A Year In History: 1963

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This Year in History:


Discover what happened in this year with HISTORY’s summaries of major events, anniversaries, famous births and notable deaths.

January 14

George Wallace inaugurated as Alabama governor

On January 14, 1963, George Wallace is inaugurated as the governor of Alabama, promising his followers, “Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever!” His inauguration speech was written by Ku Klux Klan leader Asa Carter, who later reformed his white supremacist beliefs and wrote The Education of Little Tree under the pseudonym of Forrest Carter. (The […]

February 19

“The Feminine Mystique” by Betty Friedan is published

On February 19, 1963, Betty Friedan’s book The Feminine Mystique is published, shaking the ground beneath an American society rooted in a myth of pleasant domesticity and supported by the physical and emotional labor of women. Friedan may not have been the typical housewife—she had been involved in radical politics from a young age and […]

March 21

Alcatraz closes its doors

Alcatraz Prison in San Francisco‘s Bay closes down and transfers its last prisoners. At its peak period of use in 1950s, “The Rock,” or “America’s Devil Island,” housed over 200 inmates at the maximum-security facility. Alcatraz remains an icon of American prisons for its harsh conditions and record for being inescapable. The twelve-acre rocky island, […]

April 1

Soap operas “General Hospital” and “The Doctors” premiere

On April 1, 1963, the ABC television network airs the premiere episode of General Hospital, the daytime drama that will become the network’s most enduring soap opera and the longest-running serial program produced in Hollywood. On the same day, rival network NBC debuts its own medical-themed soap opera, The Doctors. By setting their new shows in […]

April 10

Atomic submarine USS Thresher sinks in the Atlantic, killing all on board

On April 10, 1963, the USS Thresher, an atomic submarine, sinks in the Atlantic Ocean, killing the entire crew. One hundred and twenty-nine sailors and civilians were lost when the sub unexpectedly plunged to the sea floor roughly 300 miles off the coast of New England. The Thresher was launched on July 9, 1960, from […]

April 16

Martin Luther King Jr. writes “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”

On April 16, 1963, days after being jailed in Birmingham, Alabama, for a series of anti-segregation protests, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. pens a response to his critics on some scraps of paper. This open letter, now known as his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” offered a forceful defense of the protest campaign. It is […]

May 1

Gloria Steinem publishes first half of her undercover Playboy exposé “A Bunny’s Tale”

After enduring a brief but grueling stint as a Bunny in Manhattan’s Playboy Club, feminist writer Gloria Steinem publishes the first half of her landmark account, “A Bunny’s Tale,” in SHOW magazine on May 1, 1963. Steinem’s undercover reporting increased her profile and stripped back the glamorous facade of Hugh Hefner‘s empire to reveal a world of […]

May 2

More than 1,000 schoolchildren protest segregation in the Children’s Crusade

On May 2, 1963, in Birmingham, Alabama, more than 1,000 Black school children march through the city in a demonstration against segregation. The goal of the non-violent demonstration, which became known as the “Children’s Crusade” and “Children’s March,” was to provoke the city’s civic and business leaders to agree to desegregate. Martin Luther King Jr., […]

May 8

American moviegoers get their first view of James Bond in “Dr. No”

On May 8, 1963, with the American release of Dr. No, North American moviegoers get their first look down the barrel of a gun—at the super-spy James Bond (codename: 007), the immortal character created by Ian Fleming in his now-famous series of novels and portrayed onscreen by the relatively unknown Scottish actor Sean Connery. Connery […]

May 27

Dylan’s breakthrough album, “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan,” is released

On May 27, 1963, Bob Dylan releases his second album, The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, which goes on to transform him from a popular local act to a global phenomenon. “Of all the precipitously emergent singers of folk songs in the continuing renascence of that self-assertive tradition,” wrote journalist and critic Nat Hentoff, “none has equaled […]

June 5

British Secretary of War John Profumo resigns amid sex scandal

On June 5, 1963, British Secretary of War John Profumo resigns his post following revelations that he had lied to the House of Commons about his sexual affair with Christine Keeler, an alleged prostitute. At the time of the affair, Keeler was also involved with Yevgeny “Eugene” Ivanov, a Soviet naval attache who some suspected […]