American History Timeline: 1955-1975

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    Montgomery Bus Boycott

    After Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat for a white person on a segregated bus in Montgomery, Alabama, on December 1, 1955, blacks in the city boycotted the public transportation system for over a year, until the Supreme Court struck down bus segregation on December 20, 1956.
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    Presidency of John F. Kennedy

    Democrat John F. Kennedy, a senator from Massachusetts, was elected president in the 1960 election, very narrowly and controversially defeating Republican Vice President Richard Nixon. His presidency was dominated by Cold War tensions with the Soviet Union, although he also began lending his support to civil rights causes. His term came to abrupt end with his assassination in November 1963.
  • Bay of Pigs Invasion

    The CIA, with President Kennedy's approval, coordinated and financed an effort by Cuban exiles to invade Cuba and depose Communist dictator Fidel Castro. However, the invasion attempt was defeated within days by Communist forces, resulting in a major humiliation for the United States on the world stage.
  • First American in Space

    After several years of lagging behind the Soviet Union in the so-called "space race," Alan Shepard finally became the first American citizen to reach outer space aboard the Freedom 7 capsule on May 5, 1961. This event was a major step for America's progress in the space race.
  • Cuban Missile Crisis

    The Soviet Union attempted to place nuclear missiles within close range of the United States by shipping and installing nuclear missiles in Communist Cuba, but President Kennedy intervened with a naval blockade to prevent Soviet shipments. This event was the peak of the Cold War, as the threat of nuclear war ran higher than ever before, but the crisis was ultimately resolved with a Soviet withdrawal and a major propaganda victory for the United States.
  • Assassination of John F. Kennedy

    An assassin, believed to be Lee Harvey Oswald, shot and killed President John F. Kennedy while he was visiting Dallas, Texas, on November 22, 1963. Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson immediately assumed office.
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    Presidency of Lyndon B. Johnson

    Selected as John F. Kennedy's vice presidential candidate in 1960, Lyndon B. Johnson ascended to the presidency on November 22, 1963, when John F. Kennedy was assasinated. Johnson's presidency was defined by civil rights legislation, new welfare programs, and the Vietnam War. The war destroyed his popularity and overshadowed his other accomplishments.
  • Signing of 1964 Civil Rights Act

    After more than a decade of work by the Civil Rights Movement, President Johnson signed into law the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which outlawed racial and other forms of discrimination in public accomodations, effectively bringing the Jim Crow era to a close.
  • Gulf of Tonkin Incident

    North Vietnamese gunboats fired upon a United States destroyer in the Gulf of Tonkin on August 2, 1964, which President Lyndon B. Johnson used as a pretext to dramatically escalate American involvement in the Vietnam War.
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    Presidency of Richard Nixon

    Despite being defeated in 1960, former Vice President Richard Nixon returned to win the presidency on a "law and order" platform in 1968, amid the turmoil and chaos late in the decade. His presidency was also occupied largely by foreign policy matters, especially the Vietnam War. He was reelected in one of largest landslides in American history, but was forced to resign due to the Watergate Scandal in August 1974.
  • America Lands on the Moon

    The Apollo 11 mission, led by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, successfully touches down on the surface of the moon, and the Apollo 11 astronauts become the first humans in history to walk on the moon. The landing is a massive propaganda victory for America in the space race.
  • Resignation of Richard Nixon

    Overwhelmed by the controversy of the Watergate Scandal, and facing the prospect of virtually certain impeachment and removal, Richard Nixon became the first president in American history to resign, leaving the office to Vice President Gerald Ford. Nixon was later pardoned by Ford and did not face prosecution.
  • Fall of Saigon

    Following more than a decade of American involvement in Vietnam, the South Vietnamese war effort collapsed and Communist forces closed in on the capital, Saigon. The city fell on April 30, 1975, ending the Vietnam War and unifying Vietnam under a Communist regime.