A Year That Tore America Apart: A Timeline of 1968

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1968 was one of the most tumultuous years of the 20th century in the United States. Unrest at home and abroad threatened the very fabric of American life. The Vietnam War was raging, youth culture was exploding, and assassinations tore the country apart.

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Take a look at some of the most significant events that took place during a turbulent year that changed America forever.

January 30

North Vietnamese military forces launch the Tet Offensive. The campaign lasted until September and featured a wave of attacks that caused the American public’s support for the war to decline.

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February 1

Two sanitation workers in Memphis, Tennessee are crushed to death by a garbage truck that malfunctioned. Outrage over the deaths of Echol Cole and Robert Walker led to the Memphis Sanitation Strike. Martin Luther King, Jr. played an important role in the strike and spoke to striking workers the night before his assassination.

March 31

President Lyndon B. Johnson announces to the nation that he will not run for re-election.

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April 4

Martin Luther King, Jr. is assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee at the age of 39. Riots break out in more than 100 cities across the country, resulting in 39 deaths, 2,600 injuries, and 21,000 arrests.

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May 17

Nine Catholic antiwar activists burn nearly 400 files from the office of the draft board in Catonsville, Maryland to protest the Vietnam War. The group became known as the Catonsville Nine and were given prison sentences ranging from 24-42 months. Their act of defiance inspired other antiwar groups to raid more than 300 draft boards over the next four years.

June 5

Democratic presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy is shot and killed in Los Angeles after giving a speech. The gunman is Sirhan Sirhan, a Jordanian of Palestinian descent.

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July 1

President Johnson signs the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons.

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August 28

At the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, police and National Guardsmen violently attack and tear gas hundreds of protestors in the streets on live television.

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September 7

Feminists protest the Miss America Pageant in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

October 16

At the Olympic Games in Mexico City, American athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their gloved fists in protest during the National Anthem. Smith and Carlos have their medals stripped the next day and both men are sent home by the International Olympic Committee.

November 5

Richard M. Nixon defeats Hubert Humphrey and is elected President of the United States.

December 21-27

Apollo 8 becomes the first manned spacecraft to orbit the Moon and return safely to Earth. Astronauts Jim Lovell, Frank Borman, and William A. Anders become the first human beings to see the far side of the Moon.

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That’s a pretty astounding 12 months, isn’t it?

h/t: Smithsonian

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