1960s: the Psychedelic Lifestyles
The 1960s was an era of peace among war, love among hate, and full of innovation - 1960s: the Psychedelic Lifestyles introduction. Some of the biggest events in history happened during this era such as President John F. Kennedy’s assassination, Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech followed by his assassination five years later, the first U. S. astronauts landing on the moon, the first Civil Rights Bill to stop racial discrimination was passed, and so on. The American people of this era faced many controversial issues from the Vietnam War and nuclear arms, to drug use, nonconformity, and sexual freedom.
Legacies of the era are a willingness to challenge authority, environmental awareness, the sense that politics is personal, greater social tolerance, and changes in attitudes about marriage, gender roles, and child rearing. The 1960s was also known as being a decade full of slogans. Hippies chanted “turn on, tune in, and drop out,” students would chant “Stop the War,” Lyndon Johnson gave his word that he would build a “Great Society”, and John Kennedy encouraged Americans to seek a “New Frontier”.
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During this era, people of all backgrounds and ages were absolutely convinced that America could build a new society-a society in which no one was exploited, no one was poor, everyone had the potential to be educated, and America’s past sins such as racism, would be abolished. Beginning with one of the biggest topics of the 1960s, the Civil Rights Movement, that changed America forever. Ever since four black students sat down at an only-white lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina and refused to leave, the fight for civil rights has defined the 1960s.
These four students had their movement spread, hundreds of black people sat at the same lunch counter every day, and tens of thousands others crowded segregated shops and restaurants throughout the upper South. These protestors got the attention of the nation to the brutality, fickleness, and injustice that exemplified Jim Crow. “[W]e stand today on the edge of a New Frontier — the frontier of the 1960’s, the frontier of unknown opportunities and perils, the frontier of unfilled hopes and unfilled threats…
Beyond that frontier are uncharted areas of science and space, unsolved problems of peace and war, unconquered problems of ignorance and prejudice, unanswered questions of poverty and surplus. ” (Eidenmuller)Above is a quote from Kennedy’s inauguration speech. Kennedy, after winning the election of 1960, put in place new challenges for the United States and also played a major role in the Civil Rights Movement. In Kennedy’s inauguration speech, he told his fellow Americans to “Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country. He said that the “torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans. ” A lot of Americans reacted to his question by volunteering in America to obtain social justice or becoming apart of the just-formed Peace Corps. America was positive and forward-looking, it seemed as if there was no frontier that was too far away. The newest frontier after Kennedy’s inauguration speech involved getting a fellow American to space. The Soviet Union in 1957 surprised Americans by launching the first satellite, Sputnik, to be placed in orbit.
Under President Eisenhower, the response of the Congress involved launching NASA (the National Aeronautics and Space Administration). Kennedy set a challenge for the government and American people to place a man on the moon by 1969. Excitedly, Congress responded by donating billions of dollars for this endeavor. During Kennedy’s time as president, John Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth and Alan Shepherd became the first American to enter space. At the end of the decade, in 1969, many Americans reflected on Kennedy’s challenge when the first human set foot on the moon (Neil Armstrong).
Nationally, President Kennedy to some extent continued in the tradition of liberal Democrats: Roosevelt and Truman. Kennedy allocated funds to help develop poor rural areas and raised money for mental illness research. He also signed legislation increasing the benefits of Social Security and increasing the minimum wage. Overall, Kennedy displayed his approval for the Civil Rights Movement by backing James Meredith’s attempt to attend the University of Mississippi.
Also, by ordering his brother Robert Kennedy, who was the Attorney General at the time, to defend the freedom riders in the South. In November of 1963, Lee Harvey Oswald assassinated President Kennedy. Although Kennedy failed to accomplish all he wanted domestically, his proposals and ideas that he supported survived his death. Wilderness Protection, Medicare and federal support for education all were a part of Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society. Kennedy’s death gave a popular demand for these very important programs, and he will always be sadly missed.
For the most part, the federal government wasn’t involved with the civil rights struggle until 1964 when President Johnson “pushed a Civil Rights Act through Congress that prohibited discrimination in public places, gave the Justice Department permission to sue states that discriminated against women and minorities and promised equal opportunities in the workplace to all. ”(History. com) The year after, the Voting Rights Act got rid of literacy requirements, poll taxes, and other tools that whites in the south had traditionally utilized to prevent blacks from voting.
Although these tools were gone with the wind, the new laws did not solve the problems African Americans were facing. These laws did not completely get rid of poverty or racism and did not improve the circumstances in many urban neighborhoods. Naturally, a lot of black leaders started to change their goals, and some took on a more aggressive way of thinking including self-defense and separatism. Other people started to think differently about their everyday life and wanted the real peace movement to occur, these people altogether were known as “the counterculture”.
As mentioned by P. Braunstein in The American Counterculture of the 1960’s and 70’s, the usage of the term “counterculture” turned into a plethora of demonstrations of protests, signifiers comprehending bongs, ashrams, and social nudity. “In a 1997 E! Television special on Playboy Playmates of the 1960s, two former playmates discussed the history of the era, one remarking that during the Sixties ‘a generation of young people rebelled against the old guard, expanded their minds and lived outside the norms of society. ” In other words, they got stoned, partied, and stopped bathing. The fashion of the 1960s broke many fashion traditions and featured numerous diverse trends. Two notable items that are still popular today were invented during this time: the mini-skirt and the bikini. Many people’s fashion during this time was used to express the peace movement by wearing paisley prints, batik fabrics, and tons of tie-dye. Designers were producing much more clothing appropriate for young adults than they had in the past; this led to an increase in sales and interests thanks to the counterculture.
Even the Presidential election campaigns made fashion an issue, when the two Presidential candidates wives became the center of a headlined controversy over the cost and source of their taste in clothes, their individual wardrobes, and their relative rating amid the international “best dressed. ” Jacqueline Kennedy’s had a major influence on fashion during this era. As President Kennedy traveled through many countries in 1961, Jackie was always the one to steal the show.
Multiple newspapers worldwide always seemed to praise her for her beauty and charm, and by the end of their trip across the globe, she even managed to charm Russia’s Nikita Krushchev, and France’s Charles de Gualle. In the U. S. many women copied her bouffant hairdo as well as her pillbox hat that is still well-known to this day. “Her look evolved into a whole standard of fashion known as the ‘Jackie Kennedy look’, occurring in the very early years of the 60’s. This look consisted of semi-fitted jackets, blouses falling at the hip bone and paired with an A-line skirt falling to the knees or just below. (Farber) During the times of the counterculture, “the sustained peacetime boom in turn prompted expectations of an imminent postscarcity society, based on the optimistic view that the United States was reaching a stage of automation, industrial development, agricultural productivity, and economic growth in which the need to work for a living might soon be radically diminished, if not eliminated altogether. ”(Braunstein) The generation of the baby boomer’s lived during a time when war had an extremely powerful effect on everyone’s life.
People knowing that their brothers and sisters were dying fighting in the Vietnam War, eased their pain with speeches, organizations, freedom chants, demonstrations, and drugs. The Vietnam War was apart of the Cold War era and occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. The war lasted from 1955 to 1973. The United States government saw their involvement in the war as a path to prevent a communist takeover of South Vietnam. They also saw their involvement in the war as a part of their bigger strategy of containment (a U. S. olicy using diplomatic, military, and economic strategies to stop the communist spread, and to enhance the security of America). U. S. involvement in the war heightened in the early 1960s with U. S. troop levels rising rapidly. On Tuesday morning, October 16th, 1962, around 9:00 AM, President Kennedy called Arthur Schlesinger Jr. (a great historian of the United States and supporter of the Democratic Party) into his office. Kennedy told him that “a U-2 had just finished a photographic mission and that the Intelligence Community had become convinced that Russia was placing missiles and atomic weapons in Cuba. (Kennedy & Schlesinger) This marked the beginning of the Cuban Missile Crisis-a quarrel between two massive atomic nations, the U. S. S. R and the U. S. This brought the world to the deep hole of nuclear destruction and mankind’s end. After difficult and long meetings, Kennedy chose to place a ring of ships (or a naval blockade) around Cuba. This was to prevent the Soviets from bringing in more supplies for their military. Kennedy also ordered for the destruction of the sites and the elimination of missiles already there. No one was really sure how Nikita Krushchev (Soviet leader) would react to the U. S. emands and naval blockade. But, both leaders recognized the upsetting possibility of a nuclear war and agreed publicly to a deal that included the Soviets take apart the weapon sites in exchange for a United States promise not to attack Cuba. About a year later in 1963, things seemed to calm down. “There were signs of a lessening of tensions between the Soviet Union and the United States. In [Kennedy’s] commencement address at American University, President Kennedy urged Americans to reexamine Cold War stereotypes and myths and called for a strategy of peace that would make the world safe for diversity. (Jfklibrary. org) There were two actions that indicated signs of peace between the two leaders: the signing of the Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty on July 25, 1963, and the establishment of a teletype “Hotline” between the White House and the Kremlin. In 1965, U. S. combat units were positioned, and operations covered borders with Cambodia and Laos bombed deeply. In 1968, at the time of the Tet Offensive, U. S. involvement was at its highest. Eventually U. S. forces withdrew from the war as a part of Vietnamization.
Like mentioned before, drugs helped those deeply affected by the Vietnam War get through the day. Drugs such as marijuana, LSD, and other hallucinogens were extremely popular during this time and were even promoted by well-educated people. LSD, lysergic acid diethylamide, “acts by temporarily dismissing the sentries guarding the gates of consciousness. The unprotected brain is invaded by a mob of unprocessed stimuli on which it is unable to impose logic. ”(DeGroot) One particular psychologist, Timothy Leary, was a symbol of the counterculture movement.
Much of what made him a symbol for the counterculture movement is due to his research on the effects of LSD and other drugs. Leary was a teacher at Harvard in 1960 and studied LSD’s effect on willing graduate students, he also used it for prison inmates as psychotherapy. Although the inmates and graduate students enjoyed the drug, the authorities of Harvard University did not, causing Leary to leave the university in 1963. At the peak of the hippie movement Leary was advocating LSD usage in California, which at this point was illegal.
Leary became so well-known that President Richard Nixon heard of him. Nixon gave him the title as “the most dangerous man in America”, but Leary didn’t care because he became a celebrity at this point, hanging around people like John Lennon and Jimi Hendrix. Leary was also well known for his saying “Turn on, tune in, drop out. ”(Friedman) This saying he would tell young people to follow. “Turning on meant activating unused neural processes through drugs. The next step, tuning in, would follow automatically. It involved a harmonious interaction with the world, on levels impossible without drugs.
Dropping out was a concept borrowed from Marcuse, who railed against the tyranny of technocratic society. Taking drugs was, in other words, an expression of the Great Refusal. ”(DeGroot) Drugs also became one of the most influential things evident in 1960s music. When one thinks of the music in the 1960s, he or she is bound to think of the Beatles. In the beginning of the era, The Beatles were formed. The Beatles were an English rock band formed in Liverpool, and turned into being one of the most successful bands commercially in the history of music. The group consisted of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr.
The Beatles composed many pop ballads but also created psychedelic rock songs, often including classical rock as well and other elements in unique ways. The band came to be known as the picture of ideals of the cultural and social revolutions of the 1960s. Another influential artist during the 1960s was Bob Dylan. Dylan’s success still thrives and he has been admired as an activist, songwriter, musician, poet, and folk artist. Dylan informally became the representative for the counterculture movement and tons of young American’s looked to him for their concerning social issues ideas.
Dylan created and sung songs that developed into anti-war songs of praises as well as songs that hyped the celebration of civil rights. He did not think twice about incorporating lyrics in his songs that contained social and political commentary that were obviously pertaining to the procedures and policies of the day that he disagreed with. Dylan was also a performer at the March on Washington (a march that took place in 1963 that attracted an estimated 250,000 people for a peace demonstration to advocate economic equality and Civil Rights for African Americans). The March on Washington is also where Martin Luther King, Jr. ave his commemorated speech. To this day, Dylan still continues to be one of the most recognized and respected artists in music history because of his unique singing voice and his melodies. In August of 1969, the Woodstock Music and Arts Fair began as an ordinary organized event but transformed into a chaotic event, and became known as the most legendary festival of rock in history. Held on the six-hundred-acre farm of Max Yasgur in Bethel, New York, it was expected by the promoters of the event that the maximum amount of people that would attend would be two hundred thousand.
However, this was not the case. The festival turned out to be huge, attracting nearly half a million people mainly in their twenties and teens. Woodstock’s attendees “formed a large enough crowd to cause the promoters to despair of charging admission beyond a certain point and certainly enough to overload the available facilities. While there were about eighty arrests for possession of hard drugs, police did not bother making arrests for marijuana possession because there were far too many cases. ” (Layman) Thankfully, the event was violence-free, meaning there were no arrests for fighting whatsoever.
To many this was not surprising however, since Woodstock represented the peak of peace and “flower power”, encouraged by hippies who promoted people to make love, not war. Since it took place, Woodstock has come to symbolize an era of free-loving, peaceful, drug-induced hippies. Performers at Woodstock included Blood, Sweat and Tears; Joan Baez; Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young; Arlo Guthrie; Creedence Clearwater Revival; Sly and the Family Stone; Jefferson Airplane; the Grateful Dead; Ravi Shankar; Janis Joplin; the Who; and Jimi Hendrix.
One person that actually recalled the event said, “Woodstock was a time of social change in human freedom and expression . . . .we learned not to be ashamed of our bodies in the nude, we smoked grass to expand our horizons with the music, we spent time with our kids and pets . . . . It was very much focused on a new standard for families . . . .That festival set the standard for peace, music, people, and expression and showed the world that all was not just violence and hatred…It was LIFE! ” (DeGroot) Another unnamed man that attended Woodstock stated, “Woodstock Nation seemed the perfect ending to the Heavenly Decade.
It represented the epitome of freedom-free love, free drugs, freedom from repression-even the music seemed free. Belief in a new dawn was reinforced by the guru Swami Satchidananda who arrived by helicopter to bless the crowd. “The future of the whole world is in your hands,” he proclaimed. “You can make it or break it….. The entire world is going to know what American youth can do for humanity. ” Believing in Woodstock Nation was an act of faith so transcendent that all the hype miraculously vanished, along with the extortionately expensive hot dogs. ”(DeGroot)