Academic journal article American Studies

HARDHATS, HIPPIES, AND HAWKS: The Vietnam Antiwar Movement as Myth and Memory

Academic journal article American Studies

HARDHATS, HIPPIES, AND HAWKS: The Vietnam Antiwar Movement as Myth and Memory

Article excerpt

HARDHATS, HIPPIES, AND HAWKS: The Vietnam Antiwar Movement as Myth and Memory. By Penny Lewis. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. 2013.

In May 1970, construction workers in New York City clashed with antiwar protesters in an incident that quickly came to symbolize an apparent chasm between an antiwar movement dominated by privileged students and an American working class characterized as conservative supporters of the war in Vietnam. In Hardhats, Hippies, and Hawks, historical sociologist Penny Lewis constructs a powerful and "submerged counternarrative" that emphasizes a much more diverse working class that ultimately played a key role in opposing the war (7). Marshalling substantial social science data, Lewis argues that American workers, especially when one broad- ens the notion of the working class beyond union leadership and white males who worked in manufacturing, were consistently less supportive of the war than elites. Even numerous unions condemned the so-called "hardhat" demonstrations within weeks and, by 1971, the leadership of organized labor increasingly followed their rank and file members in opposing what one group identified as a "Rich Man's War and a Poor Man's Fight" (113).

For Lewis, the antiwar movement became a multiclass and multiracial effort that included students, GIs, veterans, and civil rights activists from organizations such as SNCC and the Chicano Moratorium whose perceptions of the war stemmed, at least in part, from the varied perspectives of their working class communities. Us- ing movement-relevant theory to place opponents of the war within their perceived social context, Lewis explores how many American workers experienced the antiwar movement from what Lewis calls the "borderline between feeling and protest" (14). Resisting caricatures of both antiwar hippies and "hardhat hawks," most American workers shared the sentiments, if not many of the tactics and goals, of the antiwar movement while often distrusting its organizations and leadership (16). …

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