The nineteen sixties were times of great change. Many people went from
moderates to radicals because of the environment around them. That environment
was called the establishment. It included all of the events going on in the nineteen
sixties. Some of the main events taking place were the Vietnam War, the
government, the Democratic National Convention and the culture (*). Many
protested things that they did not believe in or thought was wrong (*). There were
many things that made the radical’s different from the moderates. They were the
music they listened to and the clothes they wore. Most obviously was the way
In the summer of 1967, society and rock and roll were going through some
major changes. People who listened to rock and roll wore flowers in their hair and
on their clothes. They Grooved to tunes by The Grateful Dead, Cream,
Jefferson Airplane, and many others (*). Radical was the name given to these
diverse cultural icons of the sixtys revolution. These radicals were associated
with the many of the youth parties who shared their views with the country. The
music that the radicals listened too greatly affected the way the acted. It was the
mellow tune and the moving lyrics that inspired this generation of teenagers. They
stood up for what they believed in from listening to the rock and roll, which is
now, classified as classic rock. The people who didnt listen to the new rock and
roll, listened to classical and jazz music. They thought the radicals who listened to
rock and roll were rebels. Large get togethers were common in the sixties. At
these “be ins,” as they were called, people ate, drank, and listened to music (*).
The greatest musical get-together that had the most influencing effect on
the people of the sixties was Woodstock 69. This was the largest rock concert
ever and was held in Bethel, New York. It was three days long, beginning on
August 15 and ending on August 17 in 1969. The Woodstock Ventures was the
newly founded company organizing the three-day festival. The Town of Wallkill
was the anticipated site for the music festival, but city officials and residents
protested it. Laws were made to make sure that Woodstock was not to be held in
Wallkill. The laws were passed, so the Woodstock Ventures team had to search
for a new site. They ended up finding a 600-acre cow pasture suitable for a three-
day concert in the town of Bethel, New York. The city and state officials said they
had everything planned for and prepared before the concert. But when it came
around to the opening day, they knew what they hadnt planned for, a crowd of
more than 500,000 people. The concert started at exactly 5:07 P.M. on August
15, 1969 (*). Around midnight on the first day, it started to rain. In as little as
three hours, five inches of rain fell. This caused the field to flood, and making
everyone and everything a big mud puddle. Through the three days there were
two deaths, but also two births. Both of the deaths were by accident. At the end
of the final day, people began to slowly make their way out of the once was grass
field. That barren field now has a monument remembering those three days of
music. It attracts visitors from all over the country, who want to see where the
biggest party of all time was once held (*).
Dress in the nineteen sixties showed what kind of attitude you possessed
and the views you obtained. There were two dominant groups of dress in the
sixties. One was the radical and hippie attire. It consisted of older, more ragged
looking outfits. They usually wore headbands or bandanas on their heads.
Sometimes they would wear tie-dye or multicolor mixed shirts. The pants that
most of this teenage generation would don were usually aged and battered, which
sometimes beared holes in them. The types of shoes that they wore depended on
the individual. Some wore tall boots, short boots, and sandals. The most popular
shoes were the original Converse All-Stars (*). Most people just wore whatever
they could find, and didnt care what they looked like (*). The second dominant
group of dress was the older, non-teenage generation. The men usually wore
clean, newly pressed clothes. Some men wore suits all of the time. Men mostly
wore black shiny dress shoes. The women wore clean, new clothes unlike the
teenagers of the time.
People of the sixties were very judgmental when it came to clothes people
wore. When someone saw a hippie for the first time, they automatically thought
that they were rebels who didnt want a government (*). The older, moderate
people looked down upon these hippies because they expressed themselves
through their clothes (*). The radicals attitude toward the older, “non-hippie”
generation was that they didnt know how to stand up for what they believe in (*).
The government of the nineteen sixties had an enormous impact on the way
people acted. Some agreed with the government, and some didnt. Some of the
people even tried to change the way it worked. The presidents played a large role
in the action taken by the government.
Lyndon Baines Johnson became the thirty-sixth president after the
assassination of John F. Kennedy in November 1963. A skilled promoter of
liberal domestic legislation, he was also a dedicate believer in the use of military
force to help achieve the country’s foreign policy objectives. His increase of
American involvement in the Vietnam War decreased his popular standing and led
to his decision not to run for reelection for presidency in 1968. Johnsons attitude
toward the Vietnam War was apparent. He believed in strong military action.
Johnson had increased the number of U.S. military forces there from 16,000 at the
time of Kennedy’s assassination to nearly 25,000 a year later. Later Johnson began
to increase the United States involvement in the Vietnam. Johnson began the rapid
deepening of U.S. involvement in Vietnam; as early as February 1965, U.S. planes
began to bomb North Vietnam. American troop strength in Vietnam increased to
more than 180,000 by the end of the year and to 500,000 by 1968. Johnson did
not have the same views as some of the radicals. He wanted to keep the United
States in the Vietnam War, while the radicals did not.
Richard Nixon was the thirty-seventh president after Lyndon Johnson.
Nixon didnt believe in the Vietnam War as highly as Johnson. In 1973, after four
years of war in Vietnam, the administration managed to arrange a cease-fire that
would last long enough to allow U.S. departure from Vietnam. Nixon had very
different views then the radicals. He thought that all of the protestors were rebels
who should have action taken against them. Even though he ordered the departure
of all United States troops from Vietnam, he still believed in the war.
John Fitzgerald Kennedy became the 35th president of the United States in
1961 at the age of 43. He was the youngest man and the first Roman Catholic
ever elected to the presidency. In 1963 Kennedy was thinking ahead to the
presidential campaign of 1964. In order to develop peace between clashing
committees of the Democratic party in Texas, he traveled there in November 1963.
While driving in a motorcade through Dallas on November 22, he was shot in the
head and died within an hour. Newly sworn in president Johnson appointed the
Warren Commission to investigate the assassination. It concluded that the killer,
acting alone, was 24-year-old Lee Harvey Oswald. No motive was established.
People believed over the years that Kennedy was the victim of a conspiracy (*).
Martin Luther King, Jr. devoted his life to the fight for full citizenship
rights of the poor, disadvantaged, and racially oppressed in the United States.
King flew to Memphis, Tennessee to assist striking sanitation workers. There, on
April 4, 1968, King was Shot and killed. The violent death of King brought an
immediate reaction of rioting in black ghettos around the country. Although one
man, James Earl Ray, was convicted of King’s murder people suspected that he
was payed by conspirators (*).
Robert Francis Kennedy was the younger brother of U.S. President John F.
Kennedy. He was a U.S. attorney general and a U.S. senator during his lifetime.
After President Lyndon B. Johnson failed to choose Kennedy as his 1964 running
mate, he resigned and won a U.S. Senate seat from New York. He focused on the
needs of poor minorities and became a sharp critic of the Vietnam War. In March
1968, Kennedy announced his candidacy for the Democratic presidential
nomination. On the night of June 4, 1968 Kennedy was celebrating his victory in
the California primary. On that night, Kennedy was fatally shot. Kennedy did not
die instantly, instead, he died two days later, on June 6, 1968. His assassin was an
immigrant from Jordan named Sirhan B. Sirhan was arrested at the scene and later
convicted of first degree murder(*).
The Democratic National Convention of 1968 was planned to be a peaceful
convention of democrat views and ideas. Antiwar activists also planned for it to
be a peaceful, six day festival protesting the Vietnam War. There were no plans of
violence in the six days. When the Chicago mayor at the time, Richard Daley,
heard of the protestors coming to the convention, he ordered 7,500 U.S. Army
troops and 6,000 National Guardsmen to back up his 12,000 police officers. It
was held from August 26-29, 1968. Riots began to form so the law enforcement
took action. The media captured most all of the riots on camera and broadcasted
them live on television. Daley was even caught on camera shouting obscenities at
Senator Abraham Ribicoff, who accused the police of “Gestapo tactics” (*).
The Vietnam War was a crucial factor in the protesting and rioting in the
nineteen sixties. The war took place from the mid nineteen fifties until 1975. The
two sides fighting were North Vietnam versus South Vietnam aided by the United
States. In 1975, North Vietnam took the victory over South Vietnam and the U.S.
This was a great shock to American self confidence. Opposition to the war grew
with increased U.S. involvement. College students, members of a traditional
pacifist religious groups, longtime peace activists, and citizens of all ages opposed
the conflict. Some were motivated by fear of being drafted. Others out of
commitment, and some just joined the crowd just to follow. Although the antiwar
movement was frequently associated with the young, support for the war was
actually highest in the age group 20-29. The movement probably played a role in
convincing Lyndon Johnson not to run for reelection in 1968, and an even larger
role in the victory of Richard Nixon over the Democrat Hubert Humphrey. The
war changed Americas society.
The Civil Rights Movement changed the way people live today. In 1964,
Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Law of race and sexual discrimination.
If this didnt take place, people today wouldnt be able to get jobs because of the
sex and race. Johnson then signed yet another Civil Rights Law that would affect
people today if it didnt come about. It was a law on voting rights. Many people
protested to make these right come about in the nineteen sixties. Contributions
were made by Martin Luther King, Jr. and all of the activists of the sixties. If these
laws were not passed then people today wouldnt be able to take an active part in
the government or get the jobs they wanted.
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2001. Available: http://www.go.grolier.com
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Mailer, Norman. The Best of Abbie Hoffman. New York: Four Walls
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Korcz, Keith. “Myths and Facts About the 1960’s.” 1-4. On-line.
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Jackson, Leslie. The Sixties. London: Phaidon Press Limited, 1998
Drake, Nicholas. The Sixties: A Decade in Vogue. New York: Prentice
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