The name Camelot came to represent the energetic, idealistic image of the Kennedy White House. The musical Camelot, which opened on Broadway the same year Kennedy won his election, portrayed the legendary kingdom of the British King Arthur. The media noticed the Kennedy family resembled the royal, romantic spirit of Camelot. The President and First Lady, Jacqueline Kennedy, an intelligent and beautiful woman, brought an atmosphere of style and grace to the White House. The couple's young children, Caroline and John, Jr., added to the lively atmosphere. They played with their father in the Oval Office and in a swimming pool and tree house on the White House lawn. Magazine photographers and the growing medium of television captured the Kennedy family during moments of everyday life and transformed them into celebrities reaching beyond the world of politics. The fact that the Kennedys had young children made it all the more tragic when Camelot came to a sudden end.
Kennedy Is Assassinated
On November 22, 1963, as Kennedy looked ahead to his reelection campaign the following year, he traveled to Texas to gather support. Texas Governor John Connally and his wife, Nelly, met the President and the First Lady, at the airport in Dallas. Together they rode through the streets of downtown Dallas in an open limousine, surrounded by Secret Service agents and police officers. Newspapers had published the parade route ahead of time so supporters could welcome the Kennedys, and it was jammed with thousands of people hoping for a glimpse of the President. The motorcade (group of cars) slowed as it turned a corner in front of the Texas School Book Depository. Its employees had been sent to lunch so they could watch the event outside. Yet one man stayed behind. From a sixth-floor window, he aimed his rifle. Suddenly shots rang out. Bullets struck both Governor Connally and President Kennedy. Connally would eventually recover from his injuries. The President, slumped over in Jacqueline's lap, was mortally wounded. The limousine sped to a nearby hospital, where doctors made what they knew was a hopeless attempt to save the President. Kennedy was pronounced dead at 1:00 P.M. An aide delivered the news to a stunned Lyndon Johnson, addressing him as "Mr. President."
The prime suspect in Kennedy's murder was Lee Harvey Oswald, a former U.S. marine and supporter of Cuban leader Fidel Castro. He was apprehended later that afternoon, but revealed little information to the police. Two days after Kennedy's assassination, the TV cameras rolled as Oswald was being transferred from one jail to another. As the nation watched, a Dallas nightclub owner, Jack Ruby, stepped through the crowd of reporters and fatally shot Oswald before the assassin revealed any information about the murder or was put on trial.
Ruby’s murder of Oswald led many to believe that multiple people were in on the assassination, making it a conspiracy. Without Oswald to gather information from, rumors about the assassination spread quickly. To combat these rumors, President Johnson appointed The Warren Commission, after its chairman, Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren, to investigate the assassination of President Kennedy. After months of investigation, the Warren Commission determined that Oswald had acted alone in shooting the President. Since then, the case has been explored in thousands of websites, books, and articles that suggest a larger conspiracy.
Section 2: Lyndon Johnson and the Great Society
LBJ's Path to the White House
The grief of a nation, and the responsibility for healing it, hung upon the new President. Lyndon B. Johnson (LBJ) began the recovery process in a speech to Congress just days after Kennedy’s assassination:
"All I have I would have given gladly not to be standing here today...No words are sad enough to express our sense of loss. No words are strong enough to express our determination to continue the forward thrust of America that [Kennedy] began...”
-Lyndon Johnson, November 27, 1963
Although he came to the White House through tragedy, Johnson found himself in a job he had long wanted. Lyndon Johnson arrived in the United States House of Representatives in 1937 as a Democrat from Texas. In 1948, he won a seat in the Senate. In the Senate, Johnson demonstrated both political talent and an unstoppable ambition. During his first term in the Senate, he became the youngest Senator ever to be elected Minority Leader. When the Democrats won control of the Senate the following year, LBJ became Majority Leader. In this powerful post he became famous for his ability to use the political system to accomplish his goals. He controlled the votes to get bills passed by rewarding his friends and punishing his enemies. Johnson inspired fear and awe among his colleagues. He was "not a likeable man," a fellow politician once told him. But Johnson was more concerned with accomplishment than popularity, and his single-minded intensity enabled him to get his way.
Other senators marveled at the "Johnson treatment," in which he carefully researched a bill, and then approached in a hallway or office the legislator whose vote he needed. If he thought it was the best way to persuade the legislator, he would attack, "his face a scant millimeter from his target, his eyes widening and narrowing, his eyebrows rising and falling." Johnson might grab his victim by the lapels or by the shoulders, flattering, insulting, and shouting in turn. Nearly without fail, he got the vote he wanted. When Johnson's bid for the Democratic nomination failed in 1960, he accepted Kennedy's invitation to run for the vice presidency. Once elected, however, Johnson was frustrated with the job, which lacked any real power. He was also unhappy being away from Congress, where he had been so effective. Yet Johnson was not powerless for long. While it had been a long journey to the vice presidency, it was a tragically short trip to the Oval Office in 1963.
Johnson’s First Year in Office
LBJ inherited the presidency in November of 1963, with just one year left on JFK’s term. Johnson was well aware that Americans had not voted for him for President. So he was hesitant to make any big changes during that first year. He kept all the members of Kennedy’s cabinet. He continued Kenney’s Civil Rights Bill, continued to fund the space race, and fought to help improve the economy, just as Kennedy did. But LBJ also spent the year campaigning to be elected in 1964.
The Election of 1964
Johnson's ability to help the nation heal after the assassination paved the way for his landslide victory over Republican Barry Goldwater in the election of 1964. Goldwater, a senator from Arizona, held views that seemed excessive to many Americans, as well as to many members of his own party. For example, he believed that the U.S. should use nuclear weapons to win the Cold War. The Johnson campaign took advantage of voters' fears of nuclear war. It aired a television commercial in which a little girl's innocent counting game turned into the countdown for a nuclear explosion. Johnson received 61 percent of the popular vote and an overwhelming 486 to 52 tally in the Electoral College. The Democrats won majorities in both houses of Congress: 295 Democrats to 140 Republicans in the House of Representatives and 68 to 32 in the Senate. LBJ now had the mandate to move ahead even more aggressively.
The Great Society
Once Johnson won his own term as President, he used all the talents he had developed as Senate Majority Leader to push through Congress an extraordinary program of reforms on domestic issues. Johnson's agenda included Kennedy's civil rights and tax-cut bills. It also embraced laws to aid public education, provide medical care for the elderly, and eliminate poverty. He began to use the phrase “Great Society” to describe his goals. Johnson's Great Society was a series of laws and programs that emerged in his second term. The Great Society programs included major poverty relief, education aid, healthcare, voting rights, conservation and beautification projects, urban renewal, and economic development in depressed areas.
Great Society - Major Legislation, 1964 -1966
Civil Rights Act, 1964
Economic Opportunity Act, 1964
Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA), 1964
Voting Rights Act, 1965
Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965
Immigration Act of 1965
The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), 1965
The National Foundations of the Arts and Humanities, 1965
Water Quality Act, 1965;
Clean Water Restoration Act, 1966
The National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act, 1966
The War on Poverty
Growing up in an impoverished area of rural Texas, Johnson was one of the few presidents to have experienced the pain of poverty firsthand. He now pressed for the largest anti-poverty program that the U.S. has ever passed. In his 1964 State of the Union message, Johnson vowed, "This administration today, here and now, declares unconditional war on poverty in America." The Economic Opportunity Act, passed in the summer of 1964, was created to combat several causes of poverty, including illiteracy and unemployment. The Act provided nearly $1 billion for ten separate projects, including education and work-training programs such as the Job Corps. Two of the best-known programs created under the act were Head Start and VISTA. Head Start is a preschool program for children from low income families that also provides healthcare, nutrition services, and social services. Volunteers in
Service to America (VISTA) sent volunteers to help people in poor communities.
Aid to Education
LBJ had been a teacher for a short time before his career in politics, and knew how important education was to the future of America. Johnson's education programs moved through Congress as well. The Education Act of 1965 provided $1.3 billion in aid to states to improve schools in low-income neighborhoods. The funds went to public and private schools. Johnson signed the Education Act into law in the small Texas school he had attended as a child.
Medicare and Medicaid
President Johnson’s Great Society also focused attention on the increasing cost of medical care. In 1965, Johnson used his leadership skills to push through Congress two new programs, Medicare and Medicaid, both still active today. Medicare provides low-cost medical insurance to most Americans age 65 and older. "No longer will older Americans be denied the healing miracle of modern medicine," Johnson declared. "No longer will illness crush and destroy the savings that they have so carefully, put away." Medicaid provides low-cost health insurance coverage to poor Americans of any age who cannot afford their own private health insurance.
The Great Society also revised the immigration policies that had been in place since the 1920s. Laws passed in the 20s had set quotas, or limits, for newcomers from each foreign nation. Low quotas had been established for some countries from Europe, and immigration from Asia had almost been eliminated. The Immigration Act of 1965 replaced the varying quotas with a limit of 20,000 immigrants per year from any country outside the Western Hemisphere. This greatly increased the number of immigrants allowed to enter the U.S. each year. In the 1960s, some 350,000 immigrants entered the United States each year; in the 1970s, the number rose to more than 400,000 a year.
Effects of the Great Society
At first, the Great Society seemed enormously successful. Opinion polls taken in 1964 showed Johnson to be more popular than Kennedy had been at a comparable point in his presidency. However, some Americans complained that too many of their tax dollars were being spent on poor people. For decades following the Great Society, a major political debate continued over the criticism that anti-poverty programs encouraged poor people to become dependent on government aid and created generations of families on welfare instead of in jobs. Other critics argued that Great Society programs put too much authority into the hands of the federal government. They opposed the expansion of the federal government that accompanied the new programs. Nevertheless, the number of Americans living in poverty in the United States was cut in half during the 1960s and early 1970s.
Section 3: The Women’s Rights Movement
Background of the Women's Movement
The crusade for women's rights was not new in the 1960s. In the late 1800s, women had worked for the right to vote, something afforded to them by neither the federal government nor most states. The term feminism, which came to be associated with the 1960s, had first come into recorded use in 1895 to describe the idea of equality of men and women. Feminists were those who believed in this equality or took action to bring it about in both the social and economic areas of life.
By the time the 1960s came, American women were strongly encouraged to fall into traditional roles as wife, mother, and homemaker, as their husbands earned a living to financially support the family. Many women were happy in this role, but a growing number of others, especially young women, pursued a change in America that would offer females increased educational and work opportunities. The women's movement of the 1960s sought to change traditional aspects of American life that had been accepted for decades. The 1950s stereotype of women still placed them in the home, married and raising children. Feminists in the 1960s sought to shatter that stereotype, encouraging women to go to college, pursue careers, play sports, and run for political office.
Education and Employment
An increasing number of women began going to college after World War II. Better-educated women had high hopes for the future, but they were often discouraged by the discrimination they faced when they looked for jobs or tried to advance in their professions. In many cases, employers were reluctant to invest in training women because they expected female employees to leave their jobs after a few years to start families. Other employers simply refused to hire qualified women because they believed that home and family should be a woman's only responsibility. Women who did enter the work force often found themselves underemployed, performing jobs and earning salaries below their abilities. This inequality created a growing sense of frustration among women.
Women's Groups Organize
As the 1960s unfolded, women began to meet in groups to compare experiences. The movement was born as these groups grew and merged. The growing movement drew women who were active in other forms of protest and reform. They included female civil rights workers, opponents of the Vietnam War and the draft, and workers for other social issues. Another major influence on the movement was Betty Friedan's 1963 book The Feminine Mystique. Her book criticized the different expectations America had for men and women. The dissatisfied housewives that Friedan described in her book began meeting, too, to discuss their lives and their roles in society. Friedan's book is often credited with igniting the desire for change in millions of American women.
In 1966, a group of 28 women, including Betty Friedan, established the National Organization for Women (NOW). The goal of NOW was "to take action to bring American women into full participation in the mainstream of American society." NOW sought fair pay and equal job opportunities. It attacked the "false image of women" in the media, such as advertising that used sexist slogans or photographs. NOW also called for more balance in marriages, with men and women sharing parenting and household responsibilities. A year after NOW was founded, it had over 1,000 members. NOW served as a rallying point to end gender discrimination and to promote equality for all women, and still does today.
A Shift in Attitudes
Slowly the women's movement brought a shift in attitudes and in the law. For example, in 1972, Congress passed a prohibition against sex discrimination as part of the Higher Education Act. A survey of first-year college students revealed a significant change in career goals-and opportunities. In 1970, men interested in fields such as business, law, engineering, and medicine outnumbered women by eight to one. Five years later, the margin had dropped to three to one. More women entered law school and medical school. Women were finally admitted to military academies to be trained as officers. Women also became more influential in politics, which paved the way for Sandra Day O'Connor's appointment as the first female Supreme Court Justice in 1983 and Geraldine Ferraro's selection as the Democratic Party's vice presidential candidate in 1984. Many women did not actively participate in or support the women's movement. Still, most agreed with NOW's goal to provide women with better job opportunities. Many were also pleased that the women's movement brought a greater recognition of issues important to women. These issues included the need for child-care facilities, shelters for homeless women, more attention to women's health concerns, and increased awareness of sexual harassment.
Roe v. Wade
One issue that had the potential to divide the movement was abortion. NOW and other groups worked to reform the laws governing a woman's decision to choose an abortion instead of continuing an unwanted pregnancy. Many states had outlawed or severely restricted access to abortion. Women who could afford to travel to another state or out of the country could usually find legal medical services, but poorer women often turned to abortion methods that were not only illegal but unsafe. A landmark social and legal change came in 1973, when the Supreme Court legalized abortion in the controversial Roe v. Wade decision. The justices' decision struck down state regulation of abortion in the first three months of pregnancy. However, the ruling still restricts abortions during the later stages (2nd and 3rd trimesters) of pregnancy. The case was, and remains, highly controversial, with radical thinkers on both sides of the argument.
Opposition to the Women's Movement
Not all Americans were happy with the women's movement. Many men and even some women fought to keep the traditional roles of the sexes. It was a conservative woman, Phyllis Schlafly, who led a national campaign to block laws that NOW supported.
Legacy of the Women's Movement
Despite the opposition, the women's movement continued to make gains, to change minds, and to expand opportunities for women. In so doing, it increased the number of women in college, the workforce, business, politics, and athletics.
Section 4: The Counterculture
A Time of Change
In the 1960s, many young people adopted values that ran counter to, or against, the mainstream culture that they saw around them. Members of this counterculture valued youth, spontaneity, and individuality. Also called hippies, these young people promoted peace, love, and freedom. And they experimented with new styles of dress and music, freer attitudes toward sexual relationships, and the recreational use of drugs. The result was often a generation gap, or a lack of understanding between the older and younger generations.
The youth generation had an enormous influence on American society. First of all, it was the largest generation in American history. The "baby boom" that followed World War II resulted in a huge student population in the 1960s. By sheer numbers, the baby boomers became a force for change. The music industry rushed to produce the music they liked; clothing designers copied the styles they introduced; and colleges changed courses and rules to accommodate them.
The look of the 1960s was unique and free. But it was also a sign of changing attitudes. The counterculture rejected the rules and restrictions their parents and teachers tried to force upon them. In the 1950s, it was important to conform, or fit in. But in the 1960s counterculture, it was important to stand out. Many young women gave up the structured hairstyles of the 1950s, while young men let their hair grow long and free, while wearing facial hair – two things that were not done by most men in the 1950s. Their clothing was as different from the conformity of the 1950s as they could make it. “Hippie dress” became a kind of uniform for the youth generation, including jeans, floral blouses, ponchos, tie-dye, and jewelry from Native American and African cultures.
The Sexual Revolution
Just as participants in the counterculture demanded more freedom to make personal choices in how they dressed, they also demanded more freedom to choose how they lived. Their new views of sexual conduct, which rejected many traditional restrictions on behavior, were labeled "the sexual revolution." Some of those who led this revolution argued that sex should be separated from its traditional ties to family life. Many of them also experimented with new living patterns. Some hippies rejected traditional relationships and lived together in communal groups, where they often shared property and chores. Others simply lived together as couples, without getting married. The sexual revolution in the counterculture led to more open discussion of sexual subjects in the media, and more depiction of sexual situation in movies and television.
The Drug Scene
Some members of the 1960s counterculture also turned to psychedelic drugs. In the 1960s, the use of drugs, especially marijuana, became much more widespread among the nation's youth. Just like today, the possibility of death from an overdose or from an accident while under the influence of drugs was very real. Three leading musicians of the 1960s-Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, and Jimi Hendrix-died of complications from drug overdoses. And they were not the only ones. Their deaths represented the tragic excesses to which some people were driven by their reliance on drugs to enhance or to escape from reality. The increased drug use and the increased number of overdoses led to more strict laws and more harsh punishments for drug crimes that would be passed in the 1980s.
The Music World
Music both reflected and contributed to the cultural changes of the 1960s. The rock and roll of the late 1950s had begun a musical revolution, giving young people a music of their own that worried many adults. The year 1964 marked a revolution in rock music that some called the "British Invasion." It was the year that the Beatles first toured America. The "Fab Four", as the Beatles were called, had already taken their native England by storm. They became a sensation in the United States as well, not only for their music but also for their style and look. The Beatles heavily influenced the music of the period, as well as the spirit of the counterculture as a whole. Other British rock groups, like the Rolling Stones and the Who followed the Beatles to the U.S. and influenced the counterculture as well. The young people of the counterculture came together to celebrate their music and way of life in the summer of 1969. About 400,000 people gathered for several days at the Woodstock Music and Art Fair on a farm in rural New York to listen to the major bands of the rock world and to celebrate the counterculture. The counterculture would eventually die out as a major force in the 1970s, but elements of it remain today. Their free attitudes towards drugs and sex changed America, and their individualism has become a major part of 21st century America.
The Vietnam War
Section 1: Background of Vietnam War p.74
Section 2: America's War in Vietnam p.77
Section 3: The Home Front During the Vietnam War p.80
Section 4: The End of the Vietnam War p.83
Section 1: Background of the Vietnam War