Can You Pass a 1960s Trivia Quiz?


By: Torrance Grey

6 Min Quiz

Image: YouTube

About This Quiz

The '60s: Russia beat the United States into space by sending up a daring cosmonaut. Later, the USA beat the USSR to the moon, with the mission that made Neil Armstrong famous. London was the fashion capital of the world, and young women scandalized older generations by baring their legs in the miniskirt. A regional conflict went global and became the Vietnam War. 

On the domestic scene, back in the US, Americans elected their youngest and most charismatic president ever, John F. Kennedy, only to be appalled by his assassination while still in office. The decade ended in unrest that the country had rarely seen. 

Whether you're old enough to remember the 1960s or not, there are certain things everyone should know about this critical time in history. Do you actually remember who was US president as the 1960s dawned? Or the name of that Russian cosmonaut? And in which city Dr. Martin Luther King gave his famous "I Have a Dream" speech? If you're not sure, we've designed a quiz on all things '60s. Its politics, of course, but also its scientific developments, the fashions of the decade, and its music. So sit back and revisit days past -- before gas prices spike and polyester became cool!

The 1960s were shadowed by a long-simmering conflict between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. What was this conflict called?

Because there was almost no armed combat, the war was "cold." The name accurately reflects the chilling of relations between the U.S. and other capitalist states and the USSR and its satellite Communist states.


Which of these made John F. Kennedy a controversial presidential candidate?

JFK had not been divorced, and he certainly did serve in the military, during WWII. But the fact that he was a Roman Catholic was difficult for many Protestant voters to tolerate. One newspaper cartoon of the day showed the Pope packing his bags to move to Washington if Kennedy were elected.


What was the name of the mission that took humankind to the moon?

Fun fact: Some conspiracy theorists believe that Stanley Kubrick used his filmmaking skills to fake the moon landing for NASA. They see little Danny Torrance's "Apollo 11" sweater in "The Shining" as Kubrick's sly nod to that.


Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech was delivered in what city?

King made the famous speech at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington. The year was 1963.


Which boxer won the gold medal at the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome?

Clay, of course, would later change his name to Muhammad Ali. But at 18 -- his age when medaling -- he still went by what he would later call his "slave name."


Which of these men was president of the United States at the dawn of the '60s?

Dwight Eisenhower was president through the beginning of 1961. Fun fact: In 1917 while training Army officers in Kansas, Eisenhower was the commanding officer of a young lieutenant named F. Scott Fitzgerald, who was writing the first draft of "This Side of Paradise" under the cover of studying military strategy.


In 1961, the first man went into space. What was his name?

The USSR was the first nation to send up a satellite and the first to put a man in space. President Kennedy responded by getting the US involved in a "space race," or competition for superiority in space exploration.


What was the prevailing theory about the spread of Communism called?

The idea was that if Vietnam fell to Communism, other Asian nations would follow in quick succession. The visual image was one of a line of falling dominoes.


After Kennedy's assassination, where was Lyndon B. Johnson sworn in?

The circumstances required great haste, so Johnson was sworn in mid-flight. Because there was no Bible at hand, he used a Catholic missal that was on the plane at the time.


For what city is Motown Records named?

"Motown" is a mashup of "motor" and "town," for Detroit's auto industry. Fun fact: Berry Gordy Jr.'s youngest son is also in the music business under the name "Redfoo," half of LMFAO.


What state did President John F. Kennedy come from?

Kennedy was born in Brookline, to wealthy Joe Kennedy. He later went to one of America's most elite universities, Harvard.


The first million-dollar-selling Motown act, the Miracles, were fronted by which singer?

Smokey Robinson was a co-founder of the group, which got its start in the 1950s. But it was in the 1960s that they really found success, with singles like "Tears of a Clown" and "You've Really Got a Hold on Me."


In what year did a man walk on the moon?

The successful moon mission was a badly-needed shot in the arm for America. The previous year, it had been rocked by Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination and race riots in major cities.


Who was LBJ's vice-president?

Humphrey was a Minnesotan (though born in South Dakota) who spent most of his political career in the Senate. He did run for president in 1968, but lost to Richard Nixon.


In what city was Martin Luther King assassinated?

James Earl Ray shot the civil rights leader in Memphis in 1968. Ray was a small-time criminal who had supported George Wallace's segregationist campaign and dreamed of emigrating to Rhodesia, an African nation dominated by a white minority. Ray died in prison in 1998.


What British subculture was the rival to the mods?

The "rocker" look was very similar to bikers or "greasers" in the United States -- lots of black leather and shaggy hair. This contrasted with the neatness and fashion-consciousness of the mods, who liked Italian couture.


Which of these events is seen as the beginning of the Vietnam War?

The U.S. had been supporting the French colonial government since the 1950s. But a clash between a U.S. warship and North Vietnamese torpedo boats in the Gulf of Tonkin, in 1964, is seen as a flashpoint for what Americans think of as the Vietnam War.


In the UK, 1964 saw the abolition of what?

England, which had hanged minors for theft into the 19th century, abolished the death penalty overall in 1964. Abortion was illegal at that time, but was legalized not long after.


Which revolutionary car rolled off the line in 1964?

The Ford Mustang scaled down Detroit "muscle" into a sleek coupe frame. The original 1960s Mustang design was so beloved that it was the basis for the mid-2000s "throwback" redesign.


Years before hippie and beatnik fashion, the 1960s were known for the ____ style, out of London.

The mods were known for their brightly-colored and spiffy clothes, as parodied in the "Austin Powers" movies. They also liked to get around on Vespa motor scooters.


Which of these designers is known for popularizing the miniskirt?

Andres Courreges was also making miniskirts in the 1960s. However, it's British designer Quant who gets most of the credit.


Which of these is NOT a founding member of the Supremes?

The Supremes are commonly thought of as a trio, with Ballard, Wilson and Ross being the key members. But Barbara McGlown was the fourth member, until she got engaged. (Martha Reeves, mentioned above, was a singer associated with the Vandellas).


Stephanie Kwolek, a DuPont chemist, invented a fiber in 1965 that is five times stronger than steel. By what name do we know it now?

Kwolek was working on a lighter-weight replacement for steel in high-performance tires. But her creation, Kevlar, quickly became the standard in body armor for police and military work.


The "British Invasion" referred to the UK's overwhelming influence on what segment of US culture?

In the mid-1960s, the popularity of the Beatles and other UK acts was seen to threaten American music, like Motown soul and folk rock. But the death knell for these musical genres was quite premature.


What album did the Beatles release in 1967?

It wasn't released until near the end of the '60s, but "Sgt. Pepper" epitomizes the kind of music and art we now associate with the 1960s, full of drug references and Eastern influences, complete with a brightly-colored psychedelic album cover.


Which of these bands was NOT part of the British Invasion?

The Monkees were what we'd today call a "multimedia" project: a band created for a television show, whose music would then be played on the radio and sold in stores. The musical chops of the actors varied: Dave Nesmith and Peter Tork were primarily musicians, while Mickey Dolenz is mostly known as an actor. Davy Jones was both an actor and singer.


What was Martin Luther King Jr.'s original first name?

His original first name was Michael King Jr. How could he be a "Junior" both times? Because his father, Michael King, changed both their names to honor the father of the Protestant faith.


What US university was the home of the Free Speech movement?

A charismatic graduate student, Mario Savio, led the long-running student protest. They were objecting to a campus ban on political activism, mostly in relation to the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights Movement.


Which U.S. state did Richard Nixon come from?

Nixon's presidency is overshadowed by his impeachment and resignation (which happened in the 1970s, not the '60s). For this reason, he isn't recognized for establishing the Environmental Protection Agency, ending the U.S. involvement in Vietnam, and recommending widespread treatment, not criminalization, of drug offenses.


Which of these was invented in the 1960s?

This might come as a surprise to you, but all of these inventions have their roots in the '60s -- even the e-cigarette, which seems like a very recent innovation. It should be noted that the internet, in 1969, existed as ARPANET, a joint military-academic project a long way from the World Wide Web we now enjoy.


Which of these actors portrayed James Bond in the 1960s?

Connery was the first Bond on the big screen, and many fans' favorite to this day. Lazenby only did one film, "On Her Majesty's Secret Service," in 1969.


"Twiggy", aka Lesley Lawson, found fame in which field?

Twiggy was the epitome of female beauty in 1960s London. She has since worked as an actress and a singer.


By what name is the Kennedy administration/White House now known?

Kennedy's period in the White House was short-lived, and many Americans who were alive back then see this as an almost-mythical time, touched by the president and Jackie Kennedy's youth, intellect and glamour. Hence the name "Camelot."


Which of these golfers, in 1967, became the first man to win $1 million on the PGA tour?

Yes, the 1960s were a turbulent time -- but even so, golfers continued to hit the links. And no player dominated the game in the 1960s like Arnold Palmer, who had begun competing in 1955.


Which of these events did NOT happen in the 1960s?

Nixon stepped down from the presidency in 1973, after being linked to the Watergate break-in. Skylab was launched the same year, and fell to earth in 1979.


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