Digital History

1960s Timeline, Digital History ID 2944


U.S. population: 179,323,175.

U.S. scientists Charles H. Townes and Arthur L. Schawlow patent the laser.

The first retirement community opens in Sun City, Arizona, outside Phoenix.

A House subcommittee reports that 207 disk jockeys in 42 cities had received over $260,000 in payola to play records on the air.

February 1: The "sit-in" movement begins when four African American studies sit down at a Charlotte, N.C. Woolworth's to protest segregated lunch counters.

May 5: A U-2 spy plane with Francis Gary Powers at the controls is shot down over Sverdlovsk, Russia, aborting a scheduled summit meeting between Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev and President Dwight Eisenhower.

May 9: The Food and Drug Administration approves the birth control pill. By 1962, 1.2 million American women were taking it.

June 30: Belgium grants independence to the Congo.

September 26-October 17: Presidential candidates John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon face off in four televised debates.


January: In his farewell address, President Eisenhower warns: "In the council of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist."

March 1: President John Kennedy creates the Peace Corps. By September, over 1000 volunteers are providing assistance in underdeveloped countries.

April 12: Russian Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin becomes the first human to orbit the earth.

April 17: 1500 Cuban refugees, trained at a secret CIA base in Guatemala, land at the Bay of Pigs in Cuba. The attempt to topple the regime of Castro regime is a failure. On Christmas, 1962, Castro exchanged 1,113 captured invaders and 922 of their relatives for $53 million worth of medicine and food.

May: FCC Commission Chairman Newton Minow calls television "a vast wasteland."

May 4: The "Freedom Riders" leave Washington, D.C. to desegregate public transportation facilities in the South.

May 5: The U.S. launches its first astronaut, Navy Lt. Cmdr. Alan Shepard, Jr., into space.

August 13: East German troops install barricades in Berlin to stem the flow of East Germans to the West. Four days later, East Germany begins to erect the concrete Berlin Wall.

December 11: The first two U.S. military companies arrive in South Vietnam. In October, President Kennedy had written: "The United States is determined to help Vietnam preserve its independence, protect its people against communist assassins and build a better life."


Rachel Carson publishes Silent Spring, which documents that damaged caused by pesticides.

June 25: The Supreme Court declares the use of a non-denominational prayer in New York State schools violates the Constitutional separation of church and state.

October 1: James Meredith becomes the first African American student at the University of Mississippi. An ensuing riots leaves two dead and 375 injured.

October 13: Pope John XXIII convenes the Second Vatican Council to break down barriers separating Christians of different denominations and overhaul the Catholic Church's structure.

October-November: The Cuban Missile Crisis. The U.S. and U.S.S.R. come close to nuclear war when the U.S. learns that the Soviet Union is installing offensive nuclear weapons in Cuba. The crisis ended when Moscow dismantles the launch sites in exchange for President Kennedy's pledge not to invade Cuba again.


The U.S. and U.S.S.R. sign the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and install a "hot line" to speed communications between the White House and the Kremlin.

January 14: At his inauguration, Alabama Gov. George Wallaces states: "I draw the line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny, and I say segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever."

August 5: The U.S., the Soviet Union, and Britain sign a treaty banning nuclear tests in the atmosphere, outer space, and underwater.

August 28: 200,000 civil rights demonstrators in Washington, marching in support of the Civil Rights Act, hear the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., deliver his "I Have a Dream" speech.

September 15: A black church is Birmingham, Ala. is bombed, killing four girls.

November 1: South Vietnamese President Diem is killed in a military coup.

November 22: President John Kennedy is assassinated in Dallas, Texas. Two days later, his alleged assassin was shot to death in a Dallas jail.


January 23: The 24th Amendment to the Constitution prohibits a poll tax in federal elections.

February 17: The Supreme Court rules that congressional districts had to be approted according to the principle of "one man, one vote."

July 2: President Lyndon Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act of 1964, integrating public accommodations and prohibiting job discrimination.

August 2: The U.S. announces that North Vietnamese torpedo boats attacked a U.S. destroyer in the Gulf of Tonkin in international waters, 30 miles off the North Vietnamese coast. By a vote of 502-2, Congress approved the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, authorizing the president "to take all necessary measures to repel any armed attack against the forces of the United States and to prevent further aggression."

September 27: The commission established by President Lyndon Johnson to investigate the assassination of President Kennedy concludes that he died at the hands of a single assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald.


Ralph Nader publishes Unsafe at Any Speed, which calls for auto safety regulations.

February 7-8: The United States bombs North Vietnam in retaliation for a National Liberation Front attack on U.S. troops in South Vietnam.

February 21: Followers of Black Muslim leader Elijah Muhammad shoot black nationalist leader Malcolm X as he prepares to deliver a speech in a Manhattan ballroom.

March 7: Alabama state police attack voting rights demonstrators with clubs and gas as they prepare to march from Selma for the capital of Montgomery.

August 11-16: Arson and looting erupt in the Watts district of Los Angeles, resulting in 34 deaths and 3,900 arrests.

November 9-10: A power blackout affects over 30 million people from Pennsylvania to southern Canada.


April 28: Heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali is arrested for refusing induction after being denied conscientious objector status. Boxing officials strip him of his title.

June 5: A Chicano group led by Reis Tijerina seizes a county courthouse in Tierra Amarilla, N. Mex., to dramatize their claim to lands granted their ancestors by Spain.

June 5-11: Israel defeats Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and the United Arab Republic in the "Six-Day War," resulting in Israeli occupation of territories five times the country's pre-war size.

Summer: The Summer of Love in San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury district.

July 12-17: A riot in Newark, N.J., leaves 26 dead and over 1,500 injured.

July 23-30: A riot in Detroit, sparked by a police raid on an after hours club, leaves 43 dead and over 2000 injured.

October 2: Thurgood Marshall is sworn in as the first African American Supreme Court justice.


January 23: North Korean gunboats capture the U.S. intelligence ship Pueblo.

January 30: The North Vietnamese and Viet Cong launch the Tet Offensive against major cities in South Vietnam, shattering faith that the United States was on the verge of military victory.

March 16: My Lai Massacre.

March 31: President Johnson announces that he will not seek reelection and orders a halt to most U.S. bombing of North Vietnam.

April 4: The Rev. Martin Luther King is assassinated in Memphis, Tenn., where he is supporting a sanitation workers' strike.

April 23-24: Students at New York's Columbia University seize five buildings to protest the university's ties to the military and its plan to build a gymnasium in a nearby ghetto area.

June 5: Democratic presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy is assassinated after delivering his victory speech in the California primary.

August 20-21: Soviet tanks suppress the liberal reforms in Czechoslovakia.

August 25-29: Police club demonstrators at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago.


July 20: Astronaut Neil Armstrong becomes the first person to walk on the moon. His first words from the lunar surface were: "That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for all mankind."

August 16: Half a million gather at a rock concert near Woodstock, New York.

November 16: The first reports of the My Lai massacre are published.

November 20: 89 American Indian activists occupy Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay to dramatize the plight of Native Americans.

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