Edited by John Rockwell
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- The Cuban missile crisis
- Martin Luther King’s I Have A Dream speech and key moments in civil rights
- The assassinations of President John F. Kennedy and Senator Robert Kennedy
- The Moon landing
- The Women’s movement
- Popular music highlights like the Beatles’ British Invasion and groundbreaking artists like The Supremes
- Movie and celebrity coverage like reviews of Psycho, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and The Graduate, and
- Plus articles on pivotal figures like Mao, Che Guevara, Muhammad Ali, Marilyn Monroe, and Betty Friedan
Sex! Drugs! Rock ’n’ Roll! Plus the Vietnam War and protests, race riots and civil rights legislation, the Great Society and assassinations, the space race and men walking on the moon (or on a Hollywood soundstage, if you bought into the swirling conspiracy theories of the day)! It was a decade of exclamation points.
Most of us who were there remember it well. For nostalgists, or those blitzed beyond recall, or you young’uns who didn’t have the good fortune to live through that thrilling, turbulent decade: Here’s this book. It’s a record of the times by The Times—and, hence, a record of those recording that time. For us 1960’s survivors who worked at The New York Times (I arrived in 1972, which was still part of the 60’s if you accept the narrative that the decade leaked well into the next one), the stories condensed here are also part of the history of this particular newspaper. How it has since changed, its many strengths and occasional biases (East Coast versus West; sometimes a little slow to register the arts and lifestyles upheavals happening under its very nose)—all that is of interest to an examination of the decade, and of newspapers.
For us Times veterans, this book is a chance to revisit the bylines of writers we knew, or at least worked with, and to savor such endearing Times quirks as Mr. and Mrs. and fancy words that would not be tolerated today, like catenary and malefic. The Times is very different now—hipper, trendier, more international and populist, online. It is no less serious but also less wedded to the Upper East and West sides of Manhattan. Still, it was the newspaper of record in the 60’s, as it is today, and this book is a distilled account of that noble mission.
As has been asserted over and over ever since, the 1960’s was the key decade of the 20th century—the most dramatic, the most controversial, the most thrilling. Only the 20’s might be able to challenge it; but for transformative impact, nothing tops the 60’s. Its resonance echoes to this day, positively and negatively. Of course, depending on where you stand along the political spectrum, what seems positive to you could seem negative to someone else, and vice versa. Our own daughter, 25, buys into most of the values of the 60’s but professes herself sick of hippies. Forget not: The 60’s were when the reaction against the 60’s began—the right-wing populist uprising led by Barry Goldwater, the election of Ronald Reagan as governor of California, the onset of the Republicans’ “Southern strategy” that flipped the Southeast into nearly solid red-state territory.
Controversy starts with where you measure the decade. Not only did it maybe not end on December 31, 1969 (although it does in this book), it also didn’t maybe begin until 1964, with the student protests in Berkeley. And while values and lifestyle of the 60’s persisted into the 70’s, as good an ending as any, certainly for this book, was the Altamont Festival just north of Berkeley—a pairing of idealistic protest and biker brutality that attests to the role of the West Coast as the epicenter of lifestyle innovation.
Another way of looking at the decade is as not exactly a war but a tension between the political and the nonpolitical, which is yet another way of looking at coastal differences. Crudely considered, nonpolitical issues—the hippies, drugs, exotic religions, murderous maniacs—defined the American West Coast. The Times, not yet the national (and international) newspaper it was to become, paid heed to what was going on out there but from afar (even in a failed West Coast edition, published from 1962 to 1964). Despite East Village hippies and their attendant tribal customs, politics ruled in the east. Protests against the Vietnam War and, underlying it, the draft somehow seemed more intense in New York. Angrier, too.
This book is divided into sections that are roughly comparable to sections of The Times. We begin with National news, which was amazingly rich, intense and scary. The struggles and triumphs of the civil rights movement claim pride of place—the lunch counter sit-ins, the Freedom Riders, the landmark court cases, the rise of the black power movement, and the stain of assassinations cutting down black leaders as well as white. The Times may have slighted the west, but it was rock-solid in its coverage of the south.
Those murderous assaults that snuffed out the optimism of John F. Kennedy’s Camelot, blighting the country’s image and self-image, extending to Robert Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X and even the actress Sharon Tate, at the hands of the crazed Manson cult, were a terrifying reminder of the instability of both public and private life.
The Vietnam War brought down Lyndon B. Johnson, who, with a solid economy and Democratic majorities in Congress after 1964, achieved a string of legislative domestic victories that are the envy of our stalemated present day. The war also fueled youth protests of the decade, in turn linked to the momentous changes in lifestyle and culture that recur throughout the decade and these pages.
The war dominated internationally, at least from the American perspective, but so did the larger cold war, which triggered the space race—a source of building excitement and tragedy, potential and actual, throughout the decade (covered here in the Science section). That culminated with Neil Armstrong and his fellow astronauts walking on the moon (which I, for one, choose to believe actually happened). The cold war inspired terror (fallout shelters), but it also galvanized our society and federal government into grand projects (men on the moon) that have shrunk in recent decades as the costs of other wars pile up and large segments of the population—glued to Fox News and recoiling from the New Deal and the Great Society—seek to diminish the role of national government in the execution of such grand national, international and extraterrestrial achievements.
But the world beyond the United States was full of other dramas, too, and The Times was there for most of them. The Berlin Wall. The failed Bay of Pigs invasion and the Cuban missile crisis, which arguably counts as the scariest confrontation of the cold war. Israel’s Six-Day War and the rise of the Palestine Liberation Organization. Seemingly uncountable African nations taking shape in the wake of colonialism. Reforms within the Catholic Church. China’s hydrogen bomb and brutal Cultural Revolution. Student protests abroad, in Paris and Berlin and Mexico City and beyond. The Prague Spring and its stark repression by Soviet tanks.
Economically, the 60’s seem in retrospect to have been relatively stable. Growth was steady and solid, unemployment tolerable, inflation of concern but not excessive. The income of the average American, and hence the lifestyle that income permitted, blossomed during the decade. That economy, in turn, made Kennedy’s and Johnson’s federal programs more affordable, however controversial they were at the time. The huge corporate mergers that have persisted down to our own time gained momentum, and today’s commonplaces like credit cards and certificates of deposit got under way.
The Times understandably paid considerable attention to its home city. Even more than now, New York dominated the country in finance, media, culture and, at least when it came to the Yankees, sports. Given its national prominence, some news that transpired in New York has been rightly apportioned to other sections in this book. Other local stories—like the rescue of Carnegie Hall from demolition and Robert Moses’s reshaping of the city, or Mayor John V. Lindsay’s triumphs and troubles, or crippling labor strikes and power blackouts and disasters, or even the opening of the Lincoln Center complex—were municipal and national all at once.
Similarly, the space race wasn’t just a political story emblematic of the cold war. It was a saga of scientific achievement, and thus properly dominates the Science section. But there was much more: DNA and quarks and cloning, not to speak of Masters and Johnson. We found out about lasers as weapons and healers, and holograms and videocassettes and eight-track tapes, along with the first stirrings of the Internet. Japan built its first bullet trains, and America the first jumbo jet. The birth control pill had an enormous impact on the sex part of sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll. Republicans, implacable in their opposition to “socialized medicine,” defeated Medicare before the Democrats regained control of Congress and passed it.
Youth fashions and habits shaped the coverage of Life and Style—the hippies, in short. But there was more here, too: style icons Audrey Hepburn and Jackie Kennedy and Twiggy, Ken joining Barbie in platonic intimacy, muscle cars in an era of cheap gasoline, groovy fashions and interior design. Micro-minis and Nehru suits and Mary Quant epitomized swinging London. Feminism roiled the patriarchy, and the matriarchy, too.
Julia Child elevated American eating habits. The Immigration Act of 1965 allowed an influx of Asians and South Americans, who in turn transformed our restaurants. And there was the rise of high-end restaurants and nouvelle cuisine.
The Times focused on sports in New York more than in the nation, and in the nation more than in the rest of the world. In baseball, the Yankees dominated early in the 60’s, but Sandy Koufax was the pitcher of the decade. The Dodgers and the Giants had fled to California, but the scrappy new Mets won the World Series in 1969. Professional football had its Ice Bowl and, with the merger of the American Football League and the National Football League, its first Super Bowls, won twice by the Green Bay Packers and then, improbably, by the upstart New York Jets. The Boston Celtics were the team of the decade in pro basketball, UCLA in college basketball. Cassius Clay won the heavyweight championship, became Muhammad Ali, refused induction into the draft and was stripped of his title. Records fell in the Olympics, but the 1968 installment was marked by the assertion of “black power” on the medal stand.
Last but by no means least, the arts and entertainment were transformed by new waves in pop music and films, and American popular culture was revolutionized by a British invasion and world music.
In the visual arts, the 60’s was the decade of major shows and major museum acquisitions and loans. But there was also the rise of downtown Manhattan as a newfound neighborhood for style-setting artists, with minimalism and pop art. There were major buildings by major architects, which The Times covered with new sophistication when Ada Louise Huxtable joined its ranks in 1963. (She won the first Pulitzer Prize for distinguished criticism in 1970 honoring her work in the 60’s).
Books saw the rise of remarkable new American novelists, and also a fading of parochialism with the advent of a wave of extraordinary Latin American writers led by Gabriel García Márquez.
Rudolf Nureyev defected and American Ballet Theater visited Moscow. Downtown New York experimental dance, from Merce Cunningham to the Judson Church coterie, revitalized modern dance, although the Ford Foundation’s support for George Balanchine and ballet tipped the balance back in that direction.
Broadway saw big musicals, Jerome Robbins in his prime, and the young Neil Simon and Stephen Sondheim, but also serious plays from Tennessee Williams, Edward Albee and Tom Stoppard. Joe Papp built the summertime Delacorte Theater in Central Park and the regular-season Public Theater downtown.
A new wave of French and Italian film directors were not always perceptively considered by The Times’s film criticism of the early- to mid-60’s. Hollywood blockbusters were more congenially received, if not always loved. Television, full of cheery sitcoms and variety shows and the very occasional serious drama, became the medium through which most Americans formed their political opinions, starting with the first Kennedy–Nixon presidential debate in 1960.
Finally, there was music, which meant classical landmarks: concerts at Carnegie Hall, Leonard Bernstein and his New York Philharmonic’s move to the acoustically problematic Philharmonic (now Avery Fisher) Hall at Lincoln Center, the Rudolf Bing years at the Metropolitan Opera.
But national attention was gripped by popular music—overwhelmingly, by the British invasion, an onslaught led by the Beatles, who changed music, fashion and lifestyles forever. But there was far more to 60’s pop music: Bob Dylan, rhythm and blues and Motown, world music and newly respected country (no longer “hillbilly”) music, the club rock scene in Los Angeles. And there were the first great rock festivals that culminated in Woodstock and Altamont in 1969. If Woodstock was the apex of the peace-and-love Age of Aquarius, Altamont came to be regarded as its dark underside, a symbol as good as any for the end of a miraculous decade.
The times were most definitely a-changin’—for some a beacon of hope; for others an existential threat; for those in the middle, a cause for alternating excitement and unease—as the deaths among leaders at home and G.I.’s in the rice paddies of faraway Southeast Asia began piling up.
John F. Kennedy’s inauguration gave the nation a brief burst of optimism and hope. Grand plans were announced, the Vietnam War was still on the distant horizon and Fidel Castro’s presence in nearby Cuba was more an irritant than a threat—at least until the Cuban missile crisis. Youth, energy and style radiated from the White House, this before our more recent era, in which every politician’s peccadilloes have become a potential cause of humiliation or impeachment.
JFK’s assassination ended all that, and the rest of the decade—even with the drama and heady triumphs of the civil rights movement—seemed an endless parade of protests and confrontations in the South, speeches and rights legislation up north, race riots in the inner cities and, yes, assassinations of assassins and of black leaders from Medgar Evers to Malcolm X to Martin Luther King Jr. Lyndon Johnson, buoyed by a prosperous economy and Democratic majorities in Congress along with his own formidable legislative skills, was able to realize much of what JFK had envisaged domestically. But faced with the increasingly unpopular Vietnam War, he shocked the nation by announcing he would not seek reelection. Student protests, begun in Berkeley, convulsed the nation’s campuses, largely in opposition to the war and the draft. Robert Kennedy was gunned down, too, and Chappaquiddick compromised Teddy Kennedy (and cost Mary Jo Kopechne her life). Richard Speck led a parade of mass murderers, and the Manson family’s slaughters blighted Southern California. Things seemed to be unraveling at the seams.
Yet there was more to the nation’s news than gloom and turmoil. For some, the hippie groundswell promised a new beginning. Feminism took root, along with the early stirrings of the gay rights movement. Environmental consciousness became a rallying cry in late-60’s protests. César Chávez led a farm workers’ union. It was a time of memorable oratory: “Ask not what your country … ”, “I have a dream.”
To the horror of conservatives, an activist Supreme Court pushed through a series of landmark decisions. But after Barry Goldwater’s sweeping defeat in 1964, the conservative counter-revolution gained traction. Ronald Reagan became governor in California and cracked down on the dreaded University of California, until then the pride of the nation’s state higher-education system. In 1968 Eugene McCarthy and the left wing of the Democratic party’s animus against the Vietnam War drew enough votes from Hubert Humphrey to allow Richard Nixon a narrow victory in the race for the White House.
Much of what made the 60’s a fond memory for some is covered elsewhere in this book—in Lifestyle and Music, especially. The stories in the National section offer hope—for a bridging of the racial divide, for progress in so many of the other issues that have divided this country. But the parade of disappointments and deaths cast a sad pall.
FEBRUARY 15, 1960
NEGRO SITDOWNS STIR FEAR OF WIDER UNREST IN THE SOUTH
CHARLOTTE, N.C., Feb. 14—Negro student demonstrations against segregated eating facilities have raised grave questions in the South over the future of the region’s race relations. A sounding of opinion in the affected areas showed that much more might be involved than the matter of the Negro’s right to sit at a lunch counter for a coffee break.
The demonstrations were generally dismissed at first as another college fad of the “panty-raid” variety. This opinion lost adherents, however, as the movement spread from North Carolina to Virginia, Florida, South Carolina and Tennessee and involved fifteen cities.
Students of race relations in the area contended that the movement reflected growing dissatisfaction over the slow pace of desegregation in schools and other public facilities.
Moreover, these persons saw a shift of leadership to younger, more militant Negroes. This, they said, is likely to bring increasing use of passive resistance. The technique was conceived by Mohandas K. Gandhi of India and popularized among Southern Negroes by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
The spark that touched off the protests was provided by four freshmen at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College in Greensboro. “Segregation makes me feel that I’m unwanted,” said McNeil A. Joseph. “I don’t want my children exposed to it.”
The 17-year-old student from Wilmington, N.C., said that he approached three of his classmates the next morning and found them enthusiastic over a proposal that they demand service at the lunch counter of a downtown variety store.
Young blacks stage a sitdown at a Woolworth store’s lunch counter in Greensboro, N.C., 1960.
About 4:45 P.M. they entered the F. W. Woolworth Company store on North Elm Street in the heart of Greensboro. Mr. Joseph said he bought a tube of toothpaste and the others made similar purchases. Then they sat down at the lunch counter.
A Negro woman kitchen helper walked up, according to the students, and told them, “You know you’re not supposed to be in here.” She later called them “ignorant” and a “disgrace” to their race.
The students then asked a white waitress for coffee.
“I’m sorry but we don’t serve colored here,” they quoted her.
“I beg your pardon,” said Franklin McCain, 18, of Washington, “you just served me at a counter two feet away. Why is it that you serve me at one counter and deny me at another. Why not stop serving me at all the counters?”
The four students sat, coffeeless, until the store closed at 5:30 P.M. Then, hearing that they might be prosecuted, they went to the executive committee of the Greensboro N.A.A.C.P. to ask advice.
The protests generally followed similar patterns. Young men and women and, in one case, high school boys and girls, walked into the stores and requested food service. Met with refusals in all cases, they remained at the lunch counters in silent protest.
The reaction of store managers in those instances was to close down the lunch counters and, when trouble developed or bomb threats were received, the entire store.
The demonstrations attracted crowds of whites. At first the hecklers were youths with duck-tailed haircuts. Some carried small Confederate battle flags. Later they were joined by older men in faded khakis and overalls.
North Carolina’s Attorney General, Malcolm B. Seawell, asserted that the students were causing “irreparable harm” to relations between whites and Negroes.
Mayor William G. Enloe of Raleigh termed it “regrettable that some of our young Negro students would risk endangering these relations by seeking to change a long-standing custom in a manner that is all but destined to fail.”
NOVEMBER 10, 1960
KENNEDY VICTORY WON BY CLOSE MARGIN
Election Doubts Finally Cleared
President-elect John F. Kennedy makes his victory speech in the Hyannis Armory on November 9, 1960.
For hours after the polls closed Tuesday a wild electoral numbers game went on. It confused newspapers, networks and voters alike.
Even the two Presidential candidates did not quite know what to make of the figures that came streaming over the airwaves, out of newspaper columns and from the recesses of computer machines.
The result was that a clear picture of the election outcome did not appear until after midday yesterday. Only a few hours before that it seemed as if concessions and claims of a victory for Senator John F. Kennedy might have to be withdrawn.
In its second Late City Edition, which began to come off the presses shortly after 2 A.M., The New York Times carried a headline reading: “Kennedy Elected President.” The article on which the headline was based said that with 53 percent of the popular vote in, Senator Kennedy had 19,912,917 votes to 17,801,568 for Vice President Nixon.
For some hours the television and radio networks had been reporting a substantial Kennedy plurality. For example, at 11:44 P.M., the National Broadcasting Company gave the Massachusetts Senator a lead of 1,800,000. By 1:02 A.M. it had dropped to 1,500,000.
Meanwhile the key states of California and Illinois were floating into and out of the Kennedy column in the electoral vote total. At 1 A.M. Illinois seemed certain for Mr. Kennedy. But two hours later the state was in the doubtful list. The reports from Illinois grew increasingly conflicting.
The networks, The Times and Chicago newspapers at first counted the state’s twenty-seven electoral votes for Mr. Kennedy, but by about 2:45 it began to appear that Mr. Kennedy’s electoral total included states that were leaning to the candidate but that had not been won.
At 3:20 A.M. Vice President Nixon gave the Kennedy backers an apparent lift, despite the Senator’s dropping plurality, when he suggested that Mr. Kennedy would be elected if the trend prevailing at that time continued. He said he was going to bed, but he didn’t, and he made no concession. The Democratic candidate sat tight and silent at Hyannis Port, Mass.
Beginning about 4 A.M. Mr. Nixon began to cut deeply into Senator Kennedy’s lead in California and Illinois. By 5 A.M. in California, with half the districts uncounted, the Kennedy margin had been slashed from 300,000 to 100,000. Officials in many key voting districts stopped counting, thus putting the state’s thirty-two electoral votes in doubt.
At 7 A.M. The Times modified the headline it had been carrying since 2:30 A.M. Now instead of calling Senator Kennedy “elected,” The Times declared: “Kennedy Is Apparent Victor.”
By this time Mr. Kennedy’s prospects had improved slightly. He needed only eleven electoral votes to win, and he could get these by holding California or Illinois or by winning Minnesota. Mr. Nixon had to win all three states and some others besides.
Mr. Kennedy took Minnesota by about noon. The numbers game was over.
NOVEMBER 10, 1960
KENNEDY IS YOUNGEST PRESIDENT
The election of John Fitzgerald Kennedy as thirty-fifth President of the United States breaks precedents right and left.
At 43, Mr. Kennedy is the youngest man ever elected to the White House.
A Roman Catholic, he is the first member of his faith to win the American Presidency.
As a millionaire he is not unique in the White House. But he is probably the first President who had a million to his account while still in his teens.
As a well-groomed Senator not the least of his distinctions was the fact he once addressed the Senate with his shirttail hanging out.
The facts of his life are fairly well known. His father is Joseph P. Kennedy, one-time New Dealer of the early Roosevelt days, Ambassador to the Court of St. James, a millionaire at 30 and a multi-millionaire today. His mother is Rose Fitzgerald, a daughter of John J. Fitzgerald, who successfully campaigned for Mayor of Boston by singing “Sweet Adeline” in a faultless Irish tenor.
Jack attempted to enlist in the Army when this country became involved in the war, but he was turned down because of a back weakness caused by a football injury. He did special exercises for several months and finally received a Navy commission.
Assigned first to a desk in Washington, he finally was able to win a transfer to motor torpedo boats, one of the most dangerous assignments, and in 1943 found himself in the Solomon Islands fighting night actions against Japanese vessels.
In one such encounter, his torpedo boat was rammed and cut in two and two of the crewmen were killed. The incredible story of how Lieutenant Kennedy helped save the others and led them to a near-by island where they finally were rescued was told by John Hersey in a small wartime book titled “Survival.”
Lieutenant Kennedy’s back was injured in the mishap and the malaria he contracted finally combined to bring his discharge from the Navy in the spring of 1945.
With the Kennedy family backing him, ringing doorbells, holding teas and buttonholing voters, he finished first in a nine-man primary and went on to win the election in November 1946 from the Democratic Eleventh District of Massachusetts.
Mr. Kennedy did not distinguish himself in his three terms in the House of Representatives, but he was a hard-working young legislator who did his homework well and had a better record of attendance than most.
Then came his startling Senate victory in 1952 over Henry Cabot Lodge, whose grandfather had defeated Mr. Kennedy’s grandfather for the same post almost half a century before, his fast run for the Vice Presidential nomination in 1956 at Chicago, and his Presidential campaign since for the Democratic nomination and the election.
Mr. Kennedy’s close friends admit that he does not have the warm personality of many of his predecessors. But they emphatically deny that he has no feeling at all and does everything on the basis of its effect, not because of a basic belief in its rightness.
After many years of carefree bachelorhood in Washington, New York, Hyannis Port and Palm Beach, Mr. Kennedy in 1953 married Jacqueline Lee Bouvier, the 24-year-old daughter of Mr. and Mrs. John V. Bouvier 3rd. She was a true cosmopolitan having attended Vassar, the Sorbonne and George Washington University before becoming an inquiring photographer for The Washington Times-Herald.
Their wedding in St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church in Newport on Sept. 12, 1953, was a major social event. Newport was Jacqueline’s summer home after her mother divorced her father and was married to Hugh D. Auchincloss.
The Kennedys have one daughter, Caroline, 2, and are expecting another child soon.
JANUARY 18, 1961
EISENHOWER’S FAREWELL URGES VIGILANCE
Felix Belair Jr.
WASHINGTON, Jan. 17
- On Sale
- Jun 10, 2014
- Page Count
- 324 pages
- Black Dog & Leventhal