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The 1960s was the decade that ran from January 1, 1960, to December 31, 1969.The 1960s term also refers to an era more often called The Sixties, denoting the complex of inter-related cultural and political trends in the United Statesmarker, Canadamarker, Argentinamarker, Brazilmarker, Spainmarker, Francemarker, United Kingdommarker, Italymarker, Australia, West Germanymarker, Japanmarker, Mexicomarker, Yugoslavia and others.

In the United States, "The Sixties", as they are known in popular culture, is a term used by historians, journalists, and other objective academics; in some cases nostalgically to describe the counter-culture and social revolution near the end of the decade; and pejoratively to describe the era as one of irresponsible excess and flamboyance. The decade was also labeled the Swinging Sixties because of the libertine attitudes that emerged during this decade. Rampant drug use has become inextricably associated with the counter-culture of the era, as Jefferson Airplane co-founder Paul Kantner mentions: "If you can remember anything about the sixties, then you weren't really there."

The 1960s have become synonymous with all the new, exciting, radical, and subversive events and trends of the period, which continued to develop in the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s and beyond. In Africa the 1960s was a period of radical political change as 32 countries gained independence from their European colonial rulers.

Some commentators have seen in this era a classical Jungian nightmare cycle, where a rigid culture, unable to contain the demands for greater individual freedom, broke free of the social constraints of the previous age through extreme deviation from the norm. Booker charts the rise, success, fall/nightmare and explosion in the London scene of the 1960s. This does not alone however explain the mass nature of the phenomenon.

Several governments turned to the left in the early 1960s. In the United States John F. Kennedy was elected to the presidency. Italy formed its first left-of-centre government in March 1962 with a coalition of Christian Democrats, Social Democrats, and moderate Republicans. Socialists joined the ruling block in December 1963. In Britain, the Labour Party gained power in 1964. In Brazil, João Goulart became president after Jânio Quadros resigned.


The 1960s were marked by several notable assassinations.

Social and political movements

Counterculture/social revolution

In the second half of the decade, young people began to rebel against the conservative norms of the time, as well as disassociate themselves from mainstream liberalism, in particular the high level of materialism which was so common during the era. This created a "counterculture" that sparked a social revolution throughout much of the western world. It began in the United States as a reaction against the conservatism and social conformity of the 1950s, and the US government's extensive military intervention in Vietnam. The youth involved in the popular social aspects of the movement became known as hippies. These groups created a movement toward liberation in society, including the sexual revolution, questioning authority and government, and demanding more freedoms and rights for women and minorities. The Underground Press, a widespread, eclectic collection of newspapers served as a unifying medium for the counterculture. The movement was also marked by drug use (including LSD and marijuana) and psychedelic music.

Anti-war movement

The conflict in Vietnam would eventually lead to a commitment of over half a million American troops, resulting in over 55,000 American deaths and producing a large-scale antiwar movement in the United States. As late as the end of 1965, few Americans protested the American involvement in Vietnam, but as the war dragged on and the body count continued to climb, civil unrest escalated. Students became a powerful and disruptive force and university campuses sparked a national debate over the war. As the movement's ideals spread beyond college campuses, doubts about the war also began to appear within the administration itself. A mass movement began rising in opposition to the Vietnam War, ending in the massive Moratorium protests in 1969, as well as the movement of resistance to conscription ("the Draft") for the war.

The antiwar movement was initially based on the older 1950s Peace movement, heavily influenced by the American Communist Party, but by the mid-1960s it outgrew this and became a broad-based mass movement centered in universities and churches: one kind of protest was called a "sit-in". Other terms heard in the United States included "the Draft", "draft dodger", "conscientious objector", and "Vietnam vet". Voter age-limits were challenged by the phrase: "If you're old enough to die for your country, you're old enough to vote." Many of the youth involved in the politics of the movements distanced themselves from the "hippies".

The rise of feminism

Feminism in the United Statesmarker and around the world gained momentum in the early 1960s. At the time, a woman's place was generally seen as being in the home, and they were excluded from many jobs and professions. Commercials often portrayed women as being helpless if their car broke down. In the US, a Presidential Commission on the Status of Women found discrimination against women in the workplace and every other aspect of life, a revelation which launched two decades of prominent women-centered legal reforms (i.e. the Equal Pay Act of 1963, Title IX, etc.) which broke down the last remaining legal barriers to women's personal freedom and professional success. Feminists took to the streets, marching and protesting, writing books and debating to change social and political views that limited women. In 1963, with Betty Friedan's revolutionary book, The Feminine Mystique, the role of women in society, and in public and private life was questioned. By 1966, the movement was beginning to grow in size and power as women's group spread across the country and Friedan, along with other feminists, founded the National Organization for Women. In 1968, "Women's Liberation" became a household term as, for the first time, the new women's movement eclipsed the black civil rights movement when New York Radical Women, led by Robin Morgan, protested the annual Miss America pagent in Atlantic City, New Jerseymarker. The movement continued throughout the next decades.

Hispanic and Chicano Movement

Another large ethnic minority group, Mexican-Americans among other Hispanics in the U.S. fought to end racial discrimination and socioeconomic disparity. The largest Mexican-American populations was in the Southwestern United States, such as Californiamarker with over 1 million Chicanos in Los Angelesmarker alone, and Texasmarker where Jim Crow laws included Mexican-Americans as "non-white" in some instances to be legally segregated.

Socially, the Chicano Movement addressed what it perceived to be negative ethnic stereotypes of Mexicans in mass media and the American consciousness. It did so through the creation of works of literary and visual art that validated Mexican-American ethnicity and culture. Chicanos fought to end social stigmas such as the usage of the Spanish language and advocated official bilingualism in federal and state governments.

The Chicano Movement also addressed discrimination in public and private institutions. Early in the twentieth century, Mexican Americans formed organizations to protect themselves from discrimination. One of those organizations, the League of United Latin American Citizens, was formed in 1929 and remains active today.

The movement gained momentum after World War II when groups such as the American G.I. Forum, which was formed by returning Mexican American veterans, joined in the efforts by other civil rights organizations.

Mexican-American civil rights activists achieved several major legal victories including the 1947 Mendez v. Westminster Supreme Courtmarker ruling which declared that segregating children of "Mexican and Latin descent" was unconstitutional and the 1954 Hernandez v. Texas ruling which declared that Mexican Americans and other racial groups in the United States were entitled to equal protection under the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

The most prominent civil rights organization in the Mexican-American community is the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), founded in 1968. Although modeled after the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, MALDEF has also taken on many of the functions of other organizations, including political advocacy and training of local leaders.

Meanwhile, Puerto Ricans in the U.S. mainland fought against racism, police brutality and socioeconomic problems affecting the three million Puerto Ricans residing in 50 states, the main concentration was in New York Citymarker. They formed political action groups, became further involved in city and national politics, and became proud of their heritage, in spite of stereotypes and being viewed as "foreign" despite Puerto Rico is US territory.

In the 1960s and the following 1970s, Hispanic-American culture was on the rebound like ethnic music, foods, culture and identity both became popular and assimilated into the American mainstream. Spanish-language television networks, radio stations and newspapers increased in presence across the country, especially in US-Mexican border towns and East Coast cities like New York City, and the growth of the Cuban American community in Miami, Floridamarker.

New Left

The rapid rise of a "New Left" applied the class perspective of Marxism to postwar America, but had little organizational connection with older Marxist organizations such as the Communist Party, and even went as far as to reject organized labor as the basis of a unified left-wing movement. The New Left differed from the traditional left in its resistance to dogma and its emphasis on personal as well as societal change. Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) became the organizational focus of the New Left and was the prime mover behind the opposition to the War in Vietnam. The 1960s left also consisted of ephemeral campus-based Trotskyist, Maoist and anarchist groups, some of which by the end of the 1960s had turned to militancy.


The 1960s has also been associated with a large increase in crime and urban unrest of all types. Between 1960 and 1969 reported incidences of violent crime per 100,000 people in the United States nearly doubled and have yet to return to the levels of the early 1960s. Large riots broke out in many cities, such as Chicagomarker, Detroitmarker, Los Angelesmarker, New York Citymarker, Newarkmarker and Oaklandmarker. By the end of the decade politicians such as Richard Nixon and George Wallace campaigned on restoring law and order to a nation troubled with the new unrest.


Space exploration

The space race between the United States and the Soviet Union would dominate the 1960s. The Soviets put the first man into space in April 1961 and scored a host of other successes, but by the middle of the decade the US was taking the lead. In May 1961, President Kennedy set for the nation the goal of a manned spacecraft landing on the moon by the end of the decade. The tragic deaths of astronauts Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee in the Apollo 1 fire in January 1967 put a temporary hold on the space program, but afterwards progress was steady, with the Apollo 8 crew orbiting the moon during Christmas of 1968. Finally on July 20, 1969, astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin of Apollo 11 landed on the moon.

The same could not be said of the Soviet program, which lost its sense of direction with the death of chief designer Sergei Korolev in 1966. Political pressure, conflicts between different design bureaus, and engineering problems caused by an inadequate budget would doom the Soviet attempt to land men on the moon, and they could only helplessly watch the Apollo program's success.

A succession of unmanned American and Soviet probes travelled to the moon, Venus, and Mars during the 1960s, and commercial satellites also came into use.


As the 1960s began, American cars showed a rapid rejection of 1950s styling excess, and would remain relatively clean and boxy for the entire decade. The horsepower race reached its climax in the late 1960s, with muscle cars sold by most makes. The compact Ford Mustang, launched in 1964, was one of the decade's greatest successes. The "Big Three" American automakers enjoyed their highest ever sales and profitability in the 1960s, but the demise of Studebaker in 1966 left American Motors Corporation as the last significant independent. The decade would see the car market split into different size classes for the first time, and model lineups now included compact and mid-sized cars in addition to full-sized ones.

Other technological developments

Popular culture

The counterculture movement dominated the second half of the 1960s, its most famous moments being the Summer of Love in San Francisco in 1967, and the Woodstock Festivalmarker in upstate New York in 1969. Psychedelic drugs, especially LSD, were widely used medicinally, spiritually and recreationally throughout the late 1960s, and were popularized by Timothy Leary with his slogan "Turn on, tune in, drop out". Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters also played a part in the role of "turning heads on". Psychedelic influenced the music, artwork and movies of the decade, and a number of prominent musicians died of drug overdoses (see 27 Club). There was a growing interest in Eastern religions and philosophy, and many attempts were made to found communes, which varied from supporting free love to religious puritanism.


Popular music entered an era of "all hits", as numerous artists released recordings, beginning in the 1950s, as 45-rpm "singles" (with another on the flip side), and radio stations tended to play only the most popular of the wide variety of records being made. Also, bands tended to record only the best of their songs as a chance to become a hit record. The developments of the Motown Sound (Marvin Gaye, The Supremes, The Marvelettes and so on), folk rock (The Byrds, Bob Dylan, Simon and Garfunkel, Sonny & Cher and so on) and the British Invasion of bands from the U.K.marker (The Beatles, The Dave Clark Five, The Who, The Rolling Stones and so on), are major examples of American listeners expanding from the folksinger, doo-wop and saxophone sounds of the 1950s and evolving to include psychedelic music.

The rise of the counterculture movement, particularly among the youth, created a huge market for rock, soul, pop, reggae and blues music produced by drug-culture, influenced bands such as the Grateful Dead, The Beatles, The Doors, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Small Faces, Cream, Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin, Bob Marley, Deep Purple, The Who, Sly & the Family Stone, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, The Animals, and The Incredible String Band, also for radical music in the folk tradition pioneered by Bob Dylan, Peter, Paul and Mary, Odetta, Pete Seeger, and Joan Baez in the United States, and in England, Donovan was helping to create folk rock.

The Los Angeles and San Francisco Sound began in this period with many popular bands coming out of LA and the Haight-Ashburymarker district, well-known for its hippie culture. Such bands included Jefferson Airplane, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Grateful Dead, Santana, Big Brother and the Holding Company, Quicksilver Messenger Service, The Mamas & the Papas, The Beach Boys and The Byrds.

Significant events in music in the 1960s:


Popular American movies of the 1960s include Psycho, Breakfast at Tiffany's, Spartacus, Lawrence of Arabia, The Hustler, Carnival of Souls; The Birds, The Pink Panther, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb; Mary Poppins, The Sound of Music; Doctor Zhivago, The Jungle Book, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid; Bonnie and Clyde; Cool Hand Luke; The Graduate; Rosemary's Baby; Midnight Cowboy; Head; Medium Cool; 2001: A Space Odyssey; Faces; Night of the Living Dead; Easy Rider; Ice Station Zebra; Planet of the Apes; The Lion In Winter; The Wild Bunch.

The counterculture movement had a significant effect on cinema. Movies began to break social taboos such as sex and violence causing both controversy and fascination. They turned increasingly dramatic, unbalanced, and hectic as the cultural revolution was starting. This was the beginning of the New Hollywood era that dominated the next decade in theatres and revolutionized the movie industry. Films such as Arthur Penn's Bonnie and Clyde (1967), Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), and Roman Polanski's Rosemary's Baby (1968) are examples of this new, edgy direction. Films of this time also focused on the changes happening in the world. Dennis Hopper's Easy Rider (1969) focused on the drug culture of the time. Movies also became more sexually explicit, such as Roger Vadim's Barbarella (1968) as the counterculture progressed.

In Europe, Art Cinema gains wider distribution and sees movements like la Nouvelle Vague (The French New Wave) featuring French filmmakers such as Roger Vadim, François Truffaut, Alain Resnais, and Jean-Luc Godard; Cinéma Vérité documentary movement in Canada, France and the United States; Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman, Chilean filmmaker Alexandro Jodorowsky and Polish filmmakers Roman Polanski and Wojciech Jerzy Has produced original and offbeat masterpieces and the high-point of Italian filmmaking with Michelangelo Antonioni and Federico Fellini making some of their most known films during this period. Notable films from this period include: La Dolce Vita, ; La Notte; L'Eclisse, The Red Desert; Blowup; Satyricon; Accattone; The Gospel According to St. Matthew; Theorem; Winter Light; The Silence; Persona; Shame; A Passion; Au Hasard Balthazar; Mouchette; Last Year at Marienbad; Chronique d'un été; Titicut Follies; High School; Salesman; La Jetée; Warrendale; Knife in the Water; Repulsion; The Saragossa Manuscript; El Topo; A Hard Day's Night; and the cinema verite Dont Look Back.

In Japan, a color version remake of director Kenji Mizoguchi's The 47 Ronin, entitled Chushingura: Hana no Maki, Yuki no Maki directed by Hiroshi Inagaki was released in 1962, the legendary story was also remade as a television series in Japan. Academy Award winning Japanese director Akira Kurosawa produced Yojimbo (1961), and Sanjuro (1962), which both starred Toshiro Mifune as a mysterious Samurai swordsman for hire. Like his previous films both had a profound influence around the world. The Spaghetti Western genre was a direct outgrowth of the Kurosawa films. The influence of these films is most apparent in Sergio Leone's A Fistful of Dollars (1964) starring Clint Eastwood and Walter Hill's Last Man Standing (1996). Yojimbo was also the origin of the "Man with No Name" trend which included Sergio Leone's For a Few Dollars More, and The Good, The Bad and The Ugly both also starring Clint Eastwood, and arguably continued through his 1968 opus Once Upon a Time in the West, starring Henry Fonda, Charles Bronson, Claudia Cardinale, and Jason Robards. The Magnificent Seven a 1960 American western film directed by John Sturges was a remake of Akira Kurosawa's 1954 film, Seven Samurai.

The 1960s were about experimentation. With the explosion of light-weight and affordable cameras, the underground avant-garde film movement thrived. Canada's Michael Snow, Americans Kenneth Anger. Stan Brakhage, Andy Warhol, and Jack Smith. Notable films in this genre are: Dog Star Man; Scorpio Rising; Wavelength; Chelsea Girls;Blow Job; Vinyl; Flaming Creatures.

Significant events in the film industry in the 1960s:

International issues

In Africa

The transformation of Africa from colonialism to independence in what is known as the decolonisation of Africa dramatically accelerated during the decade, with 32 countries gaining independence between 1960 and 1968. The high hopes these new countries had quickly faded, and many would fall into anarchy, dictatorships, and civil war.

In Canada

In China

China began the 1960s suffering from the effects of the Great Leap Forward. Mao Zedong went into partial retirement, and the country gradually recovered. But by the middle of the decade, Mao decided to return to the spotlight, convinced that China was losing its revolutionary spirit. He thus launched the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, a mass movement to eradicate capitalism and bourgeoise influences from the country. Young people were encouraged to attack their elders and people in positions of authority. The result was three years of chaos and near-anarchy which severely weakened China socially and economically.

Relations with the United States remained hostile during the 1960s, although representatives from both countries held periodic meetings in Warsaw, Poland (since there was no US embassy in China). President Kennedy had plans to restore Sino-US relations, but his assassination, the war in Vietnam, and the Cultural Revolution put an end to that. Not until Richard Nixon took office in 1969 was there another opportunity.

Following Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev's expulsion in 1964, Sino-Soviet relations devolved into open hostility. The Chinese were deeply disturbed by the Soviet suppression of the Prague Spring in 1968, as the latter now claimed the right to intervene in any country it saw as deviating from the correct path of socialism. Finally, in March 1969, armed clashes took place along the Sino-Soviet border in Manchuria. This drove the Chinese to restore relations with the US, as Mao Zedong decided that the Soviet Union was a much greater threat.

In October 1964, China exploded its first atomic bomb, and possessed a hydrogen bomb by 1967. President Johnson secretly considered a preemptive strike on China's nuclear facilities, but then dismissed the idea as too risky.

In the Commonwealth

Australia and New Zealandmarker committed troops to the Vietnam war with controversy and war protests.

In India

In India a literary and cultural movement started in Calcutta, Patna, and other cities by a group of writers and painters who called themselves "Hungryalists", or members of the Hungry generation. The band of writers wanted to change virtually everything and were arrested with several cases filed against them on various charges. They ultimately won these cases. This span of the movement was from 1961 to 1965.

Western Europe

  • British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan delivers his Wind of Change speech in 1960.
  • Pope John XXIII calls the Second Vatican Council of the Catholic Church, continued by Pope Paul VI, which met from October 11, 1962 until December 8, 1965.
  • The May 1968 student and worker uprisings in France.
  • Mass socialist or Communist movement in most European countries (particularly France and Italy), with which the student-based new left was able to forge a connection. The most spectacular manifestation of this was the May student revolt of 1968 in Paris that linked up with a general strike of ten million workers called by the trade unions;and for a few days seemed capable of overthrowing the government of Charles de Gaulle. De Gaulle went off to visit French troops in Germany to check on their loyalty. Major concessions were won for trade union rights, higher minimum wages and better working conditions.
  • University students protested in their hundreds of thousands in Londonmarker, Parismarker, Berlinmarker and Romemarker with the huge crowds that protested against the Vietnam War.

Eastern Europe

In Eastern Europe students also drew inspiration from the protests in the West. In Polandmarker and Yugoslaviamarker they protested against restrictions on free speech by communist regimes.

In October 1964, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev was expelled from office due to his increasingly erratic and authoritarian behavior. Leonid Brezhnev and Alexey Kosygin then became the new leaders of the Soviet Union.

In Czechoslovakiamarker 1968 was the year of Alexander Dubček’s Prague Spring, a source of inspiration to many Western leftists who admired Dubček's "socialism with a human face". The Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in August ended these hopes and also fatally damaged the chances of the orthodox communist parties drawing many recruits from the student protest movement.

In Mexico

The peak of the student and New Left protests in 1968 coincided with political upheavals in a number of other countries. Although these events often sprung from completely different causes, they were influenced by reports and images of what was happening in the United States and France.Students in Mexico Citymarker protested against the authoritarian regime of Gustavo Díaz Ordaz: in the resulting Tlatelolco massacre in which hundreds were killed.
  • The October 2, 1968 Tlatelolco Massacre in Mexico City, of student protesters and uninvolved bystanders, by the Mexican military and police.

In the Middle East

  • An all-out attempt by the Arab states to wipe Israel from the map led to the Six Days War in June 1967. The Arabs, and especially Egypt, were catastrophically defeated by the I.D.F. The Israeli Defense Force, who then went on to control the Sinai, West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Golan Heights. This failure completely discredited Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser.
  • On September 1, 1969, the Libyan monarchy was overthrown, and a radical, anti-Israel, anti-Western government headed by Col. Muammar al-Qadaffi took power.

In South America

  • 1960 Valdivia earthquakemarker or Great Chilean Earthquake is to date the most powerful earthquake ever recorded, rating 9.5 on the moment magnitude scale. It caused localized tsunamis that severely battered the Chilean coast, with waves up to 25 meters (82 ft). The main tsunami raced across the Pacific Ocean and devastated Hilo, Hawai'i.
  • In 1964, a successful coup against the democratically elected government of Brazilian president João Goulart, initiates a military dictatorship of over 20 years of oppression.
  • The Argentinemarker revolutionary Ernesto "Che" Guevara travelled to Africa and then Boliviamarker in his campaigning to spread worldwide revolution. He was captured and executed in 1967 by the Bolivian army, and afterwards became an iconic figure for leftists around the world.
  • Juan Velasco Alvarado took power in Peru in 1968.

In the United States


Trend-setters of the Sixties

Artists in the media


Political figures


Spiritual leaders

Visual artists, painters and sculptors




Major League Baseball expansion in 1961 included the formation of the Los Angeles Angels, the move to Minnesota to become the Minnesota Twins by the former Washington Senators and a the formation of a new franchise called the Washington Senators. Major League Baseball sanctioned both the Houston Colt .45s and the New York Mets as new National League franchises in 1962.

In 1969, the American League expanded when the Kansas City Royals and Seattle Pilots, were admitted to the league prompting the expansion of the post-season for the first time since the creation of the World Series. The Pilots stayed just one season in Seattle before moving and becoming the Milwaukee Brewers in 1970. The National League also added two teams in 1969, the Montreal Expos and San Diego Padres. By 1969, at the end of the 1960s the New York Mets won the World Series in only the 8th year of the teams existence.

Notable 1960s players


There were six Olympic Games held during the decade. These were:


There were two FIFA World Cups during the decade:

The ten European Cup winners during the decade were:


In motorsports, the Can Am and Trans-Am series were both established in 1966. The Ford GT40 would win outright in the 24 Hours of Le Mansmarker.The ten Formula One World Championship Winners were:


In Australian Football, the AFL (then the VFL) premiers during the decade were:

In baseball, the World Series champions during the decade were:

The American National Football League champions during the decade were:

The American Football League champions during the decade were:

The North American National Hockey League's Stanley Cup champions of the decade were:

  • 1960 – Montreal Canadiens
  • 1961 – Chicago Blackhawks
  • 1962 – Toronto Maple Leafs
  • 1963 – Toronto Maple Leafs
  • 1964 – Toronto Maple Leafs
  • 1965 – Montreal Canadiens
  • 1966 – Montreal Canadiens
  • 1967 – Toronto Maple Leafs
  • 1968 – Montreal Canadiens
  • 1969 – Montreal Canadiens

The American National Basketball Association champions of the decade were:

  • 1960 – Boston Celtics
  • 1961 – Boston Celtics
  • 1962 – Boston Celtics
  • 1963 – Boston Celtics
  • 1964 – Boston Celtics
  • 1965 – Boston Celtics
  • 1966 – Boston Celtics
  • 1967 – Philadelphia 76ers
  • 1968 – Boston Celtics
  • 1969 – Boston Celtics

The Canadian Football League's Grey Cup champions of the decade were:


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