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America in the Sixties

John Robert Greene

Publication Year: 2010

Greene sketches the well-known players of the period—John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and Betty Friedan—bringing each to life with subtle detail. He introduces the reader to lesser-known incidents of the decade and offers fresh and persuasive insights on many of its watershed events. Greene argues that the civil rights movement began in 1955 following the death of Emmett Till; that many accomplishments credited to Kennedy were based upon myth, not historical fact, and that his presidency was far from successful; that each of the movements of the period—civil rights, students, antiwar, ethnic nationalism—were started by young intellectuals and eventually driven to failure by activists who had different goals in mind; and that the "counterculture," which has been glorified in today’s media as a band of rock-singing hippies, had its roots in some of the most provocative social thinking of the postwar period. Greene chronicles the decade in a thematic manner, devoting individual chapters to such subjects as the legacy of the fifties, the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, the civil rights movements, and the war in Vietnam. Combining an engrossing narrative with intelligent analysis, America in the Sixties enriches our understanding of that pivotal era.

Published by: Syracuse University Press


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Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-vi


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

These are several of the complaints endemic to those of us who teach survey American history courses. The book series America in the Twentieth Century was designed to address these issues in a novel fashion that attempts to meet the needs of both student and instructor alike. Using decades for its organizational schema (admittedly a debatable choice, but it is our experience that chronology, not theme, makes for a better survey course), each book tackles the main issues of its time in a fashion at once readable and scholarly in nature.

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pp. xi-xv

There are few events more boring than an academic conference. To be sure, professional historians get to travel on their college’s dime, meet other historians from around the country, and, at the book exhibits, get to scarf up dozens of free books. But the sessions—academics droning their dense, over-footnoted paper to a virtually empty room—remind one of an 8:00 A.M. class with the proverbial professor who talks to himself. Truth in advertising— early in my career, I read many such papers to many such conferences; my vita grew, but as I reflect on it, few of those conference performances were any good. I stopped going to them.

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1. Comfort and Crisis: The 1950s

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pp. 1-19

William McGuire "Bill" Bryson was born in Des Moines, Iowa, in 1951. He would go on to become a prolific author, writing travel books, books on the English language, and the prize-winning Short History of Nearly Everything.1 But in the 1950s he was a charter member of the post–World War II baby-boom generation, when an estimated seventy-eight million babies were born between 1946 and 1960. Like most baby boomers, Bryson looks back on growing up in the fifties with a sentimental fondness. In his hilarious and

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2. “The Torch Has Been Passed to a New Generation”: The Myths of John F. Kennedy

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pp. 20-39

The problem with the presidency of John F. Kennedy is a problem of evidence. There seems to be nowhere that the historian can turn for an objective opinion of Kennedy’s short tenure. No president was analyzed so quickly, and so shoddily, by both contemporary observers and historians, until fact, myth, and just plain nonsense were irretrievably mixed. Yet what was perhaps more important, the all too few balanced studies of Kennedy and his administration that have appeared in the past five years have met ...

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3. “We Shall Overcome”: Civil Rights in the South, 1960–1965

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pp. 40-62

The civil rights movement of the 1950s changed—as did virtually everything in the 1960s—at the hands of college students. Inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King’s rhetoric of nonviolence, and fueled by his victory in Montgomery, a group of students from traditionally black colleges in the South took action. On February 1, 1960, four freshmen from North Carolina Agriculture and Technical College in Greensboro entered that city’s Woolworth’s department store, sat at the whites-only lunch counter, ...

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4. “We’ll Have the Opportunity to Move Upward”: The Great Society of Lyndon B. Johnson

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pp. 63-80

Each man who has succeeded to the American presidency from the vice presidency upon the death of his predecessor is, for a period of time at least, overshadowed by the memory of his predecessor. It is thus a Herculean task that confronts the new president. While propriety as well as political common sense dictate that the new leader should pay homage to his fallen predecessor both loud and often, there comes a point where, if he wishes to succeed with his own agenda, the new president must separate himself from the past.

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5. “As American as Cherry Pie”: Civil Rights, 1965–1969

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pp. 81-96

On Wednesday, August 11, 1965, only five days after Lyndon Johnson had signed the Voting Rights Act, Ronald Frye was celebrating his discharge from the Air Force by doing some midday drinking with his brother. Frye’s car was clearly moving erratically when it was pulled over to the side of the road by the California Highway Patrol just outside the city limits of Los Angeles. What began as a simple stop for drinking and driving soon escalated into a full-blown neighborhood confrontation. Frye’s mother, who ...

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6. “Bodies upon the Gears”: The New Left and the New Feminism

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pp. 97-117

On May 12, 1964, Syracuse University’s Daily Orange announced that a demonstration would take a place that day during the university’s annual review of its Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) cadets, “involving an “informal group of students who have in common the belief that there are alternatives to compulsory conscription, and that military training is not compatible with the pursuit of knowledge in a free society.” As the review began, protestors waved signs saying “Don’t Teach War at College,” “Will Your Children Be Active or Radioactive?” ...

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7. “Waist Deep in the Big Muddy”: Vietnam, 1960–1967

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pp. 118-136

It came upon us with no attack on American soil, no great proclamations, no declaration of war. The Vietnam War snuck up on the American people, virtually unaware. In 1960, the United States had but a handful of military “advisors” protecting its interests in South Vietnam—the cold war outpost inherited from the French in 1954 and financially supported since that time. In 1961, Kennedy increased the number of military “advisors” to about 3,200. By the time of his assassination, he had committed 18,000 troops to South Vietnam.

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8. “What It Is Ain’t Exactly Clear”: Sixties Culture, Straight and Counter

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pp. 137-159

No decade in American history is as defined by its culture as is the 1960s. Indeed, it comes with its own soundtrack—the overwhelming majority of documentaries, movies, and television shows that deal with the decade usually begin with one of the three musical anthems of the decade: The Byrds “Turn, Turn, Turn” (Columbia, 1965: “To everything, turn, turn, turn; there is a season”); Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth” (Atco, 1967: “There’s something happening here; what it is ain’t exactly clear”) or the Youngblood’s “Get Together” (RCA, 1967: “Come on people now, smile on your brother, everybody get together, try to love one another right now”).

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9. The Limits of Power: To Reform the Sixties

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pp. 160-181

On January 23, 1968, the crews from a North Korean submarine chaser and three patrol boats boarded the USS Pueblo off the Korean coast. In the struggle that followed, four of the seventy-five crew members were wounded, one fatally. The North Koreans took the crew hostage, imprisoned them, and took the ship to the nearby port of Wonsan. They charged that the Pueblo was a spy ship that had been conducting intelligence activity inside the twelve-mile international boundary. Bent on humiliation as well ...


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pp. 183-200

E-ISBN-13: 9780815651338
E-ISBN-10: 0815651333
Print-ISBN-13: 9780815632764
Print-ISBN-10: 0815632762

Page Count: 224
Publication Year: 2010

OCLC Number: 762258011
MUSE Marc Record: Download for America in the Sixties

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Subject Headings

  • Kennedy, John F. (John Fitzgerald), 1917-1963 -- Influence.
  • United States -- History -- 1961-1969.
  • Social movements -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
  • United States -- Social conditions -- 1960-1980.
  • Feminism -- United States -- History -- 20th century
  • Vietnam War, 1961-1975 -- Social aspects -- United States.
  • Counterculture -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
  • Civil rights movements -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
  • Nineteen sixties.
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