Comfort and crisis : the 1950s -- "The torch has been passed to a new generation" : the myths of John F. Kennedy -- "We shall overcome" : civil rights in the South, 1960-1965 -- "We'll have the opportunity to move upward" : the Great Society of Lyndon B. Johnson -- "As American as cherry pie" : civil rights, 1965-1969 -- "Bodies upon the gears" : the new left and the new feminism -- "Waist deep in the big muddy" : Vietnam, 1960-1967 -- "What it is ain't exactly clear" : sixties culture, straight and counter -- The limits of power : to reform the sixties
Sandwiched between the placid fifties and the flamboyant seventies, the sixties, a decade of tumultuous change and stunning paradoxes, is often reduced to a series of slogans, symbols, and media images. In this book the author goes beyond the cliches and synthesizes thirty years of research, writing, and teaching on one of the most turbulent decades of the twentieth century. He 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. He 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. He 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.