A half-century ago, much of the world was in a broad state of change: We were moving out of the post-World War II era, and into both the Cold War and the Space Age, with broadening civil rights movements and anti-nuclear protests in the U.S. In 1961, John F. Kennedy was inaugurated as the 35th president of the United States, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human to fly in space, Freedom Riders took buses into the South to bravely challenge segregation, and East Germany began construction of the Berlin Wall. That year, Kennedy gave the okay to the disastrous Bay of Pigs Invasion into Cuba and committed the U.S. to “landing a man on the Moon” with NASA’s Apollo program. JFK also oversaw the early buildup of a U.S. military presence in Vietnam: by the end of 1961, some 2,000 troops were deployed there. Let me take you 50 years into the past now, for a look at the world as it was in 1961.
Above: Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong, atop a camel, enchants the ancient sphinx and pyramids at Giza, near Cairo, Egypt, on January 28, 1961. His wife Lucille, lower left, records the scene on film. The Armstrongs are on a U.S. State Department-sponsored Goodwill Tour of Africa and the Middle East. (AP Photo)
See more fantastic photos at In Focus
Civil Rights March on Washington, D.C.
In August 1963, more than 200,000 Americans celebrated the centennial of the Emancipation Proclamation by joining the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Key civil rights figures led the march, including A. Philip Randolph, Roy Wilkins, Bayard Rustin, and Whitney Young. But the most memorable moment came when Martin Luther King, Jr., delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.
This photo is a wide-angle view of marchers along the mall, showing the Reflecting Pool and the Washington Monument. August 28, 1963.
The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial opened this week in D.C. His memorial is the first on the National Mall to be dedicated to an individual other than a U.S. president.
The Berlin Wall
In the early morning hours of August 13, 1961, the people of East Berlin were awakened by the rumbling of heavy machinery barreling down their streets toward the line that divided the eastern and western parts of the city.
Groggy citizens looked on as work details began digging holes and jackhammering sidewalks, clearing the way for the barbed wire that would eventually be strung across the dividing line. Armed troops manned the crossing points between the two sides and, by morning, a ring of Soviet troops surrounded the city. Overnight, the freedom to pass between the two sections of Berlin ended.
This image is from the JFK50 interactive timeline.
Jacqueline Kennedy with the Mona Lisa
Here’s a photo of First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy attending the opening of the Mona Lisa exhibit at the National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. January 8, 1963.
Happy birthday Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis!
-via the Kennedy Presidential Library
This is kind of, well, magical.
Magic Moments is a 1963 short motion picture on Jacqueline Kennedy’s visit to India. Highlights include the First Lady with her sister, Princess Lee Radziwill; atop an elephant; watching classical Indian dance; and stops in New Delhi, the Taj Majal, and Jaipur.
Produced by the Films Division of the Government of India, now part of the public domain.
Happy birthday to all who share this day with Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis!
We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”
-President John F. Kennedy. September 12, 1962
Forty two years ago this week, Apollo 11 brought astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins to the moon. The Apollo program sought to meet former President Kennedy’ s goal of sending man to the moon.
Here’s a video of President Kennedy’s address - given 7 years before men would walk on the surface of the moon - in which he speaks about the necessity for U.S. space exploration.
We’ve got more to come on the anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon mission. And if you feel like doing some exploring of your own, check out the Kennedy Library’s Digital Archive.
A vintage Peace Corps public service announcement. The numbers may change but the message remains the same.
Just dove into the fascinating posts from the Peace Corps Tumblr. What an incredible journey of photos, stories, and perspectives. Warning: this blog is addictive.