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US political history from the year you were born

  • 1961: Bay of Pigs invasion is unsuccessful

    The failed Bay of Pigs invasion was covertly funded and directed by the U.S. government. The operation involved an effort to send the nearly 1,500 Cuban exiles in the United States, who were against the Cuban leader Fidel Castro, back to their country to take over the communist government. The U.S. became interested given leader Castro’s close ties to Soviet Union leader Nikita Khruschchev.

  • 1962: Cuban Missile Crisis unfolds

    The Cuban Missile Crisis involved a military and political standoff over the planned installation of Soviet nuclear missiles on Cuba, close to the continental United States. After 13 days, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev finally agreed to remove the missiles, a major win for the United States during the Cold War.

  • 1963: Kennedy is assassinated

    Just as he was planning his 1964 reelection campaign, President John F. Kennedy, who was the youngest man elected to that office, was shot multiple times while riding in an open car motorcade in Dallas. First lady Jacqueline Kennedy was at the president’s side that day. The car immediately went to Parkland Memorial Hospital, but Kennedy was pronounced dead at 1 p.m., shortly after its arrival. Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson, who also was riding in the motorcade, was sworn in as the country’s 36th president at 2:38 p.m. aboard Air Force One on its way from Dallas back to Washington D.C.

  • 1964: Johnson introduces his war on poverty

    During President Johnson’s “War on Poverty” State of the Union address, the president argued for policies to end racial discrimination, help the elderly, and reduce American poverty. This led to legislation like the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and 1965’s Social Security Amendments.

  • 1965: First U.S. combat troops are sent to Vietnam

    President Johnson first sent troops into South Vietnam in order to fight communism, which had ostensibly spread from North Vietnam. The president’s decision to involve the United States in the war led to widespread national controversy from antiwar activists and citizens who believed that the war threatened Vietnamese national independence.

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  • 1966: The Department of Transportation is established

    Before its creation, the Under Secretary of Commerce was responsible for handling larger federal policies for which the Federal Aviation Administration is now responsible. By 1966, the formation of the Department of Transportation was announced as a means of ensuring “a fast, safe, efficient, accessible, and convenient transportation system that meets our vital national interests and enhances the quality of life of the American people.”

  • 1967: The long summer of 1967 unfolds

    During the summer of 1967, 159 race riots took place across the United States to protest abusive policing and institutionalized unemployment directly targeted at African Americans. In response, President Johnson created the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, also known as the Kerner Commission, to investigate the riots’ underlying causes.

  • 1968: King is assassinated

    Martin Luther King Jr., the prominent civil rights activist, was fatally shot by James Earl Ray at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. To this day, King’s “I Have a Dream” speech stands as one of the most iconic American speeches in history and historical moments in the 1960’s civil rights movement.

  • 1969: Republican nominee Nixon is elected president

    Richard Nixon was a California politician who had previously served as a U.S. Senator and U.S. Representative, and defeated Democratic Vice President Hubert Humphrey. Neither candidate received more than 50% of the popular vote due to the popularity of third-party candidate George Wallace.

  • 1970: Nixon sends troops to Cambodia

    Nixon approved an operation to invade Cambodia with South Vietnamese forces in order to remove concentrations of Northern Vietnamese forces in the area. This sparked even more antiwar protests in the United States, as the president furthered American involvement in Southeast Asian conflicts.

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