United States and American History: 1963

About the history of the United States in late 1963, Civil Rights fight continues, schools are integrated in the South even in Wallace's Alabama, Pop Art shines, Medgar Evers killed, President Kennedy assassinated.


Jan. 14 George Wallace, sworn in as governor of Alabama, pledged, "segregation now, segregation tomorrow and segregation forever."

Mar 20 The 1st large "Pop art" exhibition opened at the Guggenheim Museum in New York, featuring such artists as Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg, and Jasper Johns.

Spring Civil rights campaigns throughout the South started with a voter registration drive in Greenwood, Miss., and segregation protests in Birmingham, Ala., in April; continued in May, in Birmingham, and 3 North Carolina cities, Jackson, Nashville, and Atlanta; and spread in June to 6 major cities outside the South as well as 12 more in the South. Most of the protests were against segregation, but job discrimination and police brutality were often issues as well. Several thousand blacks and their white supporters were arrested.

From May 2 to 7 in Birmingham, 2,543 demonstrators were arrested, prompting Governor Wallace to say he was "beginning to tire of agitators, integrationists and others who seek to destroy law and order in Alabama." On May 9, black leaders and the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce reached an agreement to desegregate public facilities in 90 days, hire blacks as clerks and salesmen in 60 days, and release demonstrators without bail in return for an end to the protests. Still, on May 11, 2 bombings of black organizers' homes provoked a riot of 2,500 blacks which ended with State troopers clubbing any blacks they could catch. In Cambridge, Md., the National Guard enforced martial law from June 14 to July 11 after several shooting incidents. In Detroit a peaceful antidiscrimination march of 125,000 was held with the support of the mayor and governor.

June 9 Cleopatra, the most expensive movie ever made ($40 million) with the highest paid star, Elizabeth Taylor ($1.725 million+10% of the gross over $7.5 million), opened in New York. Though critical and public reception was lukewarm, enough people paid at least $4 so that Warner Bros. could later claim that it had made money on the film after it had sold the TV rights for a substantial amount.

June 12 Medgar Evers, Mississippi civil rights leader, was shot in the back and killed late at night.

June 17-19 A U.S.S.R. woman astronaut, Valentina Tereshkova, orbited the earth 45 times.

Aug. 5 The U.S., the U.S.S.R., and Britain signed a treaty in Moscow banning nuclear tests in the atmosphere, outer space, and underwater. Later, 113 other nations cosigned, but not France or China.

Aug. 28 Over 200,000 blacks and whites marched for civil rights in Washington and 10 black leaders met with President Kennedy. In his keynote speech at the Lincoln Memorial, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., proclaimed, "Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice.... There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights.... No, we are not satisfied and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream."

Aug. 3 A 24-hour "hot line" was installed between Washington and Moscow to insure emergency consultation which could prevent "accidental" nuclear war.

Sept. Schools peacefully integrated throughout the South, except in Alabama where President Kennedy ordered the National Guard to keep schools open after Governor Wallace sent State troopers to close them.

Sept. 15 A black church in Birmingham, Ala., was bombed, killing 4 girls. Two more blacks died in the riots that followed.

Oct. 2 Chief of Staff Taylor and Defense Secretary McNamara returned from South Vietnam and "reported in their judgment that the major part of the U.S. military task can be completed by the end of 1965," as the U.S. stepped up military aid. At the same time, the U.S. had cut off economic aid to South Vietnam due to its government's repression of Buddhists. On November 1, South Vietnamese President Diem, whom Secretary of State Rusk once called the "Churchill of Asia," was killed in a military coup which had U.S. approval.

Nov. 19 Cambodia renounced U.S. foreign aid (it had received $365 million) and asked U.S. troops to leave. "By this measure we will be poorer but more independent."

Nov. 22 President Kennedy was assassinated in a Dallas motorcade; Lyndon Johnson became the 36th President of the U.S. (See: Assassinations, Chap. 9.)

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