The 1960s started with the election of the John Kennedy, who was the first president of the United States born in the twentieth century. The young president represented a hope for many Americans and when he was killed in 1963, many of them felt that their hoped died, as well. Many Americans protested in order to end the unfair treatment of black citizens, many more to end the war in Vietnam and even more for full equality for women.
It was almost impossible for President Lyndon Johnson to leave the White House without facing many protesters against the war in Vietnam by the middle of the 1960s. During 1960s, beside President John Kennedy, two other influential Americans were killed. Martin Luther King Junior, civil rights leader, was killed in Memphis (Tennessee) in 1968, and a few weeks later the brother of John Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, was killed in Los Angeles (California).
Robert was campaigning to win the nomination for president for his party. These two murders resulted in protests in many cities across the United States. Most people had jobs which were well paid, by the middle of 1950s. Those people expressed satisfaction with their lives and they also taught their children what was known as middle class values. These included service to their country, hard work, and a belief in God.
However, many young people started to question these beliefs, since they thought that the values of their parent were not enough to help them deal with racial and social problems of the 1960s. They rebelled by wearing unusual clothing and letting their hair grow long, but their dissatisfaction was most expressed in music. In the 1950s, rock and roll music became very popular across the United States. However, some people didn’t approve it, since they thought it was too much sexual.
These people found the words especially unpleasant during 1960s. On the other hand, the musicians though the words were very important. Bob Dylan was one of the best singers and songwriters of that time. Rock and roll music continued to be popular across the United States in 1960s. But, the most popular band was not from America, but rather from the Great Britain – The Beatles, four musicians from Liverpool. In 1969, 500 thousand young Americans did their own thing at the Woodstock music festival.
They gathered at a farm in the New York state and listened to musicians such as Joan Baez, Jimi Hendrix and to groups such as Jefferson Airplane and The Who. The Woodstock music festival become a symbol of the rebellion against traditional values and many young Americans, who called themselves hippies, were visiting the festival. They thought there should be more personal freedom and love in the United States. Allen Ginsberg, a poet, led a gathering of hippies in San Francisco in 1967.
20 thousand people attended the gathering, although nobody knows exactly how many people considered themselves hippies. A drug which was used in the 1960s was LSD, which causes the brain to see strange, colorful images. However, it can also cause brain damage. On the other hand, many others Americans were watching television programs with traditional family values, such as “The Beverly Hillbillies,” and “The Andy Griffith Show.”
Women were seeking equality with men. They wanted the same chances as men in order to get a good job and good education. In addition, women also demanded equal pay for equal work. Many Americans took no part in the social revolution and continued leading normal lives of family, home and work while the activists of American society were busy fighting for racial and social justice and peace.