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Protest and Reaction in the United States, 1961-68

1. Introduction

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In this module, we provide an introduction to US politics in the 1960s, focusing in particular on: (i) the traditional view of the 1960s as a decade of radical optimism followed by conservative realism, and the more nuanced view that pertains today; (ii) the general character of the three main presidencies that span the decade – John F. Kennedy (1961-63), Lyndon B. Johnson (1963-69) and Richard Nixon (1969-74); (iii) Kennedy's ambitions for a new beginning in terms of civil rights, and the extent to which his ambitions were left unfulfilled by his assassination on 22 November 1963; (iv) the achievements of Lyndon Johnson, including his three landmark civil rights acts; (v) the "institutional momentum" that saw the implementation of civil rights policies under Nixon; (vi) the extent to which the shift in the meaning of 'liberalism' was encapsulated by the differing approaches to civil rights of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X.


In this course, Dr Malcolm McLaughlin (University of East Anglia) explores the theme of protest and reaction in the United States during the presidencies of John F. Kennedy (1961-63) and Lyndon B. Johnson (1963-69). In the first module, we provide an introduction to US politics in the 1960s and its three major presidents: Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon. In the five modules that follow, we try to answer the following five questions: (1) How successful was Lyndon B. Johnson's Great Society?; (2) How did the idea of "civil rights" change after the Civil Rights Act of 1964?; (3) How did liberals respond to the demands of the Black Power movement?; (4) Which did more to change America: the political activism of the New Left or the freethinking Counterculture?; and (5) To what extent was 1968 a turning point in American history?


Malcolm McLaughlin is Associate Professor in American Studies and History at the University of East Anglia. His area of expertise is in twentieth-century US history. More particularly, his work is concerned with culture and American democracy, and his work has focused on race, class, and liberalism. His first book was a study of white identity and violence in the Progressive Era, focusing on events surrounding the notorious East St. Louis race riot or massacre of 1917. (Power, Community, and Racial Killing, 2005). His second book was about liberal politics and the urban riots or rebellions of the of the 1960s, and took a critical look at the response of Lyndon B. Johnson’s White House to those events. (The Long, Hot Summer of 1967. 2014).

Cite this Lecture

APA style

McLaughlin, M. (2021, March 03). Protest and Reaction in the United States, 1961-68 - Introduction [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

McLaughlin, M. "Protest and Reaction in the United States, 1961-68 – Introduction." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 03 Mar 2021,

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