The 60s depicted here depart from the 'standard narrative' of the decade that has emerged even on the left, in which university students, predominantly white and middle class, were 'the principal social actors', and protest radiated out from a few large and storied campuses ... To their credit, Davis and Wiener do not attempt to squeeze those tumultuous years into a single frame. Their approach is encyclopedic rather than narrative. And at nearly 800 pages, Set the Night on Fire is frankly monumental ... For new generations growing up in a city whose very history is rarely acknowledged to exist, Set the Night on Fire is a vital primer in resistance, a gift to the future from the past.
Combining comprehensive, mineshaft-deep research with unique firsthand knowledge, their recounting of the radical ’60s in Los Angeles will likely not be surpassed. Davis and Wiener tell a complex story involving webs of relationships along lines of race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, age, and class, in what would today be referred to as intersectionality. One of the major contributions of Set the Night on Fire is the linkage of what have often been viewed as separate events, including the so-called 'Blowouts,' politically inspired secondary-school walkouts that originated among Latino students but soon became multiracial; anti–Vietnam War protests that moved beyond white constituencies to engage Angelenos of color; and black cultural articulations that attracted white leftist support.
The book rewinds to 1960, slowly and concretely describing the story of political resistance in and around Los Angeles. The findings of the Davis and Wiener book suggest that this period of struggle in the 1960s was simply a variant of the raced mayhem Americans experience today. The combination of an unhinged paramilitary police force and a docile press is not a twentieth-century blip. Set the Night on Fire is appropriate to the now ... StNoF is especially good at showing how LA acted as a receiver and transmitter of emancipatory waves, joining in, then leading, as the need arose ... StNoF goes into its last quarter with fantastic sections on Gidra, a radical Asian American newspaper started at UCLA; the Free Clinic; and Wattstax ... Everything is still on fire, and more people can see that now.
Written with journalistic urgency the authors paint a scathing portrait of a corrupt city politics and police state tactics unleashed on anyone who challenges their authority ... Weiner and Davis condense a lot of local history and some chapters are more comprehensive than others, but throughout the book the detailing on little knowns aspects of the socio-political landscape of L.A. vis-à-vis, the rest of the country brings penetrates the same tropes of generational perspectives, racial divisiveness, sexual mores, and culturally divisive ’60s ... Some of Set the Night on Fire is overreaching. The chapters that cover the burgeoning new feminist movement and Asian American organizations, for instance, seem to get short shrift in this volume. But for the most part, this is a stunning history of a defining time in L.A. of everyday Americans, and the many unsung minority heroes who put themselves on the line for civil rights and equal treatment.
Authors Mike Davis and Jon Wiener unfurl a racist metropolis where politicians are in the pocket of the 1 percent, violent cops literally get away with murder and the local press...is in on the fix ... Set the Night on Fire fills in many blanks, focusing mostly on the movements emerging from South and East L.A. — the struggle for fair housing, the fight to integrate schools and jobs — while also excavating the forgotten core of L.A. resistance, illuminating those who often took life-risking steps to expose injustice ... It’s a dense, detailed read, but for those who craving an in-the-weeds narrative of the city’s diverse movements during the tumultuous 1960s, Set the Night on Fire is authoritative and impressive. It works fine for skimmers, but the book’s message really resonates as a whole: Progress is slow, painful and often dangerous but ultimately possible and worth the fight.
A welcome, and timely, corrective ... what manifests in disquieting detail is the antagonist, Leviathan itself, the mass of state and society at its most sinister ... We can do more than repeat the past; we can also learn from it. That gives reason for hope and as Set the Night on Fire makes clear, hope has always been Leviathan’s great antagonist.
In addition to their own recollections, the authors mine abundant archival sources and interviews to create a richly detailed portrait of a city that seethed with rebellious energy ... A spirited history of urban unrest that laid the groundwork and inspiration for future activists and reformers.
Political activist Davis...and U.C.-Irvine emeritus history professor Wiener...deliver a perhaps too sprawling 'movement history' of Los Angeles in the 1960s, focusing on the efforts of black and Latino youth to secure access to jobs, education, and dignity in a racially segregated and economically stratified city ... Davis and Wiener write with passion and deep knowledge of their subject, but this overstuffed and often disjointed account would have benefited from tighter editing. Nevertheless, this is an indispensable portrait of an unexplored chapter in the history of American progressivism.