The World in 1961


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57 years ago, much of the world was in a broad state of change: We were moving out of the post-World War II era, and into both the Cold War and the Space Age, with broadening civil rights movements and anti-nuclear protests in the U.S. In 1961, John F. Kennedy was inaugurated as the 35th president of the United States, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human to fly in space, Freedom Riders took buses into the South to bravely challenge segregation, and East Germany began construction of the Berlin Wall. That year JFK oversaw the early buildup of a U.S. military presence in Vietnam: by the end of 1961, some 2,000 troops were deployed there. Let me take you 57 years into the past now, for a look at the world as it was in 1961.

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John F. Kennedy speaks for the first time as President of the United States in front of the Capitol in Washington, D.C., on January 20, 1961.

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Singer Bobby Darin stands beside a hand-made automobile called the "Bobby Darin Dream Car," unveiled on March 31, 1961, in Hollywood.

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Soviet cosmonaut Major Yuri Gagarin (right), shakes hand with Leonid Brezhnev, the General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

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Police and secret service struggle to free President elect John F. Kennedy (center) from a surging mass of Harvard students in Harvard yard in Cambridge, on January 9, 1961.

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Not a car is visible on Malecon Drive in Havana, Cuba, as Fidel Castro's forces take over, using it for defense purposes. A single rifle-toting militiaman walks along the drive in Havana, on January 6, 1961.

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Fidel Castro sits in a tank during the Bay of Pigs Invasion in April of 1961. Some 1,300 Cuban exiles invaded Cuba, attempting to overthrow the government of the Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. The invasion failed disastrously, with 90 of the invaders killed, and the rest captured.

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Freedom riders stand at a ticket counter of the bus station in Montgomery, Alabama, on May 24, 1961, as they purchase tickets to continue their ride through the south. At center is integration leader Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.

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One of the Freedom Riders being arrested 1961.

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A Freedom Rider bus goes up in flames after a firebomb was tossed through a window near Anniston, Alabama, in May of 1961.

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George Lincoln Rockwell, center, self-styled leader of the American Nazi Party, and his "hate bus" with several young men wearing swastika arm bands, stops for gas in Montgomery, Alabama, on May 23, 1961.

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New York Yankees' centerfielder Mickey Mantle completes his swing as he hits his 49th homer of the season in the first inning against the Detroit Tigers at Yankee Stadium, New York, September 3, 1961.

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In Seattle, Washington, the Space Needle is under construction in 1961, as the city prepares for the upcoming 1962 World's Fair.

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Argentinean Alex Mitoff reels from an attack by Cassius Clay in the sixth round of a boxing match from Louisville, Kentucky, on October 7, 1961.

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Space suit worn by Astronaut Alan B. Shepard, Jr., is given final testing on May 5, 1961 before America's first manned rocket flight.

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Ocean rescue, as a helicopter lifts NASA astronaut Alan Shepard from the water in May of 1961.

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Adolf Eichmann stands in his glass cage, in the Jerusalem courtroom where he was tried in 1961 for war crimes committed during World War II.

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An American Apache Indian kneels down to kiss the hand of Pope John XXIII during an audience with him at the Vatican in Rome, Italy, May 16, 1961.

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Actress Marilyn Monroe, as captured by photographer Len Steckler in December of 1961.

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A dog sits in the middle of an empty Times Square during 10-minute civil defense test air raid alert in New York, on April 28, 1961.

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John F. Kennedy points to a map of Laos during a press conference in Washington, on March 1961, as he states that the communist threat to Laos is "difficult and potentially dangerous".

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North Korea's leader Kim Il Sung in 1961.

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Some of the first stone blocks of the Berlin Wall are laid in August of 1961, shortly after the border between East and West Berlin was sealed.

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East German workers assemble a wall of concrete blocks in the French sector of East Berlin, on August 15, 1961.

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A U.S. tank takes position at the sector border in Berlin, Germany in 1961, pointing towards Soviet tanks across the border in East Berlin.

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First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, at work in 1961.

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Astronaut Alan Shepard, at left, receives a medal from President John F. Kennedy, in Washington, D.C. in 1961.

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Louis "Satchmo" Armstrong, atop a camel, enchants the ancient sphinx and pyramids at Giza, near Cairo, Egypt, on January 28, 1961.

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