[This text was originally published in AREA Chicago #7 in December 2008]
Some histories remain hidden from us, while we can’t escape others.
In this section of ‘68/’08 we attempt to uncover neglected histories and untold stories of Chicago from 1968. Some events such as the Democratic National Convention and accompanying police riots in Grant Park have been told and retold, so we see no need to include them here. Instead we investigate lesser known events and organizations like the Conservative Vice Lords from the West side, and JOIN Community Union in the Uptown neighborhood; both groups have escaped the resurgence of interest that the Weather Underground has garnered. We also aren’t interested in rehashing sectarian battles that some still beg to fight 40 years later. These arguments often monopolize discourse about 1968, and obscure important lessons of history.
Like any telling of history, the stories told here are imperfect; recollections of events are often altered by the teller—by time or by intention. In my experience, what is said “off the record” is often more revealing than what is said during an interview. Also many people, for different reasons, are unwilling to tell some stories. Therefore, this is by no means an all-inclusive history of neglected New Left groups and lesser-known events of 1968 Chicago.
For example, we had hoped to include an article on the Movimento de Liberación Nacional (MLN) and the incredibly active Filipino activists wokring in the ‘70s in Albany Park, but were unable, due to a variety of reasons. But histories about the these and other groups continue to be written and unearthed by dedicated historians, writers, and independent journalists. As has been said, history doesn’t exist only in the past. Stories of those who came before us are inescapably necessary to the present, not just so we can avoid repeating mistakes, but so we can collectively move forward towards creating a better, more just world.