A lot of things turned 50 this year. My mom, for one. My sister and I threw a huge party for her, and, as part of the weekend celebration, I checked out a PBS documentary for American Experience called 1964. The film covers the eventful year. Lyndon B Johnson is elected President of the United States (a post he’d been filling since JFK’s assassination in November of 1963). Barry Goldwater rejuvenates Conservative Republicans and nearly becomes President. Johnson pushes an historic civil rights bill through Congress. James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner, civil rights workers in Mississippi, are murdered. African Americans protest in Harlem because of the constant breeches to their civil liberties. Students at Berkley protest to exorcise their right of free speech on campus. Betty Friedan publishes The Feminine Mystique. Cassius Clay defeats Sonny Liston for the Heavy Weight Title and becomes Muhammad Ali. The Beatles come to America.
A moving highlight of the film is the eulogy for James Chaney given by civil rights leader Rev. David Dennis. His speech expresses the grief and the outrage of the time. This event and many others are detailed with video and photos from the time, as well as contemporary interviews with the people who lived through it (including Rev. Dennis) or studied that time period. Whether you were alive in 1964 or (like me) were not, this documentary is an intriguing glimpse into American history.