National Events


The 1960s were a period of unrest in the United States and other parts of the world. Contrasts between prosperity and poverty, racial discrimination, and gender inequality, plus youth discontent with corrupt politics, fostered many social uprisings and demonstrations.

Urban riots erupted in Los Angeles, Newark, Boston, Washington DC, Detroit, Milwaukee, Cleveland, and other urban areas. 

1968 Washington DC riots from Anacostia. Wikimedia Commons.

The War in Vietnam had become an especially powerful catalyst for public actions, resulting in nationwide protests against U.S. involvement there. The Tet Offensive began in January of 1968, and the My Lai Massacre in March of that year, disturbed U.S. citizens in all walks of life to demonstrate their dissatisfaction with continued U.S. military actions in southeast Asia

But social unrest affected many Americans as well, especially African Americans, women, and minorities. Civil protests arose like the January 15 women's march on Washington for gender equality; ignited over racial discrimination in Memphis, TN on Feb.1 with the sanitation workers’ strike; and erupted after the Orangeburg (SC) massacre on February 8. Students on Howard University campus gathered on March 19 in a demonstration to gain a larger voice on campus

These were just a few of the widespread incidents that galvanized and polarized American society.

For more in-depth examinations of these events in American history, read Peter B. Levy, The Great Uprising: Race Riots in Urban America during the 1960s and other books on the period.