60 photos from the '60s that show how the world was changing
60 photos from the '60s that show how the world was changing
The 1960s are a decade most commonly associated with tie-dye-clad hippies, psychedelic experimentation, and rock 'n' roll icons like the Beatles and Jimi Hendrix. But underneath the flower power, free love exterior, the ‘60s were a period of radical social and political change—not only in the United States but around the world. The decade was one characterized by a host of juxtapositions; anger and fear over injustice and uneasy political conditions lived alongside notions of musical awakening and pacifist harmony.
During the 1960s, fears centered around communism-fueled international crises between the U.S., the Soviet Union, and Cuba. Meanwhile, the nation’s involvement in the Vietnam War—also fueled by America’s unwavering objective to curb the spread of communism around the globe—gave rise to protests and anti-war acts of rebellion, including an underground press system and the burning of draft cards.
When it came to civil liberties and individual freedoms, the ‘60s were a time when marginalized and disenfranchised communities demanded change. Activists like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X paved the way for civil rights activism as the struggle for equality and black rights in the U.S. reached an all-time high. Meanwhile, women were seeing new developments in their empowerment, like the introduction of the birth control pill, which helped shape the sexual liberation movement, and reshape gender norms and expectations.
Photographs from the decade between 1960–1970 not only capture these historical moments in time, but also the huge range of emotions and attitudes that came with those changes. A peaceful scene of festival-goers during the Summer of Love, for example, paints a totally different portrait of the time when compared to a frantic shot of a Viet Cong guerilla attack in South Vietnam.
These photos also demonstrate the speed with which times were changing. A 1960 photograph of President John F. Kennedy standing proudly with his wife after being elected president, for example, was taken just three years before a haunting shot of the beloved leader’s assassination in Texas.
To highlight the key turning points of the decade, Stacker collected iconic images from throughout the 1960s that paint a picture of the changing world. Scroll through to discover key images that defined the decade and the historical moments they captured.
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John F. Kennedy elected president
The 1960 election marked an important shift in how the American public connected to candidates and their campaigns, as it was the first campaign in history where debates between the candidates were televised. It’s no wonder, though, given that only 11% of American homes had televisions in 1950, that number spiked to 88% by 1960.
When former Sen. John F. Kennedy won the election, he became the nation’s first Catholic president, as well as the youngest man ever elected to that office. Kennedy tackled a number of key foreign policy issues—e.g., the war in Vietnam, the Cuban missile crisis—before his presidency was cut tragically short in 1963 when he was assassinated in Dallas, Texas.
[Pictured: John F. Kennedy stands between his wife and mother on a stage in Hyannis, Massachusetts, after being elected president in 1960.]
Birth control pill introduced
While some methods of birth control existed long before the 1960s—condoms go back as far as the early 19th century—the first FDA-approved oral contraceptive, Enovid, came onto the scene in 1960. Not long after, concern over the side effects of this early version of the birth control pill led to future iterations containing lower levels of estrogen, including Zorane tablets, shown in this photograph.
At the time oral contraceptives were introduced, birth control was only legal when used by married couples. However, the pill helped spur a shifting conversation and attitude about birth control, and by 1972, birth control became legal for all citizens by order of the Supreme Court.
[Pictured: Closeup of Zorane tablets, a series of low-estrogen birth control pills.]
'The Flintstones' premieres
When “The Flintstones” premiered in 1960, it was the first animated show on primetime television. The show’s massive popularity made production studio Hanna-Barbera—also the studio behind “Scooby-Doo”—one of the biggest of its time, and also made the popular show one of the most prolific animated shows in history.
“The Flintstones” aired 166 episodes between 1960–1966, the highest of any primetime cartoon until “The Simpsons” came around in 1997 and stole its thunder. Despite being set in prehistoric times, “The Flintstones” captured several shifts in social norms that were taking place in the ‘60s, including being one of the first shows on television to show a married couple sharing the same bed.
[Pictured: Barney Rubble and Fred Flintstone in an early episode.]
Berlin Wall goes up
Built in 1961, the Berlin Wall was constructed to separate East and West Berlin during the Cold War in an effort to prevent the democratic ideals of the West from seeping into the eastern part of the country and threatening communism. The ultimate effect, however, was that the wall kept those in the East trapped and unable to defect to the West for the most part, though at least 5,000 East German civilians were able to successfully cross the border by the time it finally came down in 1989.
The wall, which stood for 28 years, is today considered a precursor to other such borders—both physical and simply political or ideological—that have come to be in subsequent years, including the concrete wall to delineate the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea and Trump’s proposed border wall in the U.S.
[Pictured: Berlin residents at the newly erected wall.]
'Breakfast at Tiffany's' premieres
In 1961, Audrey Hepburn starred in the iconic film “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” in which she played Holly Golightly, a quirky café society girl in New York City. While the Academy Award-winning film is remembered today as being one of Hepburn’s most memorable roles, its legacy is largely tied to its redefinition of what it meant to be a young, single woman in the mid-1900s. For the most part, women in the years prior to the film’s release were placed in two distinct categories: There was the wholesome, cookie-cutter housewife type, and the sultry over-sexualized type. The eccentric, free-spirited Golightly, however, introduced a new middle ground.
[Pictured: Audrey Hepburn in her famous role of Holly Golightly.]
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Cuban missile crisis
Remembered as one of the most significant direct confrontations between the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War, the Cuban Missile Crisis was a 13-day standoff that followed the Soviets’ placement of nuclear missiles in Cuba. Though Cold War tensions had been on the rise for two years at this point, President John F. Kennedy’s naval blockade around Cuba escalated tensions and fears that an all-out nuclear war was closer than ever. Such a result was avoided when the Soviet Union agreed to remove the missiles in exchange for America promising not to invade Cuba and removing its own missiles from Turkey.
[Pictured: President John F. Kennedy announcing the strategic blockade of Cuba.]
Helen Gurley Brown publishes 'Sex and the Single Girl'
Shortly before Helen Gurley Brown became the editor of Cosmopolitan magazine in 1965—a role she would hold for the next three decades—the writer and editor rose to fame for her book, “Sex and the Single Girl.” This was a revolutionary read for women of the era, as it was one of the first to encourage young, unmarried women in America to not only have premarital sex, but to let themselves enjoy it. In just three weeks, the book sold 2 million copies.
[Pictured: Helen Gurley Brown in her office at Cosmopolitan magazine.]
French New Wave cinema
The French film “Breathless,” which was written and directed by Jean-Luc Godard, was one of the earliest examples of a key movement in cinematic history known as the French New Wave. The new approach to filmmaking was characterized most notably by a self-awareness in which the director made stylistic choices intended to constantly remind the viewer of the fact that they were watching a film.
Key characteristics of French New Wave films included long takes, jump cuts, handheld cameras, and shooting with whatever light was available at the time. Reaching its peak in the '60s, French New Wave would come to influence the work of countless filmmakers to come, including Quentin Tarantino.
[Pictured: Jean Seberg and Jean-Paul Belmondo in "Breathless."]
Marilyn Monroe dies
Actress Marilyn Monroe starred in a number of films during her career, including “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” (1953), “The Seven Year Itch” (1955), and “Some Like It Hot” (1959). While Monroe is often remembered for her role as a bombshell in ‘60s Hollywood, her fame was majorly significant in other respects.
Monroe was one of the first women to normalize new body image standards, as her figure was notably curvier than many famous women at the time. In addition to that, Monroe was known for her political activism, including her avid support for both civil and women’s rights efforts. In 1962, the actress was found dead in her Los Angeles home, with her death later being declared a death by overdose.
[Pictured: Marilyn Monroe on the set of her final unfinished film, "Something's Gotta Give," 1962.]
James Bond debuts in 'Dr. No'
In 1962, the first film in what would become one of the highest-grossing film franchises in history, was released. “Dr. No” introduced the world to James Bond, who in his cinematic debut was played by Sean Connery but has since been portrayed by a total of eight actors including Roger Moore and Daniel Craig.
Bond has maintained his relevance over the decades; much of that is thanks to the character’s alignment with contemporary political and social issues at the time of each film’s release. Connery’s Bond, for example, came at a time when people sought relief from Cold War-era tensions and paranoia, while Craig’s films have echoed international stress in regards to terrorism.
[Pictured: Sean Connery in "Dr. No."]
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Motown hits the charts
Motown Records officially opened its Detroit offices in winter of 1959, and it wouldn’t be long before the Black-owned-and-run studio would be churning out popular soul singles that climbed the Billboard charts. Motown’s first #1 single—"Please Mr. Postman” by the teen girl group The Marvelettes—made it to the top of the charts in 1961, just a year after the studio released its first million-selling hit song, “Shop Around,” by The Miracles. Reaching popularity at the height of the civil rights movement, Motown became a major player in connecting people across racial divides through music that appealed to the masses.
[Pictured: Motown Records vice president Esther Gordy Edwards chats with Motown artist Smokey Robinson in 1967 in Detroit, Michigan.]
JFK is assassinated
On the afternoon of Nov. 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in downtown Dallas, Texas. The president was shot as he rode through Dealey Plaza in a convertible motorcade before a scheduled speaking engagement. At the time, shooter Lee Harvey Oswald was determined to be the sole culprit in the assassination and was arrested. In years following, however, a number of conspiracy theories took hold of the American imagination, with many believing that Oswald’s ties to communism, Cuba, and the Soviet Union could have played a role in the events that transpired.
[Pictured: Funeral of John F. Kennedy, 35th president of the United States, in 1963.]
The Beach Boys start making music
Today, the Beach Boys are remembered as one of history’s most iconic rock groups, but in 1961 the band—then composed of brothers Brian, Carl, and Dennis Wilson, along with their cousin, Mike Love, and friend, Al Jardine—was just starting out. The California-born band started out with tunes that stayed purely in the surfer rock lane, but it wasn’t long before their sound expanded into a more serious space, particularly with the release of the “Pet Sounds” album in 1966. This album—though met with a less-than-stellar response upon its release—was considered the turning point for the band as they moved into “true” rock 'n' roll, according to music history expert Gregory E. Weinstein, Ph.D.
Today, the Beach Boys, who earned their spot in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988 and are still performing today, are best known for their hits including “Good Vibrations” and “Wouldn’t It Be Nice.”
[Pictured: The Beach Boys pose with a vintage "Woody" station wagon in August 1962 in Los Angeles.]
Gloria Steinem goes undercover as a Playboy Bunny
Gloria Steinem was a 28-year-old unknown freelance journalist when she got the opportunity to go undercover at the New York Playboy Club in 1963. At the time, the club’s founder, Hugh Hefner, had worked to construct an image of sexual liberation around his establishment; one that he even alluded had connections to the civil rights movement in his series “The Playboy Philosophy.”
By going undercover, Steinem found that the female employees of the club were, as she had expected, being exploited more than they were being liberated, with most of the women earning far less than they had been promised upon taking jobs at the club. Steinem’s expose, which was published in a magazine called Show, could be considered an earlier example of the nonobjective gonzo journalism that is more often associated with Hunter S. Thompson.
[Pictured: Gloria Steinem wearing a Playboy Bunny costume.]
Martin Luther King Jr.'s 'I Have a Dream' speech
In 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial. The speech was given during the March on Washington in August, in which more than 250,000 Americans came together to support progressive civil rights policies under President Kennedy, as well as push for even more progress for African Americans’ civil liberties, especially economic rights and employment opportunities.
In his now-historical speech, King appealed to his listeners’ emotions with a half-scripted, half-improvised speech that at once described the African American experience in America and expressed King’s hopeful vision for the nation’s future, in which skin color would play no part in the freedoms awarded to any citizen.
[Pictured: Martin Luther King, Jr. at the Lincoln Memorial, Washington D.C., where he gave his 'I Have A Dream' speech.]
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Beatlemania sweeps the U.S.
While the popularity of the Beach Boys across the U.S. might be attributed to the band’s all-American boy band vibe, the stateside popularity of rival group the Beatles pointed to a whole different level of international fame. Though the Fab Four hadn’t seen instant success in America—even as the British group rose to superstardom in their native U.K., American record labels expressed little interest in signing them—the band’s U.S. fame finally saw traction in 1963, just a few months following the assassination of JFK. The band’s fame would ultimately kickstart the British Invasion phenomenon that came to characterize the American counterculture of the 1960s.
[Pictured: The Beatles wave at the crowd while in the U.S. for their first concerts stateside, February 1964.]
London's 'Swinging Sixties'
The Swinging Sixties in London were a period marked by an energetic shift from the generally bleak war years. From new fashion-driven feminism (e.g. the rise of the miniskirt) to rock 'n' roll to the free love movement, the era was marked by trends that embodied a sense of liberation in all aspects of life. As emerging British norms spread beyond the country’s borders to influence other regions around the world—the British Invasion in the U.S. was just one example of how these trends took hold internationally—this period in England became a hugely significant one for culture on a global level.
[Pictured: Models at a fashion shoot for Mademoiselle magazine, 1965.]
LBJ signs the Civil Rights Act
Lyndon B. Johnson, who assumed the presidency after the assassination of JFK, wasted little time when it came to furthering Kennedy’s agenda to pass a new civil rights bill into law. Johnson went to Congress just five days after the former president’s assassination and made a case for how the passage of the bill, which Kennedy had fought so hard for, would be the ultimate way to honor the former president’s memory. Not long after, in July 1964, Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibited racial discrimination in both employment and educational capacities, as well as racial segregation in public spaces.
[Pictured: President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act in 1964.]
U.S. involvement in Vietnam escalates
Though U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War heightened in the mid-1960s, the nation had been entangled in the conflict since its start. From President Harry Truman’s 1947 policy stating that the U.S. would support any country in the fight against communism, to the U.S. backing of South Vietnam’s Catholic leader, Ngo Dinh Diem in 1954, political unrest and violence in Vietnam saw American involvement for over a decade before the 1960s. It wasn’t until March 1965, however, that the first American combat troops officially entered South Vietnam and the U.S. launched Operation Rolling Thunder, a three-year bombing campaign meant to incapacitate North Vietnam’s communist leaders.
[Pictured: South Vietnamese forces and American advisers under attack by Viet Cong guerillas, South Vietnam, 1964.]
Selma to Montgomery marches take place
The March of 1965 saw demonstrators in Alabama, including Martin Luther King, Jr., trek the 54-mile journey from Selma to Montgomery as they demanded voter equality. The historic march ultimately paved the way for the Voting Rights Act of 1965, but it was hardly an easy road to getting there. Over the course of the journey, marchers were met with violence from white vigilantes and law enforcement officers alike. One of the most violent clashes—“Bloody Sunday,” as it came to be known—left countless protesters injured and hospitalized.
[Pictured: Dr. Martin Luther King (second right) leads a voter protest march, Selma, Alabama, March 9, 1965.]
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Girl groups take center stage
Before the Beatles captured the hearts and ears of the American people, girl groups were having a major heyday across the country. From the Ronettes ("Will You Love Me Tomorrow?") to The Paris Sisters (“All Through the Night”), the early years of the 1960s were marked by a sweeping trend of pop-centric girl groups that sang about everything from love and heartbreak to teenage pregnancy (The Lovelites’ “How Can I Tell My Mom and Dad”). With the start of the British Invasion in 1965, most girl bands found themselves fading into the background. The Supremes—composed of Florence Ballard, Mary Wilson, and Diana Ross—were one of the few groups that were able to remain popular, even with the Beatles competing for center stage.
[Pictured: The Supremes perform on the NBC TV music show "Hullabaloo" on Jan. 26, 1965.]
American folk music revival
The revival of American folk music began as early as the 1940s, but it was in the 1960s that it truly peaked and began combining new trends in folk music with older ones, including blues and Cajun style. Characterized by both original and recreated music, the folk revival of the 1960s was lead by artists like Joan Baez, Dave Van Ronk, and Bob Dylan. During this time, the folk revival was as much spurred by a desire to collect music that represented communities across the country as it was to reflect and comment on contemporary social and political issues. To that end, there were songs that emerged during this period that commented on everything from the Vietnam war (“Turn! Turn! Turn!” by The Byrds) to civil rights (“We Shall Overcome” by Joan Baez).
[Pictured: Joan Baez and Bob Dylan during a duet at the Newport Folk Festival, Rhode Island, 1963.]
Malcolm X assassinated
A famous activist and vigorous advocate of civil rights, Malcolm X was part of a group known as the Nation of Islam, a group of Black nationalists who saw ties between their cause and the teachings of Islam. Born Malcolm Little, Malcolm X shed his surname and replaced it with an “X” as part of a tradition within the Nation of Islam to represent the loss of identity that was a byproduct of slavery. Malcolm X acted as the spokesman for the Nation of Islam between the ‘50s and ‘60s, with much credit for the organization’s growth over that period owed to him. He ultimately parted ways with the organization under tense circumstances, and on Feb. 21, 1965, was assassinated by three Nation of Islam members while giving a speech in Manhattan.
[Pictured: The funeral of Malcolm X.]
The Mamas and the Papas
The Mamas and the Papas were a popular folk-rock group that harmoniously blended the voices of its male and female members to create a soft sound that became a signature of the counterculture movement during the ‘60s. The band’s greatest claim to fame may be their 1965 hit “California Dreamin’,” which group members John and Michelle Phillips penned in New York City as they yearned for the West Coast.
After meeting their future bandmates—Mama Cass Elliot and Denny Doherty—the quartet eventually recorded the song in California, and the tune became something of an anthem for the Golden State. Before the Mamas and the Papas recorded the single themselves, however, they simply sang backup on the track for Barry McGuire, who was the first to record it.
[Pictured: Denny Doherty, John Phillips, Michelle Phillips and Cass Elliot.]
Mary Quant and the miniskirt
With the rise of feminism and women’s liberation that took hold in the ‘60s, women saw some drastic changes in their wardrobes as well. One of the biggest fashion shifts that occurred during this time was the normalization of a daring new hemline: the miniskirt. Mary Quant, a trailblazing British fashion designer of the time, is widely credited with popularizing the trend, which she saw as a statement of independence and rebellion. As the designer stated in a 2014 interview: “It was in the air—a mini-skirt was a way of rebelling. It stood for sensuality and sex. Wearing one was a sure-fire way of upsetting your parents."
[Pictured: Mary Quant is shown wearing a minidress at a press conference.]
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Twiggy is a new kind of model
When British fashion model Lesley Hornby—better known by her nickname, Twiggy—rose to fame in 1967, she was only 17 years old. Still, the young model created a new mod look that quickly shaped the aesthetic du jour throughout London and beyond. With an short, androgynous haircut and a distinctly slender form, Twiggy challenged traditional femininity. This aligned well with the rebellious attitudes of contemporary women who were seeking a break from the conventional. Twiggy’s influence on fashion and beauty extended beyond Britain’s borders, making her the first woman to be dubbed an international supermodel.
[Pictured: Twiggy poses for Vogue in 1967.]
Truman Capote publishes "In Cold Blood"
Originally published as a four-part series in the “The New Yorker” in 1965 before being compiled into a book in 1966, Truman Capote’s “In Cold Blood” recounts the horrific details of the 1959 Clutter family murders in Kansas. The work was an interesting foray into journalism for Capote, who was a novelist and playwright by profession and had such works in his repertoire as “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” which later inspired the film of the same name. Despite deviating from his traditional approach to writing, “In Cold Blood” came to be one of Capote’s most widely acclaimed works, largely because it was the first “nonfiction novel” in which a true story was chronicled in novel form.
[Pictured: A window display for "In Cold Blood" in New York City, Feb. 17, 1966.]
Black Panther Party founded
The founding of the Black Panther Party was fueled by the assassination of Malcolm X and other instances of aggression against Black people throughout the country, including a 1966 incident in which San Francisco police shot an unarmed Black teenager, Matthew Johnson. The idea behind the new organization was that police forces couldn’t be trusted to protect Black communities, which thus called for a group that could monitor law enforcement activity. The Black Panthers, who saw themselves largely as a political group, worked to implement social programs that addressed police brutality and helped ensure equal access to jobs and housing for Black people.
[Pictured: Black Panther Party members are met on the steps of the State Capitol in Sacramento, May 2, 1967.]
Haight Ashbury and the Summer of Love
In the summer of 1967, thousands of people poured into California’s Bay Area for what would be several months of utopian-style “hippie” living rooted in the counterculture movement of the 1960s. People came from all over the county to San Francisco’s Haight Ashbury neighborhood, where they ditched conservative norms and values to instead embrace things like free love, drug experimentation, environmentalism, and communal living. One of the biggest highlights of the Summer of Love was the Monterey Pop Festival, which would act as something of a template for later music festivals like Woodstock.
[Pictured: A man paints a woman's face during the Summer of Love in Haight Ashbury, San Francisco, 1967.]
Hippies and flower power
The rise of the hippie counterculture and “flower power” both are rooted largely in the opposition of the Vietnam War. As frustrations with American foreign policy rose across the country, people began adopting an attitude of rebellion. In addition to the colorful tie-dye garb, psychedelic drug use, and tree-hugging sensibilities that are often associated with the decade’s hippie culture, the 1960s saw a rise in pacifist sentiments that advocated for peace over war.
Flower power was created by poet Allen Ginsberg in the mid-60s as a way to protest the Vietnam War's destruction. Flowers ultimately became a symbol of opposition to violence and war.
[Pictured: A young man sticks carnations in gun barrels during an anti-war demonstration at Pentagon in 1967.]
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The sexual revolution begins
Several things played into the changing attitudes and values that spurred the sexual revolution of the 1960s. The invention of the birth control pill and open conversations about women’s sexual liberation encouraged the normalization of extramarital and casual sex. Moreover, the research of experts like Wilhelm Reich and Alfred Kinsey gave rise to arguments about the damaging implications of overly constrictive mores and the sexual repression that comes of them.
[Pictured: Hippies dance in an open field in Los Angeles, California, in summer, 1967.]
The Rolling Stones were yet another internationally-popular group that rode the wave of the British Invasion to stardom. Unlike the Beatles however, the brooding “bad boys” who made up the Rolling Stones—Charlie Watts, Bill Wyman, Brian Jones, Mick Jagger, and Keith Richards—were notably harsh around the edges, often associated with a sense of delinquency rather than a cool-but-safe vibe.
[Pictured: The Rolling Stones in 1968. Clockwise from top left: Charlie Watts, Bill Wyman, Brian Jones, Mick Jagger, and Keith Richards.]
Anti-Vietnam protests at home
America had close ties to the Vietnam War even prior to its direct involvement. However, when the country’s military presence heightened towards the end of the 1960s, it was met with a concurrent rise in domestic opposition stateside. From students on college campuses who promoted leftist ideals to “hippies” who embodied the “Make Love Not War” slogan that came to represent the anti-war movement, peace became the focus of civilians at home while the war waged on overseas. In addition to protests and marches, activities of the anti-war counterculture included an underground press system and public displays of draft-card burning.
[Pictured: Anti-war demonstrators hold up signs circa April, 1969 in San Francisco.]
First Super Bowl
The first Super Bowl, which was close to being dubbed “The Big One” before it got its name, was played on Jan. 15, 1967. The championship game was created when the two football leagues that existed at the time—the American Football League and the National Football League—merged to create a single entity. The Green Bay Packers defeated the Kansas City Chiefs, 35-10. During that first Super Bowl championship game, estimates suggest that there were more African American players on the field than in the history of any sport at that time.
[Pictured: Green Bay Packers' Elijah Pitts #22 runs with the ball during Super Bowl I.]
Draft cards go up in smoke
There were several acts of rebellion or resistance that came to represent the anti-war movement of the 1960s, one being the rise of draft-card burning. As an increasing number of young men expressed their opposition to the Vietnam War and the draft, the destruction of draft cards came to be seen as a mode of symbolic protest. In 1965, however, the government under President Lyndon Johnson passed the Draft Card Mutilation Act, making draft-card burning a punishable offense under the law. On Oct. 15, 1965, 22-year-old pacifist David Miller became the first to be prosecuted under the law.
[Pictured: Goddard C. Graves, a former student of the University of Wisconsin, burns his selective service card.]
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Acid tests and psychedelic drugs
Drugs were a big part of the 1960s, both as far as recreational use but also medical research. Experimentation with psychedelics and other drugs was a big part of hippie counterculture as users advocated for hallucinogens as a way to expand the mind. One of the most notable examples of recreational drug use in the ‘60s was the series of drug-and-music parties known as the Acid Tests, where people would take LSD and watch live performances by rock 'n' roll bands.
On the other side of the spectrum, Timothy Leary was a professor who advocated for the medicinal value of psychedelics—though he ultimately lost his job at Harvard when it came to light he was conducting tests on his undergraduate students.
[Pictured: A young woman dances at the Avalon Ballroom in San Francisco, where musicians such as Janis Joplin gained their fame, 1967.]
The 1960s signature aesthetic of tie-dye and colorful swirling prints marked the era of psychedelic-inspired fashion. Vibrant colors and dramatic prints that played with fluid, organic shapes were made popular by rock icons of the time like Jimi Hendrix. This was also a reflection of other trends that were happening concurrently, including the use of LSD which often creates a warped view of reality—one that consists of blob-like forms and intense hues.
[Pictured: Fashion models wearing brightly colored metallic mini-dresses in 1966.]
'The Graduate' defines a generation
One of the biggest recurring themes of the 1960s was a sense of rebellion, whether that was from political structures or long-held social norms. In the case of the 1967 film “The Graduate,” starring Dustin Hoffman and Anne Bancroft, the movie saw a high level of popularity because it represented rebellion from parental expectations and common convention. The film, which follows a recent college grad’s affair with an older woman, also made famous the song “Mrs. Robinson” by Simon and Garfunkel.
[Pictured: Anne Bancroft in bed with Dustin Hoffman in a scene from the film "The Graduate," 1967.]
The Doors release their debut album
When the Doors released their first album in 1967, the rock 'n' roll band drastically changed the tone of the music that came to define the counterculture of the ‘60s. While other artists in the folk and rock 'n' roll space had largely been creating music with an upbeat, somewhat hopeful energy, the “Break On Through (To The Other Side)” artists were singing about the state of the world with a grimmer and far less forgiving tone. For many, the Doors marked the start of a new and slightly divided era in rock 'n' roll, where idealists sat on one side and realists sat on the other.
[Pictured: The Doors in a photoshoot, 1967.]
The Jimi Hendrix Experience releases two successful albums
Though he was born in Seattle, Jimi Hendrix got his big break in London after Chas Chandler, a founding member of the Animals, heard the musician play a club in New York City and whisked him back to England. Once there, Hendrix joined forces with drummer Mitch Mitchell and bassist Noel Redding to create the trio known as the Jimi Hendrix Experience.
The group began recording just a few weeks after getting together, and in 1967, the band released two of its three total albums: “Are You Experienced” and “Axis: Bold as Love.” Despite pulling influences from R&B and having a strong black fan base, Hendrix commonly received criticism for appealing too heavily to white audiences. The musician stood by his music, however, and advocated for a universal approach where genres weren’t broken down by racial divides.
[Pictured: Mitch Mitchell, Jimi Hendrix, Noel Redding of the Jimi Hendrix Experience in Germany, 1967.]
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'Hair' opens in London's West End
As the ‘60s transformed norms and conventions regarding social behavior, political views, and music, the decade brought change to other forms of the arts as well, including theater. The opening of the risqué musical “Hair” in London’s West End took many of the revolutionary new realities of the time period and, for the first time, put them on the stage. In addition to portraying scenes of drug use and anti-war protests, the musical pushed boundaries even further by depicting total on-stage nudity as well as bisexuality and homosexuality, all of which was considered especially shocking at the time.
[Pictured: A rehearsal of the hit musical "Hair" before its opening in London's West End, 1968.]
Janis Joplin appears at the Monterey Pop Festival
The Monterey Pop Festival was one of the highlights of the Summer of Love that took place in San Francisco in 1967. The first-of-its-kind music festival, which paved the way for successors like Woodstock, took place over the course of three days and followed a nonprofit model, where performers agreed to do shows for free and donate proceeds from ticket sales. Artists in the festival’s lineup included Janis Joplin, The Byrds, the Mamas and the Papas, Simon and Garfunkel, The Doors, and Smokey Robinson. For many artists, including Otis Redding and The Who, the Monterey Pop Festival was a pivotal turning point in their careers that helped spur their popularity in subsequent years.
[Pictured: Janis Joplin, with Big Brother & Holding Co., 1968 Monterey Festival, 1968.]
'Guess Who's Coming to Dinner' premieres
In 1967, laws forbidding interracial relationships were officially put to an end in the U.S. by the Supreme Court’s ruling in Loving v. Virginia. Just a few short months after that decision came out, the film “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” starring Spencer Tracy, Sidney Poitier, and Katharine Hepburn, was released. This film was one of the few of the time that depicted interracial relationships or marriage. According to a “Variety” review by A.D. Murphy, from the time of its release, the film was considered “a landmark in its tasteful introduction of sensitive material to the screen.”
[Pictured: Katharine Houghton and Sidney Poitier.]
'Valley of the Dolls' releases
A cult favorite even to this day, the 1967 drama “Valley of the Dolls” was a hit at the box office upon its release. Based on Jacqueline Susann’s best-selling book of the same name, the film—starring Sharon Tate, Barbara Parkins, and Patty Duke—offered entertainment through superficial and tropey storylines and characters. The film was significant in its pushing of acceptable boundaries, given its raciness for the time, and its glitzy fashion which helped shape future trends.
[Pictured: Barbara Parkins, Sharon Tate, and Patty Duke in a still from the film, "Valley of the Dolls."]
Beatles release 'Sgt. Pepper'
By the time the Beatles released “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” in 1967, the group had already recorded and released seven studio albums. Despite the long track record of studio records, however, the group surprised fans and critics alike by creating an album characterized by an unexpected sound for the band that, as Bob Dylan put it, had thus far stuck to being “cute.”
The album, which many have called the first “concept album,” marked a pivotal point in the band’s trajectory, as the Beatles shifted to a more “grown-up” sound and moved away from performing to become a purely studio-based band. The music that they created from this point on—including “Abbey Road” in 1969—came to be some of the most transformative in rock 'n' roll and an iconic part of the Beatles’ career.
[Pictured: The Beatles celebrate the completion of their new album, "Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," in 1967.]
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Loving v. Virginia
While interracial marriage was legal in a majority of the country by the 1960s, there were still several states where miscegenation was forbidden under the law, one of those states being Virginia. In 1958, an interracial couple—the husband, Richard Loving, was white and the wife, Mildred Jeter, was African American and Native American—that was living in Virginia but had been married in Washington D.C. were arrested and convicted for violating the state’s ban on mixed-race marriages.
The Lovings spent the next several years appealing to courts on the state level before taking their case to the Supreme Court in 1967. The 1968 ruling in the case not only ruled in the Lovings’ favor and overturned their conviction from nearly a decade earlier, but it officially made interracial marriage legal across the nation.
[Pictured: Mildred Jeter and Richard Loving.]
Robert Kennedy is assassinated
After being elected to the Senate following his brother John F. Kennedy’s assassination, Robert Kennedy went on to run for president himself in 1968. The candidate was considered by many at the time to be one of the best chances of reinstating a sense of unity in a country that had become severely divided in the wake of anti-war protests and civil rights conflicts.
On the day of the California primary, however, the Democratic hopeful was fatally shot while leaving the Ambassador Hotel. The culprit, 24-year-old Palestinian native Sirhan Sirhan, was believed to have shot Kennedy due to the politician’s support for Israel, particularly during the Six Days War, of which the day of the assassination marked the one-year anniversary.
[Pictured: Sen. Robert Kennedy addressing a packed ballroom crowd, shortly before being shot.]
Richard Nixon elected president
Though Richard Nixon’s two-term presidency saw several highlights—the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency and legislation that led to the end of the Cold War, for example—the legacy for which he’s most remembered isn’t so great. Nixon’s presidency was ultimately cut short in 1974 by the Watergate scandal.
After an investigation revealed that the president had abused his power and covered up illegal activity in relation to his reelection campaign, Nixon resigned from office—the first president in history to do so—in a move to avoid impeachment. This was a turning point in American politics, as it marked the beginning of a higher level of scrutiny with which the American people came to view their government and leaders.
[Pictured: Republican candidate Richard Nixon makes the victory sign in New York City in November 1968.]
Martin Luther King, Jr. is assassinated
Martin Luther King, Jr. was one of America’s most influential civil rights leaders. By the late 1960s, King’s “I Have a Dream Speech” during the March on Washington and his participation in the marches from Selma to Montgomery had both marked pivotal points in the fight for equality across the country. On the evening of April 4, 1968, King was fatally shot in Memphis, Tennessee, by escaped fugitive James Earl Ray, just one day after he had given his powerful “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech. Following King’s assassination, riots erupted in over 100 cities across the country, including Wilmington, Delaware, where the National Gaurd was sent to keep the peace.
[Pictured: The parents and the widow of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. during a memorial on April 9, 1968.]
Julia breaks barriers on TV
An NBC situation comedy that ran for three years, from 1968 to 1971, “Julia” was the first television show in America to follow the life of a Black professional woman (Diahann Carroll)—in this case, a single mom working as a nurse and raising a young son alone after the passing of her husband. While the show marked an important point in history in that it broke racial barriers in terms of what people expected to see on television, critics at the time noted its otherwise safe approach to topics that could be deemed too forward-thinking or aggressive. As The New York Times critic Jack Gould wrote, the show had a way of “tiptoeing around anything too controversial.”
[Pictured: Diahann Carroll in a scene from the TV series "Julia."]
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Andy Warhol is shot at 'The Factory'
The Factory was Andy Warhol’s legendary studio in New York City where he made his art—everything from paintings to films—and collaborated with other creatives and artistic misfits. When Warhol was approached by writer and activist Valerie Solanas and asked to produce a play she’d penned, the artist turned the project down, deeming it too obscene and extreme, even for him.
Infuriated by the rejection, Solanas ultimately shot Warhol in his studio. Though she would eventually be diagnosed with schizophrenia, that wasn’t before she pled guilty for her crime and was sentenced to three years. Though the shots didn’t kill Warhol, they were severe enough that he was forced to wear a surgical corset for the remainder of his life.
[Pictured: Andy Warhol sits for a portrait in New York, circa 1967.]
'The Mod Squad' debuted
“The Mod Squad” premiered in 1968 as a crime drama targeted at the counterculture that followed a trio of delinquent youths turned undercover cops. The show was revolutionary in its subject matter for a number of reasons. In addition to being the first television series to feature young undercover cops, it also delved into controversial and seriously risqué topics for television, including abortion, Black militancy, and anti-war protests. Despite what could have easily come off as dangerously progressive or threatening, the show hid behind a shield of hip campiness that protected it from coming off as overly political.
[Pictured: Michael Cole, Clarence Williams III, and Peggy Lipton from the television series, "The Mod Squad," circa 1968.]
'Rosemary's Baby' premieres
Considered one of the most iconic horror films of all time, “Rosemary’s Baby” was groundbreaking for several reasons. First, the premise of the film—a woman is pregnant with a child that she fears (though never confirms) to be the anti-Christ—paved the way for an entire genre of films that would fall into the satanic horror category.
At the time, it was a shocking new subject matter for viewers. In addition to that, there have been those that called the film a uniquely feminist one in that it challenged gender norms and women’s traditional roles in a more figurative way. Specifically, the concept of a woman whose pregnancy essentially “turns on her” is one that film critics have said could represent the film’s role in challenging motherhood by depicting pregnancy as an unpleasant invasion on a woman's body.
[Pictured: Mia Farrow in her role as Rosemary Woodhouse.]
'Sesame Street' debuts
When "Sesame Street" first aired on Nov. 10, 1969, the show became a pioneer in educational television programming. Created by Joan Ganz Cooney, the show would create programs and television segments meant to educate preschoolers while making sure they were entertained in the process.
For Cooney, the show was a simple, accessible way to help underprivileged children gain a strong educational foundation before kindergarten without needing to enroll in a preschool or daycare program. Not only did the show make history by being the first example of educational television for children, but it also broke barriers with a diverse cast that acted alongside a cast of iconic puppets—or, Muppets—created by Jim Henson.
[Pictured: Cast members of the television show, "Sesame Street," 1969.]
In the fashion of the Monterey Pop Festival from the Summer of Love, Woodstock was a three-day music festival in 1969 held on a dairy farm in upstate New York. With an attendance of around 500,000 festival-goers, the event was then referred to as the “Aquarian Exposition.” Like earlier hippie gatherings, or “be-ins,” of the decade, Woodstock’s primary goal was to create a space of peace and free love. This was especially significant given that the year leading up to the festival was particulary violent in America.
Performers at the festival included Joan Baez, The Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, and Johnny Winter. Jimi Hendrix closed out the festival by lighting his guitar on fire.
[Pictured: Fans at the Woodstock Music & Art Fair held at Max Yasgur's dairy farm in August, 1969.]
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In 1968 in California, Charles Manson began attracting a group of followers that would come to form a cult known as the Manson Family. Known for his intense persuasiveness, Manson’s abilities worked extremely well on vulnerable youths, including runaways who were often young, educated white women looking for an escape from their privileged, but boring lives.
In 1969, at the cult leader’s command, members of the Manson Family broke into the home of “Rosemary’s Baby” director Roman Polanski and killed Polanski’s pregnant wife—“Valley of the Dolls” actress Sharon Tate—along with celebrity hairstylist Jay Sebring, coffee heiress Abigail Folger, writer Wojciech Frykowski, and a family friend, Steven Parent. At the scene of the brutal murder, one of Manson’s followers scribbled the word “PIGS” on the front door in Tate’s blood. This was meant to lead police officers to the Black Panthers, which would play into Manson’s ultimate goal of sparking an all-out race war.
[Pictured: Manson family members Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel, and Leslie van Houten.]
First man sets foot on the moon
In 1961, President Kennedy delivered a "Special Message to Congress on Urgent National Needs" in which he challenged NASA to send a man to the moon and bring him back to Earth safely before the end of the decade. Though the historic challenge was the first of its kind and was a tall order, NASA came through in 1969 when Neil Armstrong—traveling along with Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins as part of the Apollo 11 mission—became the first person in history to set foot on the moon.
[Pictured: Astronaut Edwin E. “Buzz” Aldrin Jr. walking on the surface of the moon, July 20, 1969.]
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Riots at the Stonewall Inn
In the summer of 1969, riots broke out at the Stonewall Inn when patrons of the popular gay club clashed with police who had come to raid the venue. Though the Stonewall Inn had been operating illegally, committing such violations as serving alcohol without a liquor license, the police had earned a reputation for harassing gay patrons and taking bribes during their supposedly justified raids.
On this particular evening, police officers got barricaded in the club when rioters began protesting outside while they were in the venue. Over the course of six days, officers clashed with the protestors, ultimately arresting 21 people but leaving none fatally injured. The riots and protests marked a significant point in the historical fight for LGBTQ+ rights.
[Pictured: The Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, New York, 1969.]
'Midnight Cowboy' releases
Yet another example of 1960s cinema that pushed the boundaries of social norms and artistically offered social commentary, 1969’s “Midnight Cowboy” was like the original tale of bromance. Chronicling the formation of an unlikely friendship between cowboy-turned-gigolo (Jon Voight) and a conman (Dustin Hoffman), the film is ultimately one that pokes holes in the American dream, which many Americans were skeptical of at this point in history.
The film also ties in themes of isolation and feelings of being an outcast or a misfit, which became a normal, albeit slightly sad byproduct of the liberation movement in the ‘60s where people were trying to “find themselves” and embrace their independence.
[Pictured: Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight on the set of "Midnight Cowboy."]
'The Brady Bunch' premieres
Though “The Brady Bunch” is arguably one of the most memorable shows to come out of the ‘60s, it rarely ranked highly on the charts in its nearly five-year run. Still, the wholesome comedy was significant in its introduction of blended families to popular culture. Following the marriage of two single parents and the couple’s combined six children, the show introduced America what it looked like for two families to merge into one when parents remarried. Beyond that, however, the show kept things pretty safe and steered clear of controversial topics, making it one of the least groundbreaking—if still widely enjoyable—to emerge out of the decade.
[Pictured: The cast of the "Brady Bunch" in the show's premiere episode.]
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