The World Was On Its Head

    Martin Luther King, Jr.
    A graduate of Morehouse College, Crozer Theological Seminary, and Boston University, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Ala., when he emerged as one of the leading black leaders in the Civil Rights Movement. In 1955 he led the first great black nonviolent Civil Rights demonstration: a 382-day bus boycott that helped spur the 1956 Supreme Court decision to declare segregation on buses unconstitutional. Enduring arrests, home bombing, personal abuse, and constant threats, King was elected president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (the new leader in the Civil Rights Movement) and, using Christianity and Gandhi as inspirations, urged his fellow blacks to follow a path of nonviolent protests. He continued to lead successful protests, boycotts, and marches (including the 1963 peaceful March on Washington, during which he delivered his famous "I Have a Dream" address), and became the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. King remained the acknowledged leader of the Civil Rights Movement for 11 years. His leadership was cut short on April 4, 1968, when he was assassinated while standing on the balcony of his motel room in Memphis, Tenn.

 

    John F. Kennedy
    In 1961, John F. Kennedy became the youngest man to be elected to the office of president — and the first Roman Catholic. Spurred by his inaugural address to "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country," Kennedy’s mission was to "get America moving again." Kennedy’s time in the White House was marked by his economic programs, his commitment to the cause of equal rights, and the desire to bring American idealism (along with democracy and capitalism) to other nations. Confronted with a real Communist and nuclear war threat, including incidents like the Bay of Pigs Invasion and the Cuban Missile Crisis, Kennedy worked to bring about his goal of "a world of law and free choice, banishing the world of war and coercion." Kennedy was assassinated on 11/22/63 by Lee Harvey Oswald as his presidential motorcade passed through Dallas. Kennedy’s popularity led all three major U.S. TV networks to suspend their regular schedules and switch to all-news coverage for 70 hours. Shocking the country, the announcement of his death was a pivotal moment for many people — their location and actions of that instant forever burned into their memories.

 

    Lyndon B. Johnson
    After Kennedy’s death, his vice president, Lyndon B. Johnson, stepped into the presidency. Determined to create a "Great Society" for the American people, he pushed for the quick passing of Kennedy’s Civil Rights Act and tax-cut measures. After winning his own election in 1965 (by the widest popular margin in U.S. history), Johnson continued to push one of the most extensive legislative programs, covering from education, medicine, urban renewal, poverty, crime, the 1965 Medicare Amendment, and the Social Security Act. Johnson also struggled to end Communist aggression in Vietnam, and he ultimately withdrew his candidacy for re-election to devote all his time and attention to the cause of peace.

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