United States History: The 1960s

Figure 1.--

The 1960s for middle class Americans were those now so innocent seeming, yet turbulent years. All elements of American life began "heating up" in the 1960s. And the 60s along with the 20s are the two most remembered decades of the 20th century. Actually much of what is associated with the 60s occurred in the 70s. The decade began so optimistically with the election of President Kennedy. Yet in 1963 we were shocked by his assasination and soon found ourselves faced with the challenge of Civil Rightsand mired in the Viet Nam. We began the decade with our 1950s certainties and soon found events rapidly changing our values and long held assumtions. President Kennedy's assasination is most strongly etched into memory, but other snapshots include the Vietnam War; the Civil Rights movement; Dr. Martin Luther King; hippies, flower power, and the 1967 Summer of Love in 1967; as well as Woodstock and Motown. There is no doubt that America was fundamentally changed by the 60s. It was the decade in which the minorities (racial, women, and gays) began to enter the American mainstream. More difficult to say is just what caused that change. Some give great importance to the Urban riots. [Brokaw] Surely the Viet Nam was important. We might say it was the combined impact of liberal appoints to the judiciary and the passage of the Civil Rights Act (1964) and Voting Rights Act (1965). These laws changed the face of America. They also gave the South to the Republican Party for a generation, resulting in the election of a series of Republican presidents.


Brokaw, Tom. Boom! Voices of the Sixties: Personal Reflectins on the '60s and Today (Random House: 2007), 662p.


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Created: 12:15 AM 12/3/2007
Last updated: 12:16 AM 12/3/2007