A Year In History: 1968

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The turbulence of 1968 began on New Year’s Day with the Tet Offensive, shocking Americans with the unwinnable realities of the Vietnam War. The assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy darkened the national mood and deepened domestic unrest. Mass protests erupted around the globe, from Chicago to Prague to France, Mexico and beyond. In space, Apollo 8 orbited the moon, while back on earth, “Laugh-In” topped TV ratings, “Hair” premiered on Broadway and McDonald’s debuted the iconic Big Mac.

January 5

Prague Spring begins in Czechoslovakia

Antonin Novotny, the Stalinist ruler of Czechoslovakia, is succeeded as first secretary by Alexander Dubcek, a Slovak who supports liberal reforms. In the first few months of his rule, Dubcek introduced a series of far-reaching political and economic reforms, including increased freedom of speech and the rehabilitation of political dissidents. Dubcek’s effort to establish “communism […]

January 15

The Jeannette Rankin Brigade: 5,000 women march against Vietnam War

On January 15, 1968, an 87-year-old Jeannette Rankin leads 5,000 women—nicknamed the “Jeannette Rankin Brigade”—in a march in Washington, D.C. against the Vietnam War. The march is a capstone of Rankin’s long career as a suffragist, pacifist and the first woman elected to U.S. Congress. Inspired by Mahatma Gahndi, Rankin organized a group of 5,000 women […]

January 18

Eartha Kitt speaks out against the Vietnam War

On January 18, 1968, Eartha Kitt, the celebrated actress and singer known for playing Catwoman on the 1960s Batman television series and her sultry holiday hit “Santa Baby,” causes a stir during a White House luncheon when she confronts Lady Bird Johnson about the Vietnam War. “You send the best of this country off to be shot and […]

January 23

USS Pueblo captured

On January 23, 1968, the USS Pueblo, a Navy intelligence vessel, is engaged in a routine surveillance of the North Korean coast when it is intercepted by North Korean patrol boats. According to U.S. reports, the Pueblo was in international waters almost 16 miles from shore, but the North Koreans turned their guns on the […]

January 30

Tet Offensive shakes Cold War confidence

In coordinated attacks all across South Vietnam, communist forces launch their largest offensive of the Vietnam War against South Vietnamese and U.S. troops. Dozens of cities, towns, and military bases—including the U.S. embassy in Saigon—were attacked. The massive offensive was not a military success for the communists, but its size and intensity shook the confidence […]

February 15

Henry Lewis named first Black conductor of a major U.S. orchestra

In 1968, 36-year-old Henry Lewis makes history when he is chosen, over more than 150 other candidates, as the first Black conductor of a major U.S. orchestra: the New Jersey Symphony. It marks just one highlight in a barrier-breaking career that prompted The New York Times to liken him to Jackie Robinson of classical music.  […]

February 24

South Vietnamese recapture Hue, ending key phase of the Tet Offensive

On February 24, 1968, a major phase of the Tet Offensive ends as U.S. and South Vietnamese troops recapture the ancient capital of Hue from communist forces. Although scattered fighting continued across South Vietnam for another week, the battle for Hue was the last major engagement of the offensive, which saw communist attacks on all […]

March 1

Thousands of Chicano students stage school walkouts in East L.A.

Thousands of Mexican American students walk out of schools in East Los Angeles to protest unequal conditions. Their action amplifies a growing movement for Chicano civil rights. When some 22,000 students across seven schools in East L.A walked out of their classrooms over the first week of March, 1968, they sought to spotlight discrimination and […]