In 1971, members of the Weather Underground set off a bomb in the U.S. Capitol. Later, Jerry Rubin, Judy Gumbo, and Stew Albert, founders of the Yippies, spoke to reporters about the bombing. “We didn’t do it, but we dug it,” they said. The FBI followed them for years afterward, repeatedly labeling them suspects in the crime. Courtesy: D.C. Public Library Washington Star Collection

Unless you’re old enough to remember the Black Panther Party, the Weather Underground, and the Yippies, you can’t imagine the sheer sense of unlimited possibility felt by many young Americans in the closing years of the 1960s and the beginning of the 70s. For hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, the Revolution seemed just around the corner. And there is no better guide to the mood and tumult of the counterculture revolution of that time than Judy Gumbo’s memoir, Yippie Girl. In an often amusing account of her years as a would-be revolutionary, she opens a window on a time that has passed into legend.

Yippie Girl: Exploits in Protest and Defeating the FBI, Judy Gumbo (2022), 414 pages ★★★★★

Cringeworthy revelations and quotes from her FBI file

Gumbo’s recollection of her experiences more than a half-century ago is astonishing. Either she was working from a remarkably detailed diary or she has a prodigious memory that would be a marvel in anyone in her late 70s. And her memoir includes a full complement of cringeworthy revelations, in the confessional spirit of tell-all books.

However, Gumbo is able to quote at length and verbatim from her FBI file. The book’s subtitle is Exploits in Protest and Defeating the FBI, and it delivers on the promise. Passages from the file appear throughout the book and reveal the depths to which the agency stooped in its illegal COINTELPRO program. They also show the Bureau’s cluelessness about the intentions of the people they surveilled at such obviously great cost. Through COINTELPRO, the FBI aimed at surveilling, infiltrating, discrediting, and disrupting domestic American political organizations, most prominently anti-Vietnam War protestors, feminists, civil rights and Black Power groups, environmentalists, and counterculture revolutionaries who violated their sense of propriety. The program ended only when Congress forced a stop to it in 1976, four years after the death of its architect, J. Edgar Hoover.

Continue reading this review on Mal Warwick’s Blog on Books.

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Freelancer Mal Warwick's reviews on his blog, occasionally appear on Berkeleyside. He is an author, entrepreneur, and impact investor who is one of three...