TV announcer (archival): Ladies and gentlemen across the nation, we’re packed in here, a half a million people I would say, here in Times Square. The village green of little old New York town.
Narrator: On December 31st, 1963, the usual collection of revelers gathered in Times Square to welcome the New Year.
TV Announcer (archival): In a matter of seconds it will be 1964. The New Year, a fresh start. Two seconds, one... Happy New Year! Happy New Year 1964!
Narrator: As they broke out the champagne, Americans were full of hope for the year ahead, but their optimism was tinged with a deep anxiety. No one could forget the shocking events that had occurred just five weeks earlier, in Dallas, Texas.
Reporter (archival audio): Mrs. Kennedy cried out when the shots were fired, was weeping and trying to hold up her husband's head.
Robert A. Caro, Author, The Years of Lyndon Johnson: The year 1964 really began on November 22nd, 1963, with the tragedy of the assassination of a president.
Dan T. Carter, Historian: It’s difficult unless you lived through it to realize how traumatic it was for Americans.
Robert Dallek, Historian: Shook the national confidence; was the President so vulnerable? Is the country that vulnerable?
Walter Cronkite, CBS News (archival): From Dallas, Texas, the flash, apparently official. President Kennedy died at one pm Central Standard Time. Two o'clock Eastern Standard Time. Some 38 minutes ago.
Reporter (archival audio): We just got the word. Lyndon B. Johnson has been sworn in as the President of the United States.
President Lyndon B. Johnson (archival): I know that the world shares the sorrow that Mrs. Kennedy and her family bear. I will do my best. That is all I can do. I ask for your help, and God's.
Jann S. Wenner, Founder, Rolling Stone: That singular event led to the 60s, as we know it. The letting loose of everything.
Narrator: It would be the year when change was inescapable, the moment that fundamentally altered the kind of nation America would become.
Robert Lipsyte, Sportswriter: It was in 1964 that every kind of split in American life suddenly became open and visible.
Muhammad Ali, Boxer (archival): I must be the greatest, I told the world.
Rick Perlstein, Writer: It was the kind of watershed that you very rarely see in history.
Marilyn B. Young, Historian: Things are cracking and breaking and fracturing, and being, most importantly, rethought.
Narrator: It would be the year when the future of the country would be fiercely and passionately debated.
Lee Edwards, Historian: 1964 was the year that changed American politics, absolutely.
President Lyndon B. Johnson (archival): My fellow citizens, we have come now to a time of testing.
Dave Dennis, Civil Rights Activist: We set the stage for this to be the greatest country ever. We set this stage whereby we could be the showcase for democracy.
Richard A. Viguerie, Conservative Activist: What happened in ’64 was terrifying to us. We saw America changing right in front of our eyes.
Leah Wright Rigueur, Historian: It’s just this explosive year where people are forced to say what they mean, mean what they say, and follow it up.
Narrator: 1964 would be the year when institutions came under assault, and when generations began to split apart.
Jann S. Wenner, Founder, Rolling Stone: It was the coming of age of the biggest, best-educated and wealthiest generation in the history of America, and there’s gonna be trouble. And there was.
Narrator: On January 1st, the year ahead did not appear to hold out the promise of revolutionary change. The new hit song on the radio was Bobby Vinton’s “There! I’ve Said It Again.” Vogue magazine’s cover proclaimed “the look that’s 1964" and featured a modest sky-blue blouse and jaunty straw hat.
Robert Cohen, Historian: I think a lot of people would say that we still weren’t out of the 50s completely. America hadn’t taken its coat and tie off yet.
Hodding Carter III, Newspaper Editor: The thing was to have a very narrow lapel, have a very narrow cut, and to go out into the world, with quite clear circumstances in which you advanced in one place. And that was that.
Reverend Ed King, Civil Rights Activist: You dressed like everybody else. Nobody was particularly noticeable.
Narrator: On television, Bonanza remained one of the nation’s highest-rated shows. Hello Dolly, starring Carol Channing, began its remarkable run on Broadway. And in movie theaters, Rock Hudson and Doris Day starred in the romantic comedy Send Me No Flowers.
Stephanie Coontz, Historian: As a teenager, I had thought that I would just get married. Every boy I used to date, I used to, you know, put Mrs. So-and-So in front of his name, you know?
Rick Perlstein, Writer: Walter Lippmann, the kind of marquee pundit of the day, said that America was more united and at peace with itself than it ever had been. I mean, 1964 is when we see this great mass middle class. People who grew up with outhouses in their backyard are taking their children to vacation houses on the lake. And the idea was that America had figured it out.
Stephanie Coontz, Historian: We came out of World War II the most prosperous nation in the world, and there was this tremendous sense that we had defeated Fascism.
Jann S. Wenner, Founder, Rolling Stone: Our parents had collaborated as a society and one of the greatest achievements ever, you know, World War II and the destruction of Hitler. You know there’s every reason to kind of get along and feel comfortable and not rock the boat. And it seemed like it was a period of quietude.
Narrator: Despite the outward appearance of calm, as the year began, Americans were still haunted by the assassination of their president.
Hodding Carter III, Newspaper Editor: Jack Kennedy represented the future he was the dream president and here he was cut off and who succeeds him? Lyndon Johnson. Lyndon Johnson is not a figure of great popularity in the general public.
John H. Bracey, Jr., Historian: Johnson has no legitimacy in that job. He’s there because somebody got shot. He wasn’t elected, somebody got shot.
Jon Margolis, Author, The Last Innocent Year: America in 1964: The Constitution says, when there is a vacancy, the vice president takes over. But he didn’t feel legitimate. It’s not just political. It’s sort of psychological. “I’m here. I’m the most powerful person in the world. But the public didn’t choose me. I didn’t get elected.”
Narrator: Johnson’s chance to prove himself -- the 1964 election -- was only 10 months away, and in the meantime, the new president faced a daunting set of challenges. John F. Kennedy had put forward a progressive legislative agenda to address the increasingly volatile problem of inequality in America -- a landmark civil rights bill, and a series of initiatives to fight poverty. Neither of them had made progress in a divided Congress. And on the international front, Kennedy’s policies had drawn America deeper into the simmering conflict in Vietnam. Now, on January eighth, only seven weeks after taking office, Lyndon Johnson had to make the case for his own administration in his first State of the Union address.
Reporter (archival audio): It is now 12:30 pm Eastern Standard Time in Washington. Everyone is assembled.
House Sergeant at Arms (archival): Mr. Speaker, the President of the United States.
Dan T. Carter, Historian: Lyndon Johnson wanted to be a great president. And I think he understood we had developed this broad middle class, but there were many groups that were completely left out. If he could do something that had never been done before in America, and that was actually attack the root causes of poverty, transform America, it would be a legacy that no other president would have had.
President Lyndon B. Johnson (archival): This administration today here and now declares unconditional war on poverty in America.
Robert A. Caro, Author, The Years of Lyndon Johnson: What he spells out to that Congress, it’s unprecedented. He says, “We’re not just going to try to alleviate poverty, we’re going to try and end it.”
President Lyndon B. Johnson (archival): Let me make one principle of this administration abundantly clear. All of these increased opportunities in employment and education and housing must be open to Americans of every color.
Robert A. Caro, Author, The Years of Lyndon Johnson: Johnson understands poverty and race are inextricably mixed in the great injustice in America. He is the president who has this vision of a vast, domestic reform of justice. You know, Martin Luther King said the moral arc of the universe bends slowly, but it bends towards justice. In 1964, Lyndon Johnson is trying to bend that arc faster.
President Lyndon B. Johnson (archival): Join with me in working for a nation, a nation that is free from war, and a world that is free from hate.
Mark Kurlansky, Writer: For Johnson, the ghost of John Kennedy was huge in 1964. When Kennedy was killed, it was felt that somehow this was a plot to stop progress. Johnson has to make people feel that the spirit of John Kennedy is living on. Although in doing that he would do much more than John Kennedy actually ever did.
Lee Edwards, Historian: Johnson was going to promise to do away with poverty; he was going to educate everybody. And everybody was going to have a house, everybody was going to have a TV set, and on and on and on and on. Of course the price tag for all of this would be billions and billions of dollars. For me, as a young conservative, I had very mixed feelings.
Richard A. Viguerie, Conservative Activist: For the young conservatives, LBJ was over the top. It was terrifying. We felt we could see our world slipping from us, and we wanted to change that.
Narrator: In early January, the nation’s press assembled on the lawn of a hilltop house in Phoenix. Arizona’s two-term Senator, Barry Goldwater, was about to make a dramatic announcement, one that would not only reshape the politics of 1964, but transform the American political landscape for generations to come.
Senator Barry Goldwater (archival): I want to tell you that I will seek the Republican Presidential nomination. And I've decided to do this because of the principles in which I believe and because I'm convinced that millions of Americans share my belief in those principle.
Richard A. Viguerie, Conservative Activist: Goldwater told us, he said, you know, as conservatives we can take this party over. Before that, we didn’t have a voice; we didn’t have anybody speaking for us. The Republican Party was establishment Republicans, big government Republicans.
Narrator: For years, conservative activists had been searching for a presidential candidate who would embrace the ideals they cherished.
Phyllis Schlafly, Conservative Leader: Before 1964, the Republican establishment was picking all of our candidates. They had given us two-time loser Tom Dewey. They were "me too" Republicans. Whatever the Democrats said, basically, they said, "me too." And we were tired of that. We wanted a real conservative who would stand up for real American and conservative principles.
Lee Edwards, Historian: We believed that we had the right ideas. You know, limited government, individual freedom, free enterprise, traditional American values, a strong national defense. These were not only conservative ideas, but were American ideas. We would organize ourselves into some kind a youth group, a political action group and coming out of that was Young Americans for Freedom. And really from the beginning we looked to Barry Goldwater.
Narrator: The senator’s philosophy had been distilled into a book entitled The Conscience of a Conservative, which quickly became a kind of manifesto for the new right.
Richard A. Viguerie, Conservative Activist: He believed in a balanced budget, he believed in limited government, he believed in increasing liberty and freedom for the individuals. Finally somebody is saying what we’ve been thinking about.
Lee Edwards, Historian: So we bombarded Goldwater with telegrams, with letters, with telephone calls and what have you, saying you must run, you must run, you must run for the country, you must run for the movement. And finally, at the last minute, he said, “All right, damn it, I will.”
Senator Barry Goldwater (archival): I won't change my beliefs to win votes. I will offer a choice, not an echo. This will not be an engagement in personalities; it will be an engagement of principles.
Singer (archival audio): Goldwater, go, go, go, you’re going to win we know.
Reporter (archival audio): Goldwater’s ultra right supporters aren’t always middle aged by any means. To these young Republicans who wrote this ditty, Barry Goldwater is the old wild westerner come to life. A bulwark against the welfare state and red tyranny.
Phyllis Schlafly, Conservative Leader: Goldwater was authentic, he said what he believed and believed what he said, and we liked that. 1964 was the birth of the modern conservative movement.
Narrator: At 1:20 pm on February 7th, Pan Am Flight 101 touched down at New York's recently renamed John F. Kennedy Airport, and the Beatles arrived in America.
Ed Sullivan (archival): Ladies and gentlemen, The Beatles!
The Beatles (archival, singing): Close your eyes and I'll kiss you. Tomorrow I'll miss you.
Susan J. Douglas, Historian: I remember watching them on the Ed Sullivan Show.
The Beatles (archival, singing): I'll pretend that I'm kissing...
Susan J. Douglas, Historian: I am in our TV room, hugging a Naugahyde ottoman to help anchor me. There they are with their long hair and Paul’s eyelashes, and their heels and they sang about us. They liked girls and they also felt the same pain that girls did. I think that's one of the big reasons we all screamed our heads off.
The Beatles (archival, singing): I will send to you.
Todd Gitlin, Sociologist: The Beatles arriving represent hopefulness. They’re just a whole lot of fun filling stadiums.
Jann S. Wenner, Founder, Rolling Stone: I was just blown away by the kind of -- the life, the spirit, the enjoyment, the joy. The music was wonderful.
Beatles fans (archival): We want the Beatles! We want the Beatles!
Jon Margolis, Author, The Last Innocent Year: America in 1964: They did scare a lot of parents. These kids, they were the first generation who had been brought up in the well-ordered, comfortable life of suburbia and therefore, many of them were quite bored. And so they were beginning to rebel in sort of harmless ways. You know? Boys stopped cutting their hair. And there were fights in households. You have to get a haircut. I won’t get a haircut. I mean, you know, and that became kind of almost a public issue.
Reporter (archival): Is that a Beatle haircut you've got?
Boy (archival): Yes.
Reporter (archival): How’d you work it out?
Boy (archival): Well I let my hair flop around until it’s all messy.
Reporter (archival): What do your parents say about it?
Boy (archival): They don't like it.
Reporter (archival): Then why do you comb it that way?
Boy (archival): 'Cause I like the Beatles!
Reporter (archival): You don't care if your parents like it or not?
Boy (archival): Nope!
Robert Lipsyte, Sportswriter: The Beatles, they were in the beginning of their first American tour. They were in Miami Beach. So they went to have a picture taken with Sonny Liston, the heavyweight champion of the world. And he took one look at these four little boys and he said, “I ain't posing with them sissies.” So the Beatles were stuffed back into their limo, and as second-best they were taken to Cassius Clay’s training camp. Cassius Clay was fighting Sonny Liston for the heavyweight championship of the world.
So I'm 26 years old, I was a feature writer. I was sent down to cover the fight. I go down to where Cassius Clay trained. I go up the stairs to the gym, and there's this hubbub behind me. And I ask one of the guys, "Some group, you know, singers for girls." And Cassius Clay has not arrived. The Beatles turn around, ‘cause they’re not going to wait for some Cassius Clay, but the guards push them right up. In those days you could push the Beatles. They pushed them right up the stairs and they push all five of us into an empty dressing room, lock the door.
The Beatles were raging, and they were banging and cursing. And then suddenly, the door bursts open, and there is the most beautiful creature any of us have ever seen. You forget how big Cassius Clay was 'cause he was so perfect. He was laughing and he said, “Come on, Beatles, let's go make some money!” And they followed him out, like kindergarten kids.
February 18th, 1964. It’s an amazing moment, the kind of confluence of two of the great socio-cultural rivers of our time. And afterwards the Beatles leave. Cassius Clay goes back into that dressing room to get his rubdown. He beckons me over and he said, “So who were those little sissies?”
Narrator: The heavy-weight championship fight between Cassius Clay and Sonny Liston was scheduled for February 25th, at the Miami Beach Convention Hall. For the young challenger, this moment had been a long time coming. Clay had arrived on the boxing scene in 1954 and had captured the Olympic gold medal in 1960. Yet his professional record wasn’t all that impressive. He had fought a string of weak, handpicked opponents on the way to his matchup with Liston. By the eve of the fight, Clay was a 7-1 underdog. But the greater the odds against him, the more outrageous Clay became.
Cassius Clay (archival): Fifteen times I have told the clown what round he’s goin' down, and this chump ain’t no different. He’ll fall at eight to prove that I’m great, and if he keeps talkin’ jive, I’m gonna cut it to five.
If Sonny Liston whips me, I’ll kiss his feet in the ring.
I won’t get hit, I won’t get hit, I’m so quick. He’s gonna be so tired in five rounds...
John H. Bracey, Jr., Historian: He just didn’t shut up. He just, he’s rhyming all the time, he’s making predictions. You’re not supposed to make predictions when you fight, ‘cause you get in trouble. He didn’t care.
Narrator: Clay was not a typical heavyweight champ in another respect. A few years earlier, he had begun flirting with the Muslim faith, but he had kept his newfound spirituality quiet, afraid that if it became public he would be denied a shot at the title. Now, Clay’s moment had come.
Announcer (archival audio): World heavyweight boxing title on the line.
Jon Margolis, Author: Everybody who knew anything about boxing knew that Sonny Liston would just wipe up the floor with young Cassius Clay.
Robert Lipsyte, Sportswriter: I was sitting ringside. Once the fight began, there was no question Clay was in absolute control.
Announcer (archival audio): Another jarring right hand that time -- another one! Sonny wobbles. Sonny wobbles.
Robert Lipsyte, Sportswriter: Liston never came out for the seventh round, he had a deep cut.
Announcer (archival audio): They might be stopping it. That might be all, ladies and gentlemen.
Robert Lipsyte, Sportswriter: Clay won the fight.
Announcer (archival audio): Get up there, get up in the ring!
Robert Lipsyte, Sportswriter: The morning after the fight, he was uncharacteristically subdued and polite. He more or less said that he had done all these outrageous things, said all this, made these flamboyant actions to sell tickets for the fight, but that now that it was over he could be a polite and responsible gentleman champion. The younger reporters, we were really disappointed. And somebody said, "Are you a card-carrying Muslim?" And of course card-carrying, even in 1964, had some real resonance, you know "card-carrying communist."
Cassius Clay (archival): Why is everybody so shook up? What do I look like I am to you?
Reporter (archival): I don’t know Cassius, you just... Like you say, you're the greatest.
Cassius Clay (archival): I don't have to be what you want me to be. I'm free to be what I want to be and think what I want to think.
Jon Margolis, Author, The Last Innocent Year: America in 1964: He said, “I don't have to be what you want me to be.” And in a way it was the same thing that the kids who were not getting their haircuts were saying. It was the same thing that people were saying in politics. You've had this role cut out for me, but I don't have to play it anymore.
John H. Bracey, Jr., Historian: I’m not following the mold, whatever the mold was, like, I'm not in it, I'm going to be myself, and whatever that is.
Narrator: The next day, Cassius Clay put the rumors to rest, announcing that he had, in fact, joined the Muslim faith.
Reporter (archival): Why do you insist on being called Muhammad Ali now?
Cassius Clay (archival): That’s the name given to me by leading teacher, the honorable Elijah Muhammad. That’s my original name, that’s a black man name. Cassius Clay was my slave name. I’m no longer a slave.
Reporter (archival): What does it mean?
Cassius Clay (archival): Muhammad means "worthy of all praises" and Ali means "most high."
Robert Lipsyte, Sportswriter: He made no apologies for himself. He said, "Here I am." He just seemed like somebody who had come out of the neighborhood, somebody who was going to stand up for the man, and say what he believed in. The Beatles, Cassius Clay, I mean this was the toppling of the order that was my generation. And it was thrilling.
Stephanie Coontz, Historian: My mom was a homemaker in Salt Lake City. She had been a very adventurous young woman. She worked in the shipyards during World War II and was very proud of herself and very resentful when they were fired as soon as the first boatload of GI's came home. But it was time to start a family and she settled down and eventually got bored with it but had been so kind of brainwashed by the women’s magazines and the TV shows that even this woman who'd been very kind of bohemian and radical in her youth began to feel that there was something wrong with her for not being totally happy. The first time I learned this about her was in 1964. I was away at school and we had a weekly phone call and she started telling me about this book she was reading, The Feminine Mystique, and how indignant it made her and how it opened her eyes and then all of this all this stuff poured out of her. I had thought she was a totally happy homemaker. She said, "Oh my god;" she said, "I was going crazy and I thought it was something wrong with me."
Narrator: The work of a magazine writer and student of psychology named Betty Friedan, The Feminine Mystique hit the bestseller lists on March 15th, 1964. It would become one of the most popular paperbacks of the year, and one of the most influential books of the century. In its pages, Friedan defined something that afflicted millions of American women; she called it "the problem that has no name."
Claire Bond Potter, Historian: The problem that had no name was a strange stirring. Today we would call it depression, but what Friedan describes is a set of feelings that women can't put into words. That they are prosperous, they have children, they have husbands. In other words, they have everything that they have been told by commercial culture that they’re supposed to want, and yet they're still unhappy and they don’t know why.
Interviewer (archival): Now, Ms. Friedan, you feel then that a very tremendous problem with women is not knowing who they are -- a loss of touch of their own identity.
Betty Friedan (archival): Well, it's not being anybody themselves, for so many, and even feeling guilty. You see, I've had letters from over a thousand women since my book came out, and a woman today has been made to feel freakish and alone and guilty if simply she wants to be more than her husband's wife, her children’s' mother, if she really wants to really use her abilities in society. And so, all women have suffered by the feminine mystique.
Claire Bond Potter, Historian: Betty Friedan defines the feminine mystique as something that's invented in popular culture, and specifically by advertisers.
Advertisement (archival): You know, it's a crime not to have delicious coffee like this all the time. We will now that I've discovered "the mountains!"
Claire Bond Potter, Historian: Women are expected to be happy, by consuming things, consuming houses, consuming dishwashers, consuming the right soap, consuming the right clothes and makeup and shoes.
Advertisement (archival): All these reasons for being happy come out of this bottle.
Claire Bond Potter, Historian: The feminine mystique is something that doesn’t exist, that women can never be and women can never have and thus it becomes a trap for them.
Betty Friedan (archival): Television, for instance, you see there are no what I call, no heroines, things, on television today. There are -- there's this mindless little drudge who seems never to have gotten beyond fifth grade herself, whose greatest thrill and ecstasy is to get that kitchen sink or floor pure white. And needs the advice of some wise elderly man even to do that, you see…
Stephanie Coontz, Historian: At one point Friedan says, "A women will look around and she’ll think maybe it's her husband's fault, maybe her house isn’t big enough, maybe she doesn’t have enough kids, maybe she needs another child." She says, "None of it's that. It's that you're missing the opportunity to grow as a human being and that’s a normal desire, and when it is thwarted it's normal to feel bad about it, and so instead of allowing it to be thwarted you should do something about it."
Announcer (archival): A sure sign of spring and the first robin. Here are the hat fashions that will star in the Easter style parade.
Narrator: The spring of 1964 brought with it familiar rituals, but also signs that change was in the air. Visitors flocked past the tilted globe known as the Unisphere, as the World’s Fair opened in New York City; Americans debated the Surgeon General’s recent announcement that smoking increased the risk of lung cancer; and a stylish new convertible, the Ford Mustang, hit the American highway.
Jon Margolis, Author, The Last Innocent Year: America in 1964: The Mustang was sportier than any American car that had ever been created. It was designed for young people, and in buying one a person was making a statement about him or herself. As much as buying a piece of transportation to get from here to there.
Announcer (archival audio): Albert’s a Mustanger now. He bought a beautiful Mustang convertible. All of a sudden his whole life changed. Put a few kicks in your life.
Narrator: Americans were living through a period of unprecedented prosperity, flooding into newly built suburbs, raising larger and larger families.
Jon Margolis, Author, The Last Innocent Year: America in 1964: There had never been so many young people in the world and they never had so much money.
Susan J. Douglas, Historian: Our parents came of age during the Depression and the second World War. These were times of sacrifice and privation. Our generation – we were told we were going to be different. We were gonna move into the suburbs. We were gonna go to college in record numbers. We were told over and over again that we were special, that our lives were going to be different. We were being told that we mattered economically. They were selling us everything. And once you start to think that you matter economically, you begin to think that you matter politically.
Narrator: On Friday, May 22nd, the largest class in the history of the University of Michigan gathered to hear its commencement address delivered by the president of the United States. Lyndon Johnson used the opportunity to introduce a phrase he hoped would embody the far-reaching goals of his presidency.
Robert Dallek, Historian: Franklin Roosevelt had the New Deal, Harry Truman had the Fair Deal, Kennedy had the New Frontier. What is his administration going to be called?
President Lyndon B. Johnson (archival): “In your time, we have the opportunity to move not only toward the rich society and the powerful society, but upward to the Great Society. The Great Society demands an end to poverty and racial injustice."
Robert A. Caro, Author, The Years of Lyndon Johnson: A Great Society, that is his vision -- a moral, just America. When he said A Great Society, he meant a Great Society.
President Lyndon B. Johnson (archival): So will you join in the battle to give every citizen the full equality which God enjoins and the law requires? Whatever his belief, or race, or the color of his skin."
Rick Perlstein, Writer: It has this kind of aching utopian energy of the sort that you can’t even imagine a presidential candidate speaking about now.
Hodding Carter III, Newspaper Editor: The Great Society, and where I was, and where an awful lot of Americans were, it offered such hope for so many people. It was the audacity of saying we ought to be as great as we say we are and we ought to be a society that makes good on its promises to all of its people, and we can do it. We can do it.
Narrator: The Michigan audience loved his speech and so did the nation’s press, but back in Washington, Lyndon Johnson knew that no amount of soaring rhetoric would make his Great Society a reality. What was needed was legislation that would use the power of the federal government to advance the cause of equality.
Martin Luther King (archival): This nation will rise up, live out the true meaning of its creed.
Narrator: The March on Washington the summer before had thrust civil rights onto the national stage, but blacks in the South were still subject to pervasive and often violent discrimination. And mainstream civil rights leaders were finding it increasingly hard to manage the frustration within their movement.
Robert A. Caro, Author, The Years of Lyndon Johnson: You have this long, pent up fight with civil rights reaching a crescendo. If this doesn’t change, if after all this sacrifice on the streets of the South -- they had fire hoses turned on them and police dogs. They were murdered there. What’s gonna happen if that situation, if government does not do something?
Leah Wright Rigueur, Historian: In 1964, race is coming to a boiling point. The 1964 civil rights bill is on the table -- Republicans and Democrats are arguing over, debating over, what will this mean to the country?
Robert Dallek, Historian: It was gonna end segregation in all places of public accommodation. Restaurants, swimming pools, bus stations, train stations.
Announcer (archival): "...cafeterias, lunch rooms, lunch counters, soda fountains, gasoline stations, theaters…”
Robert Dallek, Historian: It just was going to end a way of life across the South. It was a huge political gamble because Johnson is running for president. Is he going to alienate those Southern segregationists? Is he gonna lose the South?
Todd Gitlin, Sociologist: Johnson had decided to turn the corner and that if that meant that the Democratic Party was gonna forgo Southern support, so be it. Chips were down.
Narrator: By early June, Southerners in Congress had been successfully blocking the bill for more than two months, and there was no reason to assume they would back down.
Dan T. Carter, Historian: The problem for Johnson in pushing through the civil rights bill was the same problem it had been for Kennedy and for anyone who wanted to promote civil rights, it had this solid Deep South core of Senators, solidly opposed to any federal action on civil rights, and a handful of other conservative Republicans, outside the region, which made it impossible to move forward.
Robert A. Caro, Author, The Years of Lyndon Johnson: The South in the Senate has through the filibuster and the threat of the filibuster defeated every strong civil rights bill for almost a century. There is no sign that this is going to change.
Narrator: To defeat the South’s filibuster and break their stranglehold on the measure, Johnson needed 67 votes in the Senate. That meant 23 Republicans had to cross the aisle and support the bill. Rick Perlstein, Writer: What Lyndon Johnson had that John F. Kennedy didn't was an unbelievable power to sway legislators. There was this thing called the Johnson treatment. He’d kind of plant his shoes next to you, he'd tower over you, he'd literally grab your lapels, his hot breath would be six inches in front of your face.
Robert A. Caro, Author, The Years of Lyndon Johnson: I mean this is the other side of Lyndon Johnson. He doesn’t just have the ideals; he knows how to push the levers.
Rick Perlstein, Writer: He had this politician’s gift for knowing exactly what each person he was trying to persuade’s vulnerabilities were and he would hit them like a jackhammer.
Robert A. Caro, Author, The Years of Lyndon Johnson: If the senator said, “You know, that’s gonna kill me with my constituency,” he would refute, he would cajole you, threaten you, or bribe you. Anything he had to do to get your vote. Richard Russell, the leader of the South, says, flatly, we could’ve beaten Kennedy on civil rights, we could’ve stopped ‘em in the Senate, but Lyndon Johnson, he says, will beat us. He’ll tear your arm off at the shoulder and beat you over the head with it. But he will get this passed. We’re going to lose.
Narrator: In the end, on June 19th, after the longest filibuster in the Senate’s history, 27 Republicans voted for the bill; only six, including Barry Goldwater, voted no.
Announcer (archival audio): Congress passes the most sweeping civil rights bill ever to be written into the law. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 is signed at the White House by President Johnson.
Narrator: But even as Johnson was enshrining civil rights into what he called "the books of law", he knew that the response to the measure would challenge not only his presidency, but the entire nation.
Richard A. Viguerie, Conservative Activist: It was a game changer. The creation of a new America.
Dan T. Carter, Historian: Civil Rights Bill, it lays out all of these divisions in American society. Whether it is social divisions, culture divisions, racial divisions. Suddenly you can’t escape from them anymore.
Rick Perlstein, Writer: It completely unravels the entire social system of segregation in the south. The very foundation upon which the quote-unquote "Southern way of life" is built. It’s revolutionary.
Hodding Carter III, Newspaper Editor: 90% of all the white people in the deep south thought, “Oh my god, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 means what!? What do you mean you’re going to tell me who I have to serve? They’re going to be in the same place as me?"
President Lyndon B. Johnson (archival): My fellow Americans, this civil rights act is a challenge to all of us, to go to work in our communities and our states in our homes and in our hearts to eliminate the last vestiges of injustice.
Reporter (archival): This is the demonstration that was suppose to have some 600 or a thousand people in it but now in addition to this civil rights demonstration we also had a demonstration by some young people for Ringo Starr. What is this all about?
Girls (archival): This is Ringo’s birthday today he’s 24, and this is a Beatles booster club, and Ringo is going to be president too.
Reporter (archival): You think so?
Girls (archival): There are going to be billions and trillions of girls voting for him. Ringo rules. No, be quiet. If Ringo is not president we want Johnson, nothing but Johnson, because Johnson is the best. Ringo is gonna win. We want Ringo.
Susan J. Douglas, Historian: 1964, we were literally beside ourselves. Pop psychologists and sociologists were trying to figure out. What did it mean that young women were willing to violate police barricades, ignore police authority completely so that they could try to touch Ringo’s hair? What adults were seeing was a new youthful energy just being released by thousands and thousands of girls. It was kind of a collective jailbreak.
Narrator: The young girls at the barricades were not alone.
Announcer (archival audio): Everybody's going to Bikini Beach!
Narrator: All during the summer of 1964, new forms of rebellion were taking shape. Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello’s sexy, skin-filled beach movies raised eyebrows and packed summer movie theaters; pop artist Andy Warhol thumbed his nose at the art establishment, with silk screens of Campbell’s soup cans that would appear in a gallery made to look like an American supermarket; and novelist Ken Kesey, and his band of Merry Pranksters, hopped on their brightly painted Magic Bus, setting off from California on an LSD-infused road trip across the country.
Todd Gitlin, Sociologist: In the summer of ’64, young people are proposing that an entrenched way of life be dismantled and superseded.
Jann S. Wenner, Founder, Rolling Stone: Young vs. old, and the new vs. the old. It was about that. You know, because we were young, and we knew better than anybody else. And it was about our youthful ideals and our youthful beliefs and what we want society to be.
Narrator: On June 15th, about 300 students, and a group of veteran civil rights activists, joined together for an experiment in social change. They had come to a small college in Ohio to prepare for Freedom Summer -- a radical new campaign to increase voter registration of blacks in the Deep South. The new recruits were young and idealistic. They were also, overwhelmingly, white.
Reverend Ed King, Civil Rights Activist: I was there for training as a minister. The point of the project was to expand the movement and here was this help from college students recruited through college chaplains.
John H. Bracey, Jr., Historian: They were gonna spend their summer in Mississippi fighting for black people’s freedom. And I think they saw it that way. They weren’t radical, radical kids, gonna take over the world kind of thing, they thought this was right, this is something you can do, it shouldn’t take that long because you’re doing something that’s right.
Narrator: The Freedom Summer Project was run by the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, known as SNCC.
Todd Gitlin, Sociologist: Those who had been organizing for years conceived of a plan. The idea, quite brilliant idea, was to import students, young people, to make Mississippi front-burner news.
Narrator: The new strategy was necessary because, despite the promise of the Civil Rights Act, activists on the ground were making little progress towards equality.
Rick Perlstein, Writer: When a black person tries to vote in a place like Mississippi, there are all sorts of obstacles, both legal and illegal, they face. I mean, a legal obstacle might be, say, a literacy test in which they claim that they have to recite the entire Constitution. Illegal, you might be organizing to register voters in a church, and the Ku Klux Klan might burn your church down.
Reverend Ed King, Civil Rights Activist: In Mississippi we had been having one black man a month murdered by the Klan just to set an example there will be no voter registration work in this area. People felt like the government in Washington lets these things happen.
Bob Moses, Civil Rights Activist: Those kind of events, it was just utter silence, utter silence. There's nobody knows, and the media doesn't care.
Dave Dennis, Civil Rights Activist: A lot of us were tired. We had been in this thing nonstop. So there were a lot of discussions going on at that time, what's gonna happen if you bring in all these young kids into the places. But we really felt we had no choice. The time was right. You had to get America's attention.
Narrator: The students had come to Ohio for a crash course in nonviolent activism, and the voter registration laws of Mississippi. They were also warned about what was waiting for them in the South.
Instructor 1 (archival): Most likely a cop won't try to chunk you in here but he will hit you across here.
Instructor 2 (archival): We want to get used to this, used to people jeering at us.
Instructor 3 (archival): Yell it out, get out of here nigger, nigger-lovers coming from the North. Go home Yankee!
Bob Moses, Civil Rights Activist: The goal for me was to help the students understand their job was just to be in Mississippi and survive. That was their job.
Reporter (archival): Do you worry about what's going to happen to you in Mississippi?
Activist (archival): Very much, this is something, which I had to think out before I even decided whether to apply to the program. And that is whether or not I was willing not only to face a beating but whether or not it was something worth being killed for. We all feel hopeful that we are gonna be able to do something when we sing songs together I think a lot of us mean it. That we shall overcome and that something really will come out over this summer.
Reporter (archival): With some knowledge of what may await them, but with little protection against it, they set forth for a summer in Mississippi.
Claire Bond Potter, Historian: It is a year of choice. And these college students are trying to decide what they can do to create a more just world.
Reporter (archival audio): Yesterday the first 200 civil rights workers arrived in Mississippi and fanned out over the state.
John H. Bracey, Jr., Historian: I don't think they sensed the danger, because you can't comprehend being in the United States and having somebody who wants to shoot you because you want black people to have the right to vote. We learned in civics class: everybody's a citizen; they all have the right to vote, just about. Well, in Mississippi... Reporter (archival): You've got a telephone, I understand there have been quite a few people calling you. What do they say?
Activist (archival): Well we got a series of phone calls about two minutes after the telephone was installed. There is of course incredible profanity, numerous threats, bomb threats, personalized threats, asking for people by name.
Rita Schwerner Bender, Civil Rights Activist: People throw around the words police state but Mississippi was. I guess I would call it a Klan state. One thinks of the police as the protectors, the police were not the protectors.
Narrator: On June 21st, three members of the Freedom Summer Project based in Meridian, Mississippi -- Andrew Goodman, James Chaney, and Mickey Schwerner -- drove to the nearby town of Longdale, where a black church had been burned to the ground.
Reverend Ed King, Civil Rights Activist: The civil rights workers went up to talk to church people who had been beaten and attacked by the Klan. And somebody reported to the police that they were around.
Narrator: Anxious not to be on the roads at night, the three young men headed home. Outside the town of Philadelphia, they were arrested for speeding and taken to the county jail. Around 10 p.m. they were released. Then they disappeared. Andrew Goodman had only been in Mississippi for 24 hours, having just arrived from his training course in Ohio. James Chaney was a Mississippi native, working for an organization called CORE -- the Congress of Racial Equality. Mickey Schwerner, also with CORE, had arrived in the state six months earlier, with his wife Rita.
Rita Schwerner Bender, Civil Rights Activist: Mickey and I first went to Meridian to establish a community center there. It would be a place where kids could simply come and hang out and talk about what was going on in the community and how they wanted to effect it.
Dave Dennis, Civil Rights Activist: When they first came in, I was not very pleased, to be honest with you. They came in this little Volkswagen like little flower people, so I didn't particularly like the idea. But then one day Mickey called me and asked me to come over. So, I made an excuse. He said, "Please come over." So I went over there.
When I got there, they had the Freedom School set up, they had books, they had all this stuff, they had all these kids there and people coming in, and I was just amazed, and that's when I began to get to know Mickey Schwerner. He made a statement to me at the time, and I still don't know today whether he was joking or not, he said, "Sometimes when I'm here, and I'm with the people, I don't know whether I'm black or white." And I sort of laughed it off and told him, "You white." But I wasn't understanding at that time, really, what he probably meant. And I wish I had a deeper conversation with him about that point. Cause he didn't laugh.
Reporter (archival): There is some mystery and some fear concerning three of the civil rights workers, two whites from New York City and a Negro from Mississippi. Police say they arrested the three men for speeding yesterday, but released them after they posted bond. They have not been heard from since.
Dan T. Carter, Historian: No one at the time thought we're gonna use them as kind of sacrificial lambs, but when it happened, that's exactly what it was. All of a sudden, instead of the three paragraphs on page 19A of the New York Times, it was front page.
Reporter (archival): James Cheney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner....
Reporter (archival): Schwerner, Cheney, Goodman...
Reporter (archival): Mississippi in the past few days has become a kind of giant amplifier...
Dan T. Carter, Historian: Every news story was dominated by it, and the whole Freedom Summer became a kind of national exposure for what was going on in the Deep South.
Rita Schwerner Bender, Civil Rights Activist: I think it was pretty clear almost instantly when there was no information in the first few hours, I think it was pretty clear that they had been killed.
Reporter (archival): Do you believe your husband has been murdered?
Rita Schwerner (archival): I don’t know. I don’t want to say.
Rita Schwerner Bender, Civil Rights Activist: Since I was getting this attention in any event, I needed to draw attention to what this was all about. It wasn’t about three men, although it certainly in a personal way was about that. But it was really about what the violence was all about, what the denial of just basic human rights was all about and who were the usual victims.
Rita Schwerner (archival): As you know, lynchings in Mississippi are not uncommon; they have occurred for many, many, many years. Maybe this one could be the last if some positive steps were taken to show that the people of this country have had enough. That they require that human beings be treated as human beings.
Reporter (archival): Someone spotted a charred blue station wagon in the woods about 20 miles from Philadelphia. The blue station wagon was the one in which they were last seen. It had been burned but it had not been wrecked.
Martin Luther King (archival): These young men have probably been killed in the state of Mississippi.
Todd Gitlin, Sociologist: When black civil rights workers were murdered, the country could live with that. But, ok, other people are in danger, it looks like something else.
Reporter (archival): Goodman, 20, a New York college student, had never participated...
Leah Wright Rigueur, Historian: It's something that affects people who are sitting at home saying, "Well, this could never happen to somebody like me." All of a sudden this is something that could happen to someone like me.
Rita Schwerner Bender, Civil Rights Activist: Three days after the disappearance I went up to Washington, and I met with President Johnson. The major message of our meeting was, you know, we want you to do what it takes to figure out what happened to these three people. But, Mr. President, there has to be federal protection for civil rights workers. I was really pushing the president to make a commitment and he was trying to be as evasive as he could be. So we left and we were walking down this long corridor with the press secretary and he was obviously somewhat miffed, and said to me, “You know, you don’t talk to the President of the United States that way,” and I was a little bit miffed too, so I said, “Well, I think I just did.”
Narrator: Johnson remained committed to civil rights, but worried about further antagonizing the South by sending federal forces into Mississippi. Now, with the three men missing, and the national media refusing to let go of the story, the president felt enormous pressure to deliver results.
President Lyndon B. Johnson (archival audio): I asked Hoover two weeks ago, after talking to the Attorney General, to fill up Mississippi with FBI men and infiltrate everything he could. I’ve asked him to put more men after these three kids.
Dave Dennis, Civil Rights Activist: They were finding bodies in Mississippi. While they were looking, they were finding bodies. And so the press would come out and says they found two bodies, or they found a body, and they'd check in the autopsy to see if it’s -- 'cause it's decomposed, whether to see if it's one of the missing people. And they'd kind of like, nope, they're not one of the missing people, there's like, okay, it really wasn't them, okay, maybe they're still alive. And you're like, wait a minute, you're finding bodies, people, you know, you're finding bodies, but they were black bodies. Still, America had not dealt with this thing about what really was going in Mississippi.
Phyllis Schlafly, Conservative Leader: In 1964, I was the president of the Illinois Federation of Republican Women, and I went all over the state of Illinois, giving speeches for Goldwater. We wanted the grassroots to nominate the candidate. And that's why I wrote my book, A Choice Not An Echo. It started out as speeches and then I developed it into a little paperback book. I plunged with an order for 25,000, thinking that would take care of it, and I ended up selling three million out of my garage.
Narrator: When Barry Goldwater announced his candidacy, he was not considered a favorite for the Republican presidential ticket. But his celebration of individual liberty and his attacks on the federal government had struck a chord with the electorate.
Rick Perlstein, Writer: The Goldwater folks are these young, young Americans for Freedom activists, they’re housewives.
Dan T. Carter, Historian: Small businessmen, conservative professionals, doctors, dentists; simply middle class Americans, who were, as they saw it, fed up with what was going on in American society.
Narrator: Members of what came to be known as “Goldwater’s Army” had fanned out across America, knocking on doors, raising fistfuls of cash, and lining up delegates to support his nomination. Now, they jammed the aisles of the aging, smoke-filled Cow Palace in San Francisco as the 1964 Republican National Convention was called to order on July 13th.
Richard A. Viguerie, Conservative Activist: It just didn’t get any better than this. We thought we had just died and gone to heaven politically. It was Mecca, I mean if you were a young conservative you just had to say, "I was there."
Phyllis Schlafly, Conservative Leader: We all marched around, people were really revved up about getting Goldwater nominated and elected.
Narrator: Finally, a true conservative was poised to win the Republican nomination, and he had done it by embracing positions long considered too extreme for his own party. Goldwater was against a progressive income tax, believed Social Security should be voluntary, and, in the wake of the Cuban Missile Crisis, even seemed willing to consider using nuclear weapons against the Soviet Union. His vote against the Civil Rights Act had been yet another example of the Senator’s determination to go his own way.
Dan T. Carter, Historian: Goldwater was against the civil rights bill not because he was opposed to civil rights, but because he was opposed to the role of the federal government enforcing civil rights.
Lee Edwards, Historian: If you look at the Goldwater record in Arizona it's extraordinary. He helped to desegregate the Air National Guard. He hired blacks for his department store. He supported the idea of equal rights and equality, but he wanted it to come about in a conservative way, which is to say gradually, which is to say through states’ rights.
Leah Wright Rigueur, Historian: Goldwater believes that states should have the right to decide what is best for them. For black voters, that's interpreted as an open all-pass for segregationists, for racists, for white supremacists.
News Announcer (archival audio): The largest civil rights demonstration since the March on Washington last summer is assembled before the San Francisco City Hall. Forty thousand people, half of them Negroes, demonstrate against Goldwater.
Leah Wright Rigueur, Historian: At the 1964 convention there are these images of people angrily storming the street outside of the Cow Palace, saying “We do not want Barry Goldwater! We don’t want Barry Goldwater!” because they're terrified that the Republicans will nominate somebody that represents this conservative brand of Republicanism.
Narrator: But for the true believers inside the Cow Palace, Goldwater was the leader of a conservative wave that would sweep Establishment Republicans aside. At last, on the evening of July 15th, South Carolina put Goldwater over the top.
Announcer (archival audio): South Carolina casts 16 votes for Senator Barry Goldwater.
Reporter (archival audio): It surely begins right then and there. Barry Morris Goldwater, grandson of a Polish immigrant, senator from Arizona, and leader of the conservatives, is the Republican choice to oppose Lyndon Johnson for the presidency.
Lee Edwards, Historian: It was a delicious night for him and for us. The Republican Party had become the Conservative Party.
Rick Perlstein, Writer: When he was nominated, the first thing you would think Barry Goldwater would want to do is kind of heal all the factions, so everyone can kind of work together, and put their shoulder to the wheel to support the party in November. He does the exact opposite.
Senator Barry Goldwater (archival): Anyone who joins us in all sincerity we welcome. Those who do not care for our cause, we don't expect to enter our ranks in any case. I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.
Dan T. Carter, Historian: What Goldwater wanted to say was, "I'm a radical." Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.
Hodding Carter III, Newspaper Editor: When that phrase was uttered it was deafening, the reaction to that, that was it. They were people on a mission, which was in the best American tradition to be emphatic about the redemption of our values and to be immoderate in advancing their position.
Rick Perlstein, Writer: 1964: both left and right are trying to kill each other, fighting over the same word, freedom. For the right, the greatest traducer of freedom is the federal government. For the left, it’s Southern segregationists. There’s no clear consensus over what that key concept, that key American concept, on what freedom even means.
Narrator: In the summer of 1964, in a small recording studio at Detroit’s Motown Records, the singer Marvin Gaye was laying down a demo for a new song when one of the label’s rising stars, Martha Reeves, happened to walk into the studio.
Mark Kurlansky, Writer: Martha heard that Marvin Gaye was singing a new song, and she loved Marvin Gaye, she used to sing backup for him. The song was called "Dancing in the Streets." Marvin Gaye saw her there and said, "Oh, why don't we let Martha do it?" So she sang it to the track. And she just nailed it.
Martha Reeves (archival, singing): Calling out, around the world, are you ready for a brand new beat?
Mark Kurlansky, Writer: The interesting thing about “Dancing in the Streets” and then you have this strong black voice saying, “summer’s here and the time is right for dancing in the street.”
Martha Reeves (archival, singing): Philadelphia PA, dancing in the street. Baltimore and DC now, dancing in the street.
Mark Kurlansky, Writer: The song lists all these cities. And they’re all cities with large, volatile black populations. You know, the lyrics are so right for the political movement that was coming.
Martha Reeves (archival, singing): It doesn’t matter what you wear, just as long as you are there.
Mark Kurlansky, Writer: In a way people were being called upon to rise up.
Martha Reeves (archival, singing): Everywhere around the world, they're dancin'.
Narrator: Over the course of the summer, "Dancing in the Street" would become one of Motown’s biggest hits, and an unexpected soundtrack for a nation in the midst of radical change.
Dave Dennis, Civil Rights Activist: I came to New York in July to visit a friend of mine, James Baldwin's brother, David Baldwin. I was going to spend the night with him and then leave the next day and go back to Mississippi. And all of a sudden we heard all these sirens. What the heck is going on? So it finally just kept going and we decided to step out to see what we could see out there, and there's just, you know, lit up. The Harlem riots were going on.
Narrator: On July 16th, during an altercation with the manager of a Manhattan apartment building, a 15-year-old black teenager named James Powell was shot and killed by a white off-duty police officer. Two days later, a protest over the missing Mississippi civil rights workers turned violent, and Harlem began to burn. Suddenly, the racial violence that had been tearing apart the South was now flaring up in a northern city.
John H. Bracey, Jr., Historian: When I was growing up, policemen walked around communities, white policeman, single white policeman could walk around a neighborhood and tell you to move off the corner and so forth and you did. You know, you’d be standing there making noise, singing doo-wop or whatever, and there’d be one white policeman and he’d say, "Okay, it’s too late why don’t you all go home," and you went home. It never occurred to you that you would question authority of this policeman.
But when you shoot a black kid, it's like wait a minute. I thought, you know, protect and serve, you’re not protecting or serving you're hurting us. So that policeman coming around the corner don’t look the same any more. It’s like who are you to tell me what to do, why aren’t you locking up these white people that are messing with these black people. I mean that’s the hypocrisy that people see and that’s the hypocrisy that people respond to. People came out in large numbers.
Young black protester (archival): I walked downtown, just walking downtown. Cop come up to me, “Hey, you! Whatcha doing down here? Get up against the wall. Where’s your identification? Identify yourself." What right’s he got to come up to me like that for?
Man (archival audio): Because you ain’t white!
Young black protester (archival): That’s right, that’s right!
John H. Bracey, Jr., Historian: There was an increasing skepticism about the commitment of the white Americans to any kind of racial equality at all. Young people are saying, “You’re not moving fast enough," and Malcolm X is rising as a counter-voice to the Civil Rights movement.
Malcolm X (archival): We want freedom, by any means necessary. We want justice by any means necessary. We want equality by any means necessary.
Mark Kurlansky, Writer: Malcolm X made a very famous speech. It was this break in the civil rights movement that happened right there in the summer of '64.
Malcolm X (archival): We don’t feel that in 1964 that we should have to sit around and wait for some degree of civil rights.
Mark Kurlansky, Writer: There was no more patience. Black people had been left behind in an era of affluence.
Reporter (archival audio): Just heard a volley of shots ring out, this happened after a policeman was hit by a flying bottle. Guns started to fire.
Narrator: As the riots erupted, more than 8,000 people took to the streets, hurling Molotov cocktails, smashing windows, and looting local businesses.
Dave Dennis, Civil Rights Activist: I watched police as they came in in trucks like that as taunting people, and Dave and I were walking down. There were some police and this kid darted out. And the cop just ran out and he knocked over a can, a trash can, but he was just trying to get out of the way. And this cop just turned around and unloaded on him. Blew him away right in front of me. And so David goes over and they tried to get David away from him, pull him away.
And this cop, he made David get on his knees and he put his gun to his head. And he said “I'm gonna blow you away, nigger.” And David looked at him and said, “You might as well kill me, cause you can't do me no more harm.”
Mickey and them are missing. I'm questioning myself. I'm questioning what we're doing, I'm questioning is that -- what is it that this country really listens to, you know what -- are they really getting it, you know?
Todd Gitlin, Sociologist: In Harlem it wasn't simply about police misconduct. It was about low wages. It was about bad schools. It's about poverty. It's about racial subordination. There was something cooking up, especially during the summer, one more moment of brutality. One more instance of mistreatment, and, you know, there's a lot of tinder ready to burn up.
Narrator: By the end of July, the Freedom Summer project had nearly 900 volunteers at work on voter registration in Mississippi. But hanging over everything was the disappearance of the three civil rights workers, who had been missing for almost six weeks.
Reporter (archival): The hunt for clues, or something more grim, has reached the river dragging stage, with small boats being used along the muddy, shallow Pearl River.
Dan T. Carter, Historian: Johnson called up J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI, who was not terribly enthusiastic about Civil Rights, and he said, "You do what you need to do, what you have to do, I don't care how much you spend, I don't care who you bend, but you find out who killed these three young men."
Narrator: More than 250 FBI agents flooded into Mississippi, such a large force that local residents complained of a federal invasion of their state. At first there was nothing to go on but rumors, but as the long summer wore on, information began to leak out.
Jon Margolis, Author, The Last Innocent Year: America in 1964: The FBI went in there with skilled investigators, and lots of cash to pay, essentially, bribes to people, and they finally managed to get enough people to provide enough information. They were told that the bodies were probably buried under this dam, and they dug and they found the bodies.
Reporter (archival audio): Two of those bodies were firmly identified as those of Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman. Authorities are all but certain the third body is that of James Chaney.
Narrator: A group of local Klansmen, including the sheriff’s deputy, had shot the men at close range.
Reverend Ed King, Civil Rights Activist: Here we are, the Freedom Summer began the first day with these three men disappearing, and it's just about the last day of the summer when we're having the funeral for them. The law in Mississippi says that blacks and whites cannot be buried together even if they’ve been executed together. So the New York families are going to have services in New York, but the service for James Chaney was basically a memorial service for all three. Dave Dennis is carrying a very heavy personal load; he was the nonviolent general who had ordered them to go into this very dangerous place.
Dave Dennis, Civil Rights Activist (archival): I feel that he's got his freedom. We're still fighting for it.
Dave Dennis, Civil Rights Activist: Well I had been asked by the national office of CORE, there was so much unrest around the country and what was going on, there was mounting tensions, could you just take it easy? And we can try to make a quiet, low-key kind of eulogy, basically. And so I'd written some notes and I was gonna try to do this.
Dave Dennis, Civil Rights Activist (archival): But what I want to talk about right now is the living dead that we have right among our midst in the state of Mississippi but throughout the nation.
Dave Dennis, Civil Rights Activist: And I looked out there, and I saw little Ben Chaney. And he loved his brother. And I was tired of going to funerals, I was tired of seeing it, and I looked at Ben Chaney, I saw this kid in Harlem. He couldn't have been much older. And I lost it. I lost it.
Dave Dennis, Civil Rights Activist (archival): I'm sick and tired and I can't help but feel bitter, you see, deep down inside, and I'm not going to stand here asking anybody in here not to be angry tonight. Don't bow down anymore. Hold your heads up! We want our freedom now! I don't want to have to go to another memorial. I'm tired of funerals. I'm tired of it! We've got to stand up!
Dave Dennis, Civil Rights Activist: The ultimate aim for Freedom Summer was to open the doors to give black people the right to participate, the right to vote. We felt the country could really see what was going on, that they we’re going to step up to the plate. Saying, look, we can't have this. This is America. We are a democratic society. These people need to be a part of this effort. So we really believed that. And the tragic thing about it, the young people who came down believed that. They believed in this country. This country missed a golden opportunity with those thousand kids.
John H. Bracey, Jr., Historian: And I think a lot of the hard lessons learned by young white kids in Mississippi that later got them into the Left, and later turned a lot of people very kind of radical, was that their parents had been lying to them about what the country was all about.
Dave Dennis, Civil Rights Activist: When those kids left, they left Mississippi disappointed, they left Mississippi angry. They went back to their universities and colleges and they'd begin to question everything that this country was saying.
Hodding Carter III, Newspaper Editor: By 1964 I was editor of the family newspaper, the Delta Democrat-Times of Greenville, Mississippi. Freedom Summer, that stirred the beast. All of a sudden, these Freedom Schools and houses are popping up all over Mississippi. And with them come burnings, and explosions. The death of those boys was it. It was the end of the game for me. I had been very careful for a long time. I wanted to stay in business. At that point, I said the hell with this. I can’t just sit here and be an observer at a time in which change is supposed to be coming and every lever of power in this state has been used to stop it, including violence. And knowing there was not a thing to be done about it in Mississippi, I decided to go where I thought I could do some good and I went off to work for Lyndon Johnson.
There’s an old hymn, “once to every man and nation comes the moment to decide.” And that was it.
Narrator: As the November election approached, Lyndon Johnson could look back on his first months in office with justifiable pride. He had steadied the nation in the wake of President Kennedy’s death, passed historic civil rights legislation, and launched ambitious plans for the Great Society. On the campaign trail, the President was leading Barry Goldwater in the polls, and running on a platform of prosperity at home and peace overseas. Then, on the morning of August 4th, events on the other side of the globe threatened to derail Johnson’s plans.
Frank McGee, NBC News (archival): Good evening, I’m Frank McGee, NBC news. Today, for the second time, North Vietnamese torpedo boats attacked United States naval vessels patrolling in international waters.
Narrator: Reports claimed American destroyers in the Gulf of Tonkin had been attacked twice and suddenly the Vietnam War was front-page news. Johnson had hoped to put off the issue of Vietnam until after the election in the fall. In fact, for years, the war had remained a distant conflict most Americans cared little about. President Kennedy had begun sending military advisors to Vietnam back in 1961. By the time Johnson had inherited the war, the number had grown to more than 16,000, but the situation in South Vietnam had continued to deteriorate. Now, news of hostilities in the Gulf of Tonkin meant the war could no longer be ignored.
Todd Gitlin, Sociologist: Johnson was running for election as a peace candidate, and all of a sudden there’s this incandescent war moment. There’s a hysteria about our ships being fired upon, and suddenly we were involved in a shootout.
Narrator: Although there was considerable doubt about whether the second attack against American destroyers had even happened, Johnson took decisive action -- ordering airstrikes in retaliation, and asking Congress for increased authority to prosecute the war.
Todd Gitlin, Sociologist: Johnson avails himself of the moment to cash in on the avalanche of support.
Robert Dallek, historian: He goes to the Congress with what becomes known as the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution.
Robert A. Caro, Author, The Years of Lyndon Johnson: Johnson wants a free hand. And it’s relatively easy for him to get it, because people don’t realize, the Congress doesn’t realize, the Senate does not realize what we are getting into.
News Anchor (archival): And here is a late development. President Johnson will go on live television and radio tonight with a statement on the situation in Southeast Asia.
President Lyndon B. Johnson (archival): I shall immediately request the Congress to pass a resolution…
Hodding Carter III, Newspaper Editor: Tonkin Gulf provided a blank check for the expansion, which was of course going to come, apparently. Though God knows you didn’t know it at the time. I mean, that wasn’t what the campaign seemed to be about.
President Lyndon B. Johnson (archival): We are not about to send American boys nine or 10,000 miles away from home, to do what Asian boys ought to be doing for themselves.
Max Frankel, Correspondent and Editor: Johnson knew the right rhetoric. He had to run as the fellow who was not gonna to go to war. And that was the burden on his conscience and on his shoulders, because behind the scenes he knows people were proposing a very significant escalation.
Todd Gitlin, Sociologist: I think we smelled very big trouble. I don’t know that we could’ve imagined just how big and bad and long it was gonna be. But we took it very seriously.
Marilyn B. Young, Historian: I knew there was something fuzzy about it and I also knew it was an overreaction to retaliate in that form, it was a-- didn’t have to do with what occurred in the Gulf. I knew that. And yet I firmly believed he would end this thing.
Bob Dylan (archival, singing): Gather 'round, people, wherever you roam, and admit that the waters around you have grown. And accept it that soon you'll be drenched to the bone. If your time to you is worth saving, then you better start swimming or you'll sink like a stone, for the times, they are a-changin'.
Susan J. Douglas, Historian: By the time Bob Dylan is singing "The Times they are A-Changin" in 1964, there was an emerging sense of betrayal. 1964 exposed fault lines around politics, fault lines around race, fault lines around gender.
Rick Perlstein, Writer: I think the story America had been telling, that it was united and at peace with itself, was an unsustainable story, and it kind of cracks of its own internal contradictions. And 1964 is when those contradictions come to a fore.
Narrator: In the autumn of 1964, after months marked by racial violence, and echoes of war overseas, Americans revisited the event that had so shaken the national confidence.
News Announcer (archival audio): “The final verdict on the fateful tragedy that engulfed the nation 10 months ago.”
Narrator: On September 27th, the Warren Commission announced that Lee Harvey Oswald was the sole gunman responsible for the assassination of President Kennedy.
Mark Kurlansky, Writer: Lee Harvey Oswald acting alone -- what’s going on here? This was a widely believed thing, that some kind of conspiracy was involved.
Walter Cronkite, CBS News (archival): The assassination of President Kennedy was, inevitably, a mystery story on a grand scale.
Narrator: In the days following its release, all three networks devoted extensive coverage to the Warren Report, fueling the national obsession with the assassination.
Susan J. Douglas, Historian: Television had a huge impact on people’s sensibilities. Television is now a major fixture in people’s homes. It is delivering a half an hour of news every night and entertainment. So it’s all in there together.
Narrator: At first glance, the fall line-up that year was a reassuring collection familiar faces -- Andy Griffith, Gomer Pyle, and Dick Van Dyke.
Susan J. Douglas, Historian: Television was still primarily black-and-white. And you could see it as a black-and-white world. You could see it as a very simple world. But you also see television representing what’s going on in the culture in a very metaphorical fashion.
Addams Family theme song (archival audio): They're creepy and they're kooky, mysterious and spooky...
Susan J. Douglas, Historian: There are new shows like The Addams Family. Here are these ghoulish, monstrous, grotesque people moving in, bringing difference to the neighborhood.
Mrs. Addams, The Addams Family (archival): Welcome, honeymooners, welcome! Welcome!
Man, The Addams Family (archival): Aren’t they thoughtful, dear? Throwing rice.
Mr. Addams, The Addams Family (archival): That’s not rice, old man.
Mrs. Addams, The Addams Family (archival): It’s lizard’s teeth.
Susan J. Douglas, Historian: It is this kitschy way to work through how to manage white-bread neighborhoods dealing with a very different kind of family moving in.
Darren, Bewitched (archival): I mean you’re going to have to learn to be a suburban housewife.
Samantha, Bewitched (archival): I’ll learn, you’ll see I’ll learn.
Darren, Bewitched (archival): Now you’ll have to learn to cook, and keep house.
Samantha, Bewitched (archival): And soon we’ll be a normal happy couple with no problems.
Susan J. Douglas, Historian: People dismissed Bewitched as the kitschiest, most ridiculous show ever. But this is a very much kind of hinge show around women’s power, women’s desire for power.
Samantha, Bewitched (archival): I have to check my roast.
Susan J. Douglas, Historian: Here is a show about a very beautiful suburban wife who happens to be a witch. Who has magical powers that her husband begs her not to use. You know, people think this is just entertainment, but people in television are members of our culture, and they imbibe the zeitgeist of the times.
Samantha, Bewitched (archival): I thought we could start with a protest march.
Woman, Bewitched (archival): I know one too.
Susan J. Douglas, Historian: Change is everywhere. Rebellion is everywhere.
Narrator: As the new school year got underway at the University of California at Berkeley, students flocked to the campus from all over the nation. In many ways they were typical American undergraduates -- clean-cut, career-minded, and conventional in most respects. But this year there was a difference. Some of them had spent the previous months working in Mississippi as part of the Freedom Summer.
Robert Cohen, Historian: By ’64, northern students are being inspired by the Southern freedom struggle and using civil disobedience to try to knock down all kinds of discrimination in their backyards.
Stephanie Coontz, Berkeley Student: We would organize people to go picket the Oakland Tribune and other institutions that discriminated against African Americans and we put our tables up right at the entrance to the campus.
Narrator: The center of student activism was a row of tables at the corner of Bancroft and Telegraph streets that had been traditionally used for the distribution of information about a wide range of campus activities.
Robert Cohen, Historian: And they think that's on city property. It turns out they're partially on campus property and there's pressure put on university administration -- how can the university be used as a center for social protest and social change?
Stephanie Coontz, Berkeley Student: And they told us, "You can no longer organize off-campus activities; you can't have political tables on campus."
Robert Cohen, Historian: And that leads to this huge battle over free speech.
Student (archival): At this particular point, we have been denied this, and we think, whether or not this is true or not as far as why they're doing it, the effect of cutting this off is to stop political activity on this campus.
Clark Kerr, Chancellor of UC Berkeley: We told them they had to go back on the streets where they've been traditionally for this kind of activity. And they then took the position that, "We want to undertake these activities on campus property itself," and we said, "This is not possible."
Todd Gitlin, Sociologist: That was sort of the crystalizing moment at which the free speech movement came into being. The free speech movement was organized by veterans of Mississippi Summer, and if you had been in Mississippi and you were up against the Ku Klux Klan and the racist leadership, to have some university administrator telling you "Ooh, boys and girls, you better not go pass out leaflets," that didn't go over well.
Robert Cohen, Historian: This is not the right group to challenge or the right time. Because by this time, even though they're young, they have a lot more political experience than the people who are, these middle-aged administrators who are trying to suppress them.
Narrator: Angry at what they perceived as a violation of their first amendment rights, a diverse coalition of student groups decided to defy the new restrictions and set up their tables even further inside the campus. In response, the administration suspended eight students associated with the protests.
Stephanie Coontz, Berkeley Student: At one point, people were sitting at a table and a guy named Jack Weinberg, who was a veteran of the Civil Rights Movement, was at the table and he was not a student. And when they asked him for a student I.D. and he couldn't produce one the police told him that he was trespassing and he was going to be arrested.
Student (archival): You can’t just pick on one.
Police Officer (archival): I am arresting you, you’re either going to come with me.
Student (archival): All of us, you arrest us all, we’re all manning the table.
Stephanie Coontz, Berkeley Student: Instead of getting up, he used his civil rights training and just went limp. They drove a police car onto campus just about lunch hour when people were streaming out of their classes and we see somebody being bodily lifted into a police car. And so people said, "What's going on?" and they surrounded the police car, not on purpose, but once we found out what was going on it was like, "No, that's not right."
Students (archival): Let him go! Let him go! Let him go!
Stephanie Coontz, Berkeley Student: People start to argue about what we should do. Should we let them take the car? What if we get arrested? What should we do? And finally somebody brings a bullhorn and says, "Why don't we stand on top of the car so that people can hear?" So that's what we did. One person at a time who was going to speak did that. Every single one of them taking their shoes off so that we wouldn't damage the car. That was the kind of mentality. And so there was a spirited debate.
Todd Gitlin, Sociologist: What emerged was not simply, "Let's go support civil rights," but "Let's have a university that's sort of worthy of our better selves."
Student (archival): The remarkable thing about this entire situation is that there's been a coalition that I think is completely unusual in politics. There's been a coalition from youth for Goldwater all the way over from the Young Socialist Alliance. And usually these two groups don’t even speak together. This is an amazing thing to me, and a very happy experience for my life to see so many democratic students.
Jack Weinberg, Protestor (archival): I just did what any of my fellow students, or my fellows in all these organizations, would've done. So I was just singled out. Chance selected me. I’m no martyr.
Narrator: Jack Weinberg spent 32 hours in the police car, while more than a thousand students protested around him, and leaders of the new movement, including a young philosophy student named Mario Savio, negotiated with the administration. Finally, on the evening of October 2nd, the university and the demonstrators reached a deal.
Reporter (archival): What’s the word now, doctor?
University President (archival): Well, there has been an agreement signed.
Reporter (archival): Agreement signed?
University President (archival): Yes, by the student groups and by me as the president of the university, which has several points to it. The first point is that the student demonstrators shall desist from their illegal actions protesting university regulations. We’ve also agreed to set up a committee to examine the rules.
Narrator: For weeks the activists and university officials negotiated, searching for a way to end the crisis. Then the chancellor abruptly announced that Mario Savio and three other students would, in fact, be suspended. Infuriated, Savio and the other leaders raised the stakes, calling for immediate occupation of the administration building.
Mario Savio, Student Protestor: There's a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart that you can't take part, you can't even passively take part, and you've got to put your bodies upon the gears, and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you've got to make it stop.
Stephanie Coontz, Berkeley Student: Mario Savio was this eloquent, eloquent guy. I’ve never reread the speech but it was just burned in my memory.
Joan Baez (archival audio): We shall overcome. We shall overcome.
Robert Cohen, Historian: People are marching slowly in, Joan Baez is singing "We Shall Overcome." It's not like a hijacking. It's like a nonviolent occupation of the building that follows Mario's speech. The sense of community inside there was amazing. People were holding Freedom School classes, poetry's being read, films are being shown. It's like they're doing all this education reform work right in the building.
Jack Weinberg, Protestor (archival): The Bay Area Civil Rights Movement in the stairwell over there.
Student Protestor (archival): The door will be open for anyone who would like to leave and you may leave at any time but you may not get back into the building.
Stephanie Coontz, Berkeley Student: This was not a party. We were so idealistic and I remember calling my mom and I said, "Mom, I think I'm gonna get arrested."
University Administrator (archival): I have an announcement: This assemblage has developed to such a point that the purpose and work of the university have been materially impaired.
Narrator: In the early hours of the morning, hundreds of state and campus police entered the building and began arresting the demonstrators. Almost 800 students would be carted off to jail.
Jann S. Wenner, Berkeley Student: I could see the arrests going on, you know, and the cops, they’re dragging people down marble staircases.
Stephanie Coontz, Berkeley Student: I actually got up and walked, I have to say. And then we were thrown into paddy wagons and driven off. We started singing freedom songs.
Jann S. Wenner, Berkeley Student: Well it just galvanized everybody. I mean it just riveted the entire campus.
Narrator: And within days, the academic senate, composed of the university's faculty, voted overwhelmingly in favor of the students. The undergraduates who had faced disciplinary action had their suspensions dropped.
Reporter (archival): Several thousand students have gathered for what has been billed as a victory celebration. A victory the students feel is assured as a result of yesterday's action by the academic senate.
Stephanie Coontz, Berkeley Student: In 1964, even those of us who had tremendous criticisms of the government, its burgeoning involvement in Vietnam, its failure to really enforce the Civil Rights Act, nevertheless we were, we still had a lot of illusions or hope that America did stand for freedom, would stand up for freedom. And so there was the sense that when things went wrong, they must not understand. You know, maybe if we just explain to them that this is not part of our tradition, we should be doing something else. And then when they didn't listen, it was a radicalizing experience.
Jann S. Wenner, Berkeley Student: It was, to me anyway, it was the precedent of the modern student movement. Student protest, as we know it, as we came to know it, started there, then.
Robert Cohen, Historian: This is a moment when that sort of spreading of that hyper-democratic ethos of the freedom movement from the South is spreading nationally. Soon it's gonna be about the war. Later it's going to be about gender equality. It's going to burst into lots of other areas as well. So it really reshaped a lot of American politics, not just something strange that's happening in California. This is something that's going to be shaping American politics for years to come.
President Lyndon B. Johnson (archival): My fellow Americans, your choice in this election may be the most important that you will ever make.
Narrator: As the presidential campaign entered its final weeks, both candidates appeared to be men with something to prove.
Senator Barry Goldwater (archival): I pledge that I will restore to America, a dedication to principle and to conscience among its public servants.
President Lyndon B. Johnson (archival): Government is not an enemy of people. Government is the people themselves
Narrator: As he crisscrossed the country, campaigning at a breakneck pace, Lyndon Johnson seemed determined to win a victory that would vanquish any doubts about his legitimacy, and validate the social programs that were the centerpiece of his administration. Barry Goldwater, on the other hand, seemed less interested in winning the White House than in taking a stand on the conservative principles that he so passionately championed.
Dan T. Carter, Historian: The Goldwater people and the Johnson people saw this as a fundamental kind of choice.
Senator Barry Goldwater (archival): I suggest tonight that the liberal approach to America’s problems has failed miserably in every sphere of activity.
President Lyndon B. Johnson (archival): Everyone can have a job. Every kid can have an education. We can get these folks off the streets. In time we can have the great society that we are all entitled to.
Senator Barry Goldwater (archival): “We can prevent Depression, we can have full employment.” I’ve heard these pipe dreams for the last 30 years. And I’ve never seen one of them come true.
Narrator: As the candidates made their case to the voters, a historic shift was underway in the electorate. Because of his support for civil rights, Johnson knew he was too unpopular to do much campaigning in the Deep South. His wife, Lady Bird, however, offered to go, convinced that Southern chivalry would still prevail. As it turned out, her reception was barely civil, and in South Carolina, she was almost shouted off the stage.
Robert Dallek, Historian: Johnson is now thoroughly identified with integration, with civil rights.
Rick Perlstein, Writer: Because of Barry Goldwater's vote against the civil rights act, because he speaks of the South as a class of people who are victimized by the north, this process of the solid Democratic South becoming a vehicle for the Republican Party begins. And that really is the most important realignment in the way the party system is structured since the American Civil War.
Narrator: If Goldwater’s fortunes were improving throughout the South, nationally his campaign was in need of a boost. It came from a surprising source.
Ronald Reagan, Actor (archival): Thank you, thank you very much.
Narrator: On October 27th, just one week before the election, the Goldwater campaign found themselves with an unused 30-minute block of television time on NBC. At the last minute the campaign chose to fill it with a speech that had been recorded earlier that fall, by an actor-turned-Republican-activist named Ronald Reagan.
Ronald Reagan, Actor (archival): For three decades we’ve sought to solve the problems of unemployment through government planning and the more the plans fail the more the planners plan. But now if government planning and welfare had the answer, and they’ve had almost 30 years of it, shouldn’t we expect government to read the scores to us once in a while?
Phyllis Schlafly, Conservative Leader: The Goldwater people just went bananas when they saw it.
Ronald Reagan, Actor (archival): Barry Goldwater has faith in us. He has faith that you and I have the ability, and the dignity, and the right to make our own decisions and determine our own destiny. Thank you very much.
Jon Margolis, Author, The Last Innocent Year: America in 1964: The reaction was so favorable that it was run again. It was originally scheduled to run once, and it ran again. And it established Ronald Reagan as a political factor to be reckoned with in the future.
Dan T. Carter, Historian: People may not have thought about him as a political candidate, but he was, from ’64 on, a serious political figure.
Lee Edwards, Historian: Without any question, that without any Goldwater there would have been no Ronald Reagan.
Narrator: On Election Day, November 3rd, Barry Goldwater and his wife arrived at their local precinct in Phoenix to cast their votes. The officials tried to wave the candidate inside but, characteristically, Goldwater insisted on waiting in line. Lyndon Johnson kept campaigning until the last possible moment. He had left nothing to chance, and by early that evening, the results would show just how completely the Johnson juggernaut had triumphed.
Walter Cronkite, CBS News (archival): Lyndon Baines Johnson has been elected president of the United States. And the landslide has carried him in for his first term in office on his own right, by his own election.
Rick Perlstein, Writer: Lyndon Johnson finally wins his landslide. He gets 61 percent of the popular vote, he wins every state except for a few in the South and Arizona, which Barry Goldwater barely wins, and the mandate for liberalism and the Great Society and civil rights has been achieved.
Narrator: Not only was Johnson’s presidential victory unprecedented, he had carried with him huge new majorities in both houses of Congress. Now the astonishing ambition of the Great Society seemed possible. Bill after bill -- for Medicare, federal aid to education, voting rights, environmental protection -- were all within reach, and the conservative opposition had been vanquished.
Rick Perlstein, Writer: The pundits claim that conservatism is dead, it’s that definitive.
Hodding Carter III, Newspaper Editor: But the thing about it was, the only people who didn’t think they were dead were the people who were supposed to be dead.
Jon Margolis, Author, The Last Innocent Year: America in 1964: The story they missed was that this candidate, Barry Goldwater, who espoused policies that were substantially outside the national consensus of the last previous 20 years at least, had gotten 40 percent of the vote.
Lee Edwards, Historian: That told us, we were right. Our ideas were not only right, but they have a power. They have an influence, they have a great, great potential.
Senator Barry Goldwater (archival): I have no bitterness, no rancor at all.
Mark Kurlansky, Writer: Twenty-seven million people voted for Barry Goldwater, and this became the base of a new Republican party.
President Lyndon B. Johnson (archival): The lights of Christmas symbolize each year the happiness of this wonderful season. But this year I believe their brightness expresses the hopefulness of the times in which we live.
Robert A. Caro, Author, The Years of Lyndon Johnson: At the end of the year Lyndon Johnson is where he has wanted to be all his life. He has a vision for the country -- you really feel this vision, it’s starting to move. He’s a figure just so immensely triumphant, it’s hard to believe that things are gonna change so dramatically.
Narrator: In the years ahead, Lyndon Johnson’s dream of a Great Society would be shattered by the long and divisive war in Vietnam. Embittered and unpopular, he would decide not to run for president four years later. The activists that had conceived of Freedom Summer would fight on, some continuing the path of non-violence, while others turned towards a new doctrine of black power. Out of the ashes of the Goldwater campaign, young Republicans would regroup, and finally make good on their conservative revolution.
A new generation would challenge authority at every turn, refusing to follow the rules, and helping to bring an end to the war in Vietnam. And women awakened by The Feminine Mystique would go on to champion a movement that would fundamentally reshape the nature of American society. The spirit of revolution that would be sparked by the tumultuous events of 1964, and reverberate throughout the rest of the 1960s and beyond, was summed up in a song by Sam Cooke, released in the final months of that transformative year. It was called "A Change is Gonna Come."
Sam Cooke (archival): I was born by the river…
Reverend Ed King, Civil Rights Activist: In ‘64 everywhere people are saying, "I can do something." Change is possible. Change is worth living and dying for and, would we dare go forward? Yes, we would.
Richard A. Viguerie, Conservative Activist: It was the creation of a new America. It was a door to our future. Once we went through it there was no going back.
Stephanie Coontz, Historian: 1964 saw a series of events that really did crystalize the tension between the tremendous sense of idealism coexisting with the dawning sense of outrage.
Dave Dennis, Civil Rights Activist: Here it is, America. Here's the bad, let's make it good. That's what we’re about. We're Americans.
Lee Edwards, Historian: We were still on fire, we were still feeling what it was like to mobilize, and I think I determined that coming out of that, that it is possible to change the course of history.
Hodding Carter III, Newspaper Editor: I would pay money to go back, just to live through that whole era again. I would make all the same mistakes, but I’d know, as I knew then, that I could never have asked for a better time to be involved in the affairs of my nation. Sixty-four was the propulsion from the past into the future.
My American Experience
Whether in politics or popular culture, civil liberty or civil rights, 1964 saw a lot of change. What event or set of events do you think had the biggest impact on the year, on American society, or on America as we know it today? Share your story.