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Released on the 50th anniversary of this tumultuous year, 1968: In Hindsight looks at key global issues, then and now. Through scholarship and conversation, this six-part series dives into questions from 50 years ago that still matter today. More on 1968.
Today income inequality is cited by Americans as a major issue facing the United States. But income inequality did not suddenly become an issue in 2008 with the Great Recession. Income inequality was already a political issue in the 1960s, spurred largely by demands of African American activists within the Civil Rights movement. The issue came to a head in 1968 with a debate over a Universal Basic Income, Martin Luther King Jr.'s Poor People's Campaign, and the deteriorating conditions in American cities that laid bare the stark inequalities of American society. View episode info >
When this episode was recorded, the war in Afghanistan had become America's longest-running military conflict. Before that war, the longest conflict for American forces was the war in Vietnam. 1968 was a pivotal year in that war, for the North Vietnamese, South Vietnamese, and the United States. After the Tet Offensive, which killed tens of thousands of people, the war remained stalemated for another seven years despite leaders on both sides continuing to promise that an end was near. View episode info >
Americans today repeatedly express dissatisfaction with government and doubt its ability to do what is right. This was not always the case. In the early 1960s, trust in the government neared 80 percent. Over the course of the decade, trust in government declined, and events in 1968 brought that long process of erosion to a head. These events included the war in Vietnam, violence in American cities, and the chaotic events in and around the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, broadcast into the homes of 90 million viewers. View episode info >
After World War II, dozens of newly independent states emerged as colonial empires folded. In Africa, these states had to learn how to engage in international politics and build cohesive national politics--often framed and delivered in the language and promises of "development." By 1968, the promises of development were running up against the realities of independence, as states struggled to make headway at the United Nations and solve problems at home. These dynamics still exist 50 years later. View episode info >
Student activism is a defining cultural memory of the late 1960s. In 1968, student demonstrations occurred in Paris, Berlin, Tokyo, Rome, Warsaw, New York and other cities around the world. But perhaps the bloodiest demonstrations were in Mexico, on the eve of the Olympic Games. Student demonstrators and their supporters took to the streets--and were massacred by government forces. The case of Mexico illuminates some of the forces animating these "restless youth," and helps to draw connections to a legacy of student protest that lives on today. View episode info >
Today we may take for granted that we have a planetary consciousness and an awareness of Earth as the only life-filled planet amid the vast darkness of space. But it is only recently, within the past 50 years, that this perspective emerged. Environmental consciousness, which had been growing for decades, gained firm footing in the 1960s as reformers chronicled industrialization's hazardous effects on air, water, and the climate. At the same time, the Space Age increasingly documented the character of the cosmos beyond Earth. In 1968, for the very first time, three astronauts left Earth orbit; the photograph they sent back changed how we think about the planet. View episode info >