Portal:1960s

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The 1960s was a decade that began on January 1, 1960 and ended on December 31, 1969. The 1960s term also refers to an era more often called The Sixties, denoting the complex of inter-related cultural and political trends across the globe. This "cultural decade" is more loosely defined than the actual decade, beginning around 1963 and ending around 1974.

"The Sixties", as they are known in both scholarship and popular culture, is a term used by historians, journalists, and other objective academics; in some cases nostalgically to describe the counterculture and revolution in social norms about clothing, music, drugs, dress, formalities and schooling. Conservatives denounce the decade as one of irresponsible excess and flamboyance, and decay of social order. The decade was also labeled the Swinging Sixties because of the fall or relaxation of social taboos especially relating to racism and sexism that occurred during this time.

The 1960s became synonymous with the new, radical, and subversive events and trends of the period. In Africa the 1960s was a period of radical political change as 32 countries gained independence from their European colonial rulers.

Some commentators have seen in this era a classical Jungian nightmare cycle, where a rigid culture, unable to contain the demands for greater individual freedom, broke free of the social constraints of the previous age through extreme deviation from the norm. Christopher Booker charts the rise, success, fall/nightmare and explosion in the London scene of the 1960s. However, this alone does not explain the mass nature of the phenomenon.

Several nations such as the U.S., France, Germany and Britain turned to the left in the early and mid 1960s. In the United States, John F. Kennedy, a Keynesian and staunch anti-communist, pushed for social reforms. His assassination in 1963 was a stunning shock. Liberal reforms were finally passed under Lyndon B. Johnson including civil rights for African Americans and healthcare for the elderly and the poor. Despite his large-scale Great Society programs, Johnson was increasingly reviled by the New Left at home and abroad. The heavy-handed American role in the Vietnam War outraged student protestors across the globe, as they found peasant rebellion typified by Ho Chi Minh and Che Guevara more appealing. Italy formed its first left-of-center government in March 1962 with a coalition of Christian Democrats, Social Democrats, and moderate Republicans. Socialists joined the ruling block in December 1963. In Britain, the Labour Party gained power in 1964. In Brazil, João Goulart became president after Jânio Quadros resigned.

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Neil Armstrong descends a ladder to become the first human to step onto the surface of the Moon
Apollo 11 was the spaceflight that landed the first humans on the Moon, Americans Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, on July 20, 1969, at 20:18 UTC. Armstrong became the first to step onto the lunar surface six hours later on July 21 at 02:56 UTC. Armstrong spent about two and a half hours outside the spacecraft, Aldrin slightly less, and together they collected 47.5 pounds (21.5 kg) of lunar material for return to Earth. A third member of the mission, Michael Collins, piloted the command spacecraft alone in lunar orbit until Armstrong and Aldrin returned to it just under a day later for the trip back to Earth. Launched by a Saturn V rocket from Kennedy Space Center in Merritt Island, Florida, on July 16, Apollo 11 was the fifth manned mission of NASA's Apollo program. Broadcast on live TV to a world-wide audience, Armstrong stepped onto the lunar surface and described the event as "one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind." Apollo 11 effectively ended the Space Race and fulfilled a national goal proposed in 1961 by the late US President John F. Kennedy in a speech before the United States Congress, "before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth."

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March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom
Credit: Warren K. Leffler

Crowds surrounding the Reflecting Pool, during the August 28 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. An estimated 200,000 to 500,000 people participated in the march, which featured Martin Luther King Jr.'s famous "I Have a Dream" speech. It was a major factor leading to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The march was also condemned by the Nation of Islam and Malcolm X, who termed it the "farce on Washington".

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Tents in Resurrection City in Washington, D.C.

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King in 1964
Martin Luther King, Jr. (January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968) was an American clergyman, activist, humanitarian, and leader in the Civil Rights Movement. He is best known for his role in the advancement of civil rights using nonviolent civil disobedience. King has become a national icon in the history of American progressivism. A Baptist minister, King became a civil rights activist early in his career. He led the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott and helped found the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in 1957, serving as its first president. With the SCLC, King led an unsuccessful struggle against segregation in Albany, Georgia, in 1962, and organized nonviolent protests in Birmingham, Alabama, that attracted national attention following television news coverage of the brutal police response. King also helped to organize the 1963 March on Washington, where he delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech. There, he established his reputation as one of the greatest orators in American history. King was assassinated on April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tennessee. His death was followed by riots in many U.S. cities.

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