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The 15 Most Shocking Moments of the 1960s

The Watts Riots

The Watts Riots

On August 11th, 1965, Marquette Frye was pulled over for reckless driving. An argument broke out between Frye and the police and escalated into a fight. A crowd quickly gathered and watched as he was arrested, which strained relationships between police officers and African-Americans. Immediately following the arrest, a large-scale riot began after

The riot lasted six days and over 14,000 California National Guard troops were mobilized to South Los Angeles to establish order. After the riots ended, 4,000 people were arrested, 1,032 were injured, and 34 died. It was also estimated that the riots caused $40 million worth of property damage in a 50-square-mile area.

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Woodstock

Woodstock

Woodstock was a huge music and arts festival that took place in 1969 and attracted over 400,000 people. It is widely thought that this festival, featuring bands like The Who and Grateful Dead, brought on the counterculture movement. 

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"I Have a Dream" Speech

"I Have a Dream" Speech

One of the most iconic moments of the civil rights movement was when Martin Luther King, Jr. stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and gave his “I Have a Dream Speech” in 1963. This speech garnered massive support and is considered the greatest speech of the 20th century.

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Sex and the Single Girl

Sex and the Single Girl

When Helen Gurley Brown, editor of Cosmopolitan, published “Sex and the Single Girl” in 1962, she sparked the women’s sexual revolution. In her book, she encouraged women to become financially independent and take charge of their sexuality, whether they were married or not.

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The Death of Marilyn Monroe

The Death of Marilyn Monroe

Marilyn Monroe was one of the most memorable pop culture icons of the 20th century, so her untimely death in 1962 shocked and saddened fans across the country. It’s surrounded by conspiracy theories, although the most accepted cause of death is a sleeping pill overdose. 

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The Assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.

The Assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.

In 1968, the famed and influential civil rights leader was shot at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee by James Earl Ray, a racist and violent fugitive. MLK was mourned around the world, as his efforts helped African Americans gain many civil rights. 

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The Moon Landing

The Moon Landing

The Apollo 11 mission in 1969 aimed to put two men on the surface of the moon, and the world was shocked when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin successfully walked on its surface. This event is still controversial today, with many saying it never really happened. 

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The Greensboro Four

The Greensboro Four

In 1960, a group of four college students defied segregation laws and sat at a whites-only counter at a diner in Greensboro, North Carolina. Their demonstration sparked peaceful protests across the nation, calling for desegregation of restaurants, schools, and more. 

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The Bay of Pigs Incident

The Bay of Pigs Incident

The Bay of Pigs invasion was a failed, CIA-backed mission to overtake Cuba and Fidel Castro in 1961. It was disastrous for the Kennedy administration and led to tension between the U.S. and Cuba for decades to come. 

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The Cuban Missile Crisis

The Cuban Missile Crisis

Shortly following the Bay of Pigs, the United States and the Soviet Union clashed over Soviet missile deployment in Cuba in 1962. This incident nearly brought the Cold War to the point of a full-scale, nuclear war. 

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"Bloody Sunday"

"Bloody Sunday"

In 1965, African Americans gathered in Selma, Alabama to hold a civil rights voting march. This peaceful march turned bloody, however, after state troopers began beating marchers. Despite the violent reaction by the police, this march was successful and helped draw support for the Voting Rights Act of 1965. 

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The Assassination of John F. Kennedy

The Assassination of John F. Kennedy

In 1963, John F. Kennedy was shot and killed in a motorcade in Dallas, Texas, and his assassination has been surrounded by controversy ever since. The Warren Commission concluded that the assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, acted alone. However, many people believe JFK’s death was part of a larger conspiracy. 

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Nelson Mandela's Prison Sentence

Nelson Mandela's Prison Sentence

Nelson Mandela was one of the most prominent resistance leaders during the apartheid in South Africa. Yet, in 1964, he was sentenced to life in prison for four counts of sabotage. He served 27 years before apartheid ended and he was released, soon becoming the president of South Africa.

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US Troops Deployed to South Vietnam

US Troops Deployed to South Vietnam

The Vietnam War officially began in 1955, but it wasn’t until the U.S. deployed troops to south Vietnam in 1965 that the war began to escalate. Many American citizens opposed the war and often took their anger out on the soldiers themselves once they returned home. 

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The Tate-Labianca Murders

The Tate-Labianca Murders

Charles Manson was tried in 1969 for the five brutal murders he orchestrated his cult followers to commit, including the slaughter of pregnant actress Sharon Tate. Manson was initially sentenced to death, but his sentence was later changed to life in prison. 

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