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Chapter 39 - The Stormy Sixties 1960-1968


Major Themes

  • The Kennedy administration’s “flexible response” doctrine to combat communism bore ill fruit in Cuba and Vietnam. Johnson’s escalation of the war failed while growing domestic opposition finally forced from power
  • Johnson’s Great Society and the civil rights movement brought a tide of liberal social reform that was undermined in part by the Vietnam War

Major Questions

  • Were the cultural upheavals of the 1960s a result of political crises or the inevitable results of affluence and the “baby boom?

These "upheavals" were a little of both. There were many political crises, such as Vietnam, the peaceful protests for civil rights, Black Power violence, and outspoken student protests, that caused some "upheaval." The passing of the Civil Rights Act, among other things, was an obvious example. However, because the "baby boomers" and the general prosperity were something a little bit different, some of the upheaval of this time period were caused simply because it was unique. The increased "boom'd" population led to different reactions to political occurances, and the affluence of the time did the same. See The Cultural Upheavals of the 1960s for more details!!


Kennedy’s New Frontier Spirit

  • Kennedy was elected and took office on January 20, 1961
    • Was the youngest president ever elected, and the first Catholic
    • young and suave
    • his brother, the 35 year old Robert, was attorny general
      • Robert tried to fix the FBI, which wasn't doing enough to stop organized crime and wasn't helping the civil rights movement very little
    • Robert S. McNamara left the presidency of the Ford Motor Comapany and took over the Defense Department
    • inspired high expectations, esp. among youths
    • created the Peace Corps which would help out underdeveloped countries
    • was educated at Harvard and so were many of his cabinet; they all "radiated confidence"

The New Frontier at Home

  • Fragile Democaratic majorities in Congress
    • expanded the House Rules Committee
      • Needed more people, or else the (majority) Conservatives would shoot down all his plans
    • hard for him to pass New Frontier legislation, including medical assistance to the aged and increased federal aid to education
  • Another problem was the economy
    • campaigned on the theme of revitalizing the economy
    • drew the line at inflation
      • His administration made steel-company owrkers' wages go up, and assumed that the corporations' prices would stay the same (1962)
      • The companies raised their prices anyways, and Kennedy "yelled at them" (to put it in polite terms)
        • they backed down soon afterwards
      • made rest of the big businesses angry
    • made tax cuts and put more money into private hands instead of the government
      • "the most Republican speech since McKinley"
  • Promoted a project into going to the moon
    • would help stimulate the economy w/ billions of dollars being spent
    • would help American military strategy
    • would increase American scientific prestige

Rumblings in Europe

  • A few months after settling into the White House JFK met with Khrushchev in June 1961
    • Khrushchev was belligerent and threatened to make a treaty with East Germany cutting off Western access to Berlin
    • But the President would not be bullied by the Soviets
  • The Soviets backed off of their most bellicose threats but began the construction of the Berlin Wall in August 1961
    • The concrete and barbed-wire barrier was designed to plug the heavy population drain from East to West Germany
  • Kennedy turned his attention to Western Europe
    • Now prospering due to the Marshall Plan and Common Market
    • In 1962 the Trade Expansion Act cut tariffs up to 50% to all members of the Common Market in order to promote trade
  • The Common Market trade system wasn't accepted by France
    • Charles de Gaulle was suspicious of American intentions in Europe
      • Wanted the US out of all European affairs

Foreign Flare-ups and “Flexible Response”

  • World-wide decolonization created problems for US foreign policy
    • The US was funding the UN which was becoming dominated by the numerous small nations of Africa and Asia
    • Funded the UN interactions in the Congo
  • The country of Laos was freed from France in 1954
    • This jungle kingdom could serve as a river for communism to spread in to all of SE Asia
    • Kennedy's advisors recommended sending in US troops
      • Realized that he had too little forces while remaining in Western Europe
    • Kennedy sought a diplomatic escape in the 14th power Geneva conference
      • Imposed a shaky peace on Laos in 1962
  • Kennedy decided to push for a "flexible response" strategy
    • Developed an array of military options for all possible crisises
    • Added $ to military forces as well as Special Forces (Green Berets)

Stepping into the Vietnam Quagmire

  • "Flexible Response" seemed like a good idea, but it had problesm in it
    • It kind of made it easier to start shooting than to be diplomatic
    • Allowed more use of force
      • See Vietnam
  • Ngo Dinh Diem's government in Saigon was corrupt and not running very well
    • America had poured in $ to keep it going and stave off communism, but it was not very sturdy ever since the creation of North and South Vietnam
    • 1961- Kennedy orders more troops to Vietnam
  • The point of sending in troops was to allow Diem more time to make social reforms while protecting his government from communism
    • Diem wouldn't cooperate, so the US encouraged an overthrow (by anyone other than the communists) in 1963
    • This led to "political desintegration" and the collapse of South Vietnam
    • Kennedy told the vietnamese it was "their war" and made commitments that made a simple "pullout" almost impossible

Cuban Confrontations

  • Latin America was starting to resent the US
    • 1961- Kennedy made the Allianec for Progres, which was supposed to be the Marshall Plan for Latin America
      • Hoped to minimize gap between rich and poor and prevent communism
    • It didn't work so well (not enough positive impact)
  • There was a plan to overthrow Castro by invading Cuba with exiles
    • These exiles would be trained/armed by America, and would start an uprising from the people of Cuba
    • April 17, 1961- Bay of Pigs
      • US isn't part of direct intervention, and the old aircrafts of the exiles couldn't fight against Castro's more modern ones
      • There was no "popular uprising" form the people
      • The exiles were forced to surrender
        • Most went to jail, while some were traded for humanitarian supplies
        • Kennedy took full responsibility
  • America kept trying to get rid of Castro, and he became MORE communist
    • In 1962, it was discovered that Khrushchev was putting nuclear missles in Cuba
      • It was assumed that these weapons would be used to blackmail the US into doing what the USSR needed
    • Kennedy refused to bomb the missile-launching sites, so:
      • October 22, 1962: Made a "naval quarantine" of Cuba
      • Ordered that the weapons be removed
      • Told Khrushchev that any attack from Cuba would be directly related to USSR, and retaliation would be aimed at Russia
    • For about a week, there was some serious tension (understatement) but it was resolved
      • October 28: Khrushchev took the missiles out of Cuba in exchange for the end of the quarantine and no invasion from the US
      • US agreed to remove missiles in Turkey that were aimed at USSR
  • Results of the Cuban Missile Crisis:
    • Khrushchev was "kicked out" of his Kremlin position
    • Russia started huge military expansion
      • This led to a game of "catch-up" in America
    • Democrats did well in next election because REpublicans had been "Cubanized"
    • Kennedy started to push harder for a "no nuclear testing" treaty with the USSR
      • 1963: A treaty was signed that prevented trial nuclear explosions
    • A Moscow-Washington teletype line was set up to allow immediate communication
    • 1963: Kennedy made a speech at the American University in D.C.
      • Encouraged Americans to stop w

The Struggle for Civil Rights

  • Kennedy had campaignede with a strong appeal to black voters but proceeded gingerly to redeem his promises
  • He had pledged to eliminate racial discrimination in housing "with a stroke of the pen" but it took him almost two years to do so
  • Political concerns stayed the president's hand on civil rights. Kennedy needed the support of southern legislation to pass his economic and social legislation, esp. his medical and educational bills.
  • He believed that those measures would eventually benefit black Americans at leat as much as special legislation on civil rights. Bold moves for racial justice would have to wait
  • After the wave of sit-ins across the South in 1960, groups of Freedom Riders fanned out to end segregation in facilities serving interstate bus passangers.
  • A white mob torched a Freedom Ride bus in May 1961 and Attorney General Robert Kennedy's personal representative was beaten unconcious in another anti-Freedom Ride riot in Montgomery.
  • Washington dispatched federal marshals to protect the Freedom Riders.
  • The Kennedys proved ultra-wary about the political associates of Martin Luther King Jr.
    • Fearful of embarassing revelations that some of King's advisors had communist affiliations Robert Kennedy ordered FBI director J. Edgar Hoover to wiretap King's phone in late 1963
  • Encouraged by Robert Kennedy and with financial backing from Kennedy-prodded private foundations, SNCC and other civil rights groups inaugurated a Voter Education Project to register the Souths historically disfranchised blacks.
  • Some southern universities desegregated painlessly but the University of Mississippi became a volcano
  • A 29 air force veteran encountered violent opposition when he attempted to register in Oct. 1962.
  • President Kennedy was forced to send in 400 federal marshals and 3000 troops to enroll him in his first class
  • In 1963 Martin Luther King Jr. launched a campaign against discrimination in Birmingham, Alabama
    • Although blacks constituted nearly half of the citys pop. they made up fewer than %15 of the citys voters.
    • Peaceful civil rights marchers were repeatedly repelled by police with attack dogs and electric cattle prods.
    • High pressure water hoses were directed at civil rights demonstraters even.
  • Kennedy called the civil rights situation a moral issue and committed his personal and presidential prestige to finding a solution
  • He called for new civil rights legislation to protect black citizens.
  • In Aug. 1963 King led 200,000 black and white demonstraters on a peaceful "March on Washington" in support of the proposed legislation.
  • The violence still continued

The Killing of Kennedy

  • November 22, 1963. Violence was haunting America in the mid-1960s
  • Dallas, Texas, JFK was in an open limo when he was shot in the brain & died in seconds
  • the alleged assassin was Lee Harvey Oswald who was shot to death in front of TV cameras by a self-appointed avenger: Jack Ruby
  • Chief Justice Warren's offical investigation couldn't quiet doubts and theories about what really happened
  • Vice President LBJ was sworn in on a plane back to Washington w. Kennedy's body
    • though he distrusted Kennedy's team, he kept most of them and continued to follow JFK's policies
  • The whole nation was in mourning, realizing just how great the young buck was
    • he was in office for approx. 1000 days
    • he was remembered more for his ideals and spirit than the major goals he achieved
    • he had busted the myth that a Catholic could not be trusted w. the Presidency
  • In later years, his reputation was tarnished when his womanizing and involvment w/ organized crime figures were revealed
  • Yet, he was still remembered for his awesomeness [vigor, charisma, idealism] and inspired a later generation of leaders like Bill Clinton [elected in 1992]

The LBJ Brand on the Presidency

  • 6 foot 3 Texan Lyndon Baines Johnson was the new President
    • was first sent to Washington in 1937 as a 29 yr old congressman
    • saw FDR as his policial "daddy", he seriously supported New Deal actions
      • but when he lost a Senate race in 1937, he realized that liberal politics do not get you votes in Texas, so he leaned to the right and won a seat in the Senate by a landslide ["Landslide Lyndon"]
  • "Masterful wheeler-dealer" in the Senate
    • gave the "Johnson Treatment": backslapping, flesh-pressing (?), arm-twisting to friend and foe
  • Democratic majority leader in 1954, gaining power secondary to then-Pres. Eisenhower
  • LBJ's ego and vanity were legendary
    • the Pope gave him a 14th century painting from the Vatican art collection; LBJ gave him a bust [sculpture/painting from basically the shoulders & up]
  • when he became President he was able to show his true liberal colors
  • Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964
    • banned racial discrimination in most private facilities open to the public, inclu. theatres, hospitals & restaurants
    • strengthened fed. gov't's power to end segregation in schools and other public places
    • created the Equal Emplyment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to elimiate discrimitation during job hirings
    • conservatives tried to add sexual discrimination to the bill but it backfired
      • but the act's Title VII passed w/ the sexual clause
  • the bill would prove to be a powerful instrument of federally enforced gender & racial equality
  • 1965 LBJ issued and executive order for all federal contractors to take "affirmitave action" against discrimination
  • LBJ really pushed JFK's stalled tax bill thru Congress & added proposals of his own for a billion $ "War of Poverty"
  • LBJ showed special concerned for Appalchia where the sickness from the soft-coal industry had left 10s of 1000s of mnt. folk the human slag heap
  • LBJ dubbed his crusade for betterness th "Great Society"
    • a bunch of New Dealish economic & welfare measures to transform American life
  • LBJ's war on poverty was inspired by Michal Harrington's The Other America (1962) which revealed how 20% of "affluent America" 's population (over 40% of the black population) suffered in PoVeRtY

Johnson Battles Goldwater in 1964

  • In election of 1964 Johnson was nominated by the Democrats and the Republican nominee was Barry Goldwater.
  • Goldwater attacked the federal income tax, the Social Security system, the Tennessee Valley Authority, civil rights legislation, the nuclear test-ban treaty, and most loudly, the Great Society.
  • Democrats exploited the image of Goldwater as a trigger happy cowboy who would "Barry us" in the debris of World War II
  • Johnson seized upon the Tonkin Gulf episode early in Aug. 1964
    • 2 American destroyers were allegedly fired upon by th North Vietnamese on Aug 2 and 4, although exactly what happened still remains unclear. Johnson promptly called the attack "unprovoked" and moved swiftly to make political hay out of the episode
    • He ordered a "limited" retaliatory air raid against Norht Vietnamese bases
    • Johnson also used the incident to spur conressional passage of the all-purpose Tonkin Gulf Resolution
  • Johnson rode to a spectacular victory in November 1964

The Great Society Congress

  • Johnson’s victory smashed the conservative congressional coalition (Southern Democrats and Northern Republicans)
  • Much legislation was passed, only comparable to the One Hundred Days Congress (1933)
    • The growing economy made Johnson feel he could deliver Democratic promises of social reform
  • Escalating the war on poverty, Congress doubled the funds for the Office of Economic Opportunity to $2 Billion
  • Johnson also convinced Congress to create two new cabinet offices
    • The Department of Transportation
    • The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
  • Other laws established the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities
    • Designed to lift the level of American cultural life
  • Johnson gave educational aid directly to the students instead of the schools
    • LBJ signed this education bill in the humble one room Texas schoolhouse that he attended
  • Medicare for the elderly and Medicaid for the poor, became reality in 1965
    • Welcomed by millions without medical insurance
    • Much like the New Deal Programs of FDR

**Improved the lives of millions but undermined the Federal Government’s financial health

  • Immigration and Nationality Acts of 1965 abolished the 1921 quota system
    • Doubled the number of immigrants admitted annually
    • Set a limit on immigration from the Western Hemisphere (120,000)
    • Allowed the admission of US citizens’ close relatives
    • Changed the ethnic composition of the United States
  • The Great Society programs were attacked and conservatives said that billions of dollars were wasted
    • The Poverty rate declined measurably
    • The elderly became richer due to Medicare
    • Educational performance increased
    • Overall general health conditions improved greatly

Battling for Black Rights

  • Johnson passed the Voting rights bill of 1965 to try and lessen the evil of racial discrimination
  • Segregation in the south was weakening especially from the Civil Rights Act of 1964 however voting issues still persisted
  • Throughout the south very few of those blacks eligible to vote got registered
    • Mainly because of scare tactics used by kkk and many acts of violence
    • Also used poll taxes and literacy tests
  • In January 1964 the 24th ammendment was passed forbidding the poll tax
  • In 1965 Martin Luther King Jr resumed his fight for voter registration in alabama
  • A peaceful march of his was attacked by State troopers and one was killed
  • After this violence president Johnson gave an address to the people about overcoming the blight of bigotry and injustice
  • After this address he passed the voting rights act of 1965 banning literacy tests
  • Black southerners now had huge political power and they used it


Combating Communism in Two Hemispheres

  • Dominicans rose in revolt against their military gov't in 1965
  • Johnson announced that the Dominican Republic was the target of a Castrolike coup by "communist conspirators" and he dispatched some 25000 American troops
  • But the evidence of a communist takeover was fragmentary at best
  • Viet Cong guerrillas attacked an American air base at Pleiku, South Vietnam in Feb. 1965
  • The president ordered retaliatory bombing raids against military installations in North Vietnam and for the first time ordered attacking U.S. troops to land.
  • By the middle of March 1965 the Americans had "Operation Rolling Thunder" in full swing.
    • regular full-scale bombing attacks against North Vietnam
  • Before 1965 ended some 184000 American troops were involved most of them slogging through the jungles and ridce paddies of South Vietnam.
  • Aerial bombardment actually strengthened the communists will to resist.
  • The enemy matched every increase in American firepower with more men and more wiliness in the art of guerrilla warfare
  • The war became increasingly Americanized.

Victory for Nixon

  • Vietnam was a less crucial issue than expected
    • Both the Republican candidate & the Democratic candidate wanted to carry on w/ war until an "honorable peace" could be reached by the enemy, in other words: "American victory"
    • many "doves" refused to vote
  • Nixon vs. Humphrey vs. Wallace
    • Nixon(Republican): 301 electoral votes w/ 43.4% of the popular(31,785,480 votes)
    • Humphrey(Democrat): 191 electoral votes w/ 42.7% of the popular(31,275,166 votes)
    • Wallace(American Independent): 46 electoral votes w/ 9,906,473 popular votes
  • Nixon was the 1st pres. elect from his party since 1848 to not bring in at least 1 house of Congress w/ him
  • Nixon carried not 1 major city
  • Nixon was a minority pres. winning due to divisions over the war & protests against the draft, crime, & riots
  • Wallace:
    • won the largest 3rd-party vote in US history
    • showed the power of "populist" politics, appealing to voters' resentments & fears
    • Wallace's candidacy foreshadowed a change in US political life in future decades

The Obituary of Lyndon Johnson

  • Johnson died 4 years after his return to his Texas ranch in Jan. 1969
  • Johnson's legislative leadership for a time was remarkable
    • he did more & worked harder for civil rights than any other pres. since Lincoln
    • showed more compassion for the black, poor, & the poorly educated
    • wanted to be a "people's pres." after his idol, FDR
      • his legislative accomplishments of his 1st 3 yrs in office were comparable to those of the New Deal
  • 1966: LBJ sinking into the quicksands of Vietnam
    • Republicans made gains in Congress & white "backlash" forming against the black movement
    • Great Society programs started to collapse
    • costs of war sucked tax $ into the military
    • inflation ruined the hopes for prosperity
    • LBJ chose to defend the US foothold & enlarge the war rather than be run out
      • he was convinced by advisors that a "cheap" victory was feasible w/ mass aerial bombings & large troop commitments
    • his actions angered both the "hawks" & the "doves"

The Cultural Upheaval of the 1960s

  • Struggles against poverty, racisom, & the Vietnam War in the 1960s had important cultural consequences
  • The 1960s came to be seen as divided between 2 eras in terms of morals, values, & behavior
  • 1960s America:
    • Negative attitude toward authority
      • Free Speech Movement 1964: University of CA at Berkley is the location of one of the 1st organized protests against authority
        • lead by Mario Savio, condemned the university "machine" tied to corporate interests rather than human values, "put your bodies upon the gears & upon the wheels,...& you've got to make it stop."
    • Roman Catholics changed their old ways & gave up old customs (like Latin & meatless Fridays)
    • Many young Americans lost their traditional morals:
      • mostly because the US wasn't completely rid of sexism, racism, oppression, & imperialism
      • churches, schools, & families couldn't define values & shape behavior w/ the certainty that once was
      • conventional wisdom & inherited ideas were scrutinized, "Trust no one over 30"
  • The "counterculture"
    • opposed to traditional American ways
    • sons/daughters of middle class became radical political rebels & others turned to drugs, & dropped out of "straight" society, some "did their own thing" & went to "alternative" institutions or communes
    • women decked out in flowers & trousers & men w/ long hair & earrings
    • many counter "revolutions" ended w/ violence & cynicism
    • the Weathermen:
    • an underground terrorist group started by the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) who originally campaigned for antiwar & antipoverty
    • peaceful civil rights demostrations became urban riots
    • innocent experiments w/ drugs like marijuana & LSD ended up frying youths' brains & opened up a world of drug lords & addicts
  • "Sexual revolution"
    • 1960: birth-control pill made it easier to avoid unwanted pregnancy
    • By the 1960s, gays & lesbians were increasingly coming out & demanding sexual tolerance
      • an attack by off-duty cops on gay men in 1969 energized gay & lesbian militancy
    • The sexual revolution finally slowed in the '80s w/ worries about genital herpes & AIDS
  • 1960s wrap up:
    • Ps of the 1960s: youthful population bulge, protest against Vietnam War & racism, & the permanence of prosperity
    • the flower children grew up & had kids of their own
    • civil rights movement went silent
    • war ended
    • economic stagnation caused the bloom of prosperity
    • "counterculture" didn't fully replace older values, but weakened them permanently

VV: The Sixties: Constructive or Destructive

  • controversy btwn: socail classes, races, sexes, and generations
  • 3 decades later, we still felt the effects of the 60s
  • Conservative Republicans revived in 1994 the 60s culture supposedly trashed "traditional values"
  • Liberal Democrats continued to push for affirmative action for women & minorites, protection against the environment, an expanded welfare state, & sexual tolerance [legacies of the 60s]
  • despite good vs. bad, the sixties def. shaped the world we live in now
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