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The 1960s Portal


"The Sixties", as they are known in both scholarship and popular culture, is a term used by historians, journalists, and other objective academics; in some cases nostalgically to describe the counterculture and revolution in social norms about clothing, music, drugs, dress, formalities and schooling. Conservatives denounce the decade as one of irresponsible excess and flamboyance, and decay of social order. The decade was also labeled the Swinging Sixties because of the fall or relaxation of social taboos especially relating to racism and sexism that occurred during this time.

The 1960s became synonymous with the new, radical, and subversive events and trends of the period. In Africa the 1960s was a period of radical political change as 32 countries gained independence from their European colonial rulers.

Some commentators have seen in this era a classical Jungian nightmare cycle, where a rigid culture, unable to contain the demands for greater individual freedom, broke free of the social constraints of the previous age through extreme deviation from the norm. Christopher Booker charts the rise, success, fall/nightmare and explosion in the London scene of the 1960s. However, this alone does not explain the mass nature of the phenomenon.

Several nations such as the U.S., France, Germany and Britain turned to the left in the early and mid 1960s. In the United States, John F. Kennedy, a Keynesian and staunch anti-communist, pushed for social reforms. His assassination in 1963 was a stunning shock. Liberal reforms were finally passed under Lyndon B. Johnson including civil rights for African Americans and healthcare for the elderly and the poor. Despite his large-scale Great Society programs, Johnson was increasingly reviled by the New Left at home and abroad. The heavy-handed American role in the Vietnam War outraged student protestors across the globe, as they found peasant rebellion typified by Ho Chi Minh and Che Guevara more appealing. Italy formed its first left-of-center government in March 1962 with a coalition of Christian Democrats, Social Democrats, and moderate Republicans. Socialists joined the ruling block in December 1963. In Britain, the Labour Party gained power in 1964. In Brazil, João Goulart became president after Jânio Quadros resigned.

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"Daisy", sometimes known as "Daisy Girl" or "Peace, Little Girl," was a controversial political advertisement aired on television during the 1964 United States presidential election by incumbent president Lyndon B. Johnson's campaign. Though only aired once (by the campaign), it is considered an important factor in Johnson's landslide victory over Barry Goldwater and an important turning point in political and advertising history. It was created by Tony Schwartz of Doyle Dane Bernbach. It remains one of the most controversial political advertisements ever made.

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U-2 spy plane photo of nuclear missile sites in Cuba, November 1962
Credit: United States Air Force

Photo taken by a Lockheed U-2 spy plane of the San Cristobal MRBM launch site in Cuba, November 1962, after the Cuban Missile Crisis. Although this image was taken days after the crisis had ended (October 28), this image has become iconic of the crisis to the point where it is often cited incorrectly as having been taken during the crisis.

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Tents in Resurrection City in Washington, D.C.

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Lennon rehearsing in 1969
John Winston Ono Lennon, MBE (born John Winston Lennon; 9 October 1940 – 8 December 1980) was an English musician and singer-songwriter who achieved worldwide fame as a founding member of The Beatles, one of the most commercially successful and critically acclaimed acts in the history of popular music. Born and raised in Liverpool, Lennon had a rebellious nature and acerbic wit. At the age of 16, he formed a skiffle group which would evolve into The Beatles in 1960. With bandmate Paul McCartney, he established the Lennon–McCartney songwriting partnership, which provided the bulk of the Beatles' catalogue until the band dissolved at the end of the decade. Lennon then embarked on a solo career that produced the critically acclaimed albums John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band and Imagine. He became controversial through his work as a peace activist; his iconic songs, "Give Peace a Chance" and "Imagine", were adopted as anthems of the anti-war movement. In 1971, with his wife and muse Yoko Ono, he moved to New York City, where his criticism of the Vietnam War resulted in a lengthy attempt by Richard Nixon's administration to deport him. He took a sabbatical from the music business in 1975 to devote time to his family, re-emerging in 1980 with a new album, Double Fantasy, but was murdered on 8 December, three weeks after its release.

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