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The Great Uprising
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Between 1963 and 1972 America experienced over 750 urban revolts. Considered collectively, they comprise what Peter Levy terms a 'Great Uprising'. Levy examines these uprisings over the arc of the entire decade, in various cities across America. He challenges both conservative and liberal interpretations, emphasizing that these riots must be placed within historical context to be properly understood. By focusing on three specific cities as case studies - Cambridge and Baltimore, Maryland, and York, Pennsylvania - Levy demonstrates the impact which these uprisings had on millions of ordinary Americans. He shows how conservatives profited politically by constructing a misleading narrative of their causes, and also suggests that the riots did not represent a sharp break or rupture from the civil rights movement. Finally, Levy presents a cautionary tale by challenging us to consider if the conditions that produced this 'Great Uprising' are still predominant in American culture today.


‘Levy's framing of these moments of violence as a ‘Great Uprising' is nothing short of brilliant. He has truly crafted an illuminating narrative synthesis of these moments of violence, one that eschews ideologically-driven analyses, which, for far too long, have dominated the place of these urban uprisings in post-WWII US history. I have been dreaming about a book like this one for years, wishing one existed for me to assign to my classes. Finally, Levy has given it to me in one, well-written volume.'

Brian Purnell - Bowdoin College, Maine

‘By analyzing three of the hundreds of ‘riots' that erupted between 1963 and 1972, Peter Levy makes a cogent case for reframing this period as ‘The Great American Uprising'. Levy upends popular and scholarly assumptions about the chronology, geography, and protest politics of these conflicts to explain how they justified repressive rather than democratic solutions. The resulting book is a must read for anyone seeking to understand and resist our evolving urban crisis.'

Erik Gellman - Roosevelt University, Chicago

‘Peter Levy's The Great Uprising is not only compelling and impressive but also an exceptionally well-researched historical account of the hundreds of black rebellions in the 1960s. He demonstrates a mastery of the recent scholarship in Black Freedom Studies, and presents that scholarship in an instructive fashion that increases the educational value of this book for the classroom.'

Komozi Woodard - Sarah Lawrence College, New York

'Levy examines the period between 1963 and 1972, when over 750 ‘revolts’ (also ‘riots’ or ‘civil disorders’) took place in the US related to the fight for African Americans' civil rights. Levy argues convincingly that these revolts and their concomitant impact on American society should be viewed as part of a ‘Great Uprising’ that is an epochal event in American history, comparable in importance to WW I or the Great Depression. … Levy highlights the impact that the ‘Uprising’ had on ordinary Americans living in the smaller communities where so many of the revolts occurred. The Great Uprising resuscitates important aspects of unrecovered American history. Summing Up: Highly recommended.'

E. F. Wallace Source: Choice

'The Great Uprising makes an important contribution to the growing body of work that challenges traditional narratives of the civil rights movement. … More importantly, Levy's argument that a good deal of the blame for what happened and why during the Great Uprising should be placed squarely on the shoulders of white leaders is a point that needs emphasizing in a nation that still routinely views African Americans as the cause of racial violence.'

Christopher A. Huff Source: H-1960s

'Levy makes splendid contributions to scholarship on the urban insurrections that took place in hundreds of black communities in the United States during the 1960s. Detailed accounts of battles in the cities of Cambridge, Maryland; Baltimore, Maryland; and York, Pennsylvania, demonstrate vividly his arguments that the rebellions took place in small, medium, and large cities, that they encompassed both commodity and communal riots, and that the chasm between white and black explanations and interpretations of the violence set in motion in the 1960s a sharp racial polarization that dominates the political culture of the United States to this day.'

George Lipsitz Source: The Journal of American History

'Peter Levy's book adds insights.'

James McClure Source: York Daily Record (

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  • Introduction
    pp 1-14


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