American Experience looks back at 1964

For many millions of Americans, the end of 1963 couldn’t have gotten here quickly enough.

Just five weeks before New Year’s Day 1964, the world was reeling with the death of an American president at the hands of an assassin. We buried John F. Kennedy and looked ahead to the new year with a sense of relief and perhaps some hope for a brighter day.

It came and then the year unfolded like few others before it.

American Experience, PBS’s award-winning documentary series, takes a look at that watershed year with a program that will air Tuesday at 7 p.m. on Panhandle PBS.

The year brought about a number of whirlwind events.

* A young fighter named Cassius Clay defeated Sonny Liston for the heavyweight championship of the world … and then he changed his name to Muhammad Ali and would become arguably the most famous person the planet.

* Four young musicians from Great Britain came to our shores and opened with “All My Loving” on the Ed Sullivan Show and launched a craze called Beatlemania. The world would know John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr as The Beatles, whose music changed pop culture forever.

* A crusty senator from Arizona, Barry Goldwater, would redefine the conservative political movement in this country. The Republican Party would nominate him as its presidential candidate in 1964. He would declare that “extremism in defense of liberty is no vice,” but would lose an election in a landslide to the new president, a Texan named Lyndon Johnson.

The civil rights movement picked up steam, President Johnson would sign legislation into law guaranteeing all Americans the right to vote, popular culture would undergo enormous change, the Vietnam War would begin claiming more American lives and the nation would seek to recover from the grief that enveloped it on that bright, sunlit day in Dallas the previous November.

The American Experience takes us back through that amazing, tumultuous time.

It should be quite a ride through history.


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