Born January 17, 1942
Muhammad Ali was one of the best athletes of the twentieth century. On three occasions he won the world heavyweight boxing championship. But he is as equally renowned for two controversial decisions that transcend sports. First, in 1964, just after he earned his first boxing title, he announced that he had left the Christian faith to join the Nation of Islam. Three years later, as American involvement in the Vietnam War (1954–75) was rapidly increasing, he refused induction into the U.S. military, citing his religious beliefs. Although Ali was first and foremost a boxer, his commitment to seeking out a meaningful religious identification and engaging in political protest helped make him a symbol for the changes that swept American society in the 1960s.
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Ash, Mary Kay
Born May 12, c. 1917
Hot Wells, Texas
Died November 22, 2001
Mary Kay Ash created a business empire in the 1960s when many women were just beginning to seek possibilities beyond that of being a wife and mother. In 1963 Betty Friedan's groundbreaking book The Feminine Mystique was published announcing women's discontent with only being homemakers. That same year, Ash started her company. Her mission was to enrich women's lives. Ash never lived the life of a suburban homemaker, but instead she worked from a very young age. She was a hard worker and fiercely competitive. Throughout her career, Ash was disappointed that her male co-workers made more money...
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Born May 27, 1907
Died April 14, 1964
Silver Spring, Maryland
Naturalist, marine biologist, writer,
Rachel Carson was as much a political activist as a biologist, naturalist, and writer. She spent her lifetime appreciating, exploring, and writing about nature and emphasizing the importance of the natural world in everyday life. In 1962, Carson's book Silent Spring was published. In the work, she reported on the manner in which the poisons found in pesticides—chemical mixtures used to wipe out insects that thrive on plants and animals—were destroying Earth and its atmosphere. The publicity her book generated helped give birth to the modern-day environmental movement.
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Born November, 4, 1916
St. Joseph, Missouri
Journalist, television newsperson
Walter Cronkite worked in television news from its beginnings in the early 1950s. He played a large role in creating the format of television news programs. From 1962 to 1981, Cronkite anchored the CBS Evening News program, not only reporting, but also summing up and analyzing the news. His calm, authoritative manner and his careful, hardworking approach to journalism earned him the trust of his viewers. More than other television personalities, Cronkite became a national figure. His news summaries were watched in millions of households. His nightly sign-off, "And that's the way it is," was familiar and reassuring to many viewers.
A nose for news
Walter Leland Cronkite Jr. was born on November 4, 1916, in St. Joseph,...
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Born May 24, 1941
One of the most influential songwriters of the twentieth century, Bob Dylan is a unique blend of musician, poet, rebel, and social critic. He rose to fame during the 1960s, when his music was favored by college students and those involved in the anti-war movement. With his scruffy looks, his raspy nasal voice, and the stinging political edge of his lyrics, he became an important figurehead for these social movements. He came to represent their attitude of rebellion. However, Dylan resisted the role of star and remained a very private and independent artist. He frustrated his fans over and over by refusing to stick with any one musical style or personal philosophy. However, he continued to win respect and praise again and again. In the early twenty-first century, Dylan continued to create and perform his sharp, perceptive songs to audiences that included several generations.
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Born February 4, 1921
Writer, women's rights activist
The feminist movement began sweeping American society in the late 1960s and early 1970s. It consisted of people who believed in equal rights for both sexes. It might have come about without Betty Friedan, but her presence within and her impact on the movement were vast. Friedan's book The Feminine Mystique (1963) clearly defined many issues concerning women's rights. Such ideas were central to what came to be known as the Women's Liberation Movement.
Early education and work
Betty Friedan was born Betty (possibly Bettye) Naomi Goldstein in Peoria, Illinois, on February...
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Born January 1, 1909
Died May 29, 1998
Paradise Valley, Arizona
Republican politician and
Barry Goldwater's campaign for the presidency in 1964 represented an important change in American politics. Goldwater drew national attention to a debate over the role of the federal government. In basic terms, the debate was over the extent to which the federal government should involve itself in solving social problems such as poverty and racism. Although Goldwater lost the presidential election to Lyndon B. Johnson (1908–1973; served 1963–69; see entry), his candidacy marked the beginning of the conservative movement in America. The movement rallied people behind political ideals that went by the labels "individual freedom," "self-reliance,"...
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Gordy Jr., Berry
Born November 28, 1929
Music industry business manager;
founder of Motown Records
In 1959, thirty-year-old Berry Gordy Jr. was a former professional boxer, failed record-store owner, ex-automobile plant assembly line worker, and moderately successful songwriter. That year he started his own company, which came to be known as The Motown Record Corporation. The company began releasing singles and record albums featuring African American artists. The following year, the Motown single "Shop Around" by The Miracles gave Gordy his first gold record, selling five hundred thousand copies. Many more gold records were to follow. During the 1960s, Motown became one of the leading independent record companies in the United States. It was also the country's biggest and most successful black-owned entertainment-industry business. Its distinctive "Motown Sound" appealed to people of all races and was among the most popular music of the 1960s.
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Grissom, Virgil "Gus"
Born April 3, 1926
Died January 27, 1967
Kennedy Space Center,
Cape Canaveral, Florida
Frustrated that the Soviet Union had launched the first manmade object into orbit in 1957, the United States stepped up its efforts to be the first to put a human into space. To win the space race, the U.S. Congress created the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in 1958. Among the first to respond to his country's call to pioneer space travel was Virgil "Gus" Grissom. From among five hundred military pilots who met the standards NASA set for its first astronauts, Grissom passed weeks of testing to be named one of America's first astronauts for the Mercury 7 project launch on April 9, 1959. Grissom's work over the next eight years helped create a strong foundation for the future of the U.S. space program.
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Born December 11, 1939
Royal Oak, Michigan
Political activist, organizer and reformer,
Tom Hayden came of age as a controversial, well-known political activist and organizer during the 1960s. He was a leader in what came to be known as the New Left. The movement was made up of students and young adults who emerged from America's middle class and were discouraged by the majority's tolerance for the continuation of poverty despite the presence of wealth. During the decade, Hayden first committed himself to the struggle for civil rights, then in community organizing, and finally in the growing movement against U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War (1954–75). Unlike many other political radicals from the 1960s, Hayden remained active in politics, most prominently as a member of the California legislature.
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Born November 30, 1936
Died early April, 1989
Bucks County, Pennsylvania
Political activist and writer
During the troubled 1960s and into the 1970s, few people challenged authority more defiantly or urged radical social change more strongly than activist Abbie Hoffman. A dedicated political organizer, Hoffman was also a prankster who knew how to use the media to bring his causes to national attention. He was arrested fifty-three times during his days as an activist. Hoffman used his comic personality and outrageous antics to lighten up serious political discussion. He used his sharp political intelligence to encourage social awareness in rebellious youth. Conservatives and less extreme radicals were often irritated by Hoffman's outrageous behavior and thought he was being disrespectful. However, he viewed himself as a "cultural revolutionary." Throughout his life, he worked in his own way to create what he believed would be a better society.
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Born April 10, 1930
Dawson, New Mexico
Union organizer, lobbyist,
and political activist
Born and raised among poor immigrant laborers, Dolores Huerta devoted her life to improving the lives of working people. An energetic and courageous activist, Huerta helped start the first national union for farmworkers. She sought to ensure passage of many laws to protect the lowest paid and least powerful workers. Along with tireless union organizing and raising eleven children, mostly as a single mother, she worked on many other social issues. These included civil rights, women's rights, environmental protection, and support for the poor. Although she was beaten up and arrested for her political activism and fought her way back from serious illness, Huerta continued to devote herself to the fight against injustice. In 2004, she won a $100,000 Creative Citizen Award from the Puffin Foundation. She donated the entire amount to starting a foundation for training young activists in how to continue the work that she and others began during the 1960s.
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Johnson, Lyndon B.
Born August 27, 1908
Near Stonewall, Texas
Died January 22, 1973
Near Johnson City, Texas
president of the United States
Lyndon B. Johnson was one of the most charismatic and complex leaders in U.S. history. His five-year presidency was marked by accusations of corruption and by the growing nightmare of American military involvement in the Vietnam War (1954–75). But his administration also made reforms that had a dramatic effect in reducing poverty and improving civil rights. Although some remember Johnson as a warmonger, others regard him as a political giant who improved the lives of millions of poor Americans.
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Kelsey, Frances Oldham
Born July 24, 1914
British Columbia, Canada
Dr. Frances Oldham Kelsey made a name for herself as someone committed to protecting public health. She stood steadfast against granting U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval to the drug thalidomide. She refused to cave in to pressure from the Richardson-Merrell Company, which wanted to distribute thalidomide in the United States. The drug was already in wide use in Europe and Japan during the 1950s. The company tried to cast doubt on Kelsey's professional abilities and threatened that she would lose her job. Yet she insisted on further testing to clear up questions about thalidomide effects. Soon, reports began surfacing that the drug caused birth defects overseas. Due to Kelsey's refusal to approve the drug in the United States, she single-handedly protected countless unborn American babies from developing birth defects. Ultimately, her work led to stricter laws for regulating the introduction of new drugs.
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Kennedy, John F.
Born May 29, 1917
Died November 22, 1963
Politician, thirty-fifth president
of the United States
John F. Kennedy was a war hero, U.S. congressman, and senator before being elected to the presidency in 1960. He is remembered as one of the most appealing and beloved political leaders of the twentieth century. He brought to the U.S. president's Oval Office an abundance of style and wit. However, his presidency and his political agenda were cut short by his assassination on November 22, 1963.
John Fitzgerald Kennedy was born on May 29, 1917, in Brookline, Massachusetts, a community just outside Boston. He was one of nine children born to Joseph and Rose Kennedy. His father, a businessman and diplomat, made a fortune in banking and was the U.S. ambassador to England between 1937 and 1940. His maternal grandfather, John Francis Fitzgerald (1863–1950)—nicknamed "Honey Fitz"—was a popular Boston mayor and U.S. congressman.
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Born September 17, 1935
La Junta, Colorado
Died November 10, 2001
Author and prankster
Ken Kesey was one of the central figures in the "psychedelic sixties," a decade when various people, including many college students, experimented with mind-altering drugs, such as LSD. Kesey was at the forefront of the cultural explosion in the late 1960s that celebrated joyful expressiveness, the rejection of authority, loud rock music, and drug use. As a cultural figure, Kesey is renowned as the leader of the Merry Pranksters, a ragtag group representing the rowdy, fun-loving, anti-authoritarian nature of the psychedelic era. Their epic cross-country bus trip was chronicled by author Tom Wolfe in The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test (1968). As a novelist, Kesey is best known for two works: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1962) and Sometimes a Great Notion (1964). Kesey remained a hero to countercultural rebels—those people who reject the values and behaviors of the majority—until his death in 2001.
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King Jr., Martin Luther
Born January 15, 1929
Died April 4, 1968
Minister and civil rights leader
Martin Luther King Jr. led nonviolent protests during the civil rights movement of the 1960s. He believed that the peaceful coordination of large groups of people could bring about change in society. Before the 1960s, blacks were segregated, separated from whites, especially in the South. Public facilities were divided into those for whites and those for blacks. Segregation applied to schools, bathrooms, neighborhoods, jobs, and even seats on buses and trains. Usually, black facilities were in much worse condition than those available to whites. In some areas, whites verbally and physically attacked blacks because of their ethnicity. During the...
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Born October 22, 1920
Died May 31, 1996
Beverly Hills, California
Psychologist, philosopher, teacher,
writer, lecturer, LSD advocate
Timothy Leary, a psychologist and former Harvard University professor, was one of the most controversial figures on the American countercultural or anti-authoritarian scene during the 1960s. He led experimentation with hallucinogenic, or mind-altering, drugs. He advocated the use of such drugs as consciousness-raising tools—a way to open people's minds to new ways of viewing reality. Leary urged a new generation of Americans to "turn on, tune in, [and] drop out," in a 1966 interview in Playboy magazine.
A rebellious soul...
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Born June 11, 1913
New York, New York
Died September 3, 1970
Vince Lombardi, considered by many to be America's greatest football coach, was in many ways more connected to an earlier era. He achieved his greatest fame in a culture that placed increasing value on youth, individuality, and rebelliousness. Yet Lombardi championed teamwork, faith, and discipline. Lombardi rose to national fame after he took charge of the unlucky Green Bay Packers professional football team. In just eight years, he led the team to four league championships and two Super Bowls. During the 1960s, Lombardi became a national folk hero. His pithy comments about winning and losing were heard and discussed across the nation. For every American who sought to be part of the anti-establishment or counterculture movement, there was at least one other who agreed with Lombardi's widely quoted statement: "It is and always has been an American zeal to be first in anything we do, and to win, and to win, and to win."
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Yogi, Maharishi Mahesh
Born October 18, 1911
Uttar Pradesh, India
Spiritual teacher in Hinduism
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi had a very successful career following his own spiritual path. His teachings are based on a mixture of Vedic science, the Hindu religion, and the ancient practice of meditation. Vedic science is drawn from ancient Hindu culture. During the 1960s, Maharishi's philosophies spoke of a higher consciousness and daily spiritualism. His teachings attracted many Americans who felt that these aspects were missing from traditional Western religions and lifestyles. Maharishi also supported nonviolence as a means to social unity, a crucial concept for many rebelling groups during the...
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Born May 19, 1925 Omaha,
Died February 21, 1965
New York, New York
Black Muslim leader
Malcolm X was one of the most charismatic and controversial public figures of the 1960s. As a minister in the Nation of Islam (also known as the Black Muslims), an American religious sect, he preached that whites were "devils" and supported the separation of the races. After breaking with the organization, he traveled to Mecca, the holiest city of Islam, located in Saudi Arabia. His experiences during this journey changed his thinking. He became more optimistic about finding a common ground between the races. Along with other leaders of the decade, including President John F. Kennedy (1917–1963; served 1961–63; see entry), Martin Luther King Jr. (1929–1968; see entry), and Robert Kennedy (1925–1968), he was killed by assassin bullets.
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Born February 27, 1934
Consumer advocate, lawyer, author
Best known for his role in shaping the consumer support movement of the 1960s, Ralph Nader was also the founder of the Public Interest Research Group (PIRG). He was the man who remade the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the government agency charged with promoting business competition and protecting consumers from unfair or harmful business practices. Nader touched every aspect of American consumers' lives by demanding that companies provide safe products and by forcing the federal government to regulate corporations. He also created a new form of social activism in the 1960s that was very different from the sit-ins, rallies, and riots that marked the decade. Nader encouraged students to politely and persistently dig up the facts on corporate and governmental abuses and to use that information to create change through political means.
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St. Regis Mohawk Reservation, New York
Died September 20, 1972
Sonoma County, California
Ironworker, political activist
Richard Oakes was one of the earliest leaders of the Native American rights movement that began to grow during the 1960s. In an era when many groups of people were fighting to end discrimination and claim their civil rights, the First People of the United States often felt like a forgotten minority. Oakes and those who worked with him did much to unite Indian people and to publicize their cause. Their work helped to restore Native American pride. Their efforts forced the U.S. government to take some responsibility for the destruction of Native American culture.
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O'Hair, Madalyn Murray
Born April 13, 1919 Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Died September, 1995 Near Austin, Texas
Madalyn Murray O'Hair was widely known as the woman who ended prayer in American public schools in the early 1960s. She proudly accepted the label "the most hated woman in America," given to her by Life magazine in 1964. O'Hair became known across the nation in 1961, when she and her son William challenged the Baltimore Public Schools' practice of saying a morning prayer. Excited by the publicity she received, O'Hair became a spokesperson for the atheist cause at a time when religious belief was included in most American institutions. Atheism is the belief that there is no God. Over the next thirty-four years, she published atheist periodicals, hosted atheist radio...
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Brothers, The Smothers
Born February 2, 1937
New York, New York
Born November 20, 1939
New York, New York
American actors, comedians, and singers
Tom and Dick Smothers—known as The Smothers Brothers—crafted themselves into a musical comedy team that represented the struggles of the nation in the 1960s. The brothers' variety show reached nearly every household in the United States. Ninety percent of viewers tuned into one of the three major networks that existed in the country at the time. To this large audience, the brothers offered political satire that recognized society's uncertainty about the war in Vietnam (1954–75) and shifting opinions about drugs and sex. Despite the high ratings of The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour (1967–70), host network CBS became increasingly uncomfortable with the show's content. The struggle between the Smothers Brothers and CBS helped define the role entertainment, especially television, would play in social change.
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Born August 6, 1928
Died February 22, 1987
New York, New York
Artist, filmmaker, publisher, entrepreneur
Andy Warhol was one of the most imaginative, thought-provoking, and influential artists of the twentieth century. He was a key figure in the development of Pop Art, an artistic movement originating in the 1960s. In Pop Art, common objects are the subject of the artwork. He inspired outrage and delight with work such as his famous Campbell's Soup Cans series of paintings. He was also fascinated by fame and the famous, creating silk-screen images of celebrities such as Marilyn Monroe (1926–1962), Elizabeth Taylor (1932–), and Elvis Presley (1935–1977). Above all Warhol challenged accepted ideas of what art should be and was responsible for breaking down the barrier between art and commercial design.
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