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In his new book The Fifties: An Underground History, James R. Gaines complicates the conventional narrative of the Fifties as a decade of conformity. By portraying a series of brave individuals who championed gay rights, civil rights, and the feminist and environmental movements, Gaines redefines the decade as one of incipient social unrest and gives due to the courageous 1950s leaders who fought for change in the face of great cultural rigidity. He is joined in conversation by award-winning author Daniel Okrent, the first public editor of the New York Times.


James R. Gaines is the former managing editor of Time, Life and People magazines and the author of several books, including Wit’s End: Days and Nights of the Algonquin Round Table; Evening in the Palace of Reason, a study of Johann Sebastian Bach and the early Enlightenment; and For Liberty and Glory: Washington, Lafayette, and Their Revolutions. He lives in New York and Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Photo by Harry Benson

Daniel Okrent’s books include Great Fortune: The Epic of Rockefeller Center, which was a finalist for the 2004 Pulitzer Prize in history; Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition; and The Guarded Gate: Bigotry, Eugenics, and the Law That Kept Two Generations of Jews, Italians, and Other Europeans Out of America. He was the first public editor of the New York Times and is a past chairman of the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery.

Photo by Raymond Elman

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