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Swinging Sixties directs here: see also Swinging London.
Centuries: 19th century - 20th century - 21st century
Decades: 1930s 1940s 1950s - 1960s - 1970s 1980s 1990s
Years: 1960 1961 1962 1963 1964 1965 1966 1967 1968 1969

The 1960s decade refers to the years from January 1, 1960 to December 31, 1969, inclusive. Informally, it can also include a few years at the end of the preceding decade or the beginning of the following decade. The Sixties has also come to refer to the complex of inter-related cultural and political events which occurred in approximately that period, in Western countries, particularly Britain, France, the United States and West Germany. Social upheaval was not limited to just these nations, reaching large scale in nations such as Japan, Mexico and Canada as well. The term is used both nostalgically by those who participated in those events, and pejoratively by those who regard the time as a period whose harmful effects are still being felt today. The decade was also labeled the Swinging Sixties because of the libertine attitudes that emerged during the decade.

As with the Seventies, popular memory has conflated into the Sixties some events which did not actually occur during the period. For example, although some of the most dramatic events of the American civil rights movement occurred in the early 1960s, the movement had already begun in earnest during the 1950s. On the other hand, the rise of feminism and gay rights began in the 1960s and continued into the next few decades. Homosexual acts between consenting adults in private were legalised in England and Wales in 1967. The "Sixties" has become synonymous with all the new, exciting, radical, subversive and/or dangerous (according to one's viewpoint) events and trends of the period, which continued to develop in the 1970s, 1980s and beyond.


[edit] Bookending events

Significant events that occurred around 1960 which would influence the course of history and character of the decade, include:

Significant events that marked the passing of the decade include:

[edit] Major changes during the Sixties

See also: Civil Rights Movement

[edit] In the United States

The U.S. started a sustained program of math and science to counter the Soviet Union. This led to an expansion of the space program, with John Glenn orbiting the Earth and President Kennedy announcing the Apollo Programme in 1961, which placed the first men on the Moon in July 1969.

The Civil Rights Movement successfully advocated equal rights for people of color. The movement began as a non-violent movement led by Martin Luther King, Jr. and other Gandhian figures. Later in the decade, Black Power movement and the Black Panther Party emerged as radical offshoots.

The decade starts with the election of President John F. Kennedy in 1960, who promoted the space program, math and science education, tax cuts and the Peace Corps. It continued with president Lyndon Johnson's projects of the Great Society and the Civil Rights Acts (1964/1968). It is marked by tragedy with Kennedy's assassination in 1963, and by the assassinations of King and Robert F. Kennedy in 1968. The decade ends with the collapse of Johnson's presidency due to public opposition to the Vietnam War and the election of Richard Nixon in 1969.

A mass movement began rising in opposition to the Vietnam War, ending in the massive Moratorium protests in 1969, and also the movement of resistance to conscription (“the Draft”) for the war. The antiwar movement was initially based on the older 1950s Peace movement heavily influenced by the Communist Party USA, but by the mid '60s it outgrew this and became a broad-based mass movement centered on the universities and churches: one kind of protest was called a "sit-in." Other terms included Draft lottery, draft dodger, conscientious objector, and Vietnam vet. Voter age-limits were challenged by the phrase: "If you're old enough to die for your country, you're old enough to vote."

Stimulated by this movement, but growing beyond it, were large numbers of student-age youth, beginning with the Free Speech Movement at the University of California, Berkeley in 1964, peaking in the riots at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago and reaching a climax with the shootings at Kent State University in 1970, which some claimed as proof that "police brutality" was rampant. The terms were: "The Establishment" referring to traditional management/government, and "fascist pigs" referring to police using excessive force.

The rapid rise of a "New Left" employed the rhetoric of Marxism but had little organizational connection with older Marxist organizations such as the Communist Party, and even less connection with the supposed focus of Marxist politics, the organized labor movement, and consisting of ephemeral campus-based Trotskyist, Maoist and anarchist groups, some of which by the end of the 1960s had turned to terrorism.

The overlapping, but somewhat different, movement of youth cultural radicalism was manifested by the hippies and the counter-culture, whose emblematic moments were the Summer of Love in San Francisco in 1967 and the Woodstock Festival in 1969.

The sub-culture, associated with this movement, spread the recreational use of cannabis and other drugs, particularly new semi-synthetic psychedelic drugs such as LSD.

The breakdown among young people of conventional sexual morality led to the flourishing of the sexual revolution. The era heralded the rejection and a reformation by hippies of traditional Christian notions on spirituality, leading to the widespread introduction of Eastern and ethnic religious thinking to western values and concepts concerning ones religious and spiritual development.

Popular music entered an era of "all hits" as numerous singers released recordings, beginning in the 1950s, as 45-rpm "singles" (with another on the flip side), and radio stations tended to play only the most popular of the wide variety of records being made. Also, bands tended to record only the best of their songs as a chance to become a hit record. The developments of the Motown Sound, "folk rock" and the British Invasion of bands from the U.K. (The Beatles, The Dave Clark Five, and so on), are major examples of American listeners expanding from the folksinger, doo-wop and saxophone sounds of the 1950s and evolving to include psychedelia music.

The rise of an alternative culture among affluent youth, creating a huge market for rock and blues music produced by drug-culture influenced bands such as The Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix Experience and The Doors, and also for radical music in the folk tradition pioneered by Bob Dylan.

American automobiles evolved through the stream-lined, jet-inspired designs for sportscars such as the Pontiac GTO and the Plymouth Barracuda, Ford Mustang, and the Chevrolet Corvette.

[edit] In other Western countries

The peak of the student and New Left protests in 1968 coincided with political upheavals in a number of other countries. Although these events often sprung from completely different causes, they were influenced by reports and images of what was happening in the United States and France. Students in Mexico City, for example, protested against the corrupt regime of Gustavo Díaz Ordaz: in the resulting Tlatelolco massacre hundreds were killed.

University students protested in their hundreds of thousands in London, Paris, Berlin and Rome, huge crowds protested against the Vietnam War in Australia and New Zealand (both of which had committed troops to the war).

An important difference between the United States and Western Europe, however, was the existence of a mass socialist or Communist movement in most European countries (particularly France and Italy), with which the student-based new left was able to forge a connection. The most spectacular manifestation of this was the May student revolt of 1968 in Paris that linked up with a general strike of ten million workers called by the trade unions—and for a few days seemed capable of overthrowing the government of Charles de Gaulle. De Gaulle went off to visit French troops in Germany to check on their loyalty. Major concessions were won for trade union rights, higher minimum wages and better working conditions.

[edit] In non-Western countries

In Eastern Europe students also drew inspiration from the protests in the West. In Poland and Yugoslavia they protested against restrictions on free speech by Communist regimes. In Czechoslovakia 1968 was the year of Alexander Dubček’s Prague Spring, a source of inspiration to many Western leftists who admired Dubček's "socialism with a human face". The Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia in August ended these hopes and also fatally damaged the chances of the orthodox communist parties drawing many recruits from the student protest movement.

In the People's Republic of China the mid-1960s were also a time of massive upheaval and the Red Guard rampages of Mao Zedong's Cultural Revolution had some superficial resemblances to the student protests in the West. The Maoist groups that briefly flourished in the West in this period saw in Chinese Communism a more revolutionary, less bureaucratic, model of socialism. Most of them were rapidly disillusioned when Mao welcomed Richard Nixon to China in 1972. People in China, however, saw the Nixon visit as a victory in that they believed the United States would concede that Mao Zedong-thought was superior to capitalism (this was the Party stance on the visit in late 1971 and early 1972). The Cuban revolutionary Ernesto "Che" Guevara also became an iconic figure for the student left.

[edit] People

[edit] World leaders

[edit] Writers and intellectuals

[edit] External links

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