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American Society and the Ending of the Vietnam War

Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones

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How did the protests and support of ordinary American citizens affect their country’s participation in the Vietnam War? This engrossing book focuses on four social groups that achieved political prominence in the 1960s and early 1970s—students, African Americans, women, and labor—and investigates the impact of each on American foreign policy during the war.

Drawing on oral histories, personal interviews, and a broad range of archival sources, Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones narrates and compares the activities of these groups. He shows that all of them gave the war solid support at its outset and offers a new perspective on this, arguing that these “outsider” social groups were tempted to conform with foreign policy goals as a means to social and political acceptance. But in due course students, African Americans, and then women turned away from temptation and mounted spectacular revolts against the war, with a cumulative effect that sapped the resistance of government policymakers. Organized labor, however, supported the war until almost the end. Jeffreys-Jones shows that this gave President Nixon his opportunity to speak of the “great silent majority” of American citizens who were in favor of the war. Because labor continued to be receptive to overtures from the White House, peace did not come quickly.

Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones, professor of American history at the University of Edinburgh, is the author of many books. 

"An interesting, thoughtful and well-crafted account of the reaction to the war in Vietnam of students, African-Americans, women, and organized labor, the response of the federal government, and the effect on the conduct of the war itself."—Sidney Fine, Andrew Dickson White Professor of History, University of Michigan 

"This highly original book makes an excellent contribution to social history. It is a subtle, complex study of both politics and protest movements in the late 1960s and early 1970s."—W.J. Rorabaugh

"Tackling a huge and controversial subject in an exceedingly consice manner is as risky as it is difficult. It is a joy, therefore, to report that this book, more an extended essay than a detailed monograph or sweeping survey, speaks intelligently, informatively, and insightfully about American society and the Vietnam War. In this little gem of a study, Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones, author of the equally engrossing The CIA and American Democracy (1989), describes and explains how and why students, African Americans, and women turned against U.S. participation in the Vietname War and were effective in doing so."—Harvard Sitkoff, American Historical Review

“Many books have been written on the anti-Vietnam War movement, but none quite like Jeffreys-Jones’s most interesting and imaginative Peace Now. Jeffreys-Jones explores how the war affected and was affected by four groups—students, African Americans, women, and labor. . . . [An] intelligent and nuanced narrative. Highly recommended for undergraduates, graduate students, and faculty.”—Choice

“Jeffreys-Jones deserves praise for documenting the diversity of the antiwar movement. While many surveys of the period focus exclusively on famous demonstrations and white male campus activists, this work amply demonstrates that all kinds of people opposed the war—not only radical students, but significant numbers of blue-collar workers, African-Americans, homemakers, clergy, businessmen, and Vietnam Veterans.”—Chris Appy, Commonweal

"[T]his is a well-creafted, skillfully researched, lucidly written study that offers some new perspectives on how four prominent social groups of the 1960s affected United States foreign policy on Vietnam and how the Johnson and Nixon administrations responded to them. For those who teach advanced courses on the 1960s, this book is worth consideratin for classroom use."—Jill K. Gill, Journal of American History

"A thoughtful study of the role of ethnic minorities, students, women, and labor activists in ending an unpopular war. . . . A solid contribution to Vietnam-era history."—Kirkus Reviews

“This book is a useful introduction to the diversity of the anti-Vietnam War movement. Jeffreys-Jones examines the war’s effects of four components of the Democratic Party coalition—students, African-Americans, women, and labor—and their evolution from prowar conformists to alienated antiwar protesters. . . . This thorough survey reminds readers that the antiwar movement was more than a student rebellion.”—Library Journal

“This is an interesting and thoughtful book. It is based on extensive research in both secondary and primary sources. The writing is admirable. . . . Students of the anti-war movement will find the entire volume useful and provocative.”—David W. Levy, The International History Review

“Destined to become required reading for university students of U.S. foreign policy.”—Peter Ling, Times Higher Education Supplement
ISBN: 9780300078114
Publication Date: September 10, 1999
326 pages, 5 1/2 x 8 1/4
11 b/w illus.
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