Fall 2020 – The 1960s – From Berkeley to Berlin

To be offered as virtual lectures via Zoom Webinar

The 1960s – From Berkeley to Berlin
Presented by Peter Harris

Thursdays, October 8 to November 26, 2020 – 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon

The “Swinging Sixties” swept across the West like a tsunami, bringing with it a torrent of powerful personalities and events. We will examine how the decade’s most notable people and movements emerged and whose aftershocks are still felt today. Just a few examples: the Free Speech Movement in Berkeley, the (not-so-) Quiet Revolution in Quebec, the raucous new Canadian flag debate, the excitement of Expo 67, the Paris student rebellion, the emerging separatist/terrorist groups, some remarkable women (Carson, Jacobs and Friedan), the Beatles, the Byrds and the rock music revolution, the Berlin Wall and Stonewall.

October 8      Into the ‘60s
The ‘60s did not spring from a void. We trace earlier seminal events leading into this decade: the Cold War and the proxy wars in Korea and Vietnam, McCarthyism, the economic boom and the baby boom, the civil rights movement, the shock of Sputnik. Television revolutionizes the social and political landscape.

October 15    The Dawning of a New Era
“The Pill” revolutionizes sexual relations. A “sex symbol” telegenic young US President generates euphoria among baby boomers with his visions for the Peace Corps and a man on the moon. The Cold War turns alarmingly hot in Berlin and Cuba. Three remarkable women – Rachel Carson, Jane Jacobs and Betty Friedan – shake up the intellectual landscape in North America.

October 22    Living the Dream
Folk music re-emerges from the McCarthy-era chill, inspiring young musicians like Bob Dylan and Joan Baez, and, in Canada, Joni Mitchell, Gordon Lightfoot and Ian and Sylvia, among others. Andy Warhol immortalizes Campbell’s Soup cans. The civil rights movement makes almost daily headlines, reaching a euphoric climax in Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream speech. But the Dream is shattered by a tragedy: the assassination of JFK.

October 29    The LBJ Era: The Great Society vs. Vietnam
An anxious crop of university students is traumatized by JFK’s assassination and then by the perception of the Warren Commission as a “whitewash.” The rapid rise of the Vietnam crisis under the new President Lyndon Johnson exacerbates the testy mood of the young boomer generation. The Free Speech Movement in Berkeley provides the tactical model for the rise of militant student activism across the USA. President Johnson passes a series of ambitious reforms to support civil rights and combat poverty, but the surging military commitments in Vietnam conflict sharply with his lofty Great Society aspirations.

November 5    Canada’s Place in the Sun
During the Quiet Revolution of the PQ and the BQ – and the (definitely NOT quiet) revolution of the FLQ – in Quebec, Prime Minister Pearson launches the super-charged debate on a new national flag. Emotions run high, but a design is finally chosen. Now we can prepare for the national celebration of our Centennial, climaxing in Expo 67 in Montreal. Toronto also gets into the spirit of the times, particularly with two new downtown buildings that radically alter the sleepy post-colonial order: the TD Centre and the New City Hall. Even the Toronto Maple Leafs get with it.

November 12    Folk Rock > Rock
The earlier growth of contemporary folk artists begins to morph into high-power Rock, catapulted by the 12-string guitar virtuosity of the Byrds and the phenomenon of a young group from the UK: the Beatles. By the summer of 1967, hippies are in full flower, especially in San Francisco.

November 19    1968
In 1968 cultural and geopolitical upheavals reached a fever pitch with the surging violence in Vietnam, the revolutions in Prague and Paris, the rise of terrorist groups in Germany, Quebec and elsewhere, and a series of traumatic assassinations in the United States, followed by the debacle of the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. Societies across the planet seemed near a breaking point.

November 26    The Sixties Draw to a Close
Nixon struggles to end the Vietnam War, and Canada copes with the October Crisis. Three remarkable events close out the decade: Woodstock, the raid on the Stonewall Inn in New York, and the moon landing. Neil Armstrong’s famous words sum up this world-changing decade: “… a giant leap for mankind.”