Lone Star College - Kingwood
American Cultural History
1960 - 1969
about this decade.
sixties were the age of youth, as
70 million children from the post-war baby boom became teenagers and young adults. The movement away from the conservative fifties continued and eventually resulted in revolutionary ways of thinking and real change in the cultural fabric of American life. No longer content to be images of the generation ahead of them, young people wanted change. The changes affected education, values, lifestyles, laws, and entertainment. Many of the revolutionary ideas which began in the sixties are continuing to evolve today.
The purpose of this web and library guide is to help the user gain a broad understanding and appreciation for the culture and history of the 1960s. In a very small way, this is a bibliographic essay. While there is no way we can link to everything, we have attempted to find areas of special interest and to select information that we hold dear today - movies we watch, songs we sing, events that move us, people we admire.
To see the whole picture, we encourage users to browse all the way through this page and then visit the suggested links for more information on the decade. We feel the best way to immerse oneself in a topic is to use both Internet and the library. The real depth of information is best read in books. More photographs, more information, more depth. Then, there is information that will be found only on the Internet; a journal from someone, photographs like those on our pages. If you can add a valuable site or information to this page, we invite you to write. Thanks for the visit. ENJOY!
Architecture in the
sixties was undergoing a refinement of Modernism and a move to an
even more streamlined contemporary look. Tall buildings or skyscrapers
created a distinctly American structural type. Architects such as
Johnson & Burgee (Kline
Biological Tower), are some of the
architects who designed office
buildings which helped create a different look for the skylines of
large cities. Architects used light and space, for example the Cleo
Rogers Memorial Library by I.M. Pei , to create
were adapted for the activities which took place in them. The
space and futuristic design was apparent in some public buildings like
complex at Houston, Texas . Eero
Saarinen created the Memorial Arch in St. Louis,
in 1965. Walter
designed the Pan Am
Building (now called the Met
Life Building) in 1963 with
Pietro Belluschi and Emery Rothe & Sons. Louis I. Kahn in his
of Ft. Worth and other buildings brought a feeling
of austerity to American architecture. Robert
and Contradiction in Architecture in 1966 and
called for a
change in the reductive simplicity of Modernism, beginning a protest in
the late 60's. Perhaps one of the most well known and influential
whose career began to rise in the sixties is I. M. Pei . Peter
Frank O. Gehry
are architects who have become world famous for their distinctive
designs and who began making names for themselves during
this time. Designers like Herman
Miller left their mark on furnishings. Sleek
contemporary styles like those by Verner Panton
have translated well into future decades of furniture.
As in the
fifties, art in America of the sixties was influenced by
the desire to move into the modern age or future which the space age
seemed to forecast. Major works by Alexander Calder (mobiles and
(non-representational art) showed a desire to
escape from details to interpret. Artists wanted to inspire
the viewer to leap into the unknown and experience art in their own
way. A new artist who appeared was Andy Warhol,
a leading name in pop art. Other forms evolving during this time
art (or optical art) (ex.
(ex. Marcel Duchamp
), environmental art (ex. Robert
and pop art
, (ex. David
BOOKS ON ART AND ARCHITECTURE:
Marshall McLuhan, author of books on communications and the scope of the "global village," popularized his belief that mass communications were a driving force in the development of modern society in works like The Gutenberg Galaxy and Understanding Media . The Peter Principle, by Laurence Peter, came to epitomize incompetence. In 1963, Maurice Sendak published Where the Wild Things Are, about a boy named Max who must face some of his childhood fears. This controversial book with its illustrations, also by Sendak, won the Caldecott Medal in 1964 and has become a classic in children's literature.
The Sixties ProjectBOOKS: Library of Congress browsing areas include: PS - American Literature; Z - Books and Libraries
Children's Book Award Winners of the 60's
Newbery Award Winners - Began in 1922 (awarded to the most distinguished children's book of the previous year)
Award Winners - Began in 1938 (awarded to the most distinguished children's picture
book of the previous year)
In 1966, James S. Coleman, commissioned by the government, published Equality of Educational Opportunity, a landmark study that led the way to forced integration and busing in the 1970s.
Problems in secondary schools, discovered in the fifties, were being addressed in books such as James B. Conant's The American High School Today. A return to the teaching of basic thinking skills was seen to be part of the solution. In grade schools across the nation, phonics made a come back as reading specialists try to fix what went wrong in American education in the fifties.
The picture to the right shows the first teacher allowed to teach
pregnant (and showing) in Clear Creek School District. It was the
end of 1968.
Youth predominated the culture of the 1960's. The post World War II Baby Boom had created 70 million teenagers for the sixties, and these youth swayed the fashion, the fads and the politics of the decade. California surfers took to skateboards as a way to stay fit out of season, and by 1963, the fad had spread across the country. Barbie dolls, introduced by Mattel in 1959, became a huge success in the sixties, so much so that rival toy manufacturer Hasbro came up with G. I. Joe, 12 inches tall and the first action figure for boys. Another doll, the troll or Dammit doll (named for it's creator, Thomas Dam) was a good luck symbol for all ages. Slot cars overtook toy trains in popularity.
COSTUMES / FASHION
The 1960's began
with crew cuts on men and bouffant
hairstyles on women. Men's casual shirts were often plaid
buttoned down the front, while knee-length dresses were required wear
women in most public places. By mid-decade, miniskirts or hot pants, often worn
boots, were revealing legs, bodywear was revealing curves, and women's hair
was either very short or long and lanky. Men's hair became longer
and wider, with beards and moustaches. Men's
wear had a renaissance. Bright colors, double-breasted sports
jackets, polyester pants suits with Nehru jackets,
and turtlenecks were in vogue. By the end of the decade, ties,
when worn, were up to 5" wide, patterned even when worn with
stripes. Women wore peasant
skirts or granny dresses and chunky shoes. Unisex dressing
was popular, featuring bell bottomed jeans, love beads, and embellished
t-shirts. Clothing was as likely to be purchased at surplus
stores as boutiques. Blacks of both genders wore their
hair in an afro.
The Civil Rights movement made great changes in society in the 1960's. The movement began peacefully, with Martin Luther King and Stokely Carmichael leading sit-ins and peaceful protests, joined by whites, particularly Jews. Malcolm X preached about Black Nationalism. After his assassination, the Black Panthers were formed to continue his mission. In 1965, the Watts riots broke out in Los Angeles. The term "blacks" became socially acceptable, replacing "Negroes."
The number of Hispanic Americans tripled during the decade and became recognized as an oppressed minority. Cesar Chavez organized Hispanics in the United Farm Workers Association. American Indians, facing unemployment rates of 50% and a life expectancy only two-thirds that of whites, began to assert themselves in the courts and in violent protests.
The Presidential Commission of the Status of Women (1963) presented disturbing facts about women's place in our society. Betty Friedan, Pauli Murray and Gloria Steinem, (National Organization for Women) questioned the unequal treatment of women, gave birth to Women's Lib, and disclosed the "glass ceiling." The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was amended to include gender. The birth control pill became widely available and abortion for cause was legalized in Colorado in 1967. In 1967, both abortion and artificial insemination became legal in some states.
The Supreme Court decided in Engel v. Vitale, 370 U.S. 421, 1962, that prayer in the public schools was unconstitutional. As the 1960's progressed, many young people turned from mainstream Protestant religions to mystic eastern religions such as Transcendental Meditation (Maharishi Mahesh Yogi) or Zen Buddhism. Respect for authority declined among the youth, and crime rates soared to nine times the rate of the 1950's. Marijuana use soared. Well known Harvard psychologist Timothy Leary encouraged the use of LSD as a mind-opening drug. The hippie movement endorsed drugs, rock music, mystic religions and sexual freedom. They opposed violence. The Woodstock Festival at which 400,000 young people gathered in a spirit of love and sharing, represents the pinnacle of the hippie movement. Many hippies moved to Haight Ashbury in San Francisco, East Village in New York City, or lived in communes.
When Fidel Castro, soon after overtaking Cuba, declared that he was a communist, the United States broke off diplomatic relations. Castro seized American property. The CIA attacked Cuba in an ill-fated mission at the Bay of Pigs. In 1962, a spy plane identified long range missiles in Cuba. President John F. Kennedy readied troops to invade Cuba, and the Soviet Union prepared to fire at US cities if we made a move.
Kennedy was young and charismatic, and his brief reign as president was
often called Camelot. He was assassinated by Lee Harvey
1963. His Vice
President, Lyndon B. Johnson became president, and
the following year. To prevent communist North
overtaking South Vietnam, the
United States sent military advisors and then soldiers. It was
largely a secret war until 1965, when massive troop buildups were
put an end to the conflict. The draft was
accelerated and anti-war sentiment grew in the US. College
students organized anti-war
dodgers fled to Canada, and there were reports of soldiers
reflected the growing disrespect for authority, shooting
their officers rather
than follow orders. Johnson, blamed by many for the war and the
racial unrest in the country, did not run for reelection in 1968.
John Kennedy's brother, Robert campaigned
for the nomination for President and he, too was killed. Malcolm
assassinated in 1965 and Martin Luther King
The Space Race, begun by the Soviets in 1957, was highlighted by Alan Shepard, the first American in space in 1961. In 1963, John Glenn was the first American to orbit the earth. Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, in Apollo XI, were the first men to walk on the moon in 1969. The surgeon general determined that smoking was a health hazard, and in 1965 required cigarette manufacturers to place warnings on all packages and in all ads. The first clone of a vertebrate, a South African tree frog, was produced in 1967. Dr. Denton Cooley implanted the first artificial heart in a human, and it kept the patient alive for three days until a human heart could be transplanted.
People became more concerned with their health and their environment. Rachel Carson's Silent Spring awakened the environmental movement and the Sierra Club gained a following. Ralph Nader's book, Unsafe at any Speed, led to the consumer movement.
Historic and Cultural Events
1961 - Peace Corps created by Pres. Kennedy
1963 - Martin Luther King delivers his I have a dream speech
1963 - Pres. John F. Kennedy is assassinated in Dallas, Texas
1963 - Lyndon Johnson becomes President of the United States
There was a major change in popular music in the mid-1960's, caused in part by the drug scene. Acid Rock, highly amplified and improvisational, and the more mellow psychedelic rock gained prominence. When the Beatles turned to acid rock, their audience narrowed to the young. Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead grew out of the counterculture in 1967. The musical phenomena of the decade was Woodstock, a three day music festival that drew 400,000 hippies and featured peace, love, and happiness...and LSD. Folk music contributed to the counterculture.
The modular synthesizer (aka moog synthesizer), developed in 1960 by Robert Moog and Donald Buchla, marked a major change in serious music. Innovative composers were already experimenting with electro-acoustic music. Now they were able to go further with John Cage's 0'0 (Zero Silence) to be performed by anyone in anyway; Morton Subotnik's Silver Apples of the Moon; Robert Ashley's Wolfman. In 1967, Alvin Lucier, one of the co-founders of the Sonic Arts Union, created "Music for a Solo Performer," in which electrodes were attached to the performer's scalp. His alpha waves, controlled by his concentration, resonated from loudspeakers, accompanied by occasional percussion. Computers were used in music composition and sound synthesis, notably Max Mathews' Music IV and Music V. By the end of the decade, popular music was also using synthesizers and other electronic devices.LINKS
that proved popular on Broadway were made into movies, including Sound of Music and My Fair Lady. After
Monroe died, Audrey
Hepburn, star of My Fair
Lady and Wait until
Dark, was the idol of
young girls. Disney offered family entertainment in 101
Dalmatians and Pinocchio.
Movies became more political,
commenting on the arms race as in Dr.
Strangelove. Sex became more explicit, and occasionally
as in Midnight Cowboy, Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice,
Graduate. Six James
Bond Movies, including Dr.
No, From Russia With
sex and violence and were enormously
popular. Previous taboos on sex, violence and language, were
ignored, resulting in the need for a new
film code by the MPAA.
Radio continued to be the primary means of listening to music. The major development was a change from primarily AM to FM . Radio was supplemented by American Bandstand, watched by teens from coast to coast. They not only learned the latest music, but how to dance to it. When Chubby Checker introduced the twist on the show in 1961, a new craze was born, and dancing became an individual activity. The Mashed Potato, the Swim, the Watusi, the Monkey and the Jerk followed the Twist, mimicking their namesakes. Each new dance often lasted for just a song or two before the next one came along. Eventually the names and stylized mimicry ceased and the dancers just moved however they wanted. For those who preferred watching the dancers, Go-go girls, on stages or in bird cages, danced above the crowd.
Television offered the second prime time cartoon show, the Flintstones , in 1960. (The first was Rocky and his Friends in 1959.) It appealed to both children and adults and set off a trend that included Alvin & the Chipmunks , the Jetsons , and Mr. Magoo. The Andy Griffith Show was the epitome of prime time family television, and ran for most of the decade. The Beverly Hillbillies was another popular sitcom. The supernatural and science fiction blended in many of the popular shows, including Bewitched, The Addams Family, My Favorite Martian , I Dream of Jeannie, Star Trek, the Outer Limits , and the Twilight Zone. In the late 60's, humor was revived in a show called Rowan and Martin's Laugh In, where many regular performers and guests became part of a show biz classic.
list below represents only a beginning of what was happening in the
cinema industry. New ground was broken with each new
film. Books may be the best means of learning more on this
Title of Film:
1964 - Dr. Strangelove or How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the Bomb - a satire on the dangers of atomic weapons
1968 - The Graduate - a film showing how the generation gap affects communications
1969 - Midnight Cowboy - an example a films with a more mature theme
© 1999 [Lone Star College- Kingwood
Design by: Peggy Whitley, Written by: Susan Goodwin and Becky Bradley. Updated: 6/2011 BB.
Research Guides Twentieth Century Decades