Why is 1968 a turning point in American History?  

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hawkeye2011 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are many reasons 1968 could be viewed as a turning point in history, as this was a very turbulent year.  I can tell you that as a teenager in the 60's, the future was a bit frightening, and the present even more so. 

Many events contributed to the overall feeling of fear and anxiety in 1968, and sometimes it felt as though our country had somehow lost its way, been set adrift. 

USA was in the middle of an unpopular war in Vietnam, and this was the year of the Tet Offensive, which demoralized the military.  The Massacre of MyLai occured this year as well, although it did not become public until almost a year later.  President Johnson sent more and more troops to Southeast Asia to a war where no end was in sight. 

Violence at home was prevalent, as university protestors fought riot police, and the assasinations of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert F. Kennedy shocked us.  The dreams of Camelot faded even further when Jackie Kennedy married a Greek billionaire in 1968, and Congress repealed the Gold Standard. 

Yet, 1968 represented a year of huge progress as well:  Yale began admitting women to its university, the 747 was rolled out, Apollo 8 carried the first humans ever to see the dark side of the moon, and President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act.  On a lighter side, there was the Summer of Love in San Francisco, Rowan & Martin and 60 Minutes debuted, and Mister Rogers first invited us to be his neighbor.

It could be said that 1968 was a year of tremendous change for Americans on all levels:  political, social unrest, freedom, international dominance, and loss of dreams.  Yet we as Americans survived and, hopefully, learned something about ourselves.


pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

If I remember correctly, this was an essay on a US History AP test some years ago...

There are at least three major reasons why this year was a major turning point in the history of the US.

  • The assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.  When King was killed, the civil rights movement effectively lost its only widely admired leader.  This helped lead to an era in which there was more racial animosity in the US.
  • The Tet Offensive happened in Vietnam.  When this happened, many more Americans turned against the war.  They felt that the government had lied to them about the way that the war was going.
  • Richard Nixon was elected president using the "Southern Strategy."  This election helped to establish a pattern in which the Republican Party has become the party of whites, especially in the South and areas away from the coasts while the Democratic Party has become the party of non-whites and coastal liberals.

These three events helped to change the course of American history in important ways.  For these reasons, 1968 is seen as a major turning point in US history.

kmj23 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

1968 is often cited as a turning point in American history because so many crucial events took place. Here are some of those events:

  • In Vietnam American forces suffered heavy losses during the Tet Offensive. Although the US military was eventually able to overcome this assault, it had a profound impact on morale, not only for troops on the ground but also for the American public back home who became very critical and unsupporting of the war.
  • On April 4 the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. led to a national outpouring of grief and riots across the country.
  • In June the assassination of Robert Kennedy not only shocked the nation but also changed the course of American politics as the Democrats nominated Hubert Humphrey as their presidential candidate. This happened at the Democratic Convention in Chicago, an event which witnessed a ferocious anti-war protest.
heatherm1969 | Student

It was the end of the civil rights movement.  That is a hugh deal and it put the country in a different direction.

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