Most Important Event the Year You Were Born

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1957: The Little Rock Nine
> Date: Sept 24
> Location: Little Rock, Arkansas

U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower orders federal troops to protect nine African American high school students as they start classes at the all-white Little Rock Central High School. This would become one of the first high-profile actions by the federal government against state-level racial segregation.

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1958: US Launches First Satellite
> Date: Jan. 31
> Location: Cape Canaveral, Florida

The United States successfully launches Explorer 1, three months after the Soviet Union sent its first satellite, Sputnik, into orbit. The two superpowers would go on to send more satellites into space, creating a Cold War space race to build ever more sophisticated orbital communications devices.

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1959: Castro Takes Over Cuba
> Date: Jan. 1
> Location: Havana

U.S.-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista flees Havana as Fidel Castro’s forces advance on the Cuban capital. Days later, rebels led by Che Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos enter the city, followed two days later by Castro’s forces, who quickly consolidate power in Cuba, establishing a communist government in the Caribbean’s largest country.

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1960: Lunch Counter Sit-in
> Date: Feb. 1
> Location: Greensboro, North Carolina

When four African American college students — Ezell A. Blair, Franklin E. McCain, Joseph A. McNeil and David L. Richmond — sit down at a Woolworth’s lunch counter and ask for service, they are denied. The young men refuse to leave, leading to a larger six-month protest that results in the desegregation of the lunch counter by that summer.

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1961: Berlin Wall Built
> Date: Aug. 13
> Location: Berlin, East and West Germany

By the late summer of 1961, the loss of skilled workers such as teachers, engineers, and doctors to the West reaches crisis levels in East Germany. On Aug. 12, 2,400 East Germans cross into West Berlin, the most in a single day. The next day, with the approval of Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, East Germany builds a wall that would extend 27 miles through Berlin, dividing families and friends for the next 28 years. The wall would serve as an enduring symbol of the Cold War, used by presidents John Kennedy and Ronald Reagan to inspire a divided city.

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1962: Cuban Missile Crisis
> Date: Oct.16-28
> Location: Multiple

When the United States learns that the Soviet Union is building nuclear missile installations 90 miles south of Miami in communist Cuba, the Kennedy administration starts a naval blockade around the island, which is at times tested, and Kennedy demands the removal of the missiles.The standoff is widely considered to be the closest the two nuclear superpowers come to direct military confrontation. Cooler heads prevail. The Soviet Union offers to remove the missiles in exchange for a guarantee that the United States will not invade Cuba. In secret, the administration also agrees to withdraw U.S. missiles from Turkey.

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1963: JFK Assassinated
> Date: Nov. 22
> Location: Dallas

As John F. Kennedy prepares for his re-election bid, the 34th president of the United States embarks on a multi-state tour in September 1963. He is murdered by a sharpshooter’s bullet fired by Lee Harvey Oswald at about 12:30 p.m. as his motorcade passed through Dealey Plaza in Dallas. Oswald himself is murdered two days later by nightclub owner Jack Ruby.

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1964: LBJ’s “War on Poverty”
> Date: Jan. 8
> Location: Washington D.C.

Bogged down by the Vietnam War, President Lyndon B. Johnson struggles constantly to pivot away from the war to focus on his stated goals of reducing poverty, ending segregation, and establishing the social programs many Americans rely on to this day, including the immensely popular Medicare program. During his “War on Poverty” State of the Union Address of Jan. 8, 1964, LBJ outlines the need for the country to reduce poverty, end racial discrimination, attend to the health needs of the elderly, and other progressive goals. LBJ later ushers in the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Social Security Amendments of 1965.

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1965: Civil Rights Turns Violent
> Date: March 7
> Location: Selma, Alabama

The fatal shooting of protester Jimmy Lee Jackson by an Alabama state trooper sparks a march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. Hundreds of civil rights activists march in what becomes known as “Bloody Sunday.” Police would confront the marchers, led by John Lewis (who is a House Democrat from Georgia) and others. As the activists cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge, police attack the protesters with tear gas and billy clubs, hospitalizing 50.

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1966: Mao Purges Rivals
> Date: Aug. 13
> Location: Beijing

At the end of a weeklong session of the Communist Party Central Committee of the People’s Republic of China, Chairman Mao Zedong condemns the political elites, calling on China’s youth to rebel against the entrenched political hierarchy. It is the beginning of the decade-long Cultural Revolution that fundamentally transforms Chinese society. Intellectuals, members of the former Nationalist government, and people with ties to Western powers are persecuted, sent to re-education labor camps, or killed by the factions of Red Guards formed in the wake of Mao’s call to action.