How Well Do You Remember the Historic Events of the 1960s?



By: John Miller

6 Min Quiz

Image: Yoichi Okamoto

About This Quiz

Every generation features cultural changes and social transformations, but the 1960s were a truly chaotic time in world history. From bloody wars to jaw-dropping technological achievements to unwashed hippies, this decade had it all. What do you really know about the incredible ‘60s?

The 1950s found America and the rest of the world settling into a post-war haze of sorts. But the economy was struggling and yet another armed conflict was brewing, this time in Vietnam. How much do you know about the strife that affected the United States in the early ‘60s?

Minority groups became increasingly exasperated with Jim Crow laws and segregation in the early 1960s. They ratcheted up their political machine and began trying new means to achieve equal rights. What do you know about the Civil Rights movement that changed the country?

The Space Race started in 1959, when the USSR launched the world’s first satellite. Americans were consumed by fears of Communist superiority and so began a concerted effort to leapfrog the Soviets. How did that process affect the country?

And of course, during the Sixties, the counterculture — in all its tie-dyed and LSD-tainted glory — found its place in liberal enclaves. Society would never be the same again. Grab your patchouli incense, put on a Janis Joplin record, and brace yourself for our epic 1960s history quiz!

The 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion targeted which country?

In 1961, President Kennedy authorized a group of CIA-trained exiles to infiltrate Cuba in hopes of overthrowing Fidel Castro. The 1,500-strong uprising was a terrible failure and left a lasting stain on the administration.


In October 1962, the _____ missile crisis nearly lead to World War III.

In 1962, the Kennedy administration learned that the USSR was deploying missiles to Cuba, far too close to American shores for comfort. The U.S. blockaded Cuba and sparked the Cuban missile crisis, which very nearly escalated to war.


Robert Kennedy was viewed as a liberal political hero. How did he die in 1968?

Like his older brother John, Robert was assassinated. A Palestinian man named Sirhan Sirhan shot and killed Kennedy, who publicly expressed support for Israel.


What happened to South African resistance leader Nelson Mandela on June 12, 1964?

For his part in fighting apartheid and injustice, Mandela was sentenced to life in prison. He served 27 years before finally being released and is still regarded as a hero of civil rights.


How did Alabama Gov. George Wallace gain infamy on June 11, 1963?

Wallace was a pro-segregation fanatic who personally blocked a door at the University of Alabama to stop two black students from entering the building ... in direct opposition to presidential order. He later stood aside.


Which television show debuted on September 8, 1966?

On September 8, 1966, the first episode of "Star Trek" aired on television. The show slowly but surely became one of the most powerful entertainment franchises in Hollywood history.


On February 1, 1960, what did the "Greensboro Four" do in Greensboro, North Carolina?

The Greensboro Four were four black college students who, in opposition to social norms, opted to sit at a whites-only lunch counter in North Carolina. Their act of defiance helped fuel the Civil Rights movement of the ‘60s.


Which music act released an album titled "Please Please Me" in 1963?

In March 1963, the Beatles unveiled "Please Please Me," the group’s first album. In short order, they became a cultural touchstone and one of the most influential bands ever.


Civil rights activist Malcolm X was assassinated on February 21, 1965. How was he killed?

On Feb. 21, 1965, Malcom X was speaking at a rally when members of the Nation of Islam shot him 21 times. His death was just one of multiple high-profile killings during the ‘60s.


Who became the heavyweight boxing champion of the world on February 25, 1964?

On Feb. 25, 1964, Cassius Clay (later Muhammad Ali) beat Sonny Liston in Miami Beach to claim the heavyweight title. Ali became a powerful sports icon and political force during his legendary career.


Which president was assassinated in 1963?

In 1963, as John F. Kennedy’s motorcade traveled through Dallas, he was shot and killed by a sniper. JFK’s murder is often regarded as a flashpoint for many of the major events of the ‘60s.


Which famous American model died in August 1962?

On August 5, 1962, Marilyn Monroe was found dead in her apartment, apparently due to a sleeping pill overdose. She was just 36 years old, and her untimely passing added to the sense of calamity of the ‘60s.


On October 2, 1967, Thurgood Marshall began his duties with the Supreme Court. What was special about the occasion?

Marshall was the first black person ever appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court. His success in the nation’s most powerful court was yet another turning point in the Civil Rights movement.


Which famous event took place in August 1969?

In August 1969, a music festival ballooned into a massive cultural turning point with 400,000 attendees. Woodstock was a loud, colorful representation of the ‘60s counterculture.


What city was divided in two when construction of a wall separating east and west began in August 1961?

It was a huge moment in world history when the Berlin Wall was torn down in November 1989. It was also a big moment when construction of the wall began on August 13, 1961. The 12-foot high wall stretched 27 miles between East and West Berlin for close to three decades.


What happened at a place called My Lai on March 16, 1968?

U.S. troops on a Vietnamese search-and-destroy mission descended on a village called My Lai on March 16. The mission went awry and hundreds of civilians were killed during a massacre ... and virtually no one was punished for the atrocity.


Where did the 1960 Sharpeville massacre of black citizens take place?

On March 21, 1960, a group of black South Africa citizens marched to protest apartheid, a system of segregation. Police responded by murdering 69 people in what became known as the Sharpeville massacre.


On June 23, 1960, the Food & Drug Administration approved which drug?

In June 1960, the FDA approved the birth control pill. This drug revolutionized family planning and altered sexual activity all over America and played a major role in the culture wars of the era.


In August 1965, the Watts riots shook which major city?

Racial tensions exploded in August 1965. The Watts riots left parts of Los Angeles in ruins, with $40 million in property damage and 34 people dead.


Yes, The Beatles ruled music in the '60s, but do you know which show launched Beatlemania in America?

The Beatles were already famous in the UK before heading across the pond in 1964. A staggering 73 million Americans tuned in to watch the Fab Four sing five songs on "The Ed Sullivan Show" on February 9, 1964. It would be the first of three appearances for the group on the hugely popular variety show.


The 1960s are often regarded as a ______ time in world history.

During the ‘60s, America and much of the Western world was roiled by massive social and cultural upheaval. Some of the most iconic events of the 20th century occurred in the ‘60s.


Who delivered a famous "I Have a Dream" speech on August 28, 1963?

During the August 28 Freedom March in Washington D.C., King delivered his now-iconic "I Have a Dream" speech. His rousing speech is still regarded as one of the decade’s most important moments.


The first televised presidential debate happened in 1960. It featured Richard Nixon and _____.

Televised presidential debates immediately changed the dynamics of elections. John F. Kennedy’s handsomeness and stage presence were perfect for TV, and he became a political star thanks to his performance against Nixon.


Which act was signed on August 6, 1965?

On August 6, 1965, President Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act, which ended racial discrimination at the polls. Some historians call it the most important federal legislation ever enacted.


Name the iconic car model that was introduced at the World's Fair in New York in 1964.

Considered an American classic, the Ford Mustang went on display to the public for the first time at the World's Fair on April 17, 1964. Named for a WWII plane style, the pony car was an instant hit. Priced at $2,300 for the most basic models, Ford sold 400,000 units within a year, according to the History Channel.


Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968. Where was he murdered?

King was standing on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis when he was shot by a sniper. His family is still convinced that his murder was part of a larger conspiracy to stamp out the Civil Rights movement.


On March 7, 1965, state troopers attacked voting rights marchers in Selma, Alabama. The incident became known as _____.

On March 7, 1965, police violently broke up a voting rights act in Selma. It became known as "Bloody Sunday," and civil rights leaders pointed to the event as yet another example of American inequality.


Three men were elected President during the '60s. Which of these men was not?

American voters headed to the polls to pick a President three times during the '60s. John F. Kennedy won the White House in 1960, followed by Lyndon Johnson in 1964 and Richard Nixon in 1968.


An amazing bit of technology went on the market starting in November 1963 thanks to a company called Bell. What was it?

Rotary dial phones came out in 1891 and remained the standard for reaching out and touching someone for 70 years. That all changed on November 18, 1963, when Bell Telephone introduced the first commercial push-button phones to customers in the Pennsylvania market.


Remember which country experienced a "Cultural Revolution" from 1966 through 1969 which resulted in as many as 2 million deaths?

After causing 30 million to die of starvation under his Great Leap Forward plan, Chinese leader Mao Zedong launched his Cultural Revolution in 1966. By the time it ended in 1969, this plan to perpetuate Communist rule in China had taken as many as 2 million lives.


“Rolling Thunder" had a major effect on which event?

As the Vietnam War dragged on, President Johnson authorized Operation Rolling Thunder, a major escalation in bombing runs. The operation ended with hundreds of dead pilots and more than 180,000 dead North Vietnamese civilians.


Man landed on the moon in the '60s, but also went to the bottom of world's deepest ocean trench in 1960. Can you name it?

The Mariana Trench in the Pacific Ocean in the deepest spot within the world's oceans. On January 23, 1960, two men in a submersible traveled to the very bottom, some 35,800 feet below the surface of the water.


What technology did Theodore Maiman introduce in 1960?

In 1960, Maiman built the world’s first laser. Lasers have had a major impact on everything from communications to surgery and a whole lot more, making them one of the 20th century's most important innovations.


The very first Super Bowl was played on January 15, 1967. It featured the Green Bay Packers versus the _____.

The first Super Bowl found the Packers facing off against the Chiefs. The Packers won 35-10 and started a run of long success. The Chiefs, on the other hand, never made it back to the big game.


True or false, was the first email message sent in 1969?

It’s true, email started in 1969. The first message was sent from a computer at UCLA to another terminal at Stanford University.


History was made when man landed on the moon for the first time back in the '60s. Which of these men was not on board that space flight?

In 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Armstrong walked on the surface of the moon. Command Module Pilot Michael Collins was also part of this iconic Apollo 11 mission, but stayed on board the vessel while his colleagues left historic footprints in lunar soil.


What was the American economy like at the end of the 1960s?

The '50s were a time of slow economic growth. But by the end of the ‘60s, a boom was occurring, as the gross domestic product increased by about 6% annually.


Do you know which beloved super hero appeared for the first time in an August 10, 1962 comic book?

Stan Lee's first Spider-Man comic appeared in issue #15 of the anthology "Amazing Fantasy" in August 1962. The web-slinging hero got his own comic book series the next year, and continues to appear on TV, in films and in print to this day.


In July 1969, what major milestone did NASA reach?

On July 20, 1969, Apollo 11 put two American astronauts on the moon. It was the first time in history that humans set foot on another celestial object.


Which of these celebrities did not die during the '60s?

The world lost a lot of beloved figures during the '60s, including crooners Patsy Cline, Nat King Cole, Otis Reading and Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones. Jimmy Hendrix survived the decade, but tragically died at the age of 27 in September 1970.


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