The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Summer of '68

July 13, 2008

Culture, the arts thrived in U.S. in 1968

By Cindy Allen

Managing Editor

On the celebration of Christ’s birth in the year 1968, a lunar orbiter circled the heavens providing the manned crew an awesome sight of the earth.

Apollo 8, the first manned mission to orbit the moon, entered lunar orbit on Christmas Eve, Dec. 24, 1968, with astronauts Commander Frank Borman, Command Module Pilot Jim Lovell and Lunar Module Pilot William Anders. Lovell proclaimed “the vast loneliness is awe-inspiring and it makes you realize just what you have back there on earth.”

While the astronauts were in awe of the vastness of space, down below on that beautiful blue planet, civilizations were changing. The culture of the United States was undergoing immense evolution from an age of innocence to an age of culture clashes — between men and women, blacks and whites and young and old.

When we think of 1968, we think of civil rights, hippies, the Vietnam War, space exploration and an explosion of new music and new expressions, the likes of which many in the United States had never seen before.

The year started off in a humorous way with the premier of Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In on NBC. While Americans struggled with growing involvement in the war in Vietnam and civil rights disturbances, the year turned more violent and deadly beginning in the spring.

As he stood on a balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tenn.,, civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. was gunned down by an assassin. That act would begin a series of riots and uprisings in American cities for several days and months afterward.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr., an aspiring presidential candidate and brother of slain President John F. Kennedy, broke the news of King’s death himself to crowds in Detroit.

On April 6, a shoot-out between Black Panthers and Oakland, Calif., police resulted in several deaths.

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Summer of '68