177 Primary Source Images: The 1960s

Perhaps no decade is so immortalized in American memory as the 1960s. Couched in the colorful rhetoric of peace and love, complemented by stirring images of the civil rights movement, and fondly remembered for its music, art, and activism, for many the decade brought hopes for a more inclusive, forward-thinking nation. But the decade was also plagued by strife, tragedy, and chaos. It was the decade of the Vietnam War, of inner-city riots, and assassinations that seemed to symbolize the crushing of a new generation’s idealism. A decade of struggle and disillusionment rocked by social, cultural, and political upheaval, the 1960s are remembered because so much changed, and because so much did not. The following sources offer insight into the decade’s impactful history.

Selma March (1965)

Protestors, mostly African-American, carry American flags and walk through the street.
From Selma to Montgomery, 1965. Library of Congress.

Civil rights activists protested against the injustice of segregation in a variety of ways. Here, in 1965, marchers, some carrying American flags, march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, to champion African American voting rights.

LBJ and Civil Rights Leaders (1964)

LBJ sits in a chair at the center of a table with Martin Luther King, Jr. and other Civil Rights leaders.
Photograph, January 18, 1964. Wikimedia.

As civil rights demonstrations rocked the American South, civil rights legislation made its way through Washington D.C. Here, President Lyndon B. Johnson sits with civil rights leaders in the White House.

Women’s Liberation March 1970

Women walk the streets of Washington with signs saying "Women Demand Equality" and "GWU Women's Liberation"
Warren K. Leff;er, Women’s Liberation March from Farrugut Square to Lafayette Park in Washington, D.C. 1970. Via Library of Congress.

American popular feminism accelerated throughout the 1960s. The slogan “Women’s Liberation” accompanied a growing women’s movement but also alarmed conservative Americans. In this 1970 photograph, women march in Washington D.C. carrying signs reading, “Women Demand Equality,” “I’m a Second Class Citizen,” and “Women’s Liberation.”


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