August usa high life
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August usa high life August usa high life Document Transcript

  • THE YEAR THAT CHANGED AMERICA
  • Explorations Sledging <#R.L#>bahighlife.com From the emotional highs of Martin Luther King’s iconic speech to the devastation wreaked by JFK’s assassination, nothing would be the same for the United States after1963, says Dale Cressman Clockwise from this picture Images of African American children being sprayed by police with fire hoses in Alabama shocked President Kennedy; Martin Luther King in full flow; commuters take in the news of 22 November
  • F i f t y yea r s a go t h i s mont h, Rev Martin Luther King Jr rose b e fo r e a s e a o f hu m a n it y blanketing the Washington Mall to deliver his most memorable and consequential speech. What King’s audience didn’t know was that it would not be the speech he had planned on giving. The evening before, as a quarter of a million people made their way to the nation’s capital – by bus, by train, even on roller skates – King struggled to find the right words, crossing out entire sections and rewriting over and over again what he hoped would change minds and move hearts. We now recognise this speech as the emotional high point of 1963 for America; there were also many low points, but the lowest would come just three months later, when John F Kennedy’s murder shook America to its core. Previouspages:CarlMydans/TimeLifePictures/GettyImages;MichaelOchsArchives/GettyImages;FlipSchulke/Corbis.Thispage:CharlesMoore/BlackStar/eyevine;JohnLoengard/Time&LifePictures/GettyImages;RobertWKelley/Time&LifePictures/GettyImages Clockwise from above A quarter of a million people blanket the Washington Mall; in Birmingham, Alabama, a demonstrator is attacked by a police dog; Life magazine reports on the funeral of assassinated civil rights leader Medgar Evers, just two months before the March on Washington By year’s end, it was evident that the country would never be the same. In fact, 1963 was such a seminal year that some observers claim it was the year ‘the 1960s’ really began in America – both politically and culturally. From the foot of the Lincoln Memorial, King began to deliver the speech he had written the previous night, then he decided to go off script and revert to what he knew best – preaching. Gospel singer Mahalia Jackson was standing a few feet away. ‘Tell ’em about the dream, Martin,’ she was heard to say. King then ad-libbed a sequence he had used previously, before smaller audiences: ‘I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character.’ King’s passionate, poetic sermon electrified the crowd. ‘Never have so many people cried, whether they wanted to or not,’ said comedian and activist Dick Gregory. The official name of the event was the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. The nation had never seen anything like it. Journalist Peter Jennings later described it as ‘one of the grandest of democratic spectacles’. Organised by a coalition of often discordant civil rights groups, it featured musicians Bob Dylan, Joan Baez and Peter, Paul and Mary, and a series of speakers, each demanding that the time had long since arrived for equality for all Americans. For A Phillip Randolph, the man who first proposed such a march on Washington in 1941, ‘It was the greatest day of my life’. It’s often forgotten is t hat of f icial Washington was nervous in the weeks leading up to the march. Already 1963 had been a bloody and violent year. Just two months earlier, Mississippi civil rights leader Medgar Evers had been assassinated; countless others had been beaten and jailed; and, most visibly, in May, police in Birmingham, Alabama, led by a man named Bull Connors, had attacked children bahighlife.com<#L.R#>
  • she asked. It turned out she was not the only one affected by what she called ‘the problem that has no name’. In early 1963, Friedan gave it a name when she published The Feminine Mystique, articulating how American culture had mystified, distorted, even infantilised what it meant to be a woman. Her suggestion that women were people in their own right, as well as being wives and mothers, came as a revelation to many women. It was, as journalist Eleanor Clift wrote, ‘like a match dropped on dry tinder’. A bestseller, Friedan’s book would go on to be regarded as one of the most influential of the 20th century, credited with sparking a second wave of American feminism. In June, Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act, intended to end the practice of paying lower wages to women. Friedan went on to lead the National Organization of Women. Since 1963, her book has sold three million copies. It was a seminal year in terms of popular culture, too. James Bond first landed in American cinemas, with Sean Connery starring in Doctor No. The Beach Boys topped the charts with Surfin’ with police dogs and fire hoses. The pictures and film of the attacks sickened Kennedy. Even so, he and his advisors were so worried that a march on Washington would spawn similar violence they tried to convince organisers to call it off. Failing to do so, officials prepared the city by closing bars and liquor stores and alerting the National Guard. By the time the participants converged on Washington it was a deserted city; residents largely stayed at home and turned on their TVs. The rest of the country watched on television, too, giving King the platform that transformed him into a national leader. In the end, the march generated a sense of pride and hope for many Americans. Senator Hubert Humphrey later said it was the day in which he was ‘most encouraged [that] democracy would work’. King’s speech inspired Curtis Mayfield to write the optimistic folk anthem People Get Ready. But the country did not change immediately: weeks later, four young girls were killed in a Birmingham, Alabama, church bombing. Nevertheless, King’s speech provided a tipping point in the civil rights’ struggle. The following year, Congress would finally pass Kennedy’s civil rights legislation. A tipping point came for American women in 1963, too, a few months later when a freelance writer named Betty Friedan wondered whether other women shared her discontent with a life confined largely to domestic chores. ‘Is this all?’ bahighlife.com<#L.R#> Explorations America: 1963 USA, Dylan released his breakout album, The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, and America took notice of The Beatles. The Fab Five first appeared in American news reports in late 1963, just as I Wanna Hold Your Hand became a hit in the UK. Soon afterward, a disc jockey played the song for listeners in Washington, DC. Not content to wait for the release of the song in the US, he obtained a recording from a BOAC (a precursor to British Airways) flight attendant, who had purchased the 45 in Britain. It seemed that after the insecurity of the 1950s, the country was finally finding its feet and gaining a sense of national purpose. Though President Eisenhower was personally popular, the 1950s were underlined by Cold War fears and economic recession, with a feeling that Corbis;BlankArchives/GettyImages;SteveSchapiro/Corbis Clockwise from above John F Kennedy signs the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty; The Beach Boys’ Surfin’ USA tops the charts; Betty Friedan sparks a second wave of feminism JANUARY Alabama Governor George Wallace declares ‘segregation forever’ FEBRUARY The Feminine Mystique is published APRIL Martin Luther King is jailed in Birmingham, Alabama MAY Birmingham police fill jails with child marchers JUNE John F Kennedy delivers landmark speeches on peace and civil rights JUNE Civil rights leader Medgar Evers is assassinated in Mississippi AUGUST Martin Luther King makes his I have a Dream speech in Washington, DC AUGUST The US and USSR sign a limited nuclear test ban treaty SEPTEMBER Four young girls die in the bombing of a church in Birmingham NOVEMBER President John F Kennedy is assassinated in Dallas NOVEMBER Television viewers are introduced to The Beatles 1963 IN DATES bahighlife.com<#L.R#>
  • CBSPhotoArchive/GettyImages;UPIPhoto/CecilStoughton/JohnFKennedyPresidentialLibrary&Museum/eyevine Explorations America: 1963 were thought to be the best of his career. His trip to Europe later that month was triumphant. After declaring ‘Ich bin ein Berliner’ to West Germans at the Berlin Wall, JFK told his associates, ‘We’ll never have another day like this one, as long as we live.’ The sentiment proved prescient five months later, as Americans gathered around their TV sets for four long days in November. ‘Where were you when you heard the news?’ people asked – and continue to ask, all these years later. Three shots fired from a sixth-storey window in Dealey Plaza changed everything. Thanks to TV, the news from Dallas travelled quickly that Friday afternoon, but it was not easily believed. ‘Women wept, and men wept,’ The New York Times reported. ‘Bitterness, shame, anguish, disbelief, emptiness mingled inextricably in one’s mind,’ Arthur Schlesinger Jr recalled. There was fear the shooting was part of an international conspiracy to undermine the US government. Later, it was determined Kennedy was killed by a lone gunman – although many continue to believe it was the result of a wider conspiracy. Live television, taken for granted today, first proved its mettle when reporting on the assassination, bringing the USA together for one vast, communal wake. The shock of the assassination and the sadness of the requiem shook the nation’s confidence as it had not been shaken in decades. In the following years, that confidence would be further dented as the Vietnam War, riots and the deaths of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, would contribute to the near unravelling of the country’s social cohesion. Innocence was lost and idealism gave way to cynicism. Only in hindsight, could one look back and recognise 1963 as the end of one era and beginning of another. ‘Life changed forever,’ legendary newspaper editor Ben Bradlee later wrote, ‘in the middle of a nice day, at the end of a good week, in a wonderful year of what looked like an extraordinary decade of promise.’ GO ON THEN… DESTINATION: UNITED STATES FIND IT AT BA.COM British Airways flies to a number of destinations in America including Dallas, New York and Washington, DC. MORE STATESIDE STORIES It’s Florida 500th anniversary – read a brief history at bahighlife.com. America’s superpower status was eroding and the world was passing it by. Hope had come with the election of the energetic, youthful Kennedy – the youngest man ever to become President – and by 1963 there was a palpable sense the country was moving again. Kennedy’s appeal to ‘Ask what you can do for your country’ inspired many Americans to take up public service. His Peace Corps sent thousands of idealistic young people into the world to fight disease, poverty and illiteracy. Anything seemed possible for America: Life magazine suggested LSD might be used to improve cognition and the hydrogen bomb could be employed for building projects such as the Panama Canal. Even world peace seemed possible, when in the summer of 1963, the US signed a Limited Test Ban Treaty with the USSR, banning nuclear weapons tests in the atmosphere, in outer space and under water. Reality was, of course, more complicated with a dark underbelly to this new-found optimism: Kennedy had difficulty achieving any kind of legislative agenda. And, though he had made progress with the Soviets, the situation in Vietnam was quickly deteriorating. Nevertheless, he seemed to hit his stride in the last year of his life. His poll numbers skyrocketed following his handling of the October 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. In June, his ‘peace speech’ at American University and his civil rights speech, delivered the following evening from the Oval Office, A dark day 22 November: Kennedy’s motorcade, in Main Street, Dallas, moments before his assassination; Walter Cronkite memorably breaks the news on live TV (below) bahighlife.com<#L.R#>