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The 1960s Terms

Tet Offensive

A North Vietnamese and Vietcong surprise attack on American forces during the Vietnamese New Year holiday in 1968; many Americans, alarmed by the brutal fighting and the high numbers of casualties on both sides, began to call for the U.S. to withdraw from the war.

A military offensive launched by the North Vietnamese and the Viet Cong in January 1968. South Vietnamese and American forces eventually repel the attack, but the strength of the offensive contradicts President Johnson’s promises that “peace is at hand.” American support for the war in Vietnam decreases.

The New Frontier

A label attached to the ambitious and forward-looking presidential agenda of John F. Kennedy. This agenda included the creation of a health care plan for the elderly, increased federal aid to education, and the renewal of America’s cities through a newly organized department of urban affairs. He promised to extend American good will around the world through the creation of the Peace Corps and to restore America’s scientific status by landing a man on the moon by the end of the decade.

Mississippi Summer Project

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, the Congress of Racial Equality, and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference organized this project in 1964. More than a thousand northern volunteers, most of them college students, joined African American organizers in registering black voters and organizing “freedom schools” as alternatives to the segregated and poorly funded southern public school system.

The Great Society

A package of legislation passed during the presidency of Lyndon Johnson aimed at securing “abundance and liberty for all. . . . an end to poverty and racial injustice.”60 Individual measures committed federal dollars to the renewal of America’s cities and the development of mass transit systems. Federal aid to education was increased and Head Start for disadvantaged pre-schoolers and the Job Corp for high school dropouts were created. The safety net of social services was expanded through the introduction of food stamps and low-income rent subsidies. The Office of Economic Opportunity was created to assist in training and placing the unemployed. Medicare and Medicaid were established to provide health care for the elderly and poor.

Freedom Riders

A group of civil rights activists organized in 1961 by the Congress of Racial Equality to challenge segregation laws by travelling together on buses and trains into the Deep South. In response to these "Freedom Rides," the Interstate Commerce Commission ordered the desegregation of all interstate buses, trains, and terminals in September 1961.

Peace Corps

Founded by President John F. Kennedy in 1961, the Peace Corps aimed to disseminate good will and practical knowledge throughout the poorer countries of the world by enlisting volunteers, most under age 30, to two-year terms of service.


A procedural technique used by members of the Senate to block a particular bill by speaking (or threatening to speak) forever, thus preventing progress to a vote. Since the Senate does not set time limits on debate, it is possible for a senator to take the floor and hold it for as long as he can continue talking; only a special cloture vote of three-fifths of the Senate can cut off his time. A successful filibuster can kill legislation otherwise favored by a majority (but not a three-fifths supermajority) of the Senate.

A procedural device used in the United States Senate to defeat or delay a bill. As senators are generally allowed to speak for unlimited periods of time, a senator may attempt to speak until the bill is removed from consideration. The Senate may invoke “cloture” by a three-fifths vote ending the filibuster and forcing a vote.

Brown V Board

In this 1954 case, the United States Supreme Court reversed the 1896 decision in Plessy v. Ferguson and ordered the integration of America's schools with "all deliberate speed." Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote that the doctrine of separate but equal had no place in education as "separate educational facilities are inherently unequal." Drawing upon psychological studies as well as legal principles, Warren argued that separating black children "from others of similar age and qualifications solely because of their race generates a feeling of inferiority as to their status in the community that may affect their hearts and minds in a way unlikely ever to be undone." Warren held that the obligation of the Court to redress this inequity was all the greater because the detrimental impact of segregation was "greater when it has the sanction of the law, for the policy of separating the races is usually interpreted as denoting the inferiority of the negro group."8

Civil Rights Act Of 1957

The first federal civil rights act since Reconstruction, this 1957 law sought to protect African American voting right through the creation of a civil rights division in the Justice Deparment. As persons accused of violating the law’s provisions were subject to jury trials in southern courts enforcement of the law was largely ineffective

GI Bill

Passed by Congress toward the end of World War II, the GI Bill, or Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, assisted soldiers in their adjustment to civilian life. GIs were provided with money for education and low-interest loans allowing them to purchase homes and start businesses.


An approach to economic policy shaped by British economist John Maynard Keynes. Widely adopted during the Great Depression, “Keynesian” economics emphasizes government’s use of demand-side tax cuts and government spending to stimulate economic growth during periods of recession.

Demand-Side Tax Cuts

Tax reductions aimed at middle and lower class consumers on the premise that increased consumer spending is the most effective way to stimulate economic growth. The alternative is “supply-side” tax cuts aimed at the production side of the economy—businesses, corporations, and wealthy individuals—on the premise that their tax savings will be re-invested in the economy generating growth.

"Kennedy's Crash"

On 28 May 1962 the stock market fell 6%, largely in reaction to Kennedy administration criticisms of US Steel. President John Kennedy’s reported outburst that “all businessmen were sons of bitches,” and Attorney General Robert Kennedy’s convening of a grand jury to investigate US Steel, led investors to fear further administration attacks on big business.61


One of the many loosely organized factions engaged in political activism and cultural criticism during the 1960s. Many saw in their emergence a transformation in the youth movement away from sober social commentary and toward street theater and symbolic cultural commentary. At the 1968 Democratic Convention, yippies held a rally for Pigasus—a pig that was nominated for president.

Reserve Clause

Until 1975, a rigorously enforced provision in all major league baseball contracts tying a player to one team for the duration if his career unless traded.


A body of law aimed at eliminating monopolies and maintaining fair business practices.

Free Agency

Status obtained by baseball players after six years in the major leagues. The reserve clause, which tied players to one team for the duration of their careers, was interpreted narrowly in 1975; in 1998, it was abolished by the United States Congress. As a result, players become “free agents” after six seasons and may negotiate a contract with the any team.


The process of converting something into a commodity; for example, the conversion of the 1960s cultural movement into a set of clothes and goods that can be purchased.

"Silent Majority"

A term applied to the more conservative members of American society during the 1960s. The phrase was meant to suggest that the highly visible and vocal student protestors and countercultural activists did not represent most Americans.

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