVIA BARALDINI: intense Italian-born radical, moved from Prairie Fire Organizing Committee to May 19 Community Organization to Shakur’s groupALSO . . .SAM MELVILLE AND JANE ALPERT: underground pioneersGEORGE JACKSON: California convict, would-be underground messiahPROLOGUEThe woman sitting across from me in a bustling Brooklyn diner is a sixty-eight-year-old grandmother now, freckled and still very attractive. She has warm eyes and short silver hair combed over her ears. She wears a long-sleeved pink blouse. At her side her five-month-old grandson burbles in his stroller. By training she is a math teacher. She has taught almost thirty years in the New York schools. This was what she decided to do when she got out of jail.Her name is Cathy Wilkerson, and many years ago she was briefly famous. In her twenties she belonged to the Weather Underground, the militant group that famously declared war on the United States in 1970. Its favored weapons were bombs, which it spent six long years detonating in New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Boston, Pittsburgh, and Washington. It was Wilkerson’s family townhouse in Greenwich Village that was destroyed in the group’s most infamous bombing, on March 6, 1970. The accidental explosion killed three of her closest friends, including her lover. She was one of two survivors who crawled from the rubble and made their way underground.Years ago Wilkerson wrote a memoir of her radical youth, called Flying Close to the Sun. But as several of her peers did in their own books, she left out almost all details of her underground career. There is page after page about being lonely and penniless and adrift, but she has never explained what she actually did underground. There is almost nothing about her clandestine work, about her role in the bombings. This is our sixth meeting, and while she is happy to discuss old friends and old politics, she has sweetly resisted my entreaties to discuss her involvement in what are euphemistically known as the Weather Underground’s “political actions.”Another Weatherman alumnus, however, has told me. He is the father of Wilkerson’s adult daughter, in fact, and though they rarely speak, he happens to live four blocks away. Even though he perfected the group’s bomb design and served for years as its explosives guru, he—unlike Wilkerson—has never been publicly identified. A grandfather with a patchy white beard, he can be seen most mornings walking a tiny white poodle through the streets of his neighborhood, which is called Park Slope.“So,” I say, “I’ve been told what your role was.”Her eyelids flutter. She reaches down and begins to rock the stroller. “You think you know?” she says.“Yes,” I say. “You were the West Coast bomb maker.”There is a long pause. She glances down at her grandson. He begins to spit up. She reaches down, wipes off his chin, and takes him into her arms, gently sliding a bottle between his lips.“Look,” she finally says. “I felt I had a responsibility to make the design safe after the Townhouse.” The bomb design, she means. “I didn’t want any more people to die.”And then she begins to talk about that secret life, about the bombs she built and detonated, mostly in the San Francisco area, all those years ago. The story she tells is like many I heard from those who joined Weather and other radical underground groups of the 1970s, who mistakenly believed the country was on the brink of a genuine political revolution, who thought that violence would speed the change. It is elusive and impressionistic, a mixture of pride and embarrassment, marked with memory lapses that may or may not be convenient.Interviews for this book, many of which took months to negotiate and arrange, played out across the country and beyond, at a Mexican restaurant in Berkeley, a remote farmhouse in Maine, a North Carolina hotel, a series of cafés in Rome, a Senegalese buffet in Harlem, a taco joint in Albuquerque, a tenement beside the Brooklyn Bridge, the homes of retired FBI agents in New Jersey, California, and elsewhere, as well as a prison or two. Like many of those I saw, Wilkerson is angry at some of her old friends and, forty-odd years later, still grappling to make sense of what she did.“It’s all so fantastic to me now,” she says as we rise to leave. “It’s just so absurd I participated in all this.”“The challenge for me,” I say on the sidewalk outside, “is to explain to people today why this all didn’t seem as insane then as it does now.”“Yes,” she says, stepping into a morning rain. “That’s it exactly.” • • • Imagine if this happened today: Hundreds of young Americans—white, black, and Hispanic—disappear from their everyday lives and secretly form urban guerrilla groups. Dedicated to confronting the government and righting society’s wrongs, they smuggle bombs into skyscrapers and federal buildings and detonate them from coast to coast. They strike inside the Pentagon, inside the U.S. Capitol, at a courthouse in Boston, at dozens of multinational corporations, at a Wall Street restaurant packed with lunchtime diners. People die. They rob banks, dozens of them, launch raids on National Guard arsenals, and assassinate policemen, in New York, in San Francisco, in Atlanta. There are deadly shoot-outs and daring jailbreaks, illegal government break-ins and a scandal in Washington.This was a slice of America during the tumultuous 1970s, a decade when self-styled radical “revolutionaries” formed something unique in postcolonial U.S. history: an underground resistance movement. Given little credibility by the press, all but ignored by historians, their bombings and robberies and shoot-outs stretched from Seattle to Miami, from Los Angeles to Maine. And even if the movement’s goals were patently unachievable and its members little more than onetime student leftists who clung to utopian dreams of the 1960s, this in no way diminished the intensity of the shadowy conflict that few in America understood at the time and even fewer remember clearly today.In fact, the most startling thing about the 1970s-era underground is how thoroughly it has been forgotten. “People always ask why I did what I did, and I tell them I was a soldier in a war,” recalls a heralded black militant named Sekou Odinga, who remained underground from 1969 until his capture in 1981. “And they always say, ‘What war?’”Call it war or something else, but it was real, and it was deadly. Arrayed against the government were a half-dozen significant underground groups—and many more that yearned to be—which, while notionally independent of one another, often shared members, tactics, and attorneys. Of these, only the Weather Underground, the first and by far the largest, has earned any real analysis. The Symbionese Liberation Army, a ragtag collection of California ex-cons and radicals who pulled off the underground’s most infamous action, the kidnapping of newspaper heiress Patricia Hearst in 1974, was widely dismissed as a pack of loonies. Many doubted that the Black Liberation Army, a murderous offspring of the Black Panthers, even existed. A Puerto Rican independence group known as the FALN, the most determined bombers in U.S. history, remains cloaked in secrecy to this day; not one of its members has ever spoken a meaningful word about its operations. The United Freedom Front, a revolutionary cell consisting of three blue-collar couples and their nine children, robbed banks and bombed buildings well into the 1980s. An interracial group of radicals called the Family did much the same, yet remained so obscure that no one even knew it existed until a fateful afternoon in 1981 when an armored-car robbery went badly awry, three people died, and America was reintroduced to a movement it had assumed dead years before.*This was strange, even at the time. Because radical violence was so deeply woven into the fabric of 1970s America that many citizens, especially in New York and other hard-hit cities, accepted it as part of daily life. As one New Yorker sniffed to the New York Post after an FALN attack in 1977, “Oh, another bombing? Who is it this time?” It’s a difficult attitude to comprehend in a post-9/11 world, when even the smallest pipe bomb draws the attention of hundreds of federal agents and journalists.“People have completely forgotten that in 1972 we had over nineteen hundred domestic bombings in the United States,” notes a retired FBI agent, Max Noel. “People don’t want to listen to that. They can’t believe it. One bombing now and everyone gets excited. In 1972? It was every day. Buildings getting bombed, policemen getting killed. It was commonplace.”There are crucial distinctions, however, between public attitudes toward bombings during the 1970s and those today. In the past twenty-five years terrorist bombs have claimed thousands of American lives, over three thousand on 9/11 alone. Bombings today often mean someone dies. The underground bombings of the 1970s were far more widespread and far less lethal. During an eighteen-month period in 1971 and 1972, the FBI reported more than 2,500 bombings on U.S. soil, nearly 5 a day. Yet less than 1 percent of the 1970s-era bombings led to a fatality; the single deadliest radical-underground attack of the decade killed four people. Most bombings were followed by communiqués denouncing some aspect of the American condition; bombs basically functioned as exploding press releases. The sheer number of attacks led to a grudging public resignation. Unless someone was killed, press accounts rarely carried any expression of outrage. In fact, as hard as it may be to comprehend today, there was a moment during the early 1970s when bombings were viewed by many Americans as a semilegitimate means of protest. In the minds of others, they amounted to little more than a public nuisance.Consider what happened when an obscure Puerto Rican group, MIRA, detonated bombs in two Bronx theaters in New York on May 1, 1970. Eleven people suffered minor injuries when one device went off at the Dale Theater during a showing of Cactus Flower. The second exploded beneath a seat at the cavernous Loew’s Paradise while a rapt audience watched The Liberation of L.B. Jones; when police ordered everyone to leave, the audience angrily refused, demanding to see the rest of the movie. When the theater was forcibly cleared, an NYPD official said later, the audience “about tore the place apart.”1 Neither the bombings nor the Paradise audience’s reaction was deemed especially newsworthy; the incident drew barely six paragraphs in the New York Times.The public, by and large, dismissed the radical underground as a lunatic fringe, and in time that’s what it became. But before that day, before so many fell victim to despair or drugs or the FBI, there was a moment when the radical underground seemed to pose a legitimate threat to national security, when its political “actions” merited the front page of the New York Times and the cover of Time magazine and drew constant attention from the White House, the FBI, and the CIA. To the extreme reaches of the radical left, to those who dared to believe that some sort of second American Revolution was actually imminent, these years constituted a brief shining moment, perhaps its last. To others, the bombings were nothing more than homegrown terrorism; the excesses of the radical left during the 1970s helped nudge America toward the right end of the political spectrum and into the arms of Ronald Reagan and the conservatives. But in the eyes of much of mainstream America, to ordinary working people in Iowa and Nevada and Arkansas who hadn’t the time or the inclination to study the communiqués of bomb-throwing Marxists, who wanted only to return to normalcy after long years of disorienting change, it was insanity.In the end, the untold story of the underground era, stretching from 1970 until the last diehards were captured in 1985, is one of misplaced idealism, naïveté, and stunning arrogance. Depending on one’s point of view, its protagonists can be seen as either deluded dreamers or heartless terrorists, though a third possibility might be closer to the truth: young people who fatally misjudged America’s political winds and found themselves trapped in an unwinnable struggle they were too proud or stubborn to give up. This book is intended to be a straightforward narrative history of the period and its people. Any writer makes judgments, but I have tried to keep mine to a minimum, especially where politics is concerned.It is ultimately a tragic tale, defined by one unavoidable irony: that so many idealistic young Americans, passionately committed to creating a better world for themselves and those less fortunate, believed they had to kill people to do it. The story is long and labyrinthine, alternately exciting and sad, and it all begins, in a way, with a tortured couple living in New York’s East Village in the summer of 1969. They were like so many in the faltering protest movement at that restive decade’s end: long-haired, free-spirited, and mired in gloom. The one thing that set them apart from friends who raised their fists and chanted antiwar slogans in demonstrations of the day was that late one night, after removing a carton of cottage cheese, a quart of yogurt, and some leftover salad from their refrigerator, they replaced it all with a hundred bright red sticks of dynamite.01“THE REVOLUTION AIN’T TOMORROW. IT’S NOW. YOU DIG?”Sam Melville and the Birth of the American UndergroundNEW YORK CITY | AUGUST 1969On a drizzly Friday afternoon they drove north out of the city in a battered station wagon, six more shaggy radicals, a baby, and two dogs, heading toward a moment unlike any they had seen. Jimi. Janis. The Who. The Dead. They were like hundreds of thousands of young Americans that season, one part aimless, druggy, and hedonistic, two parts angry, idealistic, and determined to right all the wrongs they saw in 1969 America: racism, repression, police brutality, the war.Traffic on the New York State Thruway was slow, but a pipeful of hashish and a few beers left everyone feeling fine. Ten miles from their destination, the car sagged into a traffic jam. One couple got out to walk. The girl, who was twenty-two that day, was Jane Alpert, a petite, bookish honors graduate of Swarthmore College with brunette bangs. She wrote for the Rat Subterranean News, the kind of East Village radical newspaper that published recipes for Molotov cocktails. Later, friends would describe her as “sweet” and “gentle.” As she stepped from the car Alpert lifted a copy of Rat to ward off the raindrops.Beside her trudged her thirty-five-year-old lover, Sam Melville, a rangy, broad-chested activist who wore his thinning hair dangling around his shoulders. Melville was a troubled soul, a brooder with a dash of charisma, a man determined to make his mark. Only Jane and a handful of their friends knew how he intended to do it. Only they knew about the dynamite in the refrigerator.Slogging through the rain, they didn’t reach the Woodstock festival until almost midnight. Ducking into a large tent, Jane curled up beside a stranger’s air mattress and managed an hour of sleep. She found Melville the next morning wandering through the movement booths, manned by Yippies and Crazies and Black Panthers and many more. After a long day listening to music, she glimpsed him deep in conversation with one of the Crazies, a thirty-something character named George Demmerle, who could usually be found at New York demonstrations in a crash helmet and purple cape. “That George,” Melville said as they left. “He really is crazy. I offered to spell him at the booth, but he said only bona fide Crazies ought to work the official booth.”“That’s because he’s old,” Jane said. “He wants to be a twenty-year-old freak.” When Melville dropped his head, Jane realized she had offended him. He and Demmerle were almost the same age.The echoes of Jimi Hendrix’s last solo could still be heard at Woodstock on Monday morning when Jane left the East Village apartment she shared with Melville and walked to work. They had been squabbling all summer and had decided to see other people. That night, though, she canceled a date and returned to the apartment to find him glumly sitting on the bed. “I thought you had a date,” he said.“I changed my mind.”“Why?”“Because I’d rather be with you.”He said nothing, which was unusual. She lay beside him.“What’s wrong, Sam?” she asked.It took a moment before he said, “I planted a bomb this afternoon.” • • • The first bombs had already exploded in America, scores of them, and self-styled “revolutionaries” were already as thick as the air that sweltering August night, but the man who really started it all—who became a kind of Patient Zero for the underground groups of the 1970s—was Sam Melville. Until he and his friends began planting bombs around Manhattan in the summer of 1969, protest bombings had been mostly limited to college campuses, typically Molotov cocktails heaved toward ROTC buildings late at night. All but forgotten today, Melville was the first to take antigovernment violence to a new level, building large bombs and using them to attack symbols of American power. While later groups would augment his tactics with bank robbery, kidnapping, and murder, Melville’s remained the essential blueprint for almost every radical organization of the next decade.He was born Samuel Grossman in the Bronx in 1934, making him a decade older than many of his revolutionary peers. In his teens he adopted the surname Melville, after the author of his favorite book, Moby-Dick. He had a difficult upbringing; his parents separated before he was five, and he grew up poor in Buffalo. He drifted through his twenties, working as a draftsman. By the time he turned thirty-one, he had married and separated and was teaching plumbing at a trade school, aimless and unsatisfied, searching for a purpose to his life.He found it during the Columbia University unrest in 1968, when angry students were occupying campus buildings in protest of discriminatory policies and the Vietnam War. Their cause enthralled Melville, who quit his job on an impulse and took one delivering copies of a radical newspaper, the Guardian. He began dating Jane after selling her a subscription. Jane had grown up in Forest Hills, Queens, and knew next to nothing about Melville’s two specialties, radical politics and sex, both of which she found she liked quite a bit. Under his guidance she became intoxicated by life in “the Movement”: the demonstrations, the sit-ins, the meetings, the sense that the world was changing and she was helping make it happen. “This country’s about to go through a revolution,” Melville told her. “I expect it to happen before the decade is over. And I intend to be a part of it.”Jane threw herself into the brave new world of radical politics with a convert’s zeal, taking the job at Rat Subterranean News. She and Melville moved in together, renting an apartment on East Eleventh Street. It was there, amid a hazy tableau of marijuana and Movement politics, that she realized Melville’s talk of revolution wasn’t abstract. He wasn’t satisfied with placards and slogans; he wanted to do something, something to bring on the revolution.It was in the fall of 1968 that Melville began to talk about bombs. New York City, he knew, had a long history of bombings. There was the anarchist bombing on Wall Street in 1920, which killed thirty-eight people, and another that killed two policemen at the World’s Fair in 1940. But the bomber who obsessed Melville was one he knew from boyhood: George Metesky, the original Mad Bomber. A disgruntled employee of Consolidated Edison, Metesky planted thirty-three bombs around Manhattan between 1940 and his arrest in 1957. Twenty-two of them exploded—at Grand Central Terminal, at Pennsylvania Station, at Radio City Music Hall—and a dozen or more people were injured. After Columbia Melville began spray-painting buildings with the graffito GEORGE METESKY WAS HERE.For the moment, bombing was still just an idea. But that winter, as 1968 gave way to 1969, Melville began planning some kind of bombing campaign with his friends. They were all angry. Times were changing, and not for the better. The Movement—the great swelling of young Americans that had thronged the streets in protest over the past three years—was crumbling. Everyone sensed it. A new president, Richard Nixon, was entering the White House, pledging to crack down on student radicals. What that meant had become clear at the Democratic National Convention in August, when Chicago police used truncheons to beat down demonstrators, leaving them bloodied, bowed, and defeated.Repression: It was all anyone in the Movement was talking about that winter. Many were giving up hope. But others, Melville included, began talking about fighting back, about a genuine revolution, about guns, about bombs, about guerrilla warfare. Jane privately thought it all ridiculous, brave speechifying fueled by too much free time and too many drugs. And in time Melville appeared to drop the subject. It was clear, however, that he wanted to do something, and to Jane’s amazement, “something” arrived unannounced that February. In fact, there were two of them, “Jean” and “Jacques.” Melville took Jane aside and told her they were genuine revolutionaries—Canadian revolutionaries, dedicated to the freedom of their native Quebec. Their real names were Alain Allard and Jean-Pierre Charette, and their terrorist group, Front de libération du Québec, known as the FLQ, was responsible for more than 160 acts of violence in Canada—killing at least eight people—since 1963, including the bombing of the Montreal Stock Exchange just days before. They were on the run.Melville had not only met the two Canadian terrorists through mutual acquaintances but had agreed to hide them in a friend’s apartment. They wanted to get to Cuba. Melville had promised to take care of everything, and for the next few weeks he did. He arranged for a post office box, retrieved their mail, brought them newspapers, even bought their food. In turn he spent hours closeted with the two, quizzing them on the minutiae of revolutionary work: the ins and outs of safe houses, false papers, and, most of all, bombs. Jean and Jacques drew Melville diagrams and showed him how to insert bombs into briefcases. They even tutored him on how to cover his mouth when telephoning in bomb threats.One night Jane returned to the apartment and found Melville pacing nervously. “They’ve come up with a plan,” he said.Jane stared.“They want to hijack a plane to Cuba.”“You’re not serious.”They were. He was. Even though every nerve in her body told Jane not to, she agreed to help. She did it, she told herself, out of love. The real reason, though she couldn’t admit it for years, was the excitement. She was involved in something bigger than herself. They were changing the world. This was justified. This was important.Over the next two weeks, everything came together quickly. Melville managed to buy a gun. Jane selected a Miami-bound plane to hijack. On Monday, May 5, they followed the two Canadians to LaGuardia Airport and said goodbye. “How can we ever thank you?” one asked.“We are all fighting for the same cause,” Jane replied.That night Jane and Melville hunched over a radio until the announcer on WBAI read a news bulletin: “National Airlines flight number ninety-one has been diverted from Miami to Cuba, where it has now landed.”Melville and Jane shouted for joy, hopping like rabbits, they were so excited. “Those little bastards,” Melville crowed over and over. “They did it. They did it!”* • • • After the hijacking, Melville’s confidence soared. Finally, after months of talk, he began laying concrete plans for the bombing campaign he envisioned. He started practicing with disguises. Jane was startled one day when, lying in the bathtub, she saw a strange man enter the apartment. He looked like a businessman, clean-shaven, wearing a suit and a fedora. It took a moment before she realized it was Melville. “We can’t afford to look like hippies anymore,” he explained. “The revolution ain’t tomorrow. It’s now. You dig?”1Jane saw her lover’s bombing plans as just another of his fantasies. Talk of bombing she dismissed as a “silly scheme” intended “to win my attention and boost his self-esteem.” Yet Jane’s skepticism only seemed to propel Melville forward. One night that June, she found him hunched over a hand-drawn map. That day, he announced, he and a friend had staked out a building site and followed a truck carrying dynamite all the way to the Major Deegan Expressway. Following the truck, he said, would lead to the source of its dynamite.Jane looked at him balefully. Maybe, she suggested, he should try looking in the Yellow Pages under “explosives.” When he did, Melville was startled to find three listings, including one in the Bronx. All were for a company called Explo Industries. Soon he began talking excitedly about plans to rob the Explo warehouse. Jane rolled her eyes. She might have laughed out loud had she known what Melville also didn’t: A short drive north, in much of New England, dynamite could be purchased simply by walking into any construction-supplies retailer.After staking out the warehouse, Melville and two pals made their move on the night of Monday, July 7, 1969. They left at eleven. Jane waited. Midnight came and went. Another hour ticked by. She watched the clock.At 1:20 a.m., Sam and his pals burst into the apartment, wide smiles on their faces. They plunked down four boxes on the kitchen floor. The robbery had gone smoothly; once the night watchman saw their gun, he offered no resistance. They left him tied up. Jane gingerly opened the top of one box. Inside was row upon row of red dynamite sticks, each wrapped in paper. The words NITRO-GLYCERINE—HIGHLY FLAMMABLE were printed on each. They took the yogurt and the salad out of the refrigerator and slid the boxes in. Sam was as happy as Jane had ever seen him. Once everyone left, they made love, Alpert wrote later, “the most tender and passionate in a long time.” • • • The dynamite in the couple’s refrigerator quickly became the focus of discussion among their dozen or so radical friends, all of whom, like Melville, were eager to put it to use. A few days after the robbery, Melville rented a $60-a-month apartment on East Second Street, where they moved the dynamite. The new flat became his clandestine workshop, where he began experimenting with bomb designs. On Saturday, July 26, the sixteenth anniversary of Fidel Castro’s disastrous raid on a Cuban army barracks, he told Jane he was ready to mark the date with their first “action.”Their target would be a United Fruit warehouse on a Hudson River pier in lower Manhattan; United Fruit, best known for its Chiquita bananas, had been a major investor in Cuba. Melville had already built two bombs and slid them into large vinyl pocketbooks. At dusk he and Alpert and a friend strolled down to the Hudson, where the warehouse, with the words UNITED FRUIT emblazoned on one side, lay in darkness. Standing at the end of the dock, they could see no security, no watchmen. The only sound, other than the whiz of cars on the nearby West Side Highway, was the lapping of water below. While the women stood guard, Melville took one of the bombs and disappeared into the gloom. He returned a minute later, took the second bomb, then left again. He hurried back and herded the women away, saying, “Let’s go.”They rushed back to their apartment and turned on the radio, eagerly awaiting the news. None came. In the morning Jane pored over the Times: nothing. They began to suspect that police had covered up the news. That afternoon they made an anonymous call to WBAI, the radical radio station, and an hour later it finally carried the news. The two bombs, set beside the warehouse, had blown a hole in an outer wall and wrecked a door. Unfortunately, they learned, United Fruit no longer used the facility. It was being used instead by a tugboat company. Melville was crestfallen. “I used up forty sticks of dynamite on that job,” he complained. “That’s one quarter of what we’ve got.”Their friends were furious at being left out of the plan. But that wasn’t what delayed their new bombing campaign. Alpert came home from work one evening and found Melville in bed with one of her friends. Afterward he wanted to break up. Then he changed his mind. They began to fight, then they agreed to try sleeping with other people. Melville was morose. And then came that rainy weekend they all went up to Woodstock and then sullenly drove back to New York and Alpert came home from a long day at work and Melville confessed he had planted a new bomb without her.“Where did you plant the bomb?” Alpert asked.“At the Marine Midland Bank.”The name meant nothing to Alpert. It wasn’t a target they had discussed. It stood at 140 Broadway, a few blocks up from Wall Street.“Why Marine Midland?” Alpert asked.“No particular reason,” Melville said. “I just walked around Wall Street till I found a likely-looking place. It’s one of those big new skyscrapers, millions of tons of glass and steel, some fucking phony sculpture in the front. You just look at the building and the people going in and out of it, and you know.”“What time did you set the bomb for?” Alpert asked.“Eleven o’clock.”Alpert stared at the clock. Barely an hour away.“Sam, you never even cased that building,” she said, worried. “Do you know what the Wall Street area is like at eleven o’clock on a weeknight? People work there until after midnight. Cleaning women. File clerks. Keypunch operators. Did you make a warning call or anything?”Melville shifted.Alpert all but dragged him to a pay phone up the street. She made the call, reaching a security guard. She told him about the bomb and pleaded with him to evacuate the building. The guard seemed annoyed.“I’d like to help you, lady, really, I would,” he said. “But I don’t leave this post until midnight when I make rounds.”“But the bomb’s going to go off at eleven.”“I see your point.” The guard sighed. “I’ll do what I can.”Back in the apartment, Alpert and Melville sat by the radio, waiting. The news came a few minutes after eleven.Melville had simply wandered into the building and left the bomb next to an elevator on the eighth floor. That night about fifty people, almost all women, were working on the floor, inputting data into bookkeeping machines. When the bomb went off at 10:45 p.m., the explosion destroyed several walls, blowing an eight-foot hole in the floor and dumping a ton of debris down into the seventh floor, where more people were working. Windows shattered, generating a blizzard of flying glass; several women’s dresses were cut to shreds. Sirens echoed through lower Manhattan. Ambulances carted away twenty people who had been injured, none of them seriously.Alpert was apoplectic—not because of the injuries but because of Melville’s motivation. The bombing, she saw, had nothing to do with the war or Nixon or racism. She knew Melville better than anyone, and she knew this was about her. As she wrote years later, “Because I had threatened to abandon him, for even one night, by sleeping with another man, he had taken revenge on a skyscraperful of people.”Afterward they drafted a communiqué, which called the bombing an act of “political sabotage.” Jane typed up three copies and sent them to Rat, the Guardian, and the Liberation News Service. Alpert was actually at Rat when the paper’s editor, Jeff Shero, slit open the envelope and read it.“Far fuckin’ out!” he yelped. • • • For their next bombing, a group of their friends pitched in. On September 18, 1969, as President Nixon delivered a speech at the United Nations, two miles north, Alpert and the others gathered around Melville as he assembled a bomb. He used fifteen sticks of dynamite, a blasting cap, and a Westclox alarm clock. When he finished, he lowered the device into a handbag Jane had stolen. Wearing a white A-line dress and kid gloves, she slid the bag’s strap over her shoulder, gave the group a salute, and left. She took the bus downtown, cushioning the bag on her lap, and got off at Foley Square, home to the U.S. Courthouse, with its vast, colonnaded façade; the New York County Courthouse; and Alpert’s destination: the two-year-old Federal Building, a forty-two-story rectangle of glass and steel. At the elevator bank, Alpert pressed the button for the fortieth floor. Reaching it, she stepped into an empty hallway. She left the bomb in an electrical-equipment closet.Around 1 a.m. the conspirators gathered on the roof of an apartment house in the East Village. They had trained a telescope on the upper floors of the Federal Building. All the skyscraper’s lights remained ablaze. High atop the building, an airplane beacon blinked its orange eye. They waited, taking turns at the telescope. The minutes ticked by like hours. Then, suddenly, a few minutes before two, every light in the Federal Building silently winked out.“Holy shit,” someone breathed.“An explosion of undetermined origin,” the Times called it the next morning, by which time Melville had already learned they had bombed not the Army Department, as planned, but an office suite belonging to the Department of Commerce. The blast had blown a six-foot hole in a wall and a twenty-five-by-forty-foot hole in the ceiling, mangling furniture and file cabinets on the floor above. No one had been injured.A few days later Alpert was walking into the Rat offices when she saw police cruisers outside. She stopped at a pay phone and called in. An editor said the cops wanted the Marine Midland communiqué. Alpert killed time in a diner before returning. The cops were gone. But she knew that she and her friends had been sloppy. Too many people were too chatty. Still, she allowed herself to relax when Melville left for a radical gathering in North Dakota.Melville was still away when some of the others, led by a young militant named Jim Duncan, decided they wanted to bomb something, too.* Duncan targeted the Selective Service induction center on Whitehall Street in lower Manhattan, the building where every man of age in the borough had to register for the draft. On the night of October 7, Duncan left his bomb in a fifth-floor bathroom. When it detonated, at 11:20 p.m., the explosion wrecked the entire floor, scattering debris throughout the building and blowing out windows. No one was injured. The communiqué, which Duncan wrote himself, was mailed to media outlets across the city. It said the bombing was in support of the North Vietnamese, “legalized marijuana, love, Cuba, legalized abortion and all the American revolutionaries and G.I.’s who are winning the war against the Pentagon [and] Nixon. [S]urrender now.” The reaction at Rat, and among everyone they knew in the Movement, was joyful.Afterward, Jane and the others planned their most ambitious attack to date: a triple bombing, aimed squarely at centers of American corporate power. They planned to strike on Monday, November 10, 1969. The day before, Melville returned, having run out of money; once he got some, he said, he was going back to North Dakota. He spent the day talking with his pal George Demmerle of the Crazies, excitedly telling him everything. The two agreed to bomb something together that week. Jane was beside herself. None of them much cared for Demmerle.Still, they decided to go ahead. Jane typed up the communiqué in advance, mailing it to the newspapers. On Monday they built the bombs. That night they left them at their targets: the RCA Building at Rockefeller Center, the General Motors Building at Fifth Avenue and Fifty-ninth Street, and the headquarters of Chase Manhattan Bank. Everything went smoothly. By midnight everyone had returned to the apartment. Then they phoned in their warnings and waited.The bombs began detonating at 1:00 a.m. The first exploded on the empty sixteenth floor of the Chase Manhattan building just as police, reacting to the warning call, finished a fruitless search; the blast ripped through an elevator shaft, sending debris cascading all the way to the street. The bomb on the twentieth floor of the RCA Building detonated in a vacant office suite, panicking dozens of guests in the Rainbow Room restaurant, forty-five floors above; men in tuxedos and women in gowns scurried down a freight elevator and stairwells to the street. The office suite was demolished; dozens of windows were blown out. The bomb at the General Motors Building accomplished much the same.Once again the sound of sirens echoed through the streets of Manhattan. Alpert and the others were thrilled. For the police, however, the bombings represented an escalation they could not ignore. This was simply unprecedented, three bombings in one night; the city had never seen anything like it. The next morning the NYPD’s cigar-chomping chief of detectives, Albert Seedman, tromped through the wreckage, shaking his head and muttering under his breath. His men had been investigating the bombings since the first one, at United Fruit, and had made no headway whatsoever. He decided to form a special squad of twenty-five handpicked detectives to find the perpetrators.Seedman considered calling the FBI, who he suspected knew more than he did; after the Federal Building bombing, the head of the Bureau’s New York office, a square-jawed veteran named John Malone, had called to say they were working an informant in the case. That morning, as Seedman was establishing his command center at the RCA Building, Malone called again. “It took a while,” Malone said, “but the informant finally gave up our man.”“Who is it?” Seedman asked.“His name is Sam Melville.” • • • The three explosions ignited a new kind of civic tumult that would become all but commonplace in New York and other cities in the next decade: a rash of bombings followed by a wave of copycat threats, followed by the mass evacuations of skyscraper after skyscraper, leaving thousands of office workers milling about on sidewalks, wondering what had happened. That Tuesday the NYPD was obliged to check out three hundred separate bomb threats. The next day, November 12, the Associated Press counted thirty just between the hours of 8 a.m. and 1 p.m. A dozen buildings had to be emptied, including the Pan Am Building, on Forty-fifth Street, the Columbia Broadcasting building, on Fifty-first Street, and a library in Queens. Afterward the Times editorialized that “periodic evacuation of buildings [may become] a new life style for the New York office worker.” The columnist Sidney Zion, noting how powerless the city appeared during a string of bombings now entering its fourth month, said New York “was rapidly becoming Scare City.”2Even as Melville and his friends rejoiced that Tuesday, teams of undercover FBI and NYPD men began filtering into their neighborhood. The next day Albert Seedman heard from the FBI’s John Malone. “Our informant says Melville is ready to do another job tonight,” Malone said. “This time they plan to place bombs in U.S. Army trucks parked outside a National Guard armory. The trucks will be driven inside late at night, and the bombs will go off a few hours later.”“Which armory?”“He didn’t say.”There were three: two in Manhattan, one in Queens. “We can cover them all,” Malone said. “In fact, we can ask the army to park plenty of trucks outside each armory. He can have his pick.”All that day Malone and Seedman took reports from the surveillance teams. By midafternoon they believed that Melville was working in his workshop on East Second Street. Not until it was too late would anyone realize that he wasn’t. • • • Melville had left the apartment that morning at eight, ducking out to meet his friend Robin Palmer, who had planned a bombing of his own. It was to be a busy day, Melville’s last before returning to North Dakota the next morning. He was determined to go out with a bang—literally—with two separate actions: one with Palmer that evening, the other with George Demmerle later that night. Palmer’s target, which he had scouted himself, was the Criminal Courts Building, at 100 Centre Street, where a group of Black Panthers, the so-called Panther 21, was on trial for an alleged conspiracy to kill New York policemen. That morning Melville built at least five dynamite bombs. Afterward they took the subway downtown to the courthouse and slid one behind a plumbing-access panel in a fifth-floor men’s room. They were careful. No one noticed.The bomb exploded at 8:35 p.m., demolishing the men’s room, leveling a seventy-foot terra-cotta wall, and shattering windows. Pipes burst, spilling a river of water down through the stairwells. Other than those at a night-court trial three floors above, few people were in the building; one woman sitting on a toilet a floor below the explosion was blown fifteen feet through the air but was unhurt. Albert Seedman took the call while at dinner in Midtown. Roaring downtown in his limousine, he toured the wreckage, broken glass crunching beneath his shoes, so angry he could spit. Melville had done this under their very noses. However, they had all three New York armories under surveillance now, and one last chance to stop him before he struck again. • • • As Seedman simmered, Jane Alpert returned home from work. She found Melville standing in the dark, peering through the window blinds. He put a finger to his lips. “They’re back,” he murmured.“You’re sure?” she asked.“Same white car. Same guys.”“Sam, if you know it’s the bomb squad, then don’t go out. Stay here until they leave.”He gave her a long, lingering hug. “I can’t stay,” he said. “I promised George I’d meet him.”Then he kissed her once more, picked up his knapsack, slung it over his shoulder, and left. Inside the bag were four ticking bombs. • • • This time they saw him. An FBI agent atop a neighboring building watched as Melville and George Demmerle emerged onto the roof and scrambled across six adjacent rooftops before sliding out a doorway onto East Third Street. Melville was wearing an olive-drab air force uniform, Demmerle work pants and a denim jacket. Once on the street, they split up.FBI agents trailed Melville as he trotted down into the subway. Taking the No. 6 train north, he emerged onto the platform at Twenty-third Street. Above, two FBI agents and an NYPD detective named Sandy Tice were waiting in a battered blue Chevrolet. They watched as Melville popped out of the subway entrance and strolled east on Twenty-third. The Chevrolet slowly followed, fifty yards back. At the end of the block, Melville turned left, onto Lexington Avenue. Tice got out and followed on foot.It was 9:45 p.m. Keeping well back, Tice followed Melville almost all the way to Twenty-sixth Street, when he spotted George Demmerle lingering on the corner at Twenty-fifth, presumably serving as a lookout. Tice stepped to one side, studying the menu outside an Armenian restaurant, as Melville disappeared around the corner onto Twenty-sixth, heading straight toward the armory, where three army trucks were lined up along the curb.A minute ticked by. Demmerle remained moored in place. Tice meandered back south a block, fearing he would be seen. After another minute or so, Melville reappeared on the corner of Twenty-sixth and Lexington. To Tice’s relief, he still had the knapsack slung over his shoulder.A moment later Demmerle followed Melville back down Twenty-sixth Street. This time Tice ran forward to follow. When he turned left onto Twenty-sixth, he was startled to see the two barely twenty feet in front of him. Ahead, on the south side, loomed the enormous redbrick armory. The block was nearly empty; certain he was about to be spotted, Tice looked for cover. Just then a man in a tight suede suit walking a tiny Pekinese strode by. Thinking fast, Tice winked at the man and asked, “Sir, can you tell me where a man might find a little action around here?”Ahead, Tice could see Melville squatting down beside one of the trucks, digging for something in his knapsack. Before the man with the Pekinese could answer, Tice spotted his two FBI partners, guns drawn, sprinting toward Melville from the far end of the block.“Drop it!” one yelled as Melville hefted the knapsack.Tice broke into a run.“No! No!” he shouted. “Don’t drop it, for Christ’s sake!”Melville froze. The two FBI agents shoved him and Demmerle against one of the trucks as Tice ran up and snatched the canvas bag. He put his ear to it. He heard ticking.“Where’s the bomb squad?” Tice shouted.The FBI men began searching Melville, who made a face. “Relax,” he said. “They’re not set to go off until two o’clock.” • • • News coverage of Melville’s arrest spawned another wave of bomb threats across the New York area the next day, with more than three hundred that Friday alone. Dozens of buildings had to be evacuated, including the New York Stock Exchange, Lincoln Center, the General Post Office, the Union Carbide Building, both the New York Times and the Daily News buildings, the Newsweek building, the Queens Criminal Court, the U.S. Army Military Ocean Terminal in Brooklyn, the Susan Wagner High School on Staten Island, and three schools in Great Neck, Long Island.By then police had already arrested Jane, who joined Melville and George Demmerle in jail. All but Melville made bail. Not long after, Demmerle was revealed to be the FBI’s informant; he had been working for the Bureau since 1966. Melville and Jane’s friends in the Movement, meanwhile, hailed the couple as heroes. As Jane was led out of court, a crowd of supporters raised fists and shouted, “Right on!” which the Times identified as “a new left, black revolutionary phrase of support.” The applause continued two weeks later during a rally at a Times Square hotel, where 350 supporters listened as Allen Ginsberg read his poetry and the actress Ultra Violet, Andy Warhol’s muse, sang.Six months later Jane and Melville pled guilty to conspiracy charges. Melville was sentenced to thirteen years on a federal complaint and eighteen on state charges. He was sent to the Attica Correctional Facility, outside Buffalo, where he wrote a series of letters that were published as a book, Letters from Attica. After the prison erupted in a massive rebellion in September 1971, police characterized Melville as one of the inmate leaders. On September 13, as state troopers stormed the prison, he was killed in Attica’s D Yard. State officials claimed he was shot as he prepared to throw a Molotov cocktail. Later, lawyers for the inmates insisted he had been murdered. Even before his death Melville had been an inspiration to many young revolutionaries who dreamed of a war against the U.S. government. He was the first, the trailblazer. In death he became perhaps their greatest martyr.Jane Alpert, meanwhile, didn’t go to prison. Instead, like dozens of other young radicals that spring, she went underground.02“NEGROES WITH GUNS”Black Rage and the Road to RevolutionThe United States has a long history of political violence, from its birth in revolutionary battles to a bloody civil war to two centuries of occasional race riots, draft riots, and labor riots. Acts of political terrorism, at least until the past twenty-five years, have been comparatively rare; before the modern era, the most significant was a series of bombings by an anarchist group that climaxed in the September 1920 attack on Wall Street. With the possible exception of the Ku Klux Klan, the United States until 1970 had never spawned any kind of true underground movement committed to terrorist acts.There are so many myths about the 1970s-era underground. Mention today that an armed resistance movement sprang up in the months after My Lai, the Manson family, and Woodstock, and the most common response is something along the lines of “Oh, wasn’t that a bunch of hippies protesting the Vietnam War during the sixties?” This couldn’t be more wrong. The radicals of this new underground weren’t hippies, they weren’t primarily interested in the war, and it wasn’t the 1960s. The last years of that decade did see a rise in campus violence, it’s true, but the first true protest-bombing campaign, by Sam Melville’s group, didn’t arrive until mid-1969, and headline bombings didn’t become widespread until 1970. And while Melville and his peers certainly embraced the counterculture, they were the furthest thing from hippies, who tended toward hedonism and pacifism. The young radicals who engaged in bombings and the assassination of policemen during the 1970s and early 1980s were, for the most part, deadly serious, hard-core leftists. Members of the Black Liberation Army read Mao as part of their mandatory daily political-education classes.An even more prevalent myth, however, is that the radical violence that commenced in 1970 was a protest against the Vietnam War. In fact, while members of this new underground were vehemently antiwar, the war itself was seldom their primary focus. “We related to the war in a purely opportunistic way,” recalls Howard Machtinger, one of the Weather Underground’s early leaders. “We were happy to draw new members who were antiwar. But this was never about the war.”What the underground movement was truly about—what it was always about—was the plight of black Americans. Every single underground group of the 1970s, with the notable exception of the Puerto Rican FALN, was concerned first and foremost with the struggle of blacks against police brutality, racism, and government repression. While late in the decade several groups expanded their worldview to protest events in South Africa and Central America, the black cause remained the core motivation of almost every significant radical who engaged in violent activities during the 1970s. “Helping out the blacks, fighting alongside them, that was the whole kit and caboodle,” says Machtinger. “That was all we were about.”“Race comes first, always first,” says Elizabeth Fink, a radical attorney in Brooklyn who represented scores of underground figures. “Everything started with the Black Panthers. The whole thrill of being with them. When you heard Huey Newton, you were blown away. The civil rights movement had turned bad, and these people were ready to fight. And yeah, the war. The country was turning into Nazi Germany, that’s how we saw it. Do you have the guts to stand up? The underground did. And oh, the glamour of it. The glamour of dealing with the underground. They were my heroes. Stupid me. It was the revolution, baby. We were gonna make a revolution. We were so, so, so deluded.”The underground groups of the 1970s were a product of—a kind of grungy bell-bottomed coda to—the raucous protest marches and demonstrations of the 1960s. If the story of the civil rights and antiwar movements is an inspiring tale of American empowerment and moral conviction, the underground years represent a final dark chapter that can seem easier to ignore. To begin to understand it, one needs to understand the voices of black anger, which began to be noticed during the 1950s. All of it, from the first marches in Alabama and Mississippi all the way to the arrest of the last underground radical in 1985, began with the civil rights movement, a cause led by black Americans. And what was true at its inception remained true through the ’60s and into the ’70s-era underground: Blacks, for the most part, led, and whites followed. It was black leaders who initiated the first Southern boycotts; black leaders who led the sit-ins and gave the great speeches; black leaders who, when other avenues appeared blocked, first called for violence and open rebellion. At the end of the ’60s, it was violent black rhetoric that galvanized the people who went underground.It started in 1954. By that point American blacks, especially those laboring under Jim Crow in the South, had been subjected to almost a century of oppression, police brutality, discrimination, disenfranchisement, and lynching. They were, by and large, second-class citizens living in poverty, denied access to the best jobs and schools and subjected to intermittent atrocities, from the murder of fourteen-year-old Emmett Till in 1955 to that of the activist Medgar Evers eight years later. While groups like the NAACP had been campaigning for equal rights for decades, the modern civil rights movement gained momentum with 1954’s Brown v. Board of Education, the landmark Supreme Court decision that overturned school segregation.A year later came the boycott of public buses in Montgomery, Alabama, a protest that vaulted a minister named Martin Luther King Jr. to national prominence. A group he formed with other ministers, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, emerged as an umbrella organization for black protests. King’s movement gained momentum during the fight to desegregate schools in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1957, and then burst into international consciousness with a series of “sit-ins” that began in Greensboro, North Carolina, in 1960. A new medium, television, broadcast images of enraged Southern sheriffs dragging away black protesters that mobilized an entire generation of white people, many of them college students, who would come to define the 1960s. Then came the Freedom Riders, Bull Connor’s snapping German shepherds in Birmingham, Alabama, the March on Washington, Selma. Along the way “the Movement” was born.Through it all, King famously counseled a Gandhian policy of nonviolent resistance as the surest way to overcome ingrained Southern racism. From the beginning, however, his hymns of peace were accompanied by a deeper, angrier, little-noticed bass line throbbing ominously in the background of the civil rights symphony. This was the siren song of what many blacks termed “self-defense” but which a generation of wary whites saw simply as a call to violence, to shotgun blasts in the night, to rioting, to black men rampaging through streets of burning white homes and businesses. This music began softly, barely audible, in the late 1950s, then rose in volume through the early 1960s until becoming a full-throated chorus in 1966 and 1967. By 1968 it was a battle song. “Self-defense” became “struggle,” then “resistance,” then “Black Power,” then revolution and guerrilla warfare and death.In some ways, it was a very old song. Calls for black uprisings date at least to the slave revolts of Nat Turner and Denmark Vesey, and cries for black militancy and separatism surfaced as early as the late 1800s. Modern black militarism dates to the years before World War I, when shadowy groups such as the African Blood Brotherhood and later Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association advocated the formation of paramilitary “self-defense units.” Garvey’s Universal African Legions were rifle-toting pseudo-soldiers in navy uniforms who marched through Harlem in the 1920s. These were fringe movements at best, barely noticed outside the black community.The notion of a violent struggle against White America received little currency during the 1950s; King’s message was the only one most Americans, black and white alike, were able to hear. But the specter of racial violence was always there, and as the years wore on with little sign of the seismic changes many blacks demanded, the voices of militancy grew louder. Between 1959 and 1972, the torch of “self-defense” was passed between five consecutive black men and their acolytes.The first, and least remembered, was Robert F. Williams, head of the NAACP chapter in the Ku Klux Klan stronghold of Monroe, North Carolina. A grandson of slaves, Williams spent his early years working in Detroit factories, where he became a labor organizer. Returning home in 1955, he wasted little time confronting Monroe’s white power structure, boycotting whites-only lunch counters and demanding in vain that black children be allowed to use the town pool. After watching a Klansman force a black girl to dance at gunpoint, Williams formed the Black Armed Guard, arguing that “armed self-reliance” was necessary in the face of Klan “terrorism.” Its members were mostly NAACP men who started carrying guns. “If the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution cannot be enforced in this social jungle called Dixie at this time, then Negroes must defend themselves, even if it is necessary to resort to violence,” he once told reporters.Williams became an international figure during 1958’s infamous “Kissing Case.” Two black boys, aged seven and nine, had participated in a schoolyard kissing game in which a white Monroe girl gave one of the boys a peck on the cheek; the boys were arrested for molestation, jailed, beaten, and sent to a reform school. Williams led a defense effort that eventually included Eleanor Roosevelt and, after a British newspaper exposé, demonstrations in Paris, Rome, and Vienna; in Rotterdam the U.S. embassy was stoned. Soon after, the boys were released. Williams, in turn, emerged as a minor celebrity, feted by Northern progressives in Harlem and other black strongholds.During and after the case, Williams gave newspaper interviews in which he openly advocated black self-defense; if the Klan attacked a black man in Monroe, he swore, there would be retribution. “We must be willing to kill if necessary,” he told one reporter. Alarmed, the NAACP suspended him. Williams was unrepentant. Then, in 1961, when Freedom Riders came to the area to register black voters, a white couple drove into an angry black crowd. Williams took the couple into his home, then briefly refused to let them leave, saying it would be unsafe. Afterward, prosecutors charged him with kidnapping. When Williams fled, the FBI issued a warrant charging him with unlawful interstate flight. With the help of radical friends in Harlem, he made his way to Canada and then to Cuba, becoming among the first, but far from the last, U.S. radical to be warmly welcomed by Fidel Castro.In Cuba Williams became a one-man factory of anti-Americanism. It was there he wrote the book that became his legacy, Negroes with Guns, in which he argued that North Carolina authorities began protecting blacks only after they armed themselves. Between 1962 and 1965 Williams churned out a stream of bellicose writings, many in a self-published newspaper, the Crusader. Castro even gave him a radio show broadcast into Southern states, called Radio Free Dixie. During the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, Williams called on black servicemen to engage in armed insurrection. Even at the height of his notoriety, however, he remained a marginal figure, familiar mostly to other radicals and the FBI. He all but disappeared after moving to China in 1965.The second, and vastly more influential, messenger of black militancy was a charismatic Harlem preacher named Malcolm Little, better known to history as Malcolm X. Unlike Williams and King and most other black leaders seen on American television, Malcolm was a native of cold Northern slums, where blacks faced conditions every bit as daunting as those in the Jim Crow South: poverty, widespread unemployment, poor housing, and rampant police brutality. A black man arrested in Harlem in the 1960s could routinely expect a beating; when policemen killed a black citizen, there was rarely a successful prosecution. It was no accident that when underground groups began forming in 1970 and 1971, their targets were rarely slumlords or army barracks or politicians. They were almost always policemen.Focusing on these issues, Malcolm X had an exponentially greater influence on blacks than on whites. This was in large part because he never seriously engaged with the Southern civil rights movement (always the primary focus of white interest). He spent much of his career performing in a rhetorical theater that few whites even knew was open.Malcolm was born in Omaha in 1925, one of eight children. His father, Earl, was a Baptist lay preacher and an ardent member of Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association; from an early age, Earl’s sense of black pride and self-reliance was instilled in Malcolm. Legend holds that the Klan harassed Earl Little for his views and forced the family to flee Omaha; they settled in Lansing, Michigan, in 1928.As Malcolm later told his story, he was among the better students at his junior high school but became withdrawn after a teacher told him that his idea of becoming a lawyer was not a “realistic goal for a nigger.” After eighth grade he moved to a half sister’s home in Boston; at seventeen he fled to Harlem, where he became a street hustler, dealing drugs, robbing stores, and working as a pimp. Back in Boston, he began burglarizing the homes of wealthy whites; arrested in 1946, he was sentenced to eight to ten years at the Charlestown State Prison.Like many blacks who would go underground in the 1970s, Malcolm was radicalized behind bars, poring over nationalist texts recommended by older inmates. It was his brother, Reginald, who drew him into an obscure sect called the Nation of Islam. The Nation had been founded in 1930 by a Detroit clothing salesman named Wallace D. Fard, who preached that blacks had ruled the earth six thousand years ago, until their destruction by a renegade black wizard named Yakub, who then created the white man—the “white devil,” in the Nation’s mythos; blacks, Fard prophesied, would destroy the white devil in a future apocalypse. Until his disappearance and presumed death in 1934, Fard imbued his disciples with a message of racial pride, economic equality, and personal discipline. Over the next twenty years his protégé, Elijah Muhammad, quietly built the Nation into a small but vocal group of clean-cut, impeccably dressed black separatists, including a paramilitary wing called the Fruit of Islam. Still, by 1952, when Malcolm emerged from prison, Muhammad had only a few hundred followers.Malcolm changed everything. Six-foot-three, handsome, intense, and bursting with charisma, he immediately became Muhammad’s protégé. At a storefront mosque in Detroit, on street corners, and later in Chicago and Boston, Malcolm mesmerized black crowds. His sermons, while ostensibly religious, were ringing anthems of black empowerment, pride, and self-defense, concepts many blacks had never heard aired in public. The Muslims dressed neatly and forbade drugs and alcohol. A mosque typically featured a blackboard Islamic flag with the words FREEDOM, JUSTICE AND EQUALITY beneath, alongside an American flag with the words CHRISTIANITY, SLAVERY, SUFFERING, AND DEATH. Men and women sat separately. There were typically no hymns, only an occasional soloist singing a Nation song, such as one written by Louis X (later Louis Farrakhan), “A White Man’s Heaven Is the Black Man’s Hell.”1Malcolm’s fame grew when he took command of Harlem’s 116th Street Mosque No. 7 in 1954. A whirlwind in a camelhair overcoat, he spent hours on stepladders outside the Broadway Bar, the African National Memorial Bookstore, and the Optimal Cigar Store, repeating his personal story of petty crime and drug abuse, outlining the Nation’s path toward redemption, prophesying the apocalypse, and denouncing White America as a racist, doomed land. The congressman who ran Harlem, Adam Clayton Powell Jr., recognized his talent and invited him to speak at the landmark Abyssinian Baptist Church. Elijah Muhammad saw it, too, and named Malcolm his personal representative in 1957. Malcolm, in turn, put the Black Muslims on the map, building bridges to black newspapers and black intellectuals such as novelist James Baldwin and the actor Ossie Davis. He began writing a syndicated column called God’s Angry Men.The incident that made Malcolm a Harlem legend occurred in April 1957, when a Black Muslim named Johnson X Hinton interrupted the police beating of a black man and was himself beaten, handcuffed, and taken to the 28th Precinct house. A crowd of two thousand gathered outside the station; a newspaperman summoned Malcolm in hopes he could stop a riot in the making. As a row of sharply dressed members of the Fruit of Islam lined up outside the station, Malcolm was allowed inside to inspect Johnson’s wounds; Johnson was badly hurt and was taken to a hospital. With a single whispered word to an aide, Malcolm then dispersed the angry crowd. “That,” one police official was overheard to mutter, “is too much power for one man to have.”This and similar incidents drew hundreds of young blacks into the Nation of Islam at a time when “black nationalism,” a growing sense of black pride, was taking hold in Harlem, the cultural capital of Black America. The rise of Malcolm and the Nation of Islam, in fact, paralleled the gradual radicalization of many Northern black elites, especially in Harlem. The avenues above 125th Street had long been home to writers and artists inclined to leftist and even communist causes. In the late 1950s, lacking sources of inspiration in the United States, they began looking overseas. Black pride, as well as a developing sense of African heritage, was stoked by the birth of postcolonial African states and their new black leaders, especially Ghana’s radical, U.S.-educated Kwame Nkrumah, whose 1958 open-car tour of Harlem drew cheering crowds. The Cuban Revolution, bringing with it Castro’s rise to power, along with his outspoken support of the U.S. civil rights movement, was wildly popular in Harlem. Dozens of black intellectuals, from Baldwin to Julian Mayfield, joined the Fair Play for Cuba Committee. Even before his exile, Robert Williams visited Cuba and toured the streets of Havana, a straw hat on his head and a pistol strapped to his hip. The Cuban leader’s popularity among blacks soared after his visit to Harlem in September 1960; the first black leader he met was Malcolm, who afterward termed Castro “the only white person I ever liked.”Malcolm, Robert Williams, and the Cuban Revolution “helped create a new generation of black nationalists who studied local organizing, the politics of armed self-defense, and global upheavals with equal fervor,” Peniel E. Joseph writes in his history of black militancy, Waiting ’til the Midnight Hour, but it was “the 1961 assassination of Congo leader Patrice Lumumba [that] transformed them into radicals.” Coming four months after Castro’s visit, Lumumba’s death at the hands of a white Belgian firing squad prompted unprecedented outrage among New York’s new black nationalists. Harlem’s Amsterdam News termed it an “international lynching” carried out “on the altar of white supremacy.” On February 15, 1961, crowds of angry black nationalists stormed the United Nations, igniting melees with guards and days of protests. One group of demonstrators told reporters that Negroes were henceforth to be called “Afro-Americans.”“Who died for the black man?” someone yelled.“Lumumba!”“Who died for freedom?”“Lumumba!”This was something altogether new in America, the image of furious Northern blacks standing in sharp contrast to their stoic Southern brethren marching behind Martin Luther King. Malcolm rode this wave of discontent to national prominence, earning profiles and interviews in Life and the New York Times in which he unleashed verbal thunderbolts like a vengeful Zeus. He attacked moderate black leaders as race traitors, excoriating King as “a chump, not a champ,” and the baseball great Jackie Robinson as an Uncle Tom. As violence spread in the South—the assassination of Medgar Evers in 1963, fire hoses and snapping dogs in Birmingham—Malcolm’s rhetoric grew steadily more violent, climaxing in perhaps his best-known speech, delivered to a group of black leaders in Detroit in November 1963. It was there, drawing the distinction between moderates and militants, that he famously conjured the image of two types of slaves: docile “house Negroes,” who cared for their sick white masters, and hardened “field Negroes,” who wished them dead. In doing so, he foresaw the only logical conclusion to any campaign for black equality in America: a revolution. A violent revolution. He proclaimed:You don’t have a peaceful revolution. You don’t have a turn-the-other-cheek revolution. There’s no such thing as a nonviolent revolution. . . . Revolution is bloody, revolution is hostile, revolution knows no compromise, revolution overturns and destroys everything that gets in its way. And you, sitting around here like a knot on the wall, saying, “I’m going to love these folks no matter how much they hate me.” No, you need a revolution. Whoever heard of a revolution where they lock arms . . . singing “We Shall Overcome”? You don’t do that in a revolution. You don’t do any singing, you’re too busy swinging.Malcolm’s image of a bloody revolution galvanized a generation of black militants and set the stage for riots that would erupt in American ghettos for the rest of the decade. But he also sowed the seeds of his own demise. Open talk of black-on-white violence, of course, horrified whites and frightened many blacks. But it also elevated Malcolm to a position as black militancy’s most infamous proponent, and this did not sit well with his mentor, Elijah Muhammad, who reserved such influence for himself. Even before the Detroit speech, Muhammad had tried to rein Malcolm in. When a Los Angeles Muslim named Ronald Stokes was killed by police in 1962, Malcolm called for Black Muslims everywhere to retaliate, invoking the long-foreseen “War of Armageddon.” Muhammad called it off, embarrassing Malcolm.The turning point came three weeks after the Detroit speech, when reporters asked Malcolm what he thought of President Kennedy’s assassination nine days earlier. He replied that “chickens coming home to roost never make me sad; they make me glad.” This was too much for Muhammad, who had forbidden public criticism of Kennedy; amid widespread shock, he suspended Malcolm for three months. Malcolm spent the time touring the United States with his newest acolyte, the prizefighter Cassius Clay. Afterward, on March 8, 1964, Malcolm announced he was quitting the Nation to form a new group, the Organization of Afro-American Unity.It was the beginning of the end. Malcolm spent much of the next year overseas, on a pilgrimage to Mecca and a tour of African and European capitals. In his absence, Harlem exploded in ten days of riots after an off-duty police officer killed a fifteen-year-old black boy. Helmeted police fired into crowds of angry blacks, who responded by throwing rocks and burning cars. Black nationalists who led the riots wasted no time placing the violence squarely in the context of Malcolm’s new idea of a bloody “revolution.” “There is only one thing that can correct the situation,” one told a crowd, “and that’s guerrilla warfare.” All they needed to set New York ablaze, he went on, was “100 skilled revolutionaries who are ready to die.” Such comments, however, went all but unnoticed in the white press.What no one realized was that the first to die would be Malcolm himself. During his travels, tensions with the Nation escalated into death threats. Muhammad himself told Louis Farrakhan that “hypocrites like Malcolm should have their heads cut off”; an issue of the Nation’s newspaper, Muhammad Speaks, actually carried a cartoon showing Malcolm’s severed head bouncing free of his body. The end was all but preordained. On February 21, 1965, just days after Malcolm returned from Europe, he was about to address a nationalist meeting in Harlem when he was rushed by several Black Muslims. They opened fire with pistols and a sawed-off shotgun. He was dead within minutes, his body riven by twenty-one gunshot wounds. Malcolm’s death, however, did little to stop his message; if anything, his popularity grew. Thirty thousand people attended a viewing of his body. His posthumous book, The Autobiography of Malcolm X, became mandatory reading for every budding black radical. • • • After Malcolm, the mantle of black militancy was passed to a newcomer on the national scene, a tall, slender twenty-four-year-old named Stokely Carmichael. A composed, natural leader and a gifted orator whose voice carried a hint of his Trinidadian birth, Carmichael emerged in the mid-1960s as a kind of Malcolm of the South. He was so charismatic that friends jokingly called him Stokely Starmichael; at the height of his influence, Ebony wrote that he “walks like Sidney Poitier, talks like Harry Belafonte and thinks like the post-Muslim Malcolm X.” Carmichael was raised in the Bronx, and in 1964 he graduated from Howard University to become a full-time organizer for an emerging outfit called the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, or SNCC, known as Snick. SNCC was formed in the wake of the 1960 Greensboro sit-ins and, until Carmichael’s rise, quietly went about registering black voters in the South’s most dangerous corners. From the beginning, SNCC attracted angry, erudite young blacks, including many Northern black nationalists, many of whom had little patience for King’s plodding marches and lofty speeches. They wanted action. Now.Heavily influenced by Malcolm’s teachings, Carmichael was further radicalized as a SNCC coordinator during 1964’s “Freedom Summer” voter-registration drive in Mississippi; watching blacks being beaten during a riot in Montgomery, Alabama, the following year, he suffered a breakdown followed by an epiphany. “I knew I could never be hit again,” he recalled, “without hitting back.” Afterward, Carmichael began charting an entirely new course for SNCC. Marches and riots might provide an emotional release, he reasoned, but the surest path to political power was the voting booth. He studied a single Alabama county, Lowndes—known as Bloody Lowndes for the violence directed against black organizers there—and saw that blacks outnumbered whites by a four-to-one margin. Yet only two black voters were registered in the entire county. What if, Carmichael reasoned, they registered enough blacks to elect black people to office?Lowndes County became an unlikely testing ground for new concepts of black militancy. SNCC formed a political party, the Lowndes County Freedom Organization, and (fatefully) chose as its symbol a coiled panther; the party became known in the press as the Black Panther Party, a name that would, in time, inspire thousands of young blacks across the country. Taking a page from black nationalism, SNCC held classes for first-time voters in African history and literacy, played tapes of Malcolm’s speeches, and produced pamphlets explaining the political system and how to cast a vote. “It’s very simple,” Carmichael told a reporter. “We intend to take over Lowndes County.”They didn’t. All seven black candidates for office were defeated, thanks largely to ballot-stuffing tactics widely decried as illegal. It didn’t matter. Carmichael and SNCC had set an example of how blacks could earn political power within the system that would inspire a generation of young black leaders. CANDIDATES LOSE, read the headline in SNCC’s newsletter, BUT BLACK PANTHER STRONG.By the summer of 1966, Carmichael and his SNCC followers were growing increasingly militant. Their emulation of Malcolm drove a wedge between Carmichael and moderate black leaders like King and the NAACP’s Roy Wilkins. The brewing clash of ideologies came to a head during that summer’s major civil rights event, a march from Memphis to Jackson, Mississippi. It had begun on June 5 as a one-man effort by activist James Meredith, the first black man to attend the University of Mississippi; when he was shot and wounded by a white supremacist, Carmichael, King, and other leaders amassed hordes of marchers in Mississippi to finish what he had started.Tensions between the King and Carmichael camps were evident from the outset. While King wanted another Selma, a moment when whites could join blacks in calling for black voters to register, Carmichael argued successfully that whites should be excluded altogether. For security he brought in the Deacons for Defense, a group of armed Louisiana blacks who followed Robert Williams’s philosophy of self-defense. Marching beneath a withering sun, King overheard a SNCC volunteer say, “I’m not for that nonviolence stuff anymore. If one of those damn white Mississippi crackers touches me, I’m gonna knock the hell out of him.” Each night King and Carmichael delivered speeches around their campfires. “I’m not going to beg the white man for anything I deserve,” Carmichael said at one. “I’m gonna take it.” When King’s people attempted to sing “We Shall Overcome,” Carmichael’s troops sang a new version, “We Shall Overrun.”The moment that changed everything, when the civil rights movement began to morph into something new and frightening to many Americans, occurred on June 16, 1966, in the town of Greenwood. After he was arrested for pitching a tent at the local high school, Carmichael stormed out of the jail and marched to Broad Street Park, where a crowd waited. He leaped atop a tractor-trailer and shot a fist into the air. “This is the twenty-seventh time that I’ve been arrested,” he announced. “And I ain’t going to jail no more. The only way we gonna stop them white men from whuppin’ us is to take over. We been saying freedom for six years and we ain’t got nothin’. What we gonna start sayin’ now is Black Power!”“Black Power!” the crowd roared.Another activist, Willie Ricks, jumped atop the trailer and joined Carmichael. “What do you want?” Ricks hollered.“Black Power!”“What do we want?”“Black Power!”Black Power. For the first time the rising tide of black anger had not only a new face, in Stokely Carmichael, but a name: Black Power. Carmichael’s speech electrified the nation. The NAACP’s Roy Wilkins called the term “the father of hatred and the mother of violence.” In a speech the very next night in Greenwood, King himself told his audience, “Some people are telling us to be like our oppressor, who has a history of using Molotov cocktails, who has a history of dropping the atomic bomb, who has a history of lynching Negroes. Now people are telling me to stoop down to that level. I’m sick and tired of violence.” But it was too late. The movement of white Freedom Riders and speeches by Dr. King was ending.In its place a new movement was taking shape, but exactly what it would look like, no one could say. Carmichael himself, in a television appearance on Face the Nation and in later speeches, struggled to define Black Power. To him, it appeared to mean a grasp for economic and political power by a movement run by blacks—and only blacks. Yet his use of incendiary language—“when you talk about Black Power, you talk about bringing this nation to its knees”—only emboldened those whose vision of “power” meant burning, rioting, and worse. White America certainly had no difficulty defining Black Power. In a jarring juxtaposition, a Life cover that summer featured a tearful Elizabeth Taylor—in an unrelated story—beneath the headline PLOT TO GET WHITEY: RED-HOT YOUNG NEGROES PLAN A GHETTO WAR. The story, focusing on a fringe militant group inspired by Robert Williams, the Revolutionary Action Movement, known as RAM, noted: “In secret recesses of any ghetto in the U.S. there are dozens and hundreds of black men working resolutely toward an Armageddon in which Whitey is to be either destroyed or forced to his knees.”This, at least, was a conservative white interpretation of the black riots that had begun convulsing U.S. cities in 1964. Los Angeles’s Watts neighborhood had burned in 1965, followed in 1966 by riots in twenty cities, including San Francisco, Oakland, Cleveland, and Omaha. The idea that these riots represented something other than the spontaneous frustrations of impoverished urban blacks—that these could be the first shots of an armed black revolution—came into sharp focus in 1967. The catalyst was a pair of nasty summer riots in Newark and Detroit, in which crowds of enraged blacks ransacked entire city blocks and engaged in street battles with police and hundreds of National Guardsmen. In the flames of Newark, the activist Tom Hayden, like many others in the Movement, saw a black rebellion. “The actions of white America are showing black people, especially the young, that they must prepare to fight back,” he wrote. “The conditions slowly are being created for an American form of guerrilla warfare based in the slums. The riot represents a sign of this fundamental change.”No one could prove that black riots were a product of Black Power sloganeering, but they certainly pushed violent rhetoric toward new extremes. When Carmichael, seeking release from his administrative responsibilities, resigned the chairmanship of SNCC in May 1967 to embark on a speaking tour of Europe and Africa, he was replaced as Black Power’s national spokesman by his successor, a fiery twenty-three-year-old militant named H. Rap Brown. While white radicals like Hayden swapped position papers as Detroit and Newark burned, Brown not only foresaw the spread of violence; he demanded it. During a July riot in the town of Cambridge on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, he mounted the hood of a car and, in a rambling forty-five-minute speech, used the most explicit language yet in calling for the overthrow of White America.“This ain’t no riot, brother!” Brown declared. “This is a rebellion, and we got 400 years of reasons to tear this town apart! You don’t have to be a big group to do it, brothers. In a town this size, three men can burn it down. That’s what they call guerrilla warfare!” Brown’s remarks, scribbled down by a New York Times reporter, went beyond calls for burning “the white man’s” stores. “Don’t love him to death! Shoot him to death!” Brown told the wildly cheering crowd. “You better get yourself some guns! . . . I know who my enemy is, and I know how to kill him. . . . When I get mad, I’m going out and look for a honky and I’m going to take out 400 years’ worth of dues on him.”The incident thrust Rap Brown into the national spotlight. All that summer, in speeches from New Jersey to Texas, he escalated his calls for blacks “to wage guerrilla war on the honky white man,” as he put it to an audience in Jersey City. “Violence is necessary; it is as American as cherry pie,” he told a boisterous crowd outside a Washington, D.C., church on July 27. “Black people have been looting. I say there should be more shooting than looting, so if you loot, loot a gun store.” In a speech in Queens, New York, on August 6, Brown called the Detroit and Newark riots “a dress rehearsal for revolution” and warned President Lyndon Johnson—whom he termed “the greatest outlaw in history”—that “if you play Nazis with us, we ain’t gonna play Jews.”This kind of talk, by the leader of a nationally recognized group like SNCC, was unprecedented, a step beyond anything Carmichael or even Malcolm had dared put into words. It provoked widespread denunciations, congressional investigations, and something approaching horror among black leaders as well as white. For the moment, however, White America could do little to halt the spread of Black Power. As Rap Brown whipped black crowds into a frenzy, Stokely Carmichael took the angry word farther afield, introducing Black Power to adoring audiences in Copenhagen, London, Paris, several African capitals, and, significantly, Havana. As he had with Robert Williams, and would do to scores of white and black radicals in the years to come, Fidel Castro greeted Carmichael with open arms. Carmichael, in turn, met with guerrilla leaders from across the Third World and, placing Black Power’s struggle in an international context, pledged solidarity with revolutionary movements from Uruguay to South Africa. When he returned to New York’s Kennedy Airport on December 11, he received a hero’s welcome. A crowd raised clenched fists and chanted, “Ungawa! Black Power!”By then, however, Carmichael’s power, if not his visibility, was waning. Riven by internal disputes, SNCC was crumbling. The Movement was surging beyond civil rights toward something darker and more confrontational. Yet still no one had answered the basic question: What was Black Power? What did it mean on the streets? An answer was on the way, it turned out, and it came clad in sleek black leather jackets, black berets, and cocked shotguns. Within days of his return from abroad, Carmichael met in Washington with members of a new group who would translate the bold words of Black Power into organization and action, transforming the nascent revolutionary movement and setting the stage for the underground groups to come. They called themselves Black Panthers. • • • Stokely Carmichael’s work in Lowndes County had actually spawned a dozen or more tiny Black Power groups who called themselves Black Panthers, in New York, St. Louis, San Francisco, and other Northern cities. But only one of these would become the Black Panthers. This was the one that formed around a pair of Oakland college students, Huey Newton and Bobby Seale, who founded their Black Panther Party for Self-Defense four months after Carmichael’s Greenwood speech, in October 1966. Like many they would attract in 1967 and 1968, Newton and Seale were working-class Southern transplants: The seventh child of a minister and a housewife, Newton had come from Louisiana as a boy, and Seale had come from Dallas. Newton—silkily handsome, thin-skinned, intellectual, a tortured soul—was the thinker, the visionary. Seale, six years older, served as the governor on Newton’s fiery engine.They became friends at Oakland’s Merritt College, where Newton paid his tuition in part by burglarizing homes. Seale, following a dishonorable discharge from the air force, had joined the Robert Williams−inspired Revolutionary Action Movement; he met Newton at Merritt’s Afro-American Association. Both were smitten by the entire canon of revolutionary literature circa 1966, especially Negroes with Guns, Frantz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth, and anything written by Che Guevara. They read everything Mao wrote. But their idol was Malcolm, whose every word they treated as scripture; Newton later called the Panthers “a living testament to [Malcolm’s] life work.” As the thrill of Black Power swept black colleges and ghettos in the fall of 1966, the two decided to form a local group to protest police brutality and mount armed patrols to monitor police in black neighborhoods, as a group in Watts was doing. They pitched the idea to Merritt’s Soul Student Advisory Council, which rejected it as impractical. When Seale took it to his RAM friends, they were even more emphatic: They called him suicidal.And so, that fall, Newton and Seale sat down in the offices of the North Oakland Service Center and, engulfed by books and pamphlets issued by RAM, the Nation of Islam, and a half-dozen other militant groups, devised a program of their own. Newton dictated; Seale transcribed. The result was the Panthers’ famous “ten-point program.” Some of these points were practical, some not. They demanded full employment, good housing and education, an end to police brutality, and “freedom,” but also the exemption of blacks from military service and the release of all blacks in every jail and prison. Before they had a single recruit, Newton named himself the party’s leader—its “minister of defense”—while Seale became the chairman, the No. 2.Few protest groups in U.S. history have risen to national prominence as quickly as the Panthers: They went from an idea in Huey Newton’s head to the front pages of major newspapers in a scant seven months. Part of this was luck, part the enormous appeal to beleaguered urban blacks of the Panthers’ message to police: Kill a black man, they warned, and retribution will follow. But the crucial factor in the Panthers’ meteoric rise was Newton’s genius for media and street theatrics, as demonstrated from their first confrontations with authority to the costumes they donned, black leather jackets, powder-blue shirts and turtlenecks, and especially the black berets they wore in honor of Che Guevara. Unlike other black-militant groups springing up that year, the Panthers not only sounded badass; they looked it.In its first hundred days, the party consisted only of Newton, Seale, and a dozen or so of their friends. With little fanfare, they secured their first guns, learned how to use and clean them, opened a storefront office at Fifty-sixth and Grove in Oakland, and began their patrols, cruising the streets until they found a black citizen being questioned by police, typically at a traffic stop. The Panthers would step from their car, guns drawn, and remind the citizen of his rights; when a shaken patrolman asked what the hell they were doing, Newton, who had taken law school classes, told him of their right to bear arms. The Panthers generated curiosity and then, after a tense confrontation outside their office in early February 1967, respect.An Oakland policeman stopped Newton’s car; Seale and others were with him. At first Newton politely showed his driver’s license and answered the officer’s questions; he had his M1 rifle in clear view, Seale his 9mm. In short order three more patrol cars arrived. A crowd began to form. Up and down the street, people poked their heads from apartment windows. When an officer asked to see the guns, Newton refused. “Get away from the car,” Newton said. “We don’t want you around the car, and that’s all there is to it.”“Who in the hell do you think you are?” the officer demanded.“Who in the hell do you think you are,” Newton replied.At that point, Newton emerged from the car and loudly chambered a round in his rifle. When police tried to shoo away the growing crowd, Newton shouted for everyone to stay put, that they were within their rights to observe what was happening on a public street.“What are you going to do with that gun?” an officer asked.“What are you going to do with your gun?” Newton replied. “Because if you shoot at me or if you try to take this gun, I’m going to shoot back at you, swine.”The byplay continued like this for several long minutes. Each time Newton challenged the police, onlookers would clap and yell, “You know where it’s at” or “Dig it!” Newton, it was clear, was acting out the fantasy of every black youth on the street. And, amazingly, he got away with it. The police retired without making any arrests.Within days, word of these brazen new Panthers spread from Oakland across the Bay Area. The turning point came on February 21, 1967. Another of the new Panther groups, this one based in San Francisco, had invited Malcolm’s widow, Betty Shabazz, to announce the formation of a Bay Area chapter of Malcolm’s OAAU on the anniversary of his death; because the San Francisco Panthers disdained weaponry, they invited the Oakland Panthers to provide security. Newton, Seale, and their new recruits, all armed, escorted Shabazz from the airport to offices of the radical magazine Ramparts, where she gave an interview. They emerged afterward into a phalanx of newspapermen, television cameras—and police.Shabazz had asked that her picture not be taken. When one photographer refused to lower his camera, Newton punched him. Several policemen raised their guns. When a few Panthers turned their back to watch Shabazz emerge from the building, Newton snapped, “Don’t turn your back on these back-shooting motherfuckers!” He chambered a round into his shotgun. A crowd formed. Both Ramparts editors and policemen raised their hands and told everyone to “cool it,” but when one officer refused, Newton barked, “Don’t point that gun at me!” When the officer still refused, he shouted, “Okay, you big fat racist pig, draw your gun! Draw it, you cowardly dog! I’m waiting.” The officer lowered his weapon, defusing the situation, but the incident was caught on television cameras and made a powerful impact when it aired.This was something entirely new to California and soon to the rest of the country: strong, proud black men with guns facing down startled white policemen. This, it appeared, was what Black Power would mean in the streets. Word of Huey Newton and these fearless new Black Panthers spread like a windswept fog. In the next few weeks the party attracted hundreds of new recruits, some of them gang members and ex-convicts; Newton made clear that the Panthers wanted the toughest, most badass street fighters he could find, and he got them.None were more important than a tall, languid ex-con who studied Newton’s bit of theater on the sidewalk that day outside the Ramparts office, where he worked. His name was Eldridge Cleaver, and his destiny would be to become Huey Newton’s single most valuable partner and, later, his worst nightmare. Cleaver’s legacy would be the destruction of the Black Panther Party, but he was even more pivotal to what came after, to the underground movement of the 1970s. He became Black Power’s fourth great voice, the oratorical bridge between open defiance of American authority and urban guerrilla warfare. Not only would he emerge as the guiding force behind the Black Liberation Army, but, having forged alliances between black convicts and white Bay Area radicals, he created the intellectual framework for what became the Symbionese Liberation Army.There was no black voice, before or since, quite like Cleaver’s. Born in rural Arkansas in 1935, he moved with his family to Phoenix and then to Watts, where as a teenager he fell into a life of drugs and petty theft. He spent much of the 1950s shuttling between reform schools and California prisons, eventually, in 1957, graduating to rape. Years later, in a series of essays that paved the way for the white-radical deification of hardened black prison inmates, he described his rape of white women as his first revolutionary act. He wrote:To refine my technique, I started out by practicing on black girls in the ghetto—in the black ghetto where dark and vicious deeds appear not as aberrations or deviations from the norm, but as part of the sufficiency of the Evil of the day—and when I considered myself smooth enough, I crossed the tracks and sought out white prey. I did this consciously, deliberately, willfully, methodically. . . . Rape was an insurrectionary act. It delighted me that I was defying and trampling upon the white man’s law, upon his system of values, and that I was defiling his women—and this point, I believe, was the most satisfying to me because I was very resentful over the historical fact of how the white man has used the black woman. I felt I was getting revenge.Sentenced to prison for rape, first at San Quentin and later at Folsom, Cleaver (like Malcolm) read voraciously, joined the Nation of Islam, and became a leader in the state’s burgeoning prison movement, pushing for books and classes in African history. In 1965 he wrote a radical Bay Area attorney named Beverly Axelrod, who took up his case. She gave some of Cleaver’s letters to editors at Ramparts, who enjoyed them so much that they promised to hire him, as they did, when Axelrod managed to secure Cleaver’s release, in December 1966. Cleaver, who became Axelrod’s lover, said years later that he had been romantically “gaming” her in a cynical bid to gain his freedom.At Ramparts, Cleaver became an instant celebrity, by far the most prominent black radical in the Bay Area. Angry, sometimes funny, and frequently sexual, his letters and articles portrayed Cleaver as a kind of cross between Malcolm and Barry White, an angry, charismatic lover man with his own revolutionary spin on hoary black stereotypes. Cleaver viewed blacks as sexual supermen, envied by whites and too often rejected by uppity black women. And, like Huey Newton, he argued that the most genuine “revolutionaries” were those who were most oppressed: black prison inmates and gangbangers—an idea that appealed strongly to white radicals yearning for a taste of black authenticity. Unlike Stokely Carmichael, Cleaver embraced white radicals, who adored him. They flocked to Black House, a kind of Black Power salon Cleaver co-founded, where he held court with every Movement figure who visited San Francisco. Cleaver’s rise would be capped in 1968, when his letters and Ramparts articles were packaged into a memoir, Soul on Ice, an international bestseller that sold more than two million copies in just two years. Critics hailed Cleaver as a powerful new literary talent, a symbol of black political and sexual repression. The New York Times named Soul on Ice one of the ten best books of 1968.After the confrontation outside Ramparts, Cleaver signed on as the Panthers’ “information minister,” editor of the party’s new weekly newspaper, the Black Panther, and—in the public’s mind, at least—Newton’s intellectual equal. But while the Newton-Cleaver marriage gave the Panthers instant legitimacy in radical circles, it introduced an ideological rift that would eventually split the party. Newton and Seale were using “armed self-defense” as a recruiting tool, a way to lure members to man the education, welfare, and free-breakfast programs the Panthers were putting into place; for all their tough talk, they had no intention of actually hunting policemen. Cleaver did. He wanted the bloody fight Malcolm and Rap Brown foresaw: a genuine revolution, Vietnam-style guerrilla warfare in America. Many found this hard to take seriously, but Cleaver was serious. Once, when asked what he meant when he talked of an army, Cleaver responded, “A black liberation army! An army of angry niggas!”2With Cleaver on board, the Panthers’ profile rose quickly. After a sheriff’s deputy killed an unarmed car thief named Denzil Dowell that April, the Panthers announced their own investigation. This outraged a group of state legislators, one of whom swore to “get” the Panthers by introducing a bill to ban the public display of loaded weapons. Newton’s dramatic response would make the Panthers a household name. On May 2, 1967, Bobby Seale led a team of two dozen armed Panthers, clad in black leather and berets, to the California State Capitol building in Sacramento. A news crew, on hand for a talk Governor Ronald Reagan was giving to a group of schoolchildren on a nearby lawn, began filming.Seale, wearing a .45 on his hip, was stopped by security guards at the top of the capitol steps. To his left stood a Panther holding a .347 Magnum; to his right was the party’s first recruit, a teenager named Bobby Hutton, massaging a 12-gauge shotgun. One of the guards asked another, “Who in the hell are all these niggers with guns?”“Where in the hell is the assembly?” Seale shouted. “Anybody here know where you go in and observe the assembly making these laws?”When someone yelled that it was upstairs, Seale’s group pushed past the guards, ascended a broad staircase, and marched into the packed assembly chamber. Pandemonium ensued. As guards began pushing the Panthers back toward the door, a guard snatched Hutton’s shotgun. “Am I under arrest?” Hutton yelled. “What the hell you got my gun for? If I’m not under arrest, you give me my gun back!”The Panthers went peacefully. Outside, as reporters crowded around, Seale read a statement, denouncing the proposed gun law and launching into a tirade against “racist police agencies throughout the country intensifying the terror, brutality, murder and repression of black people.” This was the Panthers at their most theatrical, and it caused a sensation. Overnight, footage of armed black men boldly roaming the capitol steps stunned the nation.All that summer, as Newton led the Panthers in demonstrations across the Bay Area, the party was inundated by calls from new recruits. Then came the moment that altered the course of Panther history. Early on the morning of October 28, 1967, Newton—who by his own estimate had already been stopped by police fifty or more times—was flagged down by an Oakland patrol car. A gunfight ensued. Newton walked away with at least one bullet hole in his abdomen. Two officers were badly wounded; one died. When Newton limped into an emergency room, he was arrested. He would not go free for three years.The prosecution of Huey Newton would be one of the decade’s centerpiece events, providing a rallying cry—“Free Huey!”—for a generation of Black Power advocates, drawing hundreds of recruits to the party and mobilizing thousands more to protests. But the impact on the Panthers was ultimately devastating. The absence of both Newton and Bobby Seale—who was serving a six-month sentence for his role in the confrontation on the capitol steps—created a leadership vacuum that was filled by Eldridge Cleaver. It was under Cleaver that the Panthers would drastically escalate their language of violence and insurrection to levels never before heard in America.The audacity of this rhetoric, even from a vantage point of forty-five years, is shocking. It was the Panther newspaper, the Black Panther, that coined the phrase “Off the Pig”; under Cleaver, the Panther openly called for the murder of policemen, supplying tips on ambush tactics and ways to build bombs. “The only good pig,” quipped Michael “Cetawayo” Tabor, a New York Panther, “is a dead pig.” The Panther chief of staff, David Hilliard, was arrested after telling a crowd in San Francisco, “We will kill Richard Nixon.” When Cleaver ran for president in 1968, he said of the White House, “We will burn the motherfucker down.” Another Panther was quoted as saying, “We need black FBI agents to assassinate J. Edgar Hoover . . . and nigger CIA agents should kidnap the Rockefellers and the Kennedys.”3Panther rhetoric, in turn, inspired a host of black voices toward new extremes. A young poet, Nikki Giovanni, was among the mainstream black writers attracted to revolutionary themes. She wrote in a 1968 poem:NiggerCan you killCan you killCan a nigger killCan a nigger kill a honkie . . .Can you splatter their brains in the streetCan you kill them . . .Learn to kill niggersLearn to be Black men.4Much of this, the author Curtis J. Austin has observed, could be dismissed as “ghetto rhetoric.” But the FBI, and especially urban police commissioners, could not ignore it, and with good reason. The escalation in Black Power rhetoric paralleled a rise in attacks on police. Between 1964 and 1969, assaults on Los Angeles patrolmen quintupled. Between 1967 and 1969, attacks on officers in New Jersey leaped by 41 percent. In Detroit they rose 70 percent in 1969 alone. In congressional testimony and press interviews, police officials in cities across the country blamed the rise in violence squarely on the Panthers and their ultraviolent rhetoric.The Panthers drew the FBI’s attention early on. In late 1967 agents began bugging party headquarters in Oakland, the first step in an anti-Panther drive that, as shown elsewhere in this book, would grow into an elaborate and illegal campaign of dirty tricks against Black Power groups, all of it designed to prevent the rise of what J. Edgar Hoover called “a black messiah”: a single black leader who could unite the disparate voices of Black Power. Until that messiah rose, Hoover told a Senate committee in 1969, he considered the Panthers “the greatest threat to the internal security of the country.”In early 1968, the rise in Panther rhetoric led to heightened tensions with Bay Area police, especially in Oakland. The police launched scores of raids on Panther homes, briefly arresting Cleaver and Seale, and rumors flew that police were plotting to “wipe out” the Panthers. Then, on April 4, Martin Luther King was assassinated in Memphis. In Washington, D.C., Stokely Carmichael, now aligned with the Panthers, announced that White America had declared war on blacks. Riots broke out in more than 120 cities. In Oakland, two days later, Cleaver and a group of Panthers jumped into three cars and went looking for police to kill. They stopped at an intersection in West Oakland, Cleaver recalled years later, because he “needed to take a piss real badly.” An Oakland patrolman pulled up behind. “Everybody all day was talking about taking some action,” Cleaver recalled. “So we put together a little series of events to take place the next night, where we basically went out to ambush the cops. But it was an aborted ambush because the cops showed up too soon.” When the patrol car pulled up, Cleaver said, the Panthers “got out and started shooting. That’s what happened. People scattered and ran every which a-way.”Cleaver and young Bobby Hutton took refuge in the basement of a nearby home, where they engaged police in a ninety-minute gunfight. When the police used tear gas, Cleaver emerged shirtless—to show he was unarmed—alongside Hutton. Officers began shoving and kicking Hutton; when he stumbled, shots rang out. Hutton, hit at least six times, was killed. He became a martyr. Cleaver, granted bail, became a hero.It was King’s death and the image of brave Panthers seeking to avenge it that cemented the party’s national reputation. For the first time many blacks who had resisted the martial calls of Black Power began to believe that white violence must be met with black violence. Emissaries arrived in Oakland from New York and dozens of other cities, all clamoring to start their own Panther chapters. In a matter of months, party membership went from hundreds to thousands; by late 1968 there would be Panther chapters in almost every major urban area. From a managerial point of view, it was chaos. A Central Committee was supposed to impose some kind of structure, but for the moment, Panther headquarters exercised little sway over these new affiliates.It was, in some respects, the apex of the party’s influence; looking back, there is no denying that the Panthers’ “heroic” age was already passing. In September, after a two-month trial marked by rancorous demonstrations, Huey Newton was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to two to fifteen years. Bobby Seale was indicted for taking part in demonstrations at the Democratic National Convention that August, becoming one of the “Chicago Eight.” Eldridge Cleaver, released on bond after the April shootout, spent the rest of 1968 “campaigning” for president and promoting Soul on Ice. After refusing to appear for a court date on November 27, he vanished; some said he had fled to Canada, others to Cuba. The next month a weary Stokely Carmichael boarded a freighter for a self-imposed exile in Guinea. “The revolution is not about dying,” he observed. “It’s about living.”

Editorial Reviews

Boston Globe: “Burrough has interviewed dozens of people to compile what is surely the most comprehensive examination of ‘70s-era American terrorism . . . Burrough, a longtime Vanity Fair correspondent, recalls story after story of astonishing heists, murders, orgies, and wiretaps. Few of his subjects are sympathetic, but all are vividly drawn. He refrains from making moral judgments, which makes the material he presents all the more powerful . . . this book is as likely as a definitive history of Vietnam-era political violence as we are ever likely to get.”  Washington Post:  “[A] rich and important history. . . deep and sweeping. . . .  wide-ranging and often revelatory interviews with many Weather alumni.”  LA Times:   “Impressively researched and deeply engrossing."  Seattle Times:“In “Days of Rage,” Bryan Burrough, author of “Public Enemies,” provides a fascinating look at an almost forgotten era of homegrown terrorism  . . . . The book is utterly captivating, coupling careful historical research with breathless accounts of the bombings and the perpetrators’ narrow escapes.”Chicago Tribune:  “Burrough's scholarly pursuit of archival documents and oral histories does not result in an academic tome. Stories are told in a compelling, novelistic fashion, and Burrough doesn't have to stretch to get plenty of sex and violence onto the pages. The descriptions of bloody shootouts and bodies dismembered in bombings are impressively vivid. If you ever wanted to know what it felt like to be at an awkward Weathermen orgy, here's your chance.”  Vanity Fair: “Days of Rage is bound to alter the conversation about this crucial topic of our time.” History News Network:“This is a vivid, engrossing, and far-ranging work that provides a detailed glimpse of a half-dozen underground radical groups in the Vietnam era and its aftermath ...represents a heroic work of reportage...His work on the lesser-known revolutionary groups of the period, such as the Black Liberation Army, is in fact unprecedented; they never have received such detailed and exhaustive treatment. And to the extent that he goes over familiar territory, Burrough does a nice job of demythologizing his subjects. To his credit, the reader gets warts-and-all portraits and not hagiography.”Publishers Weekly: “Burroughs’s insights are powerful. . . Doggedly pursuing former radicals who’ve never spoken on the record before,Vanity Fair special correspondent Burrough (The Big Rich) delivers an exhaustive history of the mostly ignored period of 1970s domestic terrorism”   Booklist:  “A fascinating, in-depth look at a tumultuous period of American unrest.” Kirkus Reviews:"A stirring history of that bad time, 45-odd years ago, when we didn't need a weatherman to know which way the wind was blowing, though we knew it was loud . . . [DAYS OF RAGE] is thoroughgoing and fascinating . . . A superb chronicle. . . that sheds light on how the war on terror is being waged today."William D. Cohan, author of House of Cards, Money and Power, and The Price of Silence: “In spellbinding fashion, Bryan Burrough’s Days of Rage brilliantly explicates one of the most confounding periods of recent American history—the era when a web of home-grown radicals and self-styled anarchists busily plotted the overthrow of the American government. Rarely has such a subject been matched with a writer and reporter of Burrough’s extraordinary skill. I could not put the book down; you won't be able to, either.”Beverly Gage, Yale University; author of The Day Wall Street Exploded: “A fascinating portrait of the all-but-forgotten radical underground of the 1960s, ’70s, and ’80s. Burroughs gives us the first full picture of a secret world where radical dreams often ended in personal and political tragedy.”Mark Harris, author of Pictures at a Revolution and Five Came Back: “Bryan Burrough gives the story of America’s armed underground revolutionaries of the 1960s and 1970s what it has long desperately needed: Clarity, levelheadedness, context, and reportorial rigor. He has sifted the embers of an essential conflagration of the counterculture, found within it a suspenseful and enlightening history, and told it in a way that is blessedly free of cant or point-scoring.”Paul Ingrassia, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Engines of Change and Crash Course: “Bryan Burrough has delivered a terrific piece of research, reportage and storytelling. Those who lived through the period of America's radical underground, as I did, will be amazed to learn how much they didn’t.”From the Hardcover edition.