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Archive for '- The 1960s'

History in a Cap and Gown

We’re now in the middle of commencement season, and there’ll be many words of wisdom coming from the mouths of speakers: academicians, celebrities, inventors, authors, artists, business people, and political leaders.

Sometimes commencement speeches become historic.

President John F. Kennedy announced talks for a test-ban treaty in his commencement speech at American University in 1963, and a treaty banning nuclear testing above ground was signed later in the year. “In the final analysis,” Kennedy said, “our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s futures. And we are all mortal.”

In 1964, President Lyndon Johnson officially unveiled his “Great Society” in his commencement speech at the University of Michigan in 1964. “The challenge of the next half century is whether we have the wisdom to . . . advance the quality of our American civilization,” Johnson told the graduates. “For in your time we have the opportunity to move not only toward the rich society and the powerful society, but upward to the ‘Great Society.’”

Another historic speech was made at the Harvard commencement in 1947. President Harry S. Truman’s administration was preparing a plan for an unprecedented amount of aid to shore up the economies of war-torn Europe. Instead of announcing it himself, he gave the task to … [ Read all ]

Pennsylvania Avenue Hotline

Today’s guest post comes from David Coleman,  associate professor at the University of Virginia and Chair of the Presidential Recordings Program at the Miller Center of Public Affairs.

On April 28, W.W. Norton will publish volumes 7 and 8 in the Miller Center’s Presidential Recordings of Lyndon B. Johnson series. (The original tapes are in the holdings of the LBJ Presidential Library and Museum.) The volumes, which span June through July 4, 1964, were edited by Guian McKee, Kent Germany, and David Carter.

At 7 p.m. on Thursday, April 28, the National Archives will host Dave Coleman, the editors, and Pulitzer Prize–winning author Taylor Branch to discuss these latest books.

“That’s a good bill, and there’s no reason why you ought to keep a majority from beating it. If you can beat it, go on and beat it, but you oughtn’t to hold it up. You ought to give me a fair shake and give me a chance to vote on it.”
—LBJ to House Minority Leader Charles Halleck, 6:24 p.m., June 22, 1964

 

Behind-the-scenes discussions between the White House and Capitol Hill can be an essential piece of the puzzle in understanding how and why legislation was passed, rejected, or changed, or even a government shutdown averted. But they’re typically obscured from public view.

It’s easy enough to imagine what might have been

[ Read all ]

JFK’s Cold War Calculations

ar206454-bOn April 20, 1961, exactly three months after his inauguration, President John F. Kennedy addressed the American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE) regarding the Bay of Pigs invasion. In his speech, Kennedy addressed one of the most crucial decisions of his presidency—his choice not to provide air cover for the 1,400 men of the Cuban exile brigade at the Bay of Pigs.

 

Although planning for the invasion began under the Eisenhower administration, President Kennedy opted to approve the operation upon taking office. But the invasion was doomed as soon as the CIA-trained exiles landed ashore in Cuba. The Soviet-supplied Cuban military was well equipped and had overwhelming resources in terms of manpower.

 

Once failure appeared imminent, military personnel and CIA officials scrambled to persuade Kennedy to deploy U.S. air cover in hopes of salvaging the operation. The President, however, refused to approve the direct military intervention sought by the advisors who had fully endorsed the invasion’s initial provisions.

 

In the end, Cuban forces easily defeated the undermanned exile brigade within three days. To make matters worse for Kennedy, U.S. involvement was undeniable and media coverage made the failure a highly publicized national issue.

 

In the aftermath of the invasion, the President moved quickly to justify his decision to approve the invasion but not to provide air cover. Speaking before the ASNE, Kennedy [ Read all ]

Roll out the red carpet at the National Archives!

Today we have a special guest post from Tom Nastick, public programs producer at the National Archives.

This week, from February 23 to 27, we’ll be presenting the seventh annual free screenings of Oscar®-nominated documentaries and Short Subjects in the William G. McGowan Theater. Our friends at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences will once again be sending us the very best Feature Documentaries and Documentary Short Subjects from the past year so that we can share them, for free, with our audience.

But you don’t have to wait until this annual event to see Oscar-nominated docs at the National Archives. Within our vast motion picture holdings are several documentaries that have been honored by the Academy.

During the Second World War, several films now in our holdings were presented the Oscar for best Documentary including Prelude to War (1942) and episode one of Frank Capra’s “Why We Fight” series of orientation films for service personnel.

We also have Oscar-winning coproductions The Fighting Lady (1944), a joint production of the U.S. Navy and 20th Century Fox about the aircraft carrier USS Yorktown, and The True Glory (1945), a sweeping documentary on the Allied invasion of Europe co-produced by the U.S. Office of War Information and the British Ministry of Information.

The Documentary Short Subject category is also represented in our holdings. Notable examples from the WWII era … [ Read all ]

Baseball and the 13th Amendment

January 31, 1865, was a busy day for the war-torn United States. The House of Representatives passed a constitutional amendment to abolish slavery. Meanwhile, Robert E. Lee was named general-in-chief of the Confederate armies.

On January 31, 1919—50 years to the day after slavery was abolished—Jackie Robinson was born in Cairo, Georgia.

On April 10, 1947—82 years after the Civil War ended—Robinson broke the color barrier in major league baseball when he was signed to the Brooklyn Dodgers and became the first African American to play in the major leagues. He went to have a successful career in baseball and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962. His number, 42, was retired in 1997.

After he retired from baseball, Robinson continued to fight for equal rights and treatment in other ways. The National Archives has some of his letters to politicians, including this letter to President Eisenhower.

Ninety-years after the 13th amendment was ratified, Robinson exercised his first amendment rights in the fight for civil rights.

Read more about Jackie Robinson and civil rights in two Prologue articles: “An Archival Odyssey: The Search for Jackie Robinson” (Summer 1997) and “Jim Crow, Meet Lieutenant Robinson: A 1944 Court-Martial” (Spring 2008). To find out about baseball-related records in the National Archives, check out “Beyond the Box Score” (Spring 2006).… [ Read all ]