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The 1960s Portal

"The Sixties", as they are known in both scholarship and popular culture, is a term used by historians, journalists, and other objective academics; in some cases nostalgically to describe the counterculture and revolution in social norms about clothing, music, drugs, dress, formalities and schooling. Conservatives denounce the decade as one of irresponsible excess and flamboyance, and decay of social order. The decade was also labeled the Swinging Sixties because of the fall or relaxation of social taboos especially relating to racism and sexism that occurred during this time.

The 1960s became synonymous with the new, radical, and subversive events and trends of the period. 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. Christopher Booker charts the rise, success, fall/nightmare and explosion in the London scene of the 1960s. However, this alone does not explain the mass nature of the phenomenon.

Several nations such as the U.S., France, Germany and Britain turned to the left in the early and mid 1960s. In the United States, John F. Kennedy, a Keynesian and staunch anti-communist, pushed for social reforms. His assassination in 1963 was a stunning shock. Liberal reforms were finally passed under Lyndon B. Johnson including civil rights for African Americans and healthcare for the elderly and the poor. Despite his large-scale Great Society programs, Johnson was increasingly reviled by the New Left at home and abroad. The heavy-handed American role in the Vietnam War outraged student protestors across the globe, as they found peasant rebellion typified by Ho Chi Minh and Che Guevara more appealing. Italy formed its first left-of-center 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.

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The 1966 New York City smog was a major air-pollution episode and environmental disaster, coinciding with that year's Thanksgiving holiday weekend. Smog covered the city and its surrounding area from November 23 to 26, filling the city's air with damaging levels of several toxic pollutants. It was the third major smog in New York City, following events of similar scale in 1953 and 1963.

On November 23, a large mass of stagnant air over the East Coast trapped pollutants in the city's air. For three days, New York City was engulfed in dangerously high levels of carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, smoke, and haze. Pockets of air pollution pervaded the greater New York metropolitan area, including parts of New Jersey and Connecticut. By November 25, the smog became severe enough that regional leaders announced a "first-stage alert". During the alert, leaders of local and state governments asked residents and industry to take voluntary steps to minimize emissions. Health officials advised people with respiratory or heart conditions to remain indoors. The city shut off garbage incinerators, requiring massive hauling of garbage to landfills. A cold front dispersed the smog on November 26, and the alert ended. (Full article...)

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Water on Tratinska and Kranjčevićeva Street, Trešnjevka

On 25 October 1964, a devastating flood of the River Sava struck Zagreb, Socialist Republic of Croatia, Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (today the capital of Croatia). High rainfall upriver caused rivers and streams in the Sava catchment basin to swell and spill over their banks in many places throughout Slovenia and northern Croatia. The worst of the flooding occurred in Zagreb. Sava floods were a known hazard in the city, having affected the development of the area since the Roman times, and the 1964 flood did not have the largest extent. However, it occurred following several decades of large-scale industrialisation and urban growth which had caused the city to expand into the most flood-vulnerable areas. The quality of building construction and flood defences in the floodplain was mostly low. Regulation of the Sava and its tributaries upriver from Zagreb cut off many natural detention basins, such as fields and pastures, which caused water to pile up ahead of the city. To make matters worse, the soil was already saturated from a mid-month episode of fairly high rainfall. A second episode of high rainfall, during 22–25 October upriver in Slovenia, produced a record-high water wave in the Sava. At Zagreb's Sava River gauge, the water crested at 514 cm (16 ft 10 in) above zero level, exceeding the previous high water mark by more than half a metre (2 ft). This proved too much for the city's embankments. Around 60 km2 (23 sq mi) of the city was flooded, including most neighbourhoods on the western side of the floodplain.

The worst-stricken areas were the working-class suburbs of Trnje and Trešnjevka. A network of arterial roads raised on small embankments failed to hold the water. In some areas single-storey houses were submerged whole. The onset of the flood was quick, the warnings came late and the intensity and height of the flood was not communicated to the residents in time. Many were unable to save their belongings and ended up stranded in attics and on the rooftops. The brunt of the flood lasted from 25 to 28 October as the water progressed through the city from west to east, mostly on the more populous left (northern) bank. The neighbourhoods on the right bank only saw groundwater flooding for the most part. The railway embankment and sandbag dykes successfully protected the northern and eastern part of the floodplain, and Donji grad and much of Peščenica were spared. A total of 17 people died in the flood. The living quarters of 183,000 people were flooded; 40,000 of these lost their homes. The damage was estimated to 160 billion Yugoslav dinars, or, alternatively, over US$100 million. (Full article...)
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George Wallace's Stand in the Schoolhouse Door
George Wallace's Stand in the Schoolhouse Door
Attempting to block racial integration at the University of Alabama, Governor George Wallace (left) stands defiantly at the door on June 11, 1963, in an incident known as the Stand in the Schoolhouse Door. Wallace moved aside after being ordered to do so by President John F. Kennedy; years later, he became a born-again Christian and recanted his segregationist views.

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Pink Chanel suit of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis

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Harrison at the White House in 1974

George Harrison MBE (25 February 1943 – 29 November 2001) was an English musician, singer and songwriter who achieved international fame as the lead guitarist of the Beatles. Sometimes called "the quiet Beatle", Harrison embraced Indian culture and helped broaden the scope of popular music through his incorporation of Indian instrumentation and Hindu-aligned spirituality in the Beatles' work. Although the majority of the band's songs were written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, most Beatles albums from 1965 onwards contained at least two Harrison compositions. His songs for the group include "Taxman", "Within You Without You", "While My Guitar Gently Weeps", "Here Comes the Sun" and "Something". Harrison's earliest musical influences included George Formby and Django Reinhardt; subsequent influences were Carl Perkins, Chet Atkins and Chuck Berry.

By 1965, he had begun to lead the Beatles into folk rock through his interest in Bob Dylan and the Byrds, and towards Indian classical music through his use of Indian instruments, such as the sitar, which he had become acquainted with on the set of the film Help! He played sitar on numerous Beatles songs, starting with "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)". Having initiated the band's embrace of Transcendental Meditation in 1967, he subsequently developed an association with the Hare Krishna movement. After the band's break-up in 1970, Harrison released the triple album All Things Must Pass, a critically acclaimed work that produced his most successful hit single, "My Sweet Lord", and introduced his signature sound as a solo artist, the slide guitar. He also organised the 1971 Concert for Bangladesh with Indian musician Ravi Shankar, a precursor to later benefit concerts such as Live Aid. In his role as a music and film producer, Harrison produced acts signed to the Beatles' Apple record label before founding Dark Horse Records in 1974. He co-founded HandMade Films in 1978, initially to produce the Monty Python troupe's comedy film The Life of Brian (1979). (Full article...)

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Houphouët-Boigny in 1962

Félix Houphouët-Boigny (French: [feliks ufwɛ(t) bwaɲi]; 18 October 1905 – 7 December 1993), affectionately called Papa Houphouët or Le Vieux ("The Old One"), was an Ivorian politician and physician who served as the first president of Ivory Coast from 1960 until his death in 1993. A tribal chief, he worked as a medical aide, union leader, and planter before being elected to the French Parliament. He served in several ministerial positions within the French government before leading Ivory Coast following independence in 1960. Throughout his life, he played a significant role in politics and the decolonisation of Africa.

Under Houphouët-Boigny's politically moderate leadership, Ivory Coast prospered economically. This success, uncommon in poverty-ridden West Africa, became known as the "Ivorian miracle"; it was due to a combination of sound planning, the maintenance of strong ties with the West (particularly France) and development of the country's significant coffee and cocoa industries. However, reliance on the agricultural sector caused difficulties in 1980, after a sharp drop in the prices of coffee and cocoa. (Full article...)

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Senate portrait, 1960

Barry Morris Goldwater (January 2, 1909 – May 29, 1998) was an American politician and major general in the Air Force Reserve who served as a United States senator from 1953 to 1965 and 1969 to 1987, and was the Republican Party's nominee for president in 1964.

Goldwater was born in Phoenix, Arizona, where he helped manage his family's department store. During World War II, he flew aircraft between the U.S. and India. After the war, Goldwater served in the Phoenix City Council. In 1952, he was elected to the U.S. Senate, where he rejected the legacy of the New Deal and, along with the conservative coalition, fought against the New Deal coalition. Goldwater also challenged his party's moderate to liberal wing on policy issues. He supported the Civil Rights Acts of 1957 and 1960 and the 24th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution but opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, disagreeing with Title II and Title VII. In the 1964 U.S. presidential election, Goldwater mobilized a large conservative constituency to win the Republican nomination, but then lost the general election to incumbent Democratic president Lyndon B. Johnson in a landslide. (Full article...)
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