Trends and Themes of the Era
- Democrats, who held the presidency in the
1960s, tried to bring about the liberal social reforms that were
the hallmarks of their party’s philosophy.
- Led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the civil rights movement
achieved its greatest successes, culminating in the 1964 Civil Rights
Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The civil rights movement gained
massive public support and helped convince the nation of the power
of social action.
- The Cold War continued throughout the decade, and nearly
erupted in nuclear war during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.
Cold War anxieties and concerns over Soviet domination in Asia led
to the buildup of American forces in Vietnam and the Vietnam War.
- In the tradition of social action built during the civil
rights movement and in response to U.S. involvement in a foreign
war that took over 50,000 American lives and seemed unwinnable,
a vocal minority of Americans formed the antiwar movement. Supporters
and critics of the war often opposed each other bitterly.
- The 1960s was a time of dramatic social engagement and
action. In addition to the civil rights and antiwar movements, a
powerful women’s rights movement also took root.