‘The Perfect Storm’

Ohio Wesleyan History Professor Analyzes Current Societal Unrest

By Cole Hatcher

Michael Flamm, Ph.D.

Civil rights expert and Ohio Wesleyan University history professor Michael Flamm tells Governing.com that “the sense of desperation is growing” for many Americans, sending them into the streets to seek social justice.

“We are living through the perfect storm of historical events,” Flamm, Ph.D., tells writer Alan Greenblatt in his article, “Multiple Events Creating ‘The Perfect Path to Divisions in Our Society.’”

“We have an economic crisis similar to 1929, a medical crisis similar to 1918 and now a political crisis similar to 1968,” Flamm says. “In a sense, we have the worst of all political worlds.”

Flamm also tells Greenblatt: “I think the sense of desperation is growing. Many poor people are aware we’re on the verge of a wave of evictions across urban America the likes of which we haven’t seen in decades. This combination coming together is causing people to explode.”

Flamm’s comments follow several nights of national protests and riots triggered by killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Floyd died after a white police officer pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck as Floyd stated, “I can’t breathe.” He later died, and the officer faces third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter charges.

A member of the Ohio Wesleyan faculty since 1998, Flamm is the author of “In the Heat of the Summer: The New York Riots of 1964 and the War on Crime,” which explores the July 1964 police shooting that killed 15-year-old James Powell and sparked a week of rioting, looting, and fighting in Harlem. The death marked the start of the “long, hot summers” that characterize the 1960s.

At Ohio Wesleyan, Flamm teaches courses in U.S. history from 1877 to the present. He earned his bachelor’s degree at Harvard University, his doctorate at Columbia University, and is a former Fulbright Scholar.

In addition to “In the Heat of the Summer,” Flamm is the author of “Law and Order: Street Crime, Civil Unrest, and the Crisis of Liberalism in the 1960s” and the co-author of “Debating the Reagan Presidency” (with John Ehrman) and “Debating the 1960s: Liberal, Conservative, and Radical Perspectives” (with David Steigerwald).

Flamm also is the creator of “How 1954 Changed History,” an audio course recorded for “The Great Courses Series” from Amazon and Audible Originals.

Learn more about Flamm at owu.edu/history and more about “In the Heat of the Summer” at www.upenn.edu/pennpress.

Founded in 1842, Ohio Wesleyan University is one of the nation’s premier liberal arts universities. Located in Delaware, Ohio, the private university offers more than 90 undergraduate majors and competes in 24 NCAA Division III varsity sports. Through Ohio Wesleyan’s signature OWU Connection program, students integrate knowledge across disciplines, build a diverse and global perspective, and apply their knowledge in real-world settings. Ohio Wesleyan is featured in the book “Colleges That Change Lives” and included in the U.S. News & World Report and Princeton Review “best colleges” lists. Learn more at owu.edu.