Odyssey: 1965 and the Transformation of America

In his masterful book The Eve of Destruction, historian James T. Patterson convincingly argues that 1965 was a pivotal year in American life. Similarly, the syndicated columnist George F. Will calls 1965 "the hinge" of America's post–World War II history. This series of illustrated lectures explores the epochal events of this transforming year, showing how they dramatically reshaped the nation and changed the course of American life. Whether you lived through 1965 or you didn't, you cannot understand today's relentless confrontational politics without coming to terms with this eventful year.

Oct. 6 Prologue: America at the End of 1964 Lighting the national Christmas tree, on Dec. 18, 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson declared, "These are the most hopeful times in all the years since Christ was born in Bethlehem." Buoyed by phenomenal economic growth and unprecedented prosperity, most white Americans, young and old, shared LBJ's high expectations about the American future, despite continuing protests on behalf of civil rights for black Americans and a simmering conflict in far-off Vietnam. Pete Kakel, PhD, program coordinator.

Wednesday, Oct. 7 Special Event Lecture: "The Pivotal Year 1965: King, Civil Rights, and Selma" by Taylor Branch Note: Students registered for the 1965 course will be admitted as guests to this lecture. Taylor Branch is a renowned Baltimore-based author, public speaker, and historian, best known for his landmark trilogy on the civil rights era, America in the King Years. His latest book is The King Years: Historic Moments in the Civil Rights Movement.

Oct. 13 "LBJ and the 'Great Society'" As part of his attempt to outdo his idol, FDR, President Johnson launched his "Great Society" legislative agenda, a hugely ambitious set of domestic reforms and programs. Rather than a radical redistribution of wealth, it aimed at widening the opportunity of people who had been unfairly denied access to "the American Dream" of upward mobility. Edward D. Berkowitz, PhD, is professor of history and of public policy at George Washington University; the author of 15 books, he is recognized as the preeminent historian of Social Security and of America's welfare state.

Oct. 20, 7:30 to 9 p.m. American Escalation in Vietnam Campaigning for president in late October 1964, LBJ told the American people, "We are not about to send American boys…to do what Asian boys ought to be doing for themselves." Yet by the end of 1965, the American troop presence in Vietnam had swelled from 23,000 "advisers" to more than 180,000, many regularly engaged in combat. James G. Hershberg, PhD, is professor of history and international affairs at George Washington University; a specialist in the international history of the Cold War, his latest book is Marigold: The Lost Chance for Peace in Vietnam.

Oct. 27 Civil Rights vs. Black Power The movement on behalf of civil rights for black Americans, led by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., was interracial and committed to strategies of nonviolent protest. Arguing that whites could not be trusted, the charismatic black orator Malcolm X stressed the need for "black power," based on the virtues of black self-determination and self-defense. John A. Kirk, PhD, is chair of the Department of History, University of Arkansas at Little Rock; a specialist in U.S. civil rights history, he has published eight books, including a biography, Martin Luther King Jr.

Nov. 3 No Class

Nov. 10 Vietnam and the Home Front In the fall of 1965, anti-war protests across the country drew large crowds, with many demonstrators chanting "Hey, hey, LBJ! How many kids have you killed today?" Counterdemonstrations also took place in support of the war effort, with many pro-war demonstrators chanting "Give us joy! Bomb Hanoi!" Michael W. Flamm, PhD, is professor of history at Ohio Wesleyan University; a specialist in the Sixties, he has authored or co-authored five books, including Debating the 1960s: Liberal, Conservative, and Radical Perspectives.

Nov. 17 Epilogue: America at the End of 1965 By the end of 1965, as James T. Patterson rightly argues, American was a fundamentally different place from what it had been a mere 12 months earlier, with increasing social fragmentation and political polarization. For better or worse, America, in many ways, would never be the same again. Beset by the escalating war in Vietnam, heightened racial tensions, and a possible nuclear Armageddon, America seemed, as folksinger Barry McGuire suggested to young Americans, on the "eve of destruction." Pete Kakel, PhD, program coordinator.

910.748.01 Homewood Campus Special Event lecture with Taylor Branch: Wednesday, Oct. 7 (7 to 8:30 p.m.) Course: Tuesdays, Oct. 6 to Nov. 17, 7 to 8:30 p.m.

JHU full-time faculty/staff are eligible for 80% tuition remission. You will be unable to register online and receive the discount. For more information, contact 410-516-8516.