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The United States launched its first satellite, Explorer I, in In the mids, U. Gemini also accomplished the first manned linkup of two spacecraft in flight as well as the first U. On July 20, , with hundreds of millions of television viewers watching around the world, Neil Armstrong became the first human to walk on the surface of the moon. Other Apollo flights followed, but many Americans began to question the value of manned space flight. In the early s, as other priorities became more pressing, the United States scaled down the space program. Some Apollo missions were scrapped; only one of two proposed Skylab space stations was built.

John Kennedy had gained world prestige by his management of the Cuban missile crisis and had won great popularity at home. Many believed he would win re-election easily in But on November 22, , he was assassinated while riding in an open car during a visit to Dallas, Texas. He had laid out an impressive agenda but at his death much remained blocked in Congress. It was largely because of the political skill and legislative victories of his successor that Kennedy would be seen as a force for progressive change.


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He had been schooled in Congress, where he developed an extraordinary ability to get things done. He excelled at pleading, cajoling, or threatening as necessary to achieve his ends. As president, he wanted to use his power aggressively to eliminate poverty and spread the benefits of prosperity to all. The tax cuts stimulated the economy. The Civil Rights Act of was the most far-reaching such legislation since Reconstruction.

Johnson addressed other issues as well. That summer he secured passage of a federal jobs program for impoverished young people. Significantly, the election gave liberal Democrats firm control of Congress for the first time since This would enable them to pass legislation over the combined opposition of Republicans and conservative Southern Democrats.

Medical care came next. Johnson succeeded in the effort to provide more federal aid for elementary and secondary schooling, traditionally a state and local function. Funds could be used to assist public- and private-school children alike. Other legislation had an impact on many aspects of American life. Federal assistance went to artists and scholars to encourage their work. In September , Johnson signed into law two transportation bills.

The first provided funds to state and local governments for developing safety programs, while the other set up federal safety standards for cars and tires. The latter program reflected the efforts of a crusading young radical, Ralph Nader. In , Congress abolished the discriminatory national-origin immigration quotas. The Great Society was the largest burst of legislative activity since the New Deal. But support weakened as early as The urban crisis seemed, if anything, to worsen.

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Still, whether because of the Great Society spending or because of a strong economic upsurge, poverty did decline at least marginally during the Johnson administration. Dissatisfaction with the Great Society came to be more than matched by unhappiness with the situation in Vietnam. A series of South Vietnamese strong men proved little more successful than Diem in mobilizing their country. The Viet Cong, insurgents supplied and coordinated from North Vietnam, gained ground in the countryside. From 25, troops at the start of , the number of soldiers—both volunteers and draftees—rose to , by A bombing campaign wrought havoc in both North and South Vietnam.

Grisly television coverage with a critical edge dampened support for the war. Some Americans thought it immoral; others watched in dismay as the massive military campaign seemed to be ineffective.

African American Remember Discrimination of the Past

Large protests, especially among the young, and a mounting general public dissatisfaction pressured Johnson to begin negotiating for peace. By the country was in turmoil over both the Vietnam War and civil disorder, expressed in urban riots that reflected African-American anger. On March 31, , the president renounced any intention of seeking another term.

Just a week later, Martin Luther King Jr. At the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, Illinois, protesters fought street battles with police. White opposition to the civil rights measures of the s galvanized the third-party candidacy of Alabama Governor George Wallace, a Democrat who captured his home state, Mississippi, and Arkansas, Louisiana, and Georgia, states typically carried in that era by the Democratic nominee. He also ordered strong American offensive actions.

The Great Society

The most important of these was an invasion of Cambodia in to cut off North Vietnamese supply lines to South Vietnam. This led to another round of protests and demonstrations. Students in many universities took to the streets. At Kent State in Ohio, the national guard troops who had been called in to restore order panicked and killed four students. By the fall of , however, troop strength in Vietnam was below 50, and the military draft, which had caused so much campus discontent, was all but dead.

Although American troops departed, the war lingered on into the spring of , when Congress cut off assistance to South Vietnam and North Vietnam consolidated its control over the entire country. The war left Vietnam devastated, with millions maimed or killed. It also left the United States traumatized. Americans were no longer united by a widely held Cold War consensus, and became wary of further foreign entanglements. Yet as Vietnam wound down, the Nixon administration took historic steps toward closer ties with the major Communist powers.

In and , Nixon softened the American stance, eased trading restrictions, and became the first U. He held several cordial meetings with Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev in which they agreed to limit stockpiles of missiles, cooperate in space, and ease trading restrictions. The Strategic Arms Limitation Talks SALT culminated in in an arms control agreement limiting the growth of nuclear arsenals and restricting anti-ballistic missile systems.

Vice president under Eisenhower before his unsuccessful run for the presidency in , Nixon was seen as among the shrewdest of American politicians. He simply wanted to manage its programs better. Not opposed to African-American civil rights on principle, he was wary of large federal civil rights bureaucracies.

Nonetheless, his administration vigorously enforced court orders on school desegregation even as it courted Southern white voters. Perhaps his biggest domestic problem was the economy. He inherited both a slowdown from its Vietnam peak under Johnson, and a continuing inflationary surge that had been a by-product of the war. He dealt with the first by becoming the first Republican president to endorse deficit spending as a way to stimulate the economy; the second by imposing wage and price controls, a policy in which the Right had no long-term faith, in Very early on, he faced charges that his re-election committee had managed a break-in at the Watergate building headquarters of the Democratic National Committee and that he had participated in a cover-up.

Special prosecutors and congressional committees dogged his presidency thereafter. Americans faced both shortages, exacerbated in the view of many by over-regulation of distribution, and rapidly rising prices. Even when the embargo ended the next year, prices remained high and affected all areas of American economic life: In , inflation reached 12 percent, causing disruptions that led to even higher unemployment rates.

The unprecedented economic boom America had enjoyed since was grinding to a halt. But this concern was insufficient to quell concerns about the Watergate break-in and the economy. Seeking to energize and enlarge his own political constituency, Nixon lashed out at demonstrators, attacked the press for distorted coverage, and sought to silence his opponents. Instead, he left an unfavorable impression with many who saw him on television and perceived him as unstable. Nixon probably had not known in advance of the Watergate burglary, but he had tried to cover it up, and had lied to the American people about it.

Evidence of his involvement mounted. On July 27, , the House Judiciary Committee voted to recommend his impeachment. Facing certain ouster from office, he resigned on August 9, His first priority was to restore trust in the government. However, feeling it necessary to head off the spectacle of a possible prosecution of Nixon, he issued a blanket pardon to his predecessor. Although it was perhaps necessary, the move was nonetheless unpopular.

In public policy, Ford followed the course Nixon had set. Economic problems remained serious, as inflation and unemployment continued to rise. Ford first tried to reassure the public, much as Herbert Hoover had done in When that failed, he imposed measures to curb inflation, which sent unemployment above 8 percent. A tax cut, coupled with higher unemployment benefits, helped a bit but the economy remained weak. Perhaps its major manifestation was the Helsinki Accords of , in which the United States and Western European nations effectively recognized Soviet hegemony in Eastern Europe in return for Soviet affirmation of human rights.

The agreement had little immediate significance, but over the long run may have made maintenance of the Soviet empire more difficult. Jimmy Carter, former Democratic governor of Georgia, won the presidency in Portraying himself during the campaign as an outsider to Washington politics, he promised a fresh approach to governing, but his lack of experience at the national level complicated his tenure from the start. A naval officer and engineer by training, he often appeared to be a technocrat, when Americans wanted someone more visionary to lead them through troubled times.

In economic affairs, Carter at first permitted a policy of deficit spending. A time of innocence and hope soon began to look like a time of anger and violence. More Americans protested to demand an end to the unfair treatment of black citizens. Many more protested to demand an end to the war in Vietnam.

Social Climate of the s in America | The Classroom

And many protested to demand full equality for women. By the middle of the nineteen sixties, it had become almost impossible for President Lyndon Johnson to leave the White House without facing protesters against the war in Vietnam. In March of nineteen sixty-eight, Johnson announced that he would not seek another term in office. In addition to President Kennedy, two other influential Americans were murdered during the nineteen sixties.

He was campaigning to win his party's nomination for president. The two murders resulted in riots in cities across the country. The unrest and violence affected many young Americans. The effect seemed especially bad because of the time in which they had grown up. By the middle nineteen fifties, most of their parents had jobs that paid well. They expressed satisfaction with their lives.

They taught their children what were called middle class values. These included a belief in God, hard work and service to their country. Later, many young Americans began to question these beliefs. They felt that their parents' values were not enough to help them deal with the social and racial difficulties of the nineteen sixties.


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They rebelled by letting their hair grow long and by wearing unusual clothing. Their dissatisfaction was strongly expressed in music. Rock and roll music had become very popular in America in the nineteen fifties. Some people, however, did not approve of it. They thought it was too sexual.

These people disliked the rock and roll of the nineteen sixties even more. They found the words especially unpleasant. The musicians themselves thought the words were extremely important. As singer and song writer Bob Dylan said, "There would be no music without the words. He wrote anti-war songs before the war in Vietnam became a violent issue in the United States. In addition to songs of social protest, rock and roll music continued to be popular in America during the nineteen sixties.

The most popular group, however, was not American. It was British -- the Beatles -- four rock and roll musicians from Liverpool. The vast majority of texts treat readers to long discussions of the hippies, but very little examination of those who had crew cuts or who did not turn on, tune in and drop out. There is nothing on literature or art. Bonnie and Clyde Penn, , for example, is reduced to a bloodbath, with little mention of its profound effect on American cinema, society and culture.

American History: The 1960s, a Decade That Changed a Nation

Soul music, with the exception of a page devoted to Motown, is dismissed entirely. So why devote only one chapter to this defining feature and why be so limiting about its significance? The final chapter offers a curious coda to America in the Sixties. This is a good position from which to begin an analysis of the campaign, but it ignores a number of major issues that stem from the presidential campaign.

Greene paints as a disaster for the Republicans. After all, it was the greatest landslide victory in American political history for the Democrats, who had successfully depicted Barry Goldwater as a crazed extremist. Even so, there were signs of hope for the Grand Old Party. Thanks in part to a campus movement that was spearheaded by YAF, Goldwater garnered 27 million votes, a fine base which future, more moderate, campaigns could build upon.

The Goldwater campaign also revealed the extent to which California conservatives had come to dominate the Republican Party. Wallace uncovered a significant body of working class voters who resented change and who were becoming tired of their traditional association with the Democratic Party. This ignores the fact that Nixon needed to work with a Democrat Congress that wished to continue pursuing a liberal agenda and overlooks his liberal policies on the environment and his almost Keynesian spending record.

In its defence, America in the Sixties is a brief book. In less than pages it grapples with a vast number of issues. A longer book might have had room to develop a more robust analysis of the decade. America in the Sixties thus reasserts an old-fashioned approach to the s, privileging political history and the lives of great men.