Americans in the Sixties - History

Americans in the Sixties - History

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1960 American History Summary

Along with the Civil Rights campaigns of the 1960s, this was one of the most divisive forces in twentieth-century U.S. history. The antiwar movement actually consisted of a number of independent interests, often only vaguely allied and contesting each other on many issues, united only in opposition to the Vietnam War.

Attracting members from college campuses, middle-class suburbs, labor unions, and government institutions, the movement gained national prominence in 1965, peaked in 1968, and remained powerful throughout the duration of the conflict. Encompassing political, racial, and cultural spheres, the antiwar movement exposed a deep schism within 1960s American society.

The 1960s was a time of dramatic social engagement and action. In addition to the civil rights and antiwar movements, a powerful women’s rights movement also took root. The Cold War continued throughout the decade and nearly erupted in nuclear war during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. Cold War anxieties and concerns over Soviet domination in Asia led to the build-up of American forces in Vietnam and the Vietnam War.

As Americans approached the 1960 presidential election, life was good. Americans reveled in their music and the stardom of movie icons such as Marilyn Monroe and Marlon Brando, and they enjoyed the new medium of television.

Lyndon Baines Johnson (1908-1973) was President of the United States from 1963 to 1969. In Texas, Johnson was the state director of the National Youth Administration, a New Deal agency. He came to Washington D. C. as a devoted New Deal Democrat in 1937 when he was elected to the House of Representatives.

Johnson became a United States Senator in 1949 and the Senate majority leader in 1955. Originally a rival of John F. Kennedy for the Democratic presidential nomination, Johnson ran and then served as Kennedy’s vice president. In 1969, Richard M. Nixon is inaugurated 37th president of the U.S. (Jan. 20). Stonewall riot in New York City marks beginning of gay rights movement (June 28).

The first U.S. manned sub-orbital space flight is completed with Commander Alan B. Shepard Jr. inside a Mercury capsule launched 116.5 miles above the earth from Cape Canaveral, Florida in 1961. Twenty days later, President Kennedy announces his intention to place a man on the moon by the end of the decade.

In 1969, the Apollo program completes its mission. Neil Armstrong, United States astronaut, becomes the first man to set foot on the moon four days after launch from Cape Canaveral. His Apollo 11 colleague, Edwin E. Aldrin Jr. accompanies him.

1960s timeline, 1960 facts, 1960s culture, 1960s politics, 1960s pop culture, 3 major world events in the 1960s, what happened in 1960, 1960s civil rights movement

Americans in the Sixties - History

The 1960s was marked by clashes of ideologies. In the South, blacks fought a stubborn white establishment for the rights they were owed under the Constitution.

Abroad, the United States fought a multi-front battle against the spread Communism. On college campuses across the country, a new generation of Americans rejected the post-WWII, conservative values of their parents.

And even within the Civil Rights movement, the non-violent activists under Martin Luther King, Jr., butted heads with the militant followers of Malcolm X. The result was a decade mired in turbulence -- but also one that brought important changes.

Journalists and media personalities

Walter Cronkite

In the 1950s, Cronkite helped invent the role of the anchorman. Over the course of the 1960s, he established himself as a pre-eminent figure in television journalism. His coverage of the assassination of president Kennedy in 1963 helped make him the most trusted journalist in America, and gave him credibility when he criticized the Vietnam War publicly as the decade wore on.

David Brinkley

As part of a two-anchor team with Chet Huntley, Brinkley helped NBC put together a program that challenged CBS's grip on broadcast news. Brinkley's ability to write for television revolutionized broadcast style, and made him a fixture in the format. He would stay with NBC until the 1980s, when he moved over to ABC to host This Week, the first of the Sunday morning political roundup shows.

Edward R. Murrow

Murrow's illustrious career in the media came to an end in the early 1960s. In 1958, following the cancellation of See It Now, Murrow delivered a scathing speech to a meeting of radio and television executives, chastising them for the shallow and mundane nature of television programming. Murrow soon parted ways with William Paley and CBS, but not before one final news classic in 1960: Harvest of Shame , a documentary about the struggles of migrant workers in the United States. After CBS, Murrow took a position in the Kennedy administration as Director of the U.S. Information Agency. Following an ironic attempt to prevent the BBC from airing Harvest of Shame, Murrow would soon succumb to lung cancer.

Barbara Walters

Walters joined NBC's Today show in 1961 as a writer and researcher, before moving on camera as the "Today Girl". Starting with light assignments, Walters eventually wrote and edited her own stories, but received little respect from here male contemporaries. Frank McGee, the Today Show host, insisted on always asking the first question in joint interviews. Walters would not receive official recogniztion as co-anchor of the Today Show until after McGee's death in 1974.

David Halberstam

Halberstam was among the first journalists to publicly criticize the United States for its involvement in Vietnam. His reporting for the New York Times on the conflict so displeased the president that JFK asked Halberstam's editor to move him to a different bureau. In the early 1970s, Halberstam would publish The Best and the Brightest, a rebuke of the Vietnam policies set forth by Kennedy and LBJ.

Helen Thomas

After a short stint as a cub reporter, Helen Thomas joined United Press International (UPI) in 1943. In 1960, she followed the presidential campaign of John F. Kennedy and landed among the press corps in the White House. Thomas spent the next five decades, and nine presidents, sitting in the front row of every presidential press conference. She was the only female, print journalist to travel with Nixon to China in 1972. Known as the "Sitting Buddha," Thomas was known for saying "Thank you, Mr. President" at the end of every press conference.

Ralph Nader

Nader took the activist identity he had built for himself at Princeton and Harvard Law to a national level in 1965 when he published Unsafe at Any Speed, a scathing critique of General Motors' safety record. The book caused a stir among the public, and eventually in Washington, where legislators grilled GM executives and passed new car safety laws. The success of his the book paved the way for a career of public activism, and later as a presidential candidate for the Green Party.

Johnny Carson

Carson took over the Tonight Show from Jack Paar in 1962, and quickly turned the already successful format into a ratings and advertising powerhouse. Carson's quick wit and easygoing manner helped bring in the big name celebrities – and the big-time dollars – that made the Tonight Show a late night institution. He would host the Tonight Show into the 1990s.

Helen Gurley Brown

Following a successful stint with a prominant advertizing agency, Brown wrote the best selling book Sex and the Single Girl in 1962. In 1965, she became editor-in-chief of struggling magazine, Cosmopolitian, and remade it into an advocate for sexual freedom and empowerment for woman in the 1960s. Here leadership proved so successful, the term "Cosmo Girl" was coined to describe the new "liberated" woman the magazine targeted.

Jann Wenner

Wenner was only 21 when he published the first issue of Rolling Stone magazine in 1967. A Berkeley dropout, he was among the first magazine editors to access the untapped circulation potential of the youth market. Rolling Stone's focus on music and youth-culture issues made it an instant success, and a powerful political voice in a turbulent era.

Tom Wolfe

Wolfe was among the first writers to embrace the techniques of a “new journalism” – one in which the narrator was largely involved with the story he told. Wolfe made a name for himself with the 1965 publication of the Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby, an exploration of the culture of hot rod enthusiasts. However, his most famous work from the 1960s was the Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, a account of Ken Kesey's band of Merry Pranksters.

Political Scene

Kennedy delivering his inaugural speech, Jan. 20, 1961.

In 1960 John F. Kennedy took over the presidency of a nation that was on the verge of chaos. Abroad, the United States' relationship with the nations of the Eastern Bloc was quickly deteriorating. Closer to home, Kennedy had to address the threat of Communism spreading in the Western Hemisphere. His desire to remove Fidel Castro from power in Cuba led to a crucial misstep in the Bay of Pigs Invasion. Tensions between America and Communist countries mounted, and the threat of nuclear war became increasingly real. Only through swift diplomatic measures was all-out nuclear war avoided in the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Kennedy faced equally monumental challenges domestically. The seeds of the Civil Rights movement that had been planted in the late 50s began to blossom and threatened to tear the country apart. In 1962, Attorney General Robert Kennedy had to send the National Guard to Mississippi to intervene on behalf of a black man trying to enroll in classes at Ole' Miss.

Martin Luther King, Jr., and others look on as Lyndon Jonhson signs the Civil Rights Act in 1964.

When Lyndon Baines Johnson took the presidency after Kennedy's assassination, he used the political acumen he had honed in the Senate to secure the passage of the Civil Rights Act. But growing dissent for the nation's involvement in Vietnam brought LBJ's political career to an end and paved the way for the re-emergence of Richard M. Nixon.

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Social Climate

Many of the baby boomer generation rebelled against the conservative ideals of their parents generation.

The social climate of the 1960s can be viewed as a systematic rejection of the conformity of the 1950s. A generation of young Americans born after WWII dismissed the mores of their parents and instead embraced the hedonistic values of sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll. The hippie movement culminated with the Woodstock music fesival in the summer of 1969, a symbolic end to the innocence of the era of free love and psychedelic drugs.

Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X meet prior to a press conference in Washington DC, March 26, 1964. This would be the only meeting of the two civil rights leaders and would last less than a minute. Both leaders would be assassinated before the end of the 1960s.

The counter-culture also manifested itself in the political arena, where college students and Civil Rights activists took on what they perceived as an oppressive and unjust political system. In the early- and mid-60s, Civil Rights activists organized marches and protests around the country. In 1963, against the wishes of the Kennedy administration, Martin Luther King, Jr., led a 200,000 man march on Washington. The Civil Rights Act was signed the next year.

Anti-war protests are attacked by police in Grant Park near to where the Democrats held their chaotic 1968 presidential convention.

As the nation's involvement in Vietnam escalated, and involved more of the nation's youth, college students protested the war and the draft. Their dissatisfaction boiled over outside the 1968 Democratic National Convention, where protests turned into riots. The atmosphere inside the convention was tense as well.

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Media Moments

September 26, 1960 &mdash the Kennedy-Nixon debate

For the first time in history, a presidential debate is televised on national television. Vice President Richared M. Nixon, a seasoned politician, underestimated the importance of his television appearance. While Kennedy appeared calm and confident, an ill Nixon seemed nervous and noticeably sweaty.

1960-1963 &mdash The Kennedy Years

John F. Kennedy spent his short, three years as president using his skill as a speaker to deliver the precisely crafted words of his aids. The result was a body of oration and media performance that endures in popular culture.

1962 &mdash Telstar launched

On July 10, 1962, NASA launched this spherical satellite into space with much fanfare. Later in the day, live broadcasts were beamed for the first time between North America and Europe. Funded by both private firms and national postal services in the United States, Great Britain and France, the new technology would revolutionize numerous communication industries.

August 28, 1963 &mdash "I have a dream"

August 28, 1963: From the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, Martin Luther King, Jr., addressed the 200,000 civil-rights marchers who had descended on Washington, D.C. The "I Have a Dream" speech would become one of the most well-known in American history. King won the Nobel Peace Prize a year later.

November 1963 &mdash Death of a president

Undoubtedly one of the most famous events of the 20th century, the assasination of President Kennedy in November 1963 brought the nation to a halt from the time it was reported on Friday afternoon, until the funeral procession on Monday. It marked a time when TV brought an entire nation together.

February 1964 &mdash The British Invasion begins

A nation still mourning the assassination of its president was ready for distraction in early 1964. The Beatles, four lads from Liverpool, England, provided that distraction, signaling the start of a musical British Invasion. The Beatles first performances in America were broadcast nationwide on the Ed Sullivan Show. When Ed Sullivan announced "Ladies and gentlemen, the Beatles!", no one could have predicted the impact they would have on Baby Boomer culture and entertainment media. Inspired by American rock 'n' roll and rhythm and blues artists, the Beatles were one of the most influential bands of the 20th century.

September 7, 1964 &mdash The "Daisy" commercial airs

Aired by the Johnson campaign only one time, the "Daisy" commercial became an infamous example of the power of television in presidential politics. Artistic and powerful in it's simplicity, the short advertisement never mentioned Barry Goldwater by name.

November 7, 1967&mdash Johnson signs the Public Broadcasting Act

Lyndon Johnson signed the Public Broadcasting Act, creating the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) to provide content for television, National Public Radio (NPR) to do the same for radio, and Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) for oversight. In final decades of the century, some conservative politicians and media pundits charged PBS and NPR with having a liberal bias, and attempted to end federal funding for the organization. While CPB budgets may have been reduced, public broadcasting continued to garner an audience that was the envy of many commercial media managers.

February 1, 1968 &mdash Eddie Adams photographs execution

AP photographer Eddie Adams captured the execution of a Viet Cong leader in a photograph that earned him the Pulitzer Prize, and fueled the public's growing dissatisfaction with the war in Vietnam.

June 4, 1968 &mdash The Second Kennedy Assassination

Two months to the day after Martin Luther King, Jr. was assasinated in Memphis, Bobby Kennedy was in Los Angeles stumping for his recently-announced presidential candidacy. As he left the podium at the Ambassador Hotel, Sirhan Sirhan shot him in the head. Kennedy died later that afternoon.

July 20, 1969 &mdash One Giant Leap

NASA accomplished the goal set forth by President Kennedy when Neil Armstrong set foot on the lunar surface in July 1969. The moon landing was the most watched event in history at that point in time.

Trends in Journalism

The evening news brought the disturbing realities of the Vietnam War into Americans' homes.

By the 1960s, it had become pracitcal to get fresh images of events from abroad onto the news every evening. The broadcast of disturbing footage from Vietnam on television gave the public a daily dose of the horrors of war and swayed public opinion. The press focus on Vietnam eventually helped bring the Johnson administration to its knees.

As television became increasingly popular, writers reacted with the creation of a "new journalism" based largely on literary technique and first-person accounts. Tom Wolfe (The Electric Kool Aid Acid Test), Truman Capote (In Cold Blood) and Hunter S. Thompson (Hell's Angels) all published works that straddled the line between literature and journalism.

Vice President Spiro Agnew had the press targeted virtually from the start of the Nixon administration.

The 1960s also bore witness to widespread scrutiny of the press. Scholars like Marshall McLuhan founded an academic movement which sought to explain the media's relationship to culture. And the administration of Richard Nixon, who had developed a profound distaste for the press by the time of his election in 1968, publicly ridiculed the media for what it viewed as subversive practices. Vice President Spiro Agnew, in particular, lambasted the press for its supposedly pro-Democrat leanings.

Professor Emeritus Rick Musser :: [email protected]
University of Kansas, School of Journalism & Mass Communications, 1976-2008

American Decades © International Thompson Publishing Company

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Cars in 1964

The US Auto industry was hampered by strikes and parts shortages in 1964 but finished the calendar year with near-record production and sales figures. According to final, unofficial tabulations by Automotive News, 7,746,000 passenger cars rolled off the lines.

General Motors was hit by a nationwide strike on September 25, 1964. Ten days later, terms were reached on a settlement. Similar local strikes later plagued Ford. It wasn’t until November 23 that the industry’s main labor troubles ended. While domestic car makers had their troubles, imports fared well.

The 1965 line in general was described as “the year of the stylist.” In the minds of the motoring public, engineering changes were subordinated to changes in overall appearance of the cars. Engines got a bit more power, but car warranties went unchanged.

US auto makers offered buyers a choice of 343 new models. GM cars presented softer, curving lines and a racy look Ford featured sharp, crisp shapes Chrysler and American Motors added a bit more sweep and roundness to their cars’ contours. Most models grew in length.

If any new model deserved a “Car of the Year” award it was Ford’s Mustang. From the day of its off-season introduction on April 17 until year’s end, Ford had turned out 303,275 of those bad boys! Plymouth was well received with its Barracuda.

Chrysler, which already controlled Simca in France, bought a $35M minority interest in Rootes Motors, of England, in June. Chrysler said it would not increase its 30% stake in the British firm. GM and Ford also continued their overseas expansions.

A “Poor Man’s Rolls” was offered during the summer, the result of a bit of British industrial teamwork. Rolls-Royce supplied the aluminum, six-cylinder engine, and British Motor Corp. built the body. They called it the Vanden Plas Princess R. Its selling price was a shade under $5,600 — against the $15,400 for a Rolls Silver Cloud III. The Princess R was about the size of a Benz, with a top speed of 112 mph.

The lynching of Emmet Till

The tide may have turned against lynching, but white supremacy and violence continued to terrorize Black communities. In 1955, 14-year-old Emmett Till was brutally murdered for allegedly flirting with a white woman. Till's murder and subsequent injustice deeply affected the Black community and galvanized a young generation of Black people to join the Civil Rights Movement.

NAACP declared Till's murder a lynching. Southeast Regional Director Ruby Hurley, Mississippi Field Secretary Medgar Evers, and Amzie Moore, president of the Bolivar County branch in Mississippi, initiated the homicide investigation and secured witnesses. An all-white jury acquitted the two men accused, who later bragged about their crimes in a magazine article.

Mamie Elizabeth Till-Mobley, Emmet Till's mother, decided to hold an open-casket funeral to put her son's brutalized body on display for the world to see. Jet Magazine published photos of his body in the casket, along with the headline "Negro Boy Was Killed for 'Wolf Whistle,'" causing national outrage among Black and white Americans alike, helping to catalyze the Civil Rights Movement.

American History

The changes in American society during the 1950spunctuated, in 1960, by the election of John F. Kennedyprepared the way for a radical cultural shift. The 1950s saw technological innovations in television, computers, birth control, and the space program, which was particularly meaningful by virtue of its role in the Cold War. The anxiety brought on by the Cold War provoked Americans to hysteria, and led them to search for new political solutions and leaders. The rise in prosperity increased Americans sense of world leadership, while simultaneously giving way to consumer culture. Mass consumer culture, in turn, facilitated the 1960s cultural rebellion both by disseminating new cultural forms through mass media, and providing a point for critique among intellectuals and disgruntled youth. All of these conditions worked together to transform the American psyche, provoking counter-cultural resistance and expanding the political and economic prospects of Americans. Although to many the 1950s seem to be a decade of peaceful harmony, in reality the years that preceded the cultural revolution of the 1960s were anything but static. The transformation of American politics, culture and society in the 1960s was a direct result of events that took place in the 1950s.

I Kennedy
In the 1960s, a powerful youth culture rebelled against traditional values, subverting the primacy of the family and the individualistic drive to success by enacting sexual liberation and engaging in collective social endeavors, including the fight for civil rights and economic equality as well as consciousness expansion through drugs and artistic movements. Cultural and social changes seemed to accelerate rapidly in the early 1960s, to reshape public policies in the mid-1960s, and to polarize the nation in the last few years of the decade (Patterson 1996443). The 1960s was indeed a decade of enormous ideological transformation, transformation which has its antecedents in the politics, technological innovation, mass culture and counter-cultural rebellion of the 1950s. No public figure embodies the shift from 1950s to 1960s culture as strikingly as John F. Kennedy, who combined the youthful drive for change with values of the American past.

The election of John F. Kennedy to the presidential office is synonymous with the spirit
of the early 1960s. His administration was, at least after his death, referred to as Camelot, or a magic period in American history when the government was run by gallant men (OBrien 2005xiii). While this is mythological, his presidency was highly significant, and he was admired for his confidence, intellect, and optimism. Kennedy exhibited idealism with regard to international human relations, appealing to the desire for peace and collectivity emerging among young people. At the same time, he appealed to the Cold War anxiety that characterized the 1950s public condition. His inaugural speech referred to the fight against tyranny, poverty, disease, and war itself as well as to the danger of Soviet totalitarianism and nuclear power.

The world is very different now. For man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty and all forms of human lifeWe dare not forget today that we are the heirs of that first revolution. Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americansborn in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritageand unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world.

In his speech, Kennedy captured the paradox of American culture at the turn of the decade. Americans desired both peace and power they were optimistic about the future in a fast-developing world, yet frightened by the specter of annihilation the culture had changed dramatically, but America was still built on an ancient heritage of civil and human rights. Many instigators of political transformation throughout the 1960s appealed to traditional American principles as a basis for the changes they advocated (Cavallo 199912-13). The most obvious example of this is the Civil Rights movement, which, according to Rorabaugh (2002), left three legacies. Most important was the end of legalized white supremacy, but consciousness among Americans about the evil of racism also grew. Then, too, the movement encouraged other groups to organize using similar tactics. In particular, feminists took notice (235). White youth in the 1960s joined black Americans in fighting for liberation, and feminists and homosexuals agitated for their own basic constitutional rights.

Kennedys success was helped, to a certain extent, by his support of the Civil Rights movement. He supported sit-ins for the cause, and civil rights activists felt encouragedduring the Kennedy administration (Rorabaugh 2002235). During his campaign, Kennedy was instrumental in securing Martin Luther King Jr.s release from jail, and received a great deal of positive exposure, including an endorsement from Kings father, for this act (OBrien 2005485-87). At the same time, some civil rights leaders questioned Kennedy for his refusal to support more forceful and violent agitation (OBrien 2005484). This is another example of Kennedys simultaneous appeal to older and newer values. All in all, his relationship with the civil rights movement was positive, and this increased his popularity among the youth and other counter-cultural Americans. At the same time, his popularity among rural Midwestern and Southern Protestant voters was diminished by his urban image, his youth (relative to all other presidents), and his Catholicism, a faith practiced by no other president before him (OBrien 2005427).

While Kennedy advocated peace and international harmony, he also pushed for a stronger nuclear weapons program and military expansion for the purposes of interventionist wars. He supported the escalation of the Vietnam War, against which counter-cultural activists, principally college students, protested throughout the mid and late 1960s. Kennedy also called for an increase in economic support for developing nations, which, combined with military spending increases, would lead to higher taxes, which he painted as a sacrifice for national security (OBrien 2005433). His rhetoric about sacrifice was coupled with rhetoric about the dangers of Soviet military power. He understood himself to be an invigorating force in American society, and saw competition with the Soviet Union as a vital to that invigoration.

A free society, Kennedy said is at a disadvantage in competing against an organized, monolithic state such as Russia. We prize our individualism and rightly so, but we need a cohesive force. In America that force is the presidency. The President of the United States has an obligation to develop the publics interest in our destiny to the highest level of vigor that can be sustained (OBrien 2005 426).

Even before he became president, Kennedy was committed to rallying the American people out of complacency by playing on the fears associated with the Soviet threat. He used the Cold War anxieties of 1950s Americans to forward a new policy of military strength and interventionism, which, in turn, contributed to the anti-war reaction that shaped 1960s counter-culture.

While it may have led to the conditions for anti-war reaction later in the sixties, Kennedys strength on the question of military and security served him well at the time of his campaign. This was due in part to the near-hysterical anti-communism and Cold War apprehension of the 1950s. Other conditions of 1950s America, including television and mass media culture, contributed to and were influenced by Kennedys success. Kennedy invented media-oriented, televisual, celebrity politics (Rorabaugh 20021). His television campaign was enormously successful, and he polled the concerns and desires of Americans more effectively than any previous candidate in American historyand used the information to decide his schedule and tactics (OBrien 2005 430-35). This was the beginning of consumerist politics, in which the candidate is packaged in the media in order to appeal to as many voters as possible. The television, a wartime invention and a dynamic force in the explosion of mass culture in the 1950s (Patterson 1996348), enjoyed a dramatic increase in popularity during the 1950s, being used by 4.4 million families in 1950 and approximately 50 million people in 1960. In the short space of 15 years, watching TV had gone from freakish oddity to the perfectly usual (Miller Nowak 1977344). Television, which facilitated the rise of consumer culture in America, bolstered John F. Kennedys career and helped to change the nature of American politics.

II. The Cold War
Kennedy was a radical change from the president who preceded him. President Eisenhower had spent most of his life in the Army (Halberstam 1993250), and perhaps it was for this reason that his Cold War policy was more skeptical and relaxed than Kennedys. When Eisenhower failed to react to the Gaither Report, which reported that the Soviets could soon surpass the United States in nuclear striking power, perhaps even have a first-strike capability by 1959 (OBrien, 2005 425), the Democrats, Kennedy included, attacked Eisenhower for being soft on the nuclear threat. Although Eisenhower, in his more sober estimation of the Soviets progress, was seen to be underestimating the problem, it turned out his estimation was correct. By the time he left the White House, no gap had opened up But Ike failed to communicate effectively with the nation about the wisdom of his defense policies as a growing sense of insecurity and anxiety spread throughout the country (OBrien, 2005 425). Eisenhowers poor communication skills were easily overwhelmed by the power of Cold War anxiety, and the growing sense of panic helped to turn favor away from Eisenhower and toward the Democratic party, giving Kennedy an edge. Kennedy openly critiqued Eisenhowers national security leadership , and implicitly associated him with the lack of nerve that prevented Americans from meeting Soviet challenges with strength (OBrien 2005 432). Kennedy was young and vital, whereas Eisenhower was viewed as old and slow, no longer capable of commanding leadership in the fast-changing world. Life in the twentieth century underwent a tremendous amount of technological change very quicklyAs the world grew more fluid and less stable, anxiety and uncertainty spread (Miller Nowak 1977148). Kennedy was more in touch with the fast-changing landscape of the 1950s, and the confidence he projected assuaged uncertainties.

Eisenhower, by contrast, did nothing to assuage Americans fears, which were centered on the prospect of a missile gap between the US and the Soviet Union Khrushchevs seeming eagerness to bury the US (Patterson 1996425) and the general perception that the Soviet Union was winning the technology race. In 1957, the Soviet Unionlaunched Sputnik, the first artificial earth satellite, gaining a huge propaganda victory. In America the event caused intense anxiety and ignited a national self-examination (OBrien 2005424-25). It contributed to the feeling, in newspapers and among citizens, that America was in a race for survival with the Soviet Union (OBrien 2005425). The Sputnik controversy transformed the conflict into a competition over aerospace and science education (Miller Nowak 197744). The apparent greater progress of the Soviet Union in the areas of space technology and science education lowered Americans confidence, and dampened the high expectations about the blessings of science and technology that had animated hope for a prosperous American future (Patterson 199667). So while advances in scientific technology represented new discoveries, they also stimulated Cold War anxiety. In his inaugural speech, Kennedy captured this paradox, referring to the double nature of Americas new frontiers its infinite possibilities and potential for total annihilation. Eisenhowers failure to communicate with the public about nuclear arms stands in contrast to Kennedys rhetorical strength. Kennedy was caught up amidst the conflicting currents of the 1950s and 1960s. As a figure, he symbolizes the youthfulness and tolerance of the 1960s, and his election affected Americas sociopolitical situation, facilitating civil rights progress while invigorating the countrys youth and, eventually, stimulating anti-war feeling. He was not, however, the main catalyst for change. No single event brought about the changes that took place during the 1960s, but they were informed by multiple events in the 1950s.

American Cold War anxiety in the 1950s had two aspects the external nuclear threat, and the internal threat of communism. Some of the political rebelliousness of the 1950s and 1960s was a reaction to McCarthyism, the witch hunt for American communists spearheaded by Senator Joseph McCarthy. McCarthy enjoyed widespread support because the fear of communism in America was a givenan essence of lifeIn the years from the late forties through the mid-fifties, it became an hysterical pandemic (Miller Nowak 197722). Anti-communist hysteria and McCarthys career were both facilitated by the mass media. Television gave McCarthy a national platform, it stimulated discussion of Soviet nuclear proliferation among the population, and it spread anti-communist propaganda (Miller Nowak 197728). Like Kennedy, then, McCarthy owed a large degree of his success to the advent of television.

Though McCarthys rhetoric was well within the already established framework of cold war politics (Miller Nowak 197729), his authoritarianism did not appeal to everyone. Counter-cultural figures spoke out against civil rights violations, and poets like Allen Ginsberg conveyed an irresistible dream of American spontaneity and personal freedom to counter the fear and regimentation of the Cold War (Charters 2003404). Some of the same counter-cultural revolutionaries would react against Kennedys Cold War policies in the 1960s. President Kennedy would heat up the cold war all over again, and the escalation of Vietnam was both an aspect of that heating up and an alternative location for Cold War anxiety over the course of the 1960s, the cold wars tensions were funneled into Vietnam (Miller Nowak 197744). The youth culture spoke out against Vietnam, holding protests on college campuses and the streets of Washington (Patterson 1996449). If Vietnam was a result of the Cold War, then the anti-war culture of the 1960s was a semi-direct result of 1950s Cold War tensions. Part of the reaction against Vietnam was related to a desire for collectivity and increased respect for human life, respect that had been sorely damaged by the bomb and the nuclear age. Deadening of human sensibility was one of the major results of the bomb culture in America (Miller Nowak 197765). It was not just the Vietnam war, then, against which 1960s radical youth were protesting, but also the entire mood of human insensibility and Cold War hysteria.

The Cold War also paved the way for 1960s culture by contributing to Americas economic boom and disseminating new technologies. Besides space technology, computers were made a mandatory technology by the Cold War (Halberstam 199397). Reliance on computers would transform American society radically, leading to mass culture on a scale that 1950s Americans could not have dreamed. Overall, the cold warhad a salutary effect on the economy. Anyone could see how affluent the country had become since the advent of World War II. The continuing postwar military habit helped even more. In the fifties the country grew richer as business and government intertwined (Miller Nowak 197744). In the 1950s, Americans achieved an unprecedented level of prosperity. The values and social realities of the 1950s were decisively molded by this prosperity (Patterson 199661). It gave way to the rise of consumer culture and a higher standard of living, both of which reached a crescendo in the 1960s. It also encouraged a tendency toward individualism, family success and economic competition, values which shaped the next generation even as they caused them to rebel.

III Prosperity, Consumerism and Cultural Conflict
The economy grew 37 during the 1950s, and by the end of the decade, the average American family had 30 more purchasing power (Patterson 1996312). There was no significant competition for economic stature from Europe and Asia, which were still recovering from the devastation of WWII, and so the United States developed into the worlds leading economic power (Patterson 199661). An expansion of production was accompanied by low unemployment and an increase in disposable income, which led Americans into a consumerist pattern. While WWII produced useful technologies like penicillin, it also heightened the sense of economic deprivation that had existed since the Depression. When goods banned during the war became available again, deprivation gave way to an explosion in consumer spending (Patterson 19968). Increased automobile production made it possible for Americans to travel more freely, and low domestic oil prices increased industrial growth while allowing Americans to save money (Patterson 1996313). The combination of cheap domestic oil prices and increased automobile production paved the way for the mass society and suburbanization of the 1960s and beyond. Economic prosperity was bolstered by post-WWII government provisions like the G.I. Bill and low-cost loans. The GI Bill provided millions of veterans with money for education, unemployment benefits, and home purchases, leading to a highly educated workforce and an increase in property ownership (Patterson 19968). In the late 1940s, the Federal Housing Administration offered billions in low-cost mortgage loans, thereby underwriting much of the suburban expansion of the era (Patterson 199627). The post-WWII generation felt equipped to buy property and settle into family lives, and the drive to do so became a primary 1950s value.

From this drive to achieve successful family life there emerged a culture of conformity. The idealization of the family grew stronger throughout the 1950s, and was bolstered by the increasing ubiquity of television. Television offered a vision of the perfect family, and the popularity of suburban sitcoms reinforced Americans desire for a perfect suburban lifestyle. Suburban sitcoms dominated network programme schedulesThis format offered viewers a new vision of domesticity, identity and consumer cultureViewers were now eager to embrace the good life promised in suburbia (Thumim 200285). The traditional values of the 1950s were tied to mass consumer culture through television as well as economic prosperity.

As prosperity and consumerism rose, America shifted from being a production-based society to being a consumption-based one. It was obviousthat economic growth greatly boosted the consumption of goods, with much attendant waste and misdirection of resources from public needs to private display (Patterson 1996341). The 1950s saw the advent of products that could be used and thrown away, and spending became a fulfillment of the desire to buy more, rather than a way of simply surviving. Consumer purchasing was driven by advertising, which kept production high, and helped to forward consumerism by satisfying buyers desires rather than their needs (Aaker Day 1971216). Advertising was one of the most celebrated growth areas of the 1950s, selling 5.7 billion worth of ads in 1950 and 11.9 billion in 1960 (Patterson 1996315). Advertising, a high-stakes business, also influenced the sense of economic competition and the rat race among Americans. The first credit card, Diners Club, was introduced in 1950, and accompanied a general shift in the way Americans thought about money. People became willing to buy now and pay later, and private debt skyrocketed from 104.8 billion to 263.3 billion over the course of the 1950s (Patterson 1996315). People borrowed money to buy houses, cars, and appliances, and the belief that a good life could be bought became part of the dominant ideology. Happiness in consumer culture was linked with economic competition because it was based on ownership and consumption.

Rebellion against 1950s values was also tied to mass consumer culture, even as it critiqued conformity, materialism, convention and economic ambition. Critics of the counter-culture often connected the delinquent youth movement with the scourge of mass media.

To listen to commentators on American cultural life in the 1950s was often to hear a litany of complaints the mass media were debasing public taste, sexual license was threatening traditional morality, juvenile delinquency was overrunning society, and generational changea youth culturewas undermining the stability of family and community. (Patterson 1996343)

As much as mass media was tied to the dissemination of traditional, conformist values, then, it was also tied to the breakthrough of new art and media forms, as well as sexual liberation. Movie stars like Marlon Brando glorified and eroticized the image of the rebellious teenager Brandos provocative behavior made his looks and sexuality seem even more remarkable and powerful (Halberstam 1993270). Just as the success of counter-cultural film was driven by mass media technology, so was the popularity of rock n roll. Like jazz in the 1920s, rock n roll shaped a youth movement by providing a sense of unity, and was shocking because of its new sound and overt expressions of sexuality. The liberalization of sexuality, which subverted marriage-oriented conventions, was a large part of 1950s counter-culture.

The Beat writerspoets, novelists and thinkers who acted as scathing critics of mainstream values (Rorabaugh 2002236)advocated free sexuality and drifter lifestyles that clashed with traditional 1950s notions about marriage and property ownership. Allen Ginsberg was particularly open about his sexuality, and shocked 1950s sensibilities with exuberant celebrations of his homosexuality and radical politics (Charters 2003405). This link between free sexuality and radical politics would help to shape the counter-cultural movement of the 1960s, and it was already fueling conservative outrage as traditionalists reacted against the so-called beatnik poets as a degenerative element in American society (Charters 2003405). This is how the Beats were known in the 1950s, if they were known at all. But by the 1960s, they had gained sufficient stature to be taken seriously (Rorabaugh 2002236) as artists and revolutionary activists. Norman Mailer, who acted as a go-between defending the Beat writers to the square world (Miller Nowak 1977172), championed the right to free speech and freedom from artistic censorship. Ginsberg led political protests in the 1960s and challenged the anti-communist policies of the Cold War. In his treatment of Jack Kerouac, Halberstam (1993) shows how free jazz accompanied poetry to form a new, multimedia sound that spoke to the youthful desire for freedom from the restrictions of old forms (306). Additionally, Motown music brought black culture into the mainstream, thereby contributing to a more universal consciousness about race relations and civil rights. In all of these ways, Beat writers and other 1950s artists served as modes by which 1950s cultural rebellion was carried into the 1960s.

It was not only artists (or only men) who challenged traditional 1950s values and enacted sexual liberation. Feminists throughout the 1950s had fought for access to birth control, and in 1960 birth control was introduced onto the market. By 1962, 2.3 million women were on the Pill (Patterson 1996360). Nowhere was cultural change more clear than in the realm of sexuality among young people. The Pill assisted the spread of the already ascendant sexual revolution, but larger notions of personal rights and liberation contributed still more (Patterson 1996 448). Sexual liberalization was depicted in the media, and posed a challenge to 1950s media discourses about the primacy of the family. In the counter-culture, marriage was linked to female subjugation, while open sexuality and birth control were linked to womens empowerment.

Rock n roll, sexual liberalization, and the youthful challenge to family values provoked a great deal of controversy. While these changes did not stem the force of traditional values in the 1950s, they exposed undercurrents of dissatisfaction and rebellion that were to break loose more powerfully in the 1960s (Patterson 1996 344). Mass culture was linked to increasing social liberalism, and while the Left critiqued consumerism, mass culture was used and nurtured by more liberal figures, particularly Kennedy. The beginning of the third era of the consumer movement often is dated from John F. Kennedys Consumer Message to the Congress in Spring 1962 where he enumerated the rights of consumers (safety, information, choice, and the right to be heard) (Aaker Day 197129). As product purchase began to take over as a primary drive in peoples lives, individuals began to be called consumers rather than citizens. Kennedy, whose rhetoric was otherwise citizen-oriented, was not responsible for this shift, but he did help facilitate it with his Consumer Message to the Congress.

Consumerism in the 1950s was reinforced by television, which was described by T. S. Eliot as a medium of entertainment which permits millions of people to listen to the same joke at the same time, and yet remain lonesome (Patterson 1996 350). The consumerism associated with television and advertising came under criticism for just that reason, both from subversive public figures in the 1950s and student groups in the 1960s. American materialism was perceived by many critics, artists and intellectuals to be weakening the character of American society. Some Marxist thinkers saw mass culture as the commodification and debasement of American cultural life (Patterson 344), while other social critics, irritated by the generally quiescent attitude and the boundless appetite for consumerism, described a silent generation. Others were made uneasy by the degree of conformity around them (Halberstam). Comics like Lenny Bruce, labeled a sick comic in the establishment mass media, advocated non-conformity and disobedience, criticizing the prevailing attitudes of selfishness and insensitivity to human life (Miller Nowak 197764). These figures, with their protest of consumer culture and economic inequality, carried over into the 1960s, influencing student groups fighting for civil rights.

Many young people reacted to 1950s materialism by embracing socialist views and insisting that the middle-class rat race fostered gross disparities of wealth and power (Cavallo 1999 66). Even as 1960s political youth groups like the SDS (Students for a Democratic Society) reacted against their parents individualistic values, they were still molded by them some members of the SDS were fiercely aggressive and competitive (Cavallo 199966). 1950s middle class parents nourished their childrens independence, self-esteem and assertiveness (Cavallo 1999 64). The cultural rebellion of the 1960s was made possible by the self-esteem and assertiveness instilled in children by their prosperous parents. 1950s individualism might have been challenged by 1960s radicals, but it also influenced the rebellious attitudes of young people and their commitment to individual rights.

In the 1960s, black movements for racial equalitydesegregation, voting rights and economic equalitywere increasingly joined by disaffected white youth (Cavallo 199912). The counter-cultural focus on civil rights for black Americans and women did more than any other development of the early 1960s to spur the idealism, egalitarianism, and rights-consciousness thatchallenged social relations in the United States (Patterson 1996443). Young 1960s radicals were galvanized to challenge social relations both by guilt and by the desire for a new kind of consciousness or way of perceiving the world. From the early sixties, young radicals mocked the staid, privileged lifestyle of their middle-class parents. And, not surprisingly, they felt guilty about their own privileged status (Cavallo 1999 68). The commitment to civil rights was one way of expiating guilt over undeserved economic prosperity. But it was also related to a broader desire for a new kind of social and personal consciousness, something outside the bounds of 1950s conventions. Many members of 1960s counter-cultural movements found this something in drugs, particularly hallucinogens such as LSD. Writers like Timothy Leary and Carlos Castaneda advocated the use of hallucinogens for the purposes of consciousness expansion and deeper personal fulfillment (Charters 2003350). The popularity of LSD and other drugs was a direct rejection of the older generations emphasis on productivity, competition and conformity. The rise of LSD suggested how older values were being threatened (Rorabaugh 2002236). Hallucinogenic drugs were also an alternative to television and other mass media consumption, an attempt to replace the conformity of consumer culture with the unique projections of the individual mind.

IV Conclusion
The rise of mass consumer culture in the 1950s both facilitated the spread of radical 1960s counter-cultural movements and provoked these movements distaste, leading them to find alternative ways of expressing the experience of life. The seeds of the 1960s cultural shift are rooted firmly in the 1950s, a decade that changed the world with its prosperity, technological innovation and reaction to the Cold War. The 1950s generation also inherited values and drives from the experience of the Depression and post-WWII prosperity that led to economic individualism, strict codes of conformity and the idealization of the family, all of which the 1950s and 1960s counter-cultures rebelled against. The 1960s, a decade that saw the election of Kennedy, the Civil Rights movement, the first moon landing, and dramatic cultural change, would never have occurred without the transformative events of the 1950s.


Before the 1960s Asian immigrants found themselves living under the specter of the Yellow Peril in the U.S for over a century. During this period in time the racist ideology rooted in colonialism lead to the widespread belief in the U.S. that Asian immigrants posed a threat to western civilization, this belief resulted in the mistreatment and abuse of Asian people across generations. Historical incidents like the Chinese exclusion Act, the Japanese internment camps, and the Vietnam War added to the list of grievances many Asian Americans had with U.S society in the years leading up to the AAM. [3]

In the years that preceded the AAM Asian Americans were regularly lumped together for exclusion in America despite having many different ethnic and cultural backgrounds. The majority of U.S. society viewed Asian Americans as "perpetual foreigners". [3]

Asian-American groups started to merge as second- and third-generation Asian-American activists moved up in the leadership hierarchy of their interest groups. Many of these new leaders associated with each other growing up in schools and social groups and chose to focus on their collective identities as Asian-Americans rather than their national heritage. [4]

Though activism against this discrimination was a part of Asian culture before the 1960s, it was limited in scope and lacked a wide base of support. [3] Class-based politics aimed to gain better wages and working conditions homeland politics attempted to bolster the international standings of their nations of origins or free them from colonial rule assimilationist politics attempted to demonstrate that Asians were worthy of the rights and privileges of citizenship. [1] In the early to mid-1960's, a number of individual Asian Americans activists such as Yuri Kochiyama participated individually in the Free Speech Movement, Civil Rights Movement, and anti-Vietnam War movement. These instances of social and political activism did not directly address issues facing all Asian Americans at the time. Asian immigrants were largely divided in America before the 1960s, there was very little solidarity between the various Asian immigrant communities. These disparate groups dealt largely with issues concerning their own ethnic communities and conclaves, focusing the majority of their efforts on survival in their exclusionary environment. [3] As a result of these factors, pre-1960s activism never rose to the level of a movement.

Yuji Ichioka and Emma Gee founded the Asian American Political Alliance (AAPA) in May 1968 at UC Berkeley. Ichioka coined the term "Asian American" for it during its founding. [5] [6] Because Asian Americans had been called Orientals before 1968, the formation of the AAPA challenged the use of the pejorative term. According to Karen Ishizuka, the label "Asian American" was "an oppositional political identity imbued with self-definition and empowerment, signaling a new way of thinking.” [7] Unlike prior activism the AAM and by extension organizations like the AAPA embraced a pan-Asian focus within their organization accepting members from Chinese, Japanese, and Filipino communities regardless of whether they were born in America or immigrants. [1] The promotion of a pan Asian ideology brought together the formerly separated groups within Asian American communities to combat a common racial oppression experienced in the nation.

They drew upon influences from the Black Power and antiwar movements, activists within the Asian American movement declared solidarity with other races of people in the United States and abroad. Activists like Richard Aoki for example, served as a Field Marshal of the Black Panther Party prior to helping to form AAPA. Significantly, global decolonization and Black Power helped create the political conditions needed to link pan-Asianism to Third World internationalism. [1] [3] Segments of the movement struggled for community control of education, provided social services and defended affordable housing in Asian ghettos, organized exploited workers, protested against U.S. imperialism, and built new multi-ethnic cultural institutions. [1] AAPA dissolved in 1969, after the conclusion of the Third World Liberation Front (TWLF) strikes.

At the AAPA Rally on July 28, 1968, Richard Aoki gave a speech that summarized the organization's ideology:

We Asian-Americans believe that American society has been, and still is, fundamentally a racist society, and that historically we have accommodated ourselves to this society in order to survive.

We Asian-Americans support all non-white liberation movements and believe that all minorities, in order to be truly liberated, must have complete control over the political, economic, and social institutions within their respective communities.

We Asian Americans oppose the imperialist policies being pursued by the American government. [8]

Ichioka and Gee included the words "political" and "alliance" in their group's name to emphasize its pan-Asian focus, its anti-imperialist stance, and its membership in the Third World Liberation Front. [9] [10]

A significant organization which shows the relevance between the Asian American movement and the Black Power movement is Asian Americans for Action (AAA). The organization was founded in 1969 on the East Coast by two longtime-leftist Nisei women, Kazu Iijima and Minn Matsuda. This organization was highly influenced by Black Power Movement and the anti war movement, even much more than the AAPA. Yuri Kochiyama was also one of the organization’s members. [1]

Yellow Power, inspired by the Black Power movement, rose in the late 1970s and 1980s. It taught that economic power would follow political representation. Those who were a part of the Yellow Power movement voted for candidates that they believe represented their issues.

Yellow Power was not as successful as other "Power" movements. This is largely because individuals of different Asian backgrounds viewed themselves as separate cultural groups with unique and distinct backgrounds. [11]

In 1982, Vincent Chin was gruesomely murdered. His killers mistook his Chinese heritage for Japanese, whom they blamed for a recent downturn in the automobile industry. He was bludgeoned to death with a baseball bat. Despite their conviction and evidence, the killers never saw prison time and were only given light sentences. [4]

His killers Ronald Ebens and his stepson Michael Nitz, was fined $3000 and given 3 years probation. [12]

In the mid-1980's people [ who? ] discovered that the University of California, Berkeley was setting racial quotas for the number of Asians that could be admitted to the schools.

The American Citizens for Justice formed as a result of these events in order to prevent and rectify violence against Asian-Americans. [4]

On July 17,1989 Patrick Edward Purdy, a drifter and former resident of Stockton, California, went to a school playground and opened fire on Cleveland Elementary School students who were mainly of southeast Asian descent. Within minutes, he fired dozens of rounds, although reports ranged. He was armed with two pistols and an AK-47 with bayonet killing five students and shooting at least 37 others.

After the shooting spree Purdy killed himself. [13]

In 2020 increased attacks occurred against Asian-Americans as a result of COVID-19 paranoia. Thai-American Jiraprapasuke recorded a man directing insults at her. After discovering that her case was not unique, she started the hashtag #JeNeSuisPasUnVirus . Translated from French this means "I am not the virus."

On February 2, 2020 a woman was attacked in a New York subway station. The assailant was harassing her, and after a witness started to film she was hit on the head. [14]

Why were so many American political figures assassinated in the 1960s?

It was just after 6pm on Thursday 4th April 1968, when Dr Martin Luther King was shot in the back of the neck, as he and Reverend Jesse Jackson stood on a hotel balcony in Memphis, Tennessee.

After years of FBI surveillance, death threats and multiple attempts on his life, history’s most iconic black civil rights leader had finally succumbed he died in hospital the next day.

Two months later, Robert F Kennedy, presidential hopeful and JFK’s younger brother, had just finished his victory speech at The Ambassador Hotel, after winning the Californian Democratic Primary.

As he shook hands with staff in the hotel kitchen, Sirhan Sirhan descended, grinning, from a tray-stacker, and opened fire with an eight-shot revolver.

It is the decade’s greatest paradox, that the 1960s can bring forth visions of Woodstock, love-ins and flower power, alongside grim archive news footage and circuitous discussion around “second shooters”, “patsies” and “deep state”.

John F. Kennedy’s murder shook America and the world on 22 November, 1963.

Black Muslim activist Malcolm X was shot by Nation of Islam members in 1965.

George Lincoln Rockwell, leader of the American Nazi Party, was killed in 1967.

So why were there so many assassinations in the 1960s in America?

Read more about: Black History

The lives of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King: The firebrand and the pacifist

A decade of violence

With revolution in the air, the 1960s was a period of ferocious civil unrest, not just in the US, but all over the world.

“The reaction to the upheaval of the 60s is violent,” says Fabio Lanza, a cultural historian at the University of Arizona. “And it’s violent at various levels.”

“Almost every major national leader of the black struggle in the United States is assassinated,”

The decade saw mass global protests met with police brutality terrorism in Italy and across Africa the Black Panthers’ escalating war with law enforcement.

The high profile assassinations were important in their own right, Lanza argues, but they were also the tip of a very large iceberg.

There is no better illustration of this cycle of violence than the black civil rights movement.

“Almost every major national leader of the black struggle in the United States is assassinated,” says Alan Shane Dillingham, who lectures on the 1960s at Spring Hill College, Alabama.

Fellow Civil Rights Champion Malcolm X was murdered two years after Martin Luther King

“I don’t think people sit down and contemplate that history. Not just Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr, but also Medgar Evers, who’s a civil rights activist in Mississippi, various members of the Black Panther Party, including Fred Hampton, in Chicago, who was a young charismatic Black Panther leader, who was 22, when he was killed by the Chicago police in his bed, in the middle of the night.”

“They threatened the status quo that was powerfully in place at the time,”

This unpalatable truth, in Dillingham’s view, reflects the enormous threat the struggle for black liberation posed to sections of US society.

John A. Kirk, Race and Ethnicity Director at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock’s Anderson Institute’s concurs.

“They threatened the status quo that was powerfully in place at the time,” he says of these assassinated black civil rights leaders.

“Racial stratification has always been an important part of the United States experience, from slavery to the present. Threatening that order and threatening that white privilege and white supremacy – the violent responses just underline how important it was.”

Much of the violence, Dillingham and Lanza both argue, comes from the state itself.

Black liberation posed an enormous threat to American society.

Dillingham points to the FBI’s controversial COINTELPRO operation under Director J Edgar Hoover, which involved the harassment and even murder of radical activists throughout the decade.

“And so, the US government, itself, was breaking the law and using extra-judicial violence against 1960s activists, whether they were black leaders or anti-war activists.”


As a constant backdrop to 1960s’ almost-revolution, America’s involvement in the Vietnam War served to intensify conflict and escalate violence.

The scale of the war’s carnage was unprecedented, and, for the first time, people were watching it unfold in their living rooms.

The Vietnam War created new tensions in American society.

Read more about: Cold War

What if America had won the Vietnam War?

King, himself, alienated key Democratic allies, with his vocal opposition the war in the later years of his life.

Robert Kennedy, at the time of his assassination, carried the hopes of some, that he would alter US policy on the war, should he become president.

But there was a second shooter…

The papers may be out – but JFK, the mother of all conspiracy theories transcended, long ago, into legend.

Was it, the CIA? Russia? Cuba? Or he mob?

In a tragic and eerie coincidence – one of many in the Kennedy dynasty – JFK’s younger brother went on to suffer the same fate five years later.

In his documentary RFK Must Die, writer and filmmaker Shane O’Sullivan not only argues there was second shooter, but goes further to implicate the CIA (who, some argue, have been known to dabble in the occasional assassination plot).

James Earl Ray, convicted of Dr King’s murder, later retracted his confession and found unlikely allies in King’s own family.

Read more about: Mysteries

Did the Mob kill JFK? New evidence suggests they did.

His attorney, William Pepper, spent years arguing that Dr King’s murder was a huge Government conspiracy, involving the police, the army and the Mafia

Others, on the other hand, think conspiracy theorists tend to overanalyse.

Errol Morris’s short documentary “The Umbrella Man” explores an enduring obsession with one man pictured holding an umbrella close to JFK’s shooting.

In the film, Josiah Thompson, who first coined the term “umbrella man” says: “If you have any fact which you think is really sinister – right? Is really obviously a fact which can only point to some sinister underpinning… hey, forget it man! Because you can never, on your own, think up all the non-sinister, perfectly valid explanations for that fact.”

The Legacy Of The Sixties

THE SIXTIES HAVE BEEN MISUNDER- stood. It was not a radical decade, as the term radical is commonly used in connection with those years. It was not a decade of the left ascendant. Rampant, perhaps, but not ascendant. Rather, the decade was radicalizing, which, subsequent decades have shown, is different. Politically, the sixties invigorated the right more than the left. But of course politics is not everything. In fact, three decades down the road, the nation’s political discourse may be driven by conservatives, but they, although by many measures triumphant, seem aggrieved because politics seems peripheral to, and largely impotent against, cultural forces and institutions permeated with what conservatives consider the sixties sensibilities.

Treating a decade as a discrete entity obviously makes the assumption that history during that decade had an obliging tidiness, opening with a decisive and tone-setting episode and closing with a suitably climactic event. History rarely accommodates that assumption. Such a treatment of a decade also makes the equally dubious assumption that the decade in question had a clearly dominant tone or profile. So the 1920s was the decade of jazz, flappers, the birth of the sports celebrity (Babe Ruth, Red Grange, Jack Dempsey), the Lost Generation, Sacco and Vanzetti and . Warren Harding, Calvin Coolidge, and Herbert Hoover.

Let us stipulate this, then: A decade, even one as intensely felt at the time and as hotly debated afterward as the sixties was and is, can come to seem, when recollected in tranquillity, quite unlike the decade as it felt at the time, and unlike the decade as it is portrayed by people with an emotional or political investment in portraying it a particular way.

It is arguable that we should think of the sixties as beginning in November 1963 and ending in October 1973. That is, the years we connect with the tumultuousness associated with the phrase “the sixties” began with the assassination of a President and ended with the Yom Kippur War and the energy crisis. The assassination shattered (or at least many people say it did) the nation’s sunny postwar disposition it supposedly “ended American innocence.” It is unclear how innocent was this nation that had been made possible by Puritans, had been founded by such innocents as Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and James Madison, had been born in the bloodshed of what actually was not only the American Revolution but also America’s first civil war, had been preserved by the worst civil war the world had until then seen … you get the picture. The sixties as a decade of “lost innocence”? Please. The 1973 oil embargo, which produced a sense of national vulnerability and pervasive limits, did seem to bring down a curtain on something. But on what?

Perhaps on a sense of limitlessness. In the middle of the 1960s the United States, or at least the leading members of its political class, acknowledged few limits on the nation’s power, or their competence. The United States could fight a war, and engage in “nation building” in the nation where the war was being fought, and build a Great Society at home, simultaneously. And the 1960s counterculture, which fancied itself at daggers drawn with the “Establishment,” partook of the same central assumption—that limits, sometimes known as hang-ups or repressions or bourgeois values, were to be ignored, confronted, transcended, abolished. The makers of the nation’s Vietnam policy may have had more in common with their most vociferous critics than either the policymakers or critics could comfortably admit.

Of course, the 1950s were pregnant with the 1960s. In the beginning there was not the word but the sound: rock ’n’ roll, the vocabulary of a self-conscious and soon selfconfident youth cohort. Rock ’n’ roll was nowhere in 1950 and was here to stay in 1960. The 1960s took part of the 1950s and stirred in danger—sex, drugs, and rock ’n’ roll.

ANOTHER 1950S COHORT, A SMALL ONE, THE Beats, anticipated the large cohort of adversarial intellectuals in the 1960s. Of course many of the Beats, unlike their 1960s children (if members of the 1960s “counterculture” can be so regarded), were passionate lovers of America—its cars, its beckoning spaces, and the sense of no limits that those cars and spaces intimated. But the Beats also had that sense of generational uniqueness, and of being set-upon by an unfeeling world, that was to characterize those who were pleased to be called “the sixties generation.” Remember Alien Ginsberg’s Howl from 1956:

Lots of people were to find lots of fixes soon enough. Some of those people would be trying to fix their sense of being “jailed in the prison air of other people’s habits,” and to express “a disbelief in the socially monolithic ideas of the single mate, the solid family and the respectable love life.” What was coming, said the author of those words, was “a psychically armed rebellion whose sexual impetus may rebound against the anti-sexual foundation of every organized power in America,” a rebellion demanding “that social restraint and category be removed, and the affirmation implicit in the proposal is that man would then prove to be more creative than murderous and so would not destroy himself.” So said Norman Mailer in “The White Negro,” a peek over the horizon into the future when we would indeed be liberated from the tyranny of the single mate and the solid family, and would stay off the streets at night. Mailer’s essay was published in Dissent magazine in 1957 and republished in pamphlet form at 1562 Grant Avenue in San Francisco, by City Lights Books.

But the 1960s as a decade of dissent did not begin where the “Beat generation”—that word generation again —supposedly did, congregating at the City Lights bookstore in San Francisco’s North Beach section. (Only in America could a bookstore be the Finland Station of what fancied itself a revolutionary movement.) Neither did it begin in 1964 at Sproul Plaza on the Berkeley campus, with Mario Savio and the Free Speech Movement. Rather, the decade of dissent began at a place not famous as a locus of tumult, the podium of a Republican National Convention.

In the beginning was Barry Goldwater. In 1960 in Chicago the junior senator from Arizona, seething with the ancient (well, by American standards) and accumulated grievances of the American West against the American East, thundered to the convention that he was mad as hell at Nelson Rockefeller and his ilk and was not going to take it any more: “Let’s grow up, conservatives. We want to take this party back, and I think someday we can. Let’s get to work.” Four years later he and his people had control of the party. Eight years later the NixonWallace share of the popular vote was 57 percent. In fact, the most remarkable example of “people power”—a favorite incantation of the left in the 1960s—was the achievement of George Wallace’s ragtag army in getting him on the ballot in all fifty states in 1968, when laws impeding third-party candidates were much more onerous than they now are.

THIRTY-FIVE YEARS AFTER GOLDWATER BECAME the first potent dissenter of the decade of dissent, it seems that the foremost fecundity of the sixties radicalism of the left, particularly on campuses, was in manufacturing a conservative movement, including a cadre of conservative intellectuals. It is an unanswerable question, Who was angrier in the 1960s, the Goldwater (and later the Wallace) right, or the left. But there can be no argument about which one was more serious about, and successful regarding, the acquisition of power.

The radicalism of the left did not seek power it purported to despise power. Whereas the left in the 1930s exhorted its adherents to organize, the left in the 1960s celebrated spontaneity. The left in the 1930s was produced by hard material conditions. In the 1960s social abundance and personal affluence were the prerequisites for, and contributing causes of, the campus-based radicalism. That radicalism sought a revolution in “consciousness,” sometimes with chemical assistance.

Which is not to say that the radicalism of the left was otherwise sterile. By acts of bravery and skill and perseverance, acts that have not lost their power to take one’s breath away, the legal edifice of racial injustice was dismantled. Whatever one thinks of the other consequences of the sixties, the decade is redeemed by what was done in bus terminals, at lunch counters, in voterregistration drives on ramshackle porches along dangerous back roads, and by all the other mining and sapping of the old system. But a revolution interested primarily in “consciousness” is bound to be self-absorbed—each revolutionary looking inward, fascinated by the supposed malleability of his or her “self.” The shaping of the “self” is apt to be a more fascinating project for the “consciousness revolutionary” than any mere social reform.

SO, THEN, WHO WON? THAT is, which of the two antagonistic tendencies activated by the radicalizing decade? It is too soon to say. Politically- or, more precisely and narrowly, in the contest for political offices—the right has won. But conservatives are not happy, because they sense the primacy of cultural forces, and feel that the culture is still shaped by the forces that have lost in electoral politics, by people who believe what the left believed in the sixties—that the social order is an infringement on freedom rather than freedom’s foundation. Society is the crucible in which the citizen’s character is formed, and conservatives in their elective offices are dismayed by the formative power of the society they’re supposedly governing.

So powerful were—are—the energies let loose in the sixties, there cannot now be, and may never be, anything like a final summing up. After all, what is the “final result” of the Civil War?

Watch the video: Kids in the 1960s predict what the year 2000 will be like (May 2022).


  1. Tudal

    thanks, I will try

  2. Kajika

    I think very interesting topic. I suggest you discuss this here or in PM.

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