The 1960s Timeline
How It All Went Down
Sputnik Launches Space Race
The Soviet Union successfully launches Sputnik, an unmanned satellite, into space. Earlier American efforts to launch a similar satellite had failed.
JFK Wins Presidency
Democratic candidate John F. Kennedy is elected president of the United States. His margin of victory over Republican candidate Richard M. Nixon is just over 100,000 votes. Kennedy wins 300 Electoral College votes to Nixon’s 219.
John F. Kennedy is inaugurated president of the United States. In a memorable address he urges Americans to “ask not what your country can do you—ask what you can do for your country.”
President John F. Kennedy issues an executive order establishing the Peace Corps. The Corps aims to disseminate good will and practical knowledge by enlisting volunteers, most under age 30, to two-year terms of service.
Federal Protection for Freedom Riders
President John F. Kennedy orders U.S. Marshals to provide protection for “Freedom Riders” attempting to integrate interstate bus travel.
Minimum Wage Hike
President John F. Kennedy signs legislation raising the minimum wage in stages from its current $1 per hour to $1.25 per hour by September 1963.
Kennedy Proposes Moon Program
In a congressional address, President John F. Kennedy pledges to land a man on the moon by the end of the decade.
JFK Appoints Segregationist Judge
President John F. Kennedy appoints Judge William Harold Cox to the federal court. The appointment of Cox, a segregationist, angers civil rights advocates. According to some accounts, Kennedy appoints Cox in order to gain Senate Judiciary Chairman James Eastland’s support for Thurgood Marshall, an African American who Kennedy wanted to name to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.
The Other America
Michael Harrington publishes the The Other America, a shocking exposé about poverty in the wealthiest nation in the world. President John Kennedy is among those influenced by the book; he and his successor, Lyndon Johnson, declare war on poverty and launch a decade-long political mission aimed at reducing unemployment, increasing federal support for schools and adult education, and expanding the network of government programs assisting the poor and elderly.
US Steel Crosses Kennedys
US Steel announces that it is raising prices just weeks after President Kennedy convinced the steel workers union to temper its wage demands. Kennedy’s anger with US Steel is reported in the press and Attorney General Robert Kennedy adds further to business anxieties by convening a grand jury investigation of the steel giant. The stock market will fall in the following weeks, climaxing with a 6% drop on 28 May.
National Guard Desegregates Ole Miss
President John F. Kennedy orders federal troops and the federalized National Guard to the campus of the University of Mississippi to enforce the court-ordered admission of James Meredith, an African American. Mississippi Governor Ross Barnett had blocked implementation of the court order citing the states rights doctrine of interposition.
JFK Proposes Big Tax Cuts
In a speech before the Economic Club of New York, President John Kennedy unveils a plan for economic recovery that emphasizes large tax cuts and credits for businesses. One of his liberal economic advisors labels it the most “Republican speech since McKinley.”1 These proposals will become part of the Tax Reduction Act signed into law in 1964.
President John F. Kennedy is assassinated in Dallas, Texas. Vice President Lyndon Baines Johnson is sworn in as president the same day.
LBJ Declares War on Poverty
In President Lyndon Johnson’s first inaugural address, a little over a month after assuming the presidency, he declares war on poverty and outlines an ambitious domestic agenda aimed at reducing unemployment, increasing support for education and job training, and expanding public services for the poor.
Johnson Slashes Taxes
President Lyndon Johnson signs the Tax Reduction Act lowering income tax rates from a range of 20-91% to 14-70%. Corporate rates are reduced from 52% to 48%.
LBJ Signs Jobs Bill
President Lyndon Johnson signs the Economic Opportunity Act, one of the centerpieces of his domestic agenda. In order to combat unemployment and poverty, the act allocates funds for job training, adult education, and loans to small businesses. VISTA, the Job Corps, and Head Start are also administered by the Office of Economic Opportunity.
Johnson Proclaims "Great Society"
In a speech at the University of Michigan, President Lyndon Johnson introduces the theme for his domestic agenda in stating that we must “set our course toward the Great Society."2
Civil Rights Act of 1964
President Lyndon Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The act outlaws discrimination in public facilities, such as parks, and in public accommodations, such as hotels and restaurants, and it prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion, or gender.
Johnson Signs Transit Bill
President Lyndon Johnson signs the Urban Mass Transit Act allocating $375 million for the construction of urban transit systems.
Berkeley Free Speech Movement
Hundreds of students at the University of California, Berkeley spontaneously surround a police car as it attempts to remove a political activist for engaging in political advocacy on campus. Roughly 3000 students will join the 32-hour protest marking the beginning of Berkeley’s Free Speech Movement.
LBJ Trounces Goldwater in Election
Democratic incumbent Lyndon Johnson is elected president of the United States. He defeats Republican Barry Goldwater by the largest margin in American history. Johnson wins 61% of the popular vote and 486 of 538 Electoral College votes.
Cal Faculty Backs Free Speech Movement
The Faculty Senate of the University of California, Berkeley passes a resolution supporting the position maintained by the student leaders of the Free Speech Movement. The Senate urges the administration to acknowledge rights of student speech subject only to reasonable time and place restrictions.
Berkeley Administration Compromises with Free Speech Movement
The Administration of the University of California, Berkeley announces a new student speech policy that largely meets the demands of student protestors. An “open discussion area” is established on the steps of Sproul Hall, and student political organizations are permitted to staff tables at several locations on campus.
Creation of Medicare and Medicaid
President Lyndon Johnson signs the bill creating Medicare, a national health insurance program for the elderly. Companion legislation creates Medicaid, providing health care for people on welfare. Later, Medicaid will be broadened into a more comprehensive program financing health care for low-income persons.
Voting Rights Act of 1965
President Lyndon Johnson signs the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The act abolishes literacy tests and other tests used by local and state governments to inhibit African-American voting.
Higher Education Act
President Lyndon Johnson signs the Higher Education Act creating the first federally funded college scholarships.
Minimum Wage Increase
The minimum wage is raised in stages from its current $1.25 per hour to $1.60 by February 1968.
North Vietnamese and Viet Cong forces launch a massive assault on South Vietnamese towns and American outposts on the Lunar New Year or Tet. American and South Vietnamese forces eventually repel the attack and recapture most territories lost. The Tet Offensive, however, reveals that the communist forces are still strong and, thus, American administration claims that the war is nearing conclusion are discredited.
Johnson Abandons Hope of Second Term
President Lyndon Johnson announces that he will not seek another term as president of the Untied States.
Housing Discrimination Ban
President Lyndon Johnson signs the Open Housing Act outlawing discrimination in the sale or rental of most privately-owned homes and apartments.
Protests at Columbia University
Students at Columbia University seize several campus buildings to protest the university’s involvement with the Institute for Defense Analysis—a Defense Department think tank—and university plans to build a gym on a park in a neighboring black community. The protestors will be removed from the buildings on 30 April after a violent battle with the police.
Johnson Signs Low-Income Housing Bill
President Lyndon Johnson signs into law a housing act allocating more than $5 billion to meet the housing needs of low-income families. The bill finances the construction or renovation of 1.7 million units and provides subsidies for housing purchases and rentals.
Protests at Chicago DNC Convention
Thousands of protestors converge on the Democratic National Convention to protest the war in Vietnam. Violent confrontations between the protestors and police lead to thousands of arrests. Republican nominee Richard Nixon will take advantage of the disorder in Chicago in the upcoming presidential campaign and promise to restore law and order to America.
Nixon Wins Presidency
Republican candidate Richard Nixon is elected president of the United States. In defeating Democrat Hubert Humphrey, Lyndon Johnson’s vice president, Nixon wins 43.4 % of the popular vote and 302 Electoral College votes. Humphrey receives 42.7% of the popular vote and 191 Electoral College votes. Former Alabama Governor George Wallace receives one Electoral College vote.
Man on the Moon
Astronaut Neil Armstrong sets foot on the moon, fulfilling President John Kennedy’s pledge to land a man on the moon by the end of the decade.
Curt Flood Sues Major League Baseball
St. Louis Cardinals center fielder Curt Flood is traded to the Philadelphia Phillies, prompting Flood to sue Major League Baseball. He argues that the reserve clause in players’ contracts, which binds them to a club for life, violates the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution and the nation’s antitrust laws.
Days of Rage
The Weathermen, a radical political organization growing out of the Students for a Democratic Society, launch the Days of Rage in Chicago. For three days, a few hundred protestors will smash storefronts and vandalize public and private property to demonstrate their willingness to employ violence in an attempt to end the war in Vietnam and fight perceived social injustices in America.
Weatherman Bomb Accident
Three members of the Weathermen, a radical political organization growing out of the Students for a Democratic Society, are killed when the bomb they are constructing in their Greenwich Village townhouse explodes.
Weather Underground Declares War Against "Amerikan Imperialism"
The Weathermen declare “a state of war” against “Amerikan imperialism” and pledge to use their “strategic position behind enemy lines to join forces in the destruction of the empire.”3
Weathermen Back Off Violence
The Weathermen, a radical political organization growing out of the Students for a Democratic Society, announce a new tactical direction in a communication labeled “New Morning –Changing Weather.” Admitting that they had succumbed to the “military error” of believing that “only bombing and picking up the gun was revolutionary, with the glorification of the heavier the better,” they urge activists to maintain faith in more traditional forms of protest and mass demonstration. It was “time for the movement to go out into the air, to organize, to risk calling rallies and demonstrations, to convince that mass actions against the war and in support of rebellions do make a difference.”4
Flood v. Kuhn
In Flood v. Kuhn, the United States Supreme Court rules that, due to baseball’s “unique place in our American heritage,” the nation’s antitrust laws do not apply. Curt Flood’s challenge to baseball’s reserve clause is rejected.