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Democratic Party history from the year you were born

  • 1961: Lyndon Johnson becomes vice president

    In becoming vice president, Lyndon Johnson had to give up his very powerful post as Senate majority leader. He asked that as the president of the Senate, he be designated the permanent presiding officer of the Democratic caucus. His fellow Democrats rose up against the idea.

  • 1962: Cuban missile crisis begins

    President John F. Kennedy learned of missiles being built by the Soviet Union in Cuba in October. A tense standoff developed between the United States and the Soviet Union with the possibility of nuclear war as the backdrop. The crisis was averted when the Soviets removed their missiles, but the arms race was continued.

    [Pictured: A U.S. Navy Lockheed SP-2H Neptune of patrol squadron VP-18 Flying Phantoms flying over a Soviet freighter in 1962.]

  • 1963: Kennedy is assassinated

    President John F. Kennedy was assassinated on Nov. 22, in Dallas. He was shot while in a motorcade traveling through downtown Dealey Plaza. Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson, who was with him on the trip, was sworn in as president, taking the oath of office on Air Force One before it flew the slain president’s body back to Washington D.C. Kennedy’s assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, was himself killed two days later by Jack Ruby, a local nightclub owner, while being transferred from police headquarters to jail.

    [Pictured: Jacqueline Kennedy, Edward Kennedy, and Robert Kennedy stand as the coffin of President Kennedy passes them on Nov. 25, 1963.]

  • 1964: Congress passes Civil Rights Act

    Congress approved the Civil Rights Act of 1964, proposed by former President John F. Kennedy and driven through by President Lyndon B. Johnson. It banned discrimination in public places; called for integrating schools and other public facilities; and prohibited employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. A group of Republican and Southern Democratic senators opposed the bill, which passed despite a filibuster attempt.

    [Pictured: President Johnson meets with civil rights leaders Martin Luther King, Jr., Whitney Young, and James Farmer on Jan. 18, 1964.]

  • 1965: Johnson proposes greatness

    President Johnson proposed what he termed “A Great Society,” a group of domestic programs that were intended to eradicate poverty and racial inequalities. The programs provided aid for education, battled poverty, created Medicare and Medicaid, developed poor areas, and ensured the right to vote. The Voting Rights Act prohibited the tactics Southern states had used to prevent African Americans from voting—from poll taxes and literacy tests to violence—when they tried to register.

    [Pictured: President Lyndon B. Johnson signing the Medicare Bill at the Harry S. Truman Library in Independence, Missouri, seated next to former President Truman.]

     

  • 1966: Anti-war protests grow

    Student-led protests across the country grew as the Vietnam War escalated. At the University of Wisconsin, students took over an administration building, while at Cornell University, students organized a draft-card burning movement. In February, President Lyndon B. Johnson told Sen. Eugene McCarthy, “I know we oughtn’t to be there, but I can’t get out. I just can’t be the architect of surrender.”

    [Pictured: Picketers carry signs protesting the Vietnam War in Salisbury Park in East Meadow, New York, prior to the arrival of President Johnson by helicopter on Oct. 12, 1966.]

  • 1967: Riots erupt across the country

    Riots broke out in more than 100 cities across the country in Los Angeles; Newark, New Jersey; Detroit; and New York City. Despite President Lyndon B. Johnson’s efforts to end racial injustice, change was happening too slowly for many people facing unemployment, poverty, and police brutality. It was known as the long hot summer.

    [Pictured: A policeman stands guard in a Detroit street on July 25, 1967, as buildings are burning during riots that erupted following a police operation.]

  • 1968: King and Kennedy assassinated

    In late March, President Lyndon B. Johnson announced that he would not seek re-election, but would focus on bringing peace to Vietnam. Civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in April, and Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, the younger brother of former President John F. Kennedy, was assassinated in June, the night he won the California presidential primary. The country erupted in unrest. The Democratic National Convention in Chicago ended in bloody protests and the selection of Sen. Hubert Humphrey as the party’s candidate. He lost the presidential election to Republican Richard Nixon.

    [Pictured: Sen. Robert Kennedy speaking at an election rally in 1968.]

  • 1969: Americans walk on the moon

    American astronauts Neil Amstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins landed on the moon on July 20, eight years after former President John F. Kennedy announced his goal of sending an American to the moon before the end of the decade. The walk on the moon by Armstrong and Aldrin came during President Nixon’s first year in office.

    [Pictured: Former President Lyndon B. Johnson (left) and Vice President Spiro Agnew (right, center) view the lift-off of Apollo 11 at Kennedy Space Center on July 16, 1969.]

  • 1970: Chisholm publishes autobiography detailing firsts

    A year after she began serving her first term representing New York’s 12th District, Shirley Chisholm, the first Black woman elected to Congress, published her autobiography “Unbought and Unbossed.” She would go on to become the first woman and the first African American to seek the nomination for president from one of the major parties.