The 1960s began with John F. Kennedy squeezing out one of the narrowest presidential victories in United States history. Three years later, he was dead, and it was up to Lyndon Johnson to carry through his liberal legacy. The first three years of Johnson's presidency were legislatively one of the most productive periods ever, as Congress passed many of the civil rights, health, education, and welfare measures of the Great Society. In 1961, the nation bungled an attempt to dislodge Castro from Cuba, and a year and a half later, the world came to the brink of nuclear war during the Cuban missile crisis. By the latter half of the decade, the foreign policy focus had moved halfway around the world. By the end of 1967, the United States had 500,000 troops in Southeast Asia and the Vietnam War had become the central issue of American politics. The election year of 1968 was one of the most turbulent times in the nation?s history.
Brinkley, Alan (2007). American history: A survey. New York, New York: McGraw Hill.
Renewal of Reform: 1956-1968
1948 Alfred Kinsey's report on male sexuality published.
1950 David Riesman publishes The Lonely Crowd.
1955 Bill Haley and the Comets introduce rock to national audience.
1957 Sputnik launched. Sony introduces the transistor radio.
Civil Rights Act of 1957.
1957-58 School desegregation battle in Little Rock, Arkansas.
1958 National Defense Education Act. Establishment of NASA. Quiz show scandals.
1959 Castro topples Batista in Cuba. Nixon and Khrushchev engage in "kitchen debate."
1960 Greensboro sit-in and formation of SNCC. U-2 incident. DDE warns of the "military-industrial complex."
1961-63 John F. Kennedy's presidency.
1961 United States severs diplomatic relations with Cuba. Alliance for Progress announced. Bay of Pigs fiasco. CORE initiates Freedom Rides. The Berlin Crisis.
1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. Michael Harrington publishes The Other America. Rachel Carson publishes Silent Spring.
1963 Nuclear test-ban treaty. Betty Friedan publishes The Feminine Mystique. Assassination of Medgar Evers. Martin Luther King Jr.'s Birmingham Campaign. March on Washington. Assassination of President Kennedy.
1963?68 Lyndon B. Johnson's presidency.
1964 Passage of the Wilderness Act. Civil Rights Act of 1964. Executive order establishes affirmative action. LBJ launches the War on Poverty. "Freedom Summer" in Mississippi.
1965 Supreme Court allows use of contraceptives by married couples.
Immigration Act of 1965. Voting Rights Act of 1965. Passage of Medicare and Medicaid.
1966 Formation of NOW.
1970 The first Earth Day.
Years of rage: 1964-1974
1960 Birth control pills become commercially available.
1962 SDS issues Port Huron Statement. César Chavez helps organize the National Farm Workers? Association.
1964 Gulf of Tonkin resolution. Berkeley Free Speech Movement.
1964-68 Race riots in New York, Detroit, Los Angeles, and other cities.
1965 Operation Rolling Thunder begins. University of Michigan inaugurates the teach-in. Assassination of Malcolm X.
1966 Ronald Reagan wins the California governor's race.
1967 Human Be-In in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park.
1967 Arab-Israeli War. Antiwar march on the Pentagon.
1968 Tet Offensive
1968 My Lai massacre. Johnson withdraws from presidential race.
Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination. Robert F. Kennedy's assassination.
Feminists demonstrate at Miss America pageant. Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey debuts. Kerner Commission reports on race riots. Richard M. Nixon elected president.
Black Panthers 1968 Olympics Jimi Hendrix
1969 Apollo 11 lands on the moon. Woodstock Festival. Rolling Stones's Altamont concert. 1970 Premier of M*A*S*H. Invasion of Cambodia.
Kent State and Jackson State slayings. Establishment of the EPA.
1971 Nixon imposes wage and price controls to curb stagflation. New York Times publishes the Pentagon Papers. Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education.
1972 Nixon?s visit to China. SALT Agreement signed. The Watergate break-in. Christmas bombing of North Vietnam.
1973 United States and North Vietnam negotiate settlement. Chile?s Allende ousted in CIA-supported coup. Yom Kippur War. Ervin Committee begins Watergate hearings. Spiro Agnew resigns; Gerald Ford appointed vice-president. War Powers Act passed.
1973?74 OPEC oil embargo.
1974 House Judiciary Committee adopts articles of impeachment.
Nixon resigns; Ford becomes president.
Politics and Citizenship: Following the 1950s, presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson committed themselves to a strong, active presidency in both foreign and domestic policy. African Americans took unprecedented steps to combat racial discrimination, resulting in federal legislation to eliminate segregation and preserve voting rights. Despite these victories, however, many civil rights advocates remained disillusioned with the slow pace of change, as economic discrimination, urban poverty, and a host of other social problems led to significant outbreaks of violence in many urban centers throughout the country.
Reform: Lyndon Johnson undertook the most ambitious reform program since the New Deal, as his Great Society program sought to increase medical coverage for the poor and elderly, eradicate poverty, and improve housing and other social services in urban areas. While these efforts created a host of new entitlement programs and expanded the federal welfare state in a way that benefited many of the nation's poorest citizens, many of these programs also drew criticism from conservatives who objected to the expanded role of the federal government and the costs involved. Johnson was ultimately unable to balance his high domestic hopes with the need to maintain the American commitment to South Vietnam.
War and Diplomacy: The Cold War remained dangerous throughout much of the 1960s. John F. Kennedy, perceived by Soviet leaders as young and untested, faced a number of confrontations in his early years in office, the most serious of which was a showdown over the Soviet decision to place missiles in Cuba. Kennedy, reflecting the era's liberal activism and belief in the limitlessness of American resources, also vastly increased the commitment of American advisors to the defense of South Vietnam. Lyndon Johnson inherited and expanded this commitment further, leading to a disastrous war that ultimately caused many to question the fundamental premises of the containment policy that had caused the United States to enter the conflict.
George, J. & Brown, J. (2007). AP achiever: Advanced placement american history exam preparation guide. McGraw Hill.
The 1960s was a decade when hundreds of thousands of ordinary Americans gave new life to the nation's democratic ideals. African Americans used sit-ins, freedom rides, and protest marches to fight segregation, poverty, and unemployment. Feminists demanded equal job opportunities and an end to sexual discrimination. Mexican Americans protested discrimination in voting, education, and employment. Native Americans demanded that the government recognize their land claims and the right of tribes to govern themselves. Environmentalists demanded legislation to control the amount of pollution released into the environment.
Early in the decade, African American college students, impatient with the slow pace of legal change, staged sit-ins, freedom rides, and protest marches to challenge segregation in the South. Their efforts led the federal government to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964, prohibiting discrimination in public facilities and employment, and the 24th Amendment and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, guaranteeing voting rights. The examples of the civil rights movement inspired other groups to press for equal rights. The women's movement fought for equal educational and employment opportunities, and brought about a transformation of traditional views about women's place in society. Mexican Americans battled for bilingual education programs in schools, unionization of farm workers, improved job opportunities, and increased political power. Native Americans pressed for control over their lands and resources, the preservation of native cultures, and tribal self-government. Gays and lesbians organized to end legal discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Between 1945 and 1954, the Vietnamese waged an anti-colonial war against France, which received $2.6 billion in financial support from the United States. The French defeat at the Dien Bien Phu was followed by a peace conference in Geneva. As a result of the conference, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam received their independence, and Vietnam was temporarily divided between an anti-Communist South and a Communist North. In 1956, South Vietnam, with American backing, refused to hold unification elections. By 1958, Communist-led guerrillas, known as the Viet Cong, had begun to battle the South Vietnamese government.
To support the South's government, the United States sent in 2,000 military advisors--a number that grew to 16,300 in 1963. The military condition deteriorated, and by 1963, South Vietnam had lost the fertile Mekong Delta to the Viet Cong. In 1965, President Lyndon Johnson escalated the war, commencing air strikes on North Vietnam and committing ground forces--which numbered 536,000 in 1968. The 1968 Tet Offensive by the North Vietnamese turned many Americans against the war. The next president, Richard Nixon, advocated Vietnamization, withdrawing American troops and giving South Vietnam greater responsibility for fighting the war. In 1970, Nixon attempted to slow the flow of North Vietnamese soldiers and supplies into South Vietnam by sending American forces to destroy Communist supply bases in Cambodia. This act violated Cambodian neutrality and provoked antiwar protests on the nation's college campuses. From 1968 to 1973, efforts were made to end the conflict through diplomacy. In January 1973, an agreement was reached; U.S. forces were withdrawn from Vietnam, and U.S. prisoners of war were released. In April 1975, South Vietnam surrendered to the North, and Vietnam was reunited.
Vietnam was the longest war in American history and the most unpopular American war of the 20th century. It resulted in nearly 60,000 American deaths and in an estimated 2 million Vietnamese deaths. Even today, many Americans still ask whether the American effort in Vietnam was a sin, a blunder, a necessary war, or whether it was a noble cause, or an idealistic, if failed, effort to protect the South Vietnamese from totalitarian government. The Vietnam War cost the United States 58,000 lives and 350,000 casualties. It also resulted in between one and two million Vietnamese deaths. Congress enacted the War Powers Act in 1973, requiring the president to receive explicit Congressional approval before committing American forces overseas.
Biography of America
Professor Scharff weaves the story of the Civil Rights movement with stories of the Vietnam War and Watergate to create a portrait of a decade. Lyndon Johnson emerges as a pivotal character, along with Stokely Carmichael, Fanny Lou Hamer, and other luminaries of the era.