1968: The Extraordinary Events of a Memorable Year

Leonard Steinhorn – American University

What Happened In 1968 In American History?

The Sixties. It was a decade of hope — and disillusionment. A time of promise — and backlash. An era animated by youthful idealism — and frustrated by political disappointment. We entered the decade inspired by a president, stirred by a dream, and dancing innocently to “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” We ended the decade still clinging to those hopes and ideals, but sobered by the realities of a brutal war, bloodied protesters, burning cities, and a nation and culture coming apart.

 

How was 1968 a Turning Point in American History

No other year better encapsulates the narrative of the Sixties than 1968. It was a year when young people went Clean for Gene in the New Hampshire primary — and then got tear gassed in Chicago. When the country looked to larger-than-life leaders to guide us out of war and division — and then saw them felled by assassins’ bullets. When many hoped that a Kennedy would return to the White House — and instead we got a Nixon. In 1968, we saw a political party that represented the common folk get torn asunder by cultural and racial hostilities. We saw no light at the end of the tunnel in Vietnam. We saw Black Power meet law and order. We saw an America barely anyone would have recognized just a few years back. 1968 was like an electrical storm that hit our country, one that hot-wired every interaction, conversation, and event. And it put a charge in the emerging culture war that would define American politics and culture for decades to come. To understand the Sixties generation — and who we are as a nation — it is essential to journey through 1968 and see how that seminal year shaped and influenced our history.

Learn more about our history by checking out other great videos at OneDayU, including ‘A Jewish Founding Father: Alexander Hamilton’s Hidden Life, ‘6000 Years Of Religion’ & ‘American Founders: what We Know Now’ all on-demand now.