This book explores life in America during that brief promising period in the early sixties when John F. Kennedy was the U.S. president. Kennedy's optimism and charm helped to give promise to the times. At the same time, Cold War frustrations in Cuba and Vietnam worried Americans, while the 1962 Missile Crisis narrowly avoided a nuclear disaster. Early in the decade, the Civil Rights movement gained momentum through student sit-ins and Freedom Rides. Martin Luther King, Jr. emerged as a powerful spokesman for non-violent social change and gave his powerful "I Have a Dream" speech at the March on Washington in 1963. The Civil Rights movement proved to be the seedbed for many other movements in the decade. The American family was also undergoing rapid change and Betty Friedan launched what became the Women's Movement in 1963. Culture, too, underwent transformation. The Beat authors Jack Kerouac and Alan Ginsburg gained respectability, Joan Baez and Bob Dylan revived folk music, and Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol produced Pop Art. Ginsberg, Aldous Huxley, Timothy Leary and Ken Kesey began to promote psychedelic drugs. The Sixties was a decade of marked political, social, and cultural change. Since 1976 W.J. Rorabaugh has taught at the University of Washington in Seattle. He is the author of The Alcoholic republic (Oxford, 1979), The Craft Apprentice (Oxford, 1986), and Berkeley at War: The 1960s (Oxford, 1989). Professor Rorabaugh has held fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Humanities Center, the Newberry Library, the Huntington Library, and the John F. Kennedy Library. He has served on editorial boards for the Journal of Early Republic and the History of Education Quarterly.
'Using the persona of John F. Kennedy as a central reference point, W. J. Rorabaugh shrewdly explores a critical time of transition in American cultural and political history. Concise but inclusive, always perceptive, this absorbing volume belongs on a short list of essential works about the 1960s.' Alonzo Hamby, Ohio University 'Six elegant, wide-ranging, forceful chapters. These eventful years of American history - which still resonate in countless ways - are captured in vivid images and fast-moving exploration.' Charles Royster, author of The Destructive War: William Tecumseh Sherman, Stonewall Jackson and the Americans 'In what is more social than a political history, [Rorabaugh] makes good use of oral histories and personal correspondence to show that these years were distinct from the 1950s and the later 1960s, owing no small part to the Kennedy presence ... Recommended for public and academic libraries.' Library Journal 'A welcome addition to the literature on the fourth American president to be slain while in office. Its brevity and readability ensure that Rorabaugh's study should appeal to both historians and the general reading public.' History '... it is a mark of the quality of the book that it stimulates thought ...'. History '... creative and convincing study ... often brings some eloquent and thoughtful testimony about the period ... This book impressively combines the investigation of politics, society, and culture, and elegantly creates a picture of the United States at the edge of significant change ... will encourage historians to rethink the origins of the social and political transformations of this momentous decade during its opening years.' Journal of American Studies