What a pivotal year 1969 would turn out to be. Hard to think that was 50 years ago now – seems so long ago and yet, for those of us who experienced it, still so vivid. The hippie movement spread from a freakish fringe happening and out across the nation. So much of its impact we now take for granted, and so much remains to be accomplished.
Fifty years! That’s the jubilee, if only we’d have the corresponding release promised in Scripture.
Here are ten big things that happened that year.
- Richard M. Nixon becomes president of the United States. And we had thought Lyndon Johnson was bad? We were in mourning. January 20.
- The Beatles final performance. Where would rock go? January 30.
- Chappaquidick Affair. U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy loses control of his car and plunges into a pond. A woman’s body is found later in the vehicle. The Kennedy magic ends. July 25.
- First moon landing. “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” as astronaut Neil Armstrong says as he first walks on the surface. Anything is now thought to be possible. July 29.
- Charles Manson cult murders five people, including the Hollywood actress Sharon Tate. Are these villains hippies? August 5.
- Not the only big music festival that year, but the most famous. Suddenly, hippies have come out of the woodwork and are visible everywhere. August 15 to 18.
- First message sent across Arpanet, precursor to the Internet. Little does anyone know of the life-changes ahead. For me, it’s emblematic of the far-out thinking that accompanied the hippie revolution. October 29.
- March on Washington to protest the war attracts 250,000 participants. The largest demonstration to date. November 15.
- Draft lottery instituted. Young men now have a clearer idea of their chances of being conscripted for military service. Will this defuse the antiwar fever? Many did utter a big sigh of relief. December 1.
- Altamont Speedway Free Festival. Event marred by Hells Angels, violence, and deaths. December 6.
Other significant events include the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on Stanley v. Georgia declaring “the State may not prohibit mere possession of obscene materials for personal use” (April 7), the black students’ takeover of Willard Straight Hall at Cornell University (April 19), widespread police crackdowns on student protests elsewhere, and the Stonewall Inn gay club riot in New York City (June 28).
In my novel Daffodil Uprising, similar pressures are building in the hills of southern Indiana. Look how chaotic these events remain when viewed together.