Topics in the News
Topics in the News
Frustration Sets In.
As the struggle for rights for African-Americans continued during the 1960s, many activists became convinced that the nonviolent strategies used by the movement in the early years of the decade had reached the limits of their effectiveness. Many blacks expressed frustration that the civil rights movement, as represented by sit-ins and Freedom Rides, did not give them the opportunity to express their anger at racism in America any more than they had been able to in the worst days of Jim Crow. Nonviolent protest, they felt, only gave racists the opportunity to victimize them further; increasingly, black activists wanted to take the rights they had as Americans, rather than waiting to be granted them. In September 1966, for example, after a fleeing black youth accused of auto theft had been shot and wounded by Atlanta police, Stokely Carmichael, an activist and veteran of the Freedom Rides, and several other members of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC—called "snick") instigated a riot, urging demonstrating blacks to ignore the mayor's attempts to calm them. According to the Atlanta police chief, SNCC had become the "Non-student Violent Committee."
SNCC Gets Angry.
By that time, under the influence of militant leaders such as Carmichael, SNCC had shifted its emphasis away from voter registration in...
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Cold War Laboratories.
During the 1960s the baby boomers—the largest generation of young Americans in the history of the nation—reached college age; and, as a result of the general affluence of the United States in the years following World War II, more potential students were in a position to take advantage of higher education than ever before. Between 1955 and 1970 the number of college students nearly tripled, from 2.4 million to 6.4 million; nearly half a million instructors and researchers were employed by the nation's universities by the end of
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All Work and No Play …
Although the 1960s were a decade of great social upheaval, Americans still knew how to have fun. A series of fads captured the public's imagination briefly. Toys, hobbies, and dances that everyone could enjoy may have helped Americans keep their sense of community at a time when the country seemed to be splintering.
Toys and Crayons.
Several toys caught on with kids and grown ups alike during the decade. The yo-yo, an ancient weapon from the Philippines that had been marketed as a toy in the United States by Donald F. Duncan since 1923, suddenly surged in popularity in 1961 when Duncan's team of yo-yo experts began giving demonstrations on children's television shows. Over a period of two months New Yorkers bought 4 million yo-yos, and residents of Nashville, a city of 322,000 people, bought 350,000. Wham-O, the toy manufacturers who gave Americans slinkies and hula hoops in the 1950s, scored again in 1965 with the Superball. Made of an experimental new type of rubber, Superballs...
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The Freedom Rides
No Free Buses.
The Freedom Rides were conceived by the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) in 1961 as the next step in protesting the segregated businesses of the southern states, encouraged by the success that the previous year's sit-in movement had in getting whites-only lunch counters to serve African-Americans. The goal of the rides was to compel the newly appointed Kennedy administration to enforce the 1960 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that made segregation of bus terminals and stations serving interstate travelers unconstitutional. Without an order of compliance from the Interstate Commerce Commission, an executive agency that was under President Kennedy's authority, southern states would simply ignore the ruling. Civil rights leaders feared, However, that federal enforcement would be slow in coming if at all, since it could cost the president the support of southern Democrats. As James Farmer, executive director of CORE, recalled, "What we had to do was to make it more dangerous politically for the federal government not to enforce federal law than it would be for them to enforce federal law."
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New Generation of Hipsters.
The hippies did not pick that name for themselves: it was given to them by Michael Fallon, a reporter for the San Francisco Examiner, in a 1965 story about the new bohemian lifestyle that was developing in the city's Haight-Ashbury district (named for two streets that converge there—also called the Haight). Fallon got the name by shortening Norman Mailer's term hipster, and he applied it to the second generation of beatniks who had moved into the Haight from nearby North Beach. This new generation of drop-outs was more optimistic than the beatniks, however, more prone to talk about love, more flamboyant. They belonged to groups such as the Legalized Marijuana Movement and the Sexual Freedom League. In the summer of 1965 the hippies were few in number but were well on their way to creating a small, thriving society—a counterculture.
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Timothy Leary and LSD
Winning the Game.
Leary was a lecturer in psychology at Harvard who became one of the most recognizable figures of 1960s counterculture by espousing the value of the hallucinogenic drug lysergic acid diethylamide, known as LSD. Leary believed that LSD could be used as a tool against what he called the cultural game which regulates and prescribes the behavior of all members of society. Religion, politics, family life, and other social institutions have roles, rules, goals, and jargon all their own: to this extent, Leary claimed, they resemble baseball or basketball. The way out, the way to recognize that such social games could be played or not played as one chose, is to expand the consciousness; and the most effective way of doing that is through the use of hallucinogens.
Leary himself first experimented with hallucinogens in Mexico in 1960 by taking mushrooms purchased from an Indian spiritual healer. As he recalled, the experience made him want to tell everyone he could, "Listen! Wake up! You are God! You have the divine plan engraved in cellular script within you. Listen! Take this sacrament! You'll see! You'll get the revelations! It will change your life! You'll be reborn!" Returning to Harvard that fall, he was ready to begin experiments to determine the potential therapeutic effects of a psychedelic experience. He...
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The March on Washington
Years of Struggle.
The 1963 March on Washington, in which a quarter of a million people demonstrated for civil rights on the grounds of the Lincoln Memorial, was the largest demonstration for human rights that the country had ever seen. It was the idea of A. Philip Randolph, the aging founder of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters union, who had been a labor and civil rights activist for nearly four decades. Randolph had previously organized such a march in 1941 to demand more jobs for blacks in the wartime defense effort; when President Franklin D. Roosevelt agreed to issue an executive order calling for an end to discrimination in defense industries, Randolph called off the demonstration. But in the summer of 1963, with both job opportunities for African-Americans still lingering woefully behind those for whites and images of the Birmingham riots burned into his imagination, Randolph began organizing a new march.
Randolph and Bayard Rustin, deputy director of the march, set its date for 28 August. The goals of the march would be to call attention to the need for the passage of Kennedy's civil rights bill; job training and placement for African-Americans and an end to job segregation; and integration of the nation's schools by the end of the year. The Kennedy administration urged the march's leaders to reconsider;...
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Marriage and Family
The Persistence of Tradition.
In the early years of the 1960s family life was still dominated by the traditional roles for mother and father. Fathers were the breadwinners in the family, and mothers were responsible for household and children. According to the report of the Presidential Commission on the Status of Women (1963), the modern homemaker's challenge was to see that her family had "a place where all members … can find acceptance, refreshment, self-esteem and renewal of strength amidst the pressures of modern life." For many families this place was located in the suburban housing developments surrounding the nation's large cities; and "experts" on domestic life looked to the suburban family—mostly white, middle class, and able to subsist on the husband's income—as the norm. Inner-city families, on the other hand, because of a variety of social pressures, were more likely to be led by one parent, frequently the mother, who had to work to support her children. According to Annegret Ogden, "Between 1960 and 1970, the number of women who alone supported their families grew by 1.1 million."
The Baby Boom Goes Bust.
For most of the decade marriage and children were still considered a normal part of American adulthood, particularly for women. But the baby boom—the enthusiastic burst of marrying and childbearing that began in...
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New Control for Women.
The development of a birth-control pill—which, taken daily, prevents the re-lease of a fertilizable egg from a woman's ovaries and thus makes it impossible for her to get pregnant—raised moral issues in the 1960s on both the personal and social levels. Throughout the decade greater numbers of women took the pill (actually there were twelve different varieties), breaking the link between sex and reproduction and giving the users unprecedented control over their own sexual behavior. Health concerns were frequently ex-pressed, and some critics argued that easy access to birth control was the same as condoning liberal sexual behavior; but, as Time magazine reported, by 1967 almost 20 percent of all American women who could conceive were using oral contraception.
Wonderful News for Sanger.
The pill was the product of decades of human fertility research conducted in various places, but most of the credit goes to Massachusetts scientists Gregory "Goody" Pincus of the Worcester Foundation; M. C. Chang, Pincus's assistant; and John Rock of the Harvard Medical School. They had been working with the hormones progesterone and estrogen, which control the female menstrual cycle, in an effort to regulate the cycle and thus control pregnancy. By the mid 1950s an experimental version of the pill had been developed by...
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The Sit-in Movement
In February 1960 a group of black college students in Greensboro, North Carolina, refused to leave a whites-only lunch counter at which they were denied service. Their demonstration began the sit-in movement, a series of peaceful protests that brought renewed national attention to the injustices of the segregated South and eventually forced the federal government to protect the rights of African-Americans actively. Over several weeks the strategy spread to dozens of southern cities and towns; students from local colleges sat quietly for hours, studying or sometimes reading Bibles, while white employees refused to serve them. The students occupied all the seats at the counter and left only when it closed (which was often early, thanks to the protests). Frequently local townspeople shouted insults and threats, and in Nashville, Tennessee, the protesters were physically attacked. When the Nashville police arrived, the students, not their attackers, were arrested. As they tried to present their case in court, the judge literally turned his back to their lawyer.
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Race riots more violent than any in the history of the United States shocked Americans during the decade; in every region of the country major cities threatened to go up in flames. Since the years immediately following World War II, middle-class white Americans had been leaving the city for nearby suburbs, and businesses that had once provided jobs and a tax base for the city soon followed. Increasingly, downtown—the inner city—was home to lower-income minorities, many of them southern blacks who came in large numbers to the North to find work. The decay of the inner cities perpetuated itself: economically disadvantaged Americans had to live in the low-rent housing such areas offered, which in turn caused more white flight to the
Image Pop-UpA scene from the Watts, California, riots showing the violence that was promised to those that entered the area.
As the decade progressed, African-Americans saw growing numbers of their race suffering from poverty and the health and social problems that go with it—all at a time when great gains...
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American women had long struggled against the perception that they were second-class citizens, too emotional, too childish, too feminine to participate
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Carson, Rachel 1907-1964
Rachel Carson's 1962 book Silent Spring brought to the attention of the American public the dangers that pesticides pose to the plant, animal, and human life of the country. In the first chapter she tells a parable about a town that seems to be cursed: its grass is withering; its fish and wildlife are dying, as are the animals that the town's farmers raised; even the townspeople are taking ill mysteriously and suddenly, and some of them are not recovering. The balance of nature in the community had been changed forever, as if through witchcraft or enemy sabotage. But, wrote Carson, "the people had done it themselves." While no American town had suffered all these ills, she explained, many real towns had suffered one or in some cases several of them. They were caused by contamination, nuclear and chemical, the products and by-products of American industry.
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Friedan, Betty 1921-
AUTHOR, WOMEN'S RIGHTS ACTIVIST
Pioneer for Women.
Betty Friedan was at the center of the growing women's movement in the 1960s, as the author of one of the most influential books on American women's lives (The Feminine Mystique, 1963) and also as one of the founders of the National Organization for Women (NOW). She was the most visible champion of women's rights at the time, even though by the end of the decade more-radical feminist groups had already begun to think of her as old-fashioned.
The eldest of three children, Friedan had a comfortable childhood until the Depression hit; as her parents struggled to support the family she watched her mother lash out at her father in "impotent rage." She determined that she would find the fulfillment for herself that her mother never did. In 1943, as a summa cum laude graduate from Smith College, Friedan made a decision that ran against her career aspirations: she turned down a fellowship to study psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, because her boyfriend warned her that it could end their relationship....
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Sedgwick, Edie 1943-1971
Edie Sedgwick embodied several of the dominant cultural obsessions of the 1960s: glamour, celebrity, and self-destructiveness. She made a name for herself as one of the personalities that gathered around pop artist Andy Warhol and his arts Factory. As one of Warhol's "superstars" she was featured in several of his unusual films of the time, including the epic-length Chelsea Girls. At the same time she was a successful model, appearing in Vogue and Life magazines. A child of privilege, Sedgwick became absorbed in the often frantic social scene of the decade. She died in obscurity of a drug overdose in 1971.
A Child of Privilege.
Edie Sedgwick came from a background of wealth on both sides of her family. She was born in 1943, the sixth of eight children. Her father was a gentleman rancher who added to his inherited fortune considerably when oil was discovered on his California land. Edie, a spoiled, emotional child, was sent to school in the East when she was a teenager. Unhappy at school, she did poorly; at seventeen, she was institutionalized, first at a...
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Spock, Dr. Benjamin 1903-
CHILD-CARE EXPERT, PEACE ACTIVIST
Voice of Conscience.
By the 1960s Dr. Benjamin Spock was known not only for his Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care, which had served as a guide to the parents of baby boomers since its first edition was published in 1946—for the next two years only the Bible was a bigger seller—he was also one of the nation's most prominent voices of conscience, participating in protests against nuclear weapons and the war in Vietnam. In 1960 Spock had campaigned for John F. Kennedy, appearing on television with Jacqueline Kennedy to help court the "mother's vote." President Kennedy's announcement of further arms testing in 1962, however, convinced Spock of the grave danger posed by the cold war arms race. "After that," he said, "I was hooked for the peace movement."
That year he became a member of SANE, an antinuclear group, despite his fears that his association with...
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People in the News
Frank Caplan of Creative Playthings, introduced to the American child "Little Brother," the first anatomically correct male baby doll, in 1966.
In 1968 Cosmopolitan magazine chose twenty-two-year-old Candace Bergen to be their political correspondent with the Robert Kennedy campaign.
In 1964 Chief John Big Tree, 103, one of the models for the 1916 Indian-head nickel, traveled to New York City to participate in Chase Manhattan Bank's one-hundredth anniversary celebration of the nickel.
On 13 June 1960 Jacqueline Cochran, 54, the first woman to fly at the speed of sound, became the first woman to travel at twice the speed of sound when she rode in the backseat of a Navy 3-J Vigilante jet.
In May 1968 Stanford University elected Vicky Drake, 21, who worked between semesters as a topless dancer, as its student-body president.
American evangelist Billy Graham was attempting to hold a crusade in London's Soho district in June 1966, when he was besieged by two thousand revelers, including a stripper who jumped on to the hood of Graham's car.
James Meredith, who desegregated the University of Mississippi as its first African-American student in 1962, began a March Against Fear across Mississippi on 5 June 1966 but got less than...
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S. Ruth Barrett, 62, educator of the blind, director of the American Bible Society's recording department, 9 March 1961.
Bernard Baruch, 94, unpaid adviser to seven U.S. presidents, financier, and philanthropist, 20 June 1965.
Brace Beemer, 62, former radio actor who portrayed the Lone Ranger from 1941 to 1954, 1 March 1965.
Lenny Bruce (Leonard Alfred Schneider), 40, influential and controversial comedian, 3 August 1966.
Rachel Carson, 56, conservationist and author of Silent Spring, 14 April 1964.
Marshall Cassidy, 76, horse-racing official, inventor of stall starting gate, former director of the New York Racing Association, 23 October 1968.
Valentine Davies, president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences since 1960 and of the Screenwriter's Guild since 1949, 23 July 1961.
Walt Disney, 65, cartoonist, studio mogul, and designer of the Disneyland theme park, 15 December 1966.
W. E. B. DuBois (William Edward Burghardt), 95, educator and civil rights pioneer, 27 August 1963.
Ethel DuPont, 49, heiress of the multimillion-dollar E. T. du Pont de Nemours and Company fortune, former wife of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Jr., 25 May...
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Kurt Baier, Values and the Future: The Impact of Technological Change on American Values (New York: Free Press, 1969);
Warren G. Bennis, The Temporary Society (New York: Harper & Row, 1968);
John Brooks, The Great Leap: The Past Twenty-Five Years in America (New York: Harper & Row, 1966);
Joe David Brown, ed., The Hippies (New York: Time, 1967);
Rachel Carson, Silent Spring (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1962);
Robert E. Conot, Rivers of Bloody Years of Darkness (New York: Bantam, 1967);
George W. Crowell, Society Against Itself (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1968);
Lincoln H. Day, Too Many Americans (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1964);
G. William Domhoff, Who Rules America? (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1967);
Betty Friedan, The Feminine Mystique (New York: Norton, 1963);
James M. Gavin, Crisis Now (New York: Random House, 1968);
Paul Goodman, Drawing the Line (New York: Random House, 1967);
Goodman, Freedom and Order in the University (Cleveland: Case Western Reserve University Press, 1967);
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- Enovid 10, the first oral contraceptive pill, is first sold at fifty-five cents a pill.
- The nation's population is nearing 180 million. The U.S. Census Bureau finds that Nevada, Florida, Alaska, Arizona, and California have the largest population growth of the United States.
- More than a third of women work outside the home, up from 25 percent in the 1940s.
- Some two thousand computers are at work in American businesses, performing tasks that were once human functions.
- Felt-tip pens, artificial tanning cream, and Astroturf are among the year's new products.
- On February 1, students from a nearby university stage a sit-in at a whites-only lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina. The passive, nonviolent tactic to integrate public facilities quickly spreads to cities across the South.
- On April 9, Southern School News reports that six years after the Supreme Court's desegregation ruling, only 6 percent of the South's schools are integrated.
- On April 17, young civil rights activists meet at Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina, to establish the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).
- On September 26, the first of four presidential debates between candidates Richard Nixon and John F....
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