What happened in 1969? The war ended. The swinging sixties quivered with change. A chain of famous events in 1969 would change the world for the good and bad, leaving its mark in history as one of the most culturally defining years to date. Some of the year’s most notorious events: The first-ever Concorde test flight is conducted in France; 350,000 music fans attend Woodstock; the members of Charles Manson’s cult murder five people and the first man lands on the moon…
Headlines at the time from 1969 newspapers all detailed the tumultuous year still fresh in our minds.
January 2nd: Lorraine Hansberry’s play “To Be Young, Gifted & Black,” (1930-1965) premieres in NYC.
January 2nd: Media mogul Rupert Murdoch gains full control of media outlet “News of the World.”
January 2nd: “Operation Barrier Reef” commences in the Mekong Delta in Vietnam.
January 3rd: In Newark, NJ, a nude photo of John and Yoko on the cover of their album, “Two Virgins” violates pornography laws in Jersey. Police confiscate 30,000 copies of the album.
January 12th: The Super Bowl III takes place at the Orange Bowl in Miami. The New York Jets defeat the Baltimore Colts, 16-7.
January 20th: Richard Milhous Nixon succeeds Lyndon Baines Johnson as the 37th President of the United States of America.
January 15th: Yevgeny Khrunov (d.2000 at 67) becomes the first astronaut to transfer between linked capsules as the Russian Soyuz 5 goes into orbit.
January 20th: During his first inaugural address, Richard Nixon proclaims Americans “cannot learn from one another until we stop shouting at one another…the greatest honor history can bestow is the title of peacemaker. This honor now beckons America.”
January 25th: In Paris, the US-North Vietnamese peace talks begin, one of the major 1969 events of the month.
January 30th: The Beatles give their last public performance, on the roof of Apple Records. The impromptu concert is broken up by the police.
February 4th: John Madden is named head coach of the NFL’s Oakland Raiders.
February 6th: Angela Lansbury stars in the Broadway musical, Dear World at the Mark Hellinger Theatre, the musical adaptation of The Madwoman of Chaillot by Jean Giraudoux.
February 8th: Leopoldo Mendez, the Mexican graphic artist dies, famous for his political and social activism engraving for illustrations and print work.
February 9th: The world’s largest aeroplane, The Boeing 747, makes its first-ever commercial flight
February 13th: The Afro-American Society of Duke University leads a student takeover of the Allen building over the concerns of a lack of opportunities for Afro-American students and increasing black faculty.
February 17th: Peru and Russia sign their first-ever trade accord, a defining moment of 1969 events.
February 24th: The official ruling stating students have the right to express opinions at odds with the government is decried by the US Supreme Court in the Tinker vs. Des Moines School District case.
February 25th: In the village of Thanh Phong, over a dozen women, old men and children were killed in a raid in Vietnam involving Lt. Bob Kerry. The event would go on to shape the Vietnam generation and the futility of wars to come.
February 27th: Thousands of students protest the arrival of President Nixon’s visit to Rome.
March 1st: Micky Mantle announces his retirement from professional baseball for the New York Yankees.
March 1st: Lead singer of the Doors, Jim Morrison, was tried and convicted on two charges for exposing himself at Dinner Key Auditorium in Miami before 10,000 people.
March 2nd: The first test flight of The Concorde jetliner took place in Bristol, England.
March 3rd: Apollo 9 sets off for outer space from Cape Kennedy on a mission to test the lunar module and makes 151 Earth orbits over 10 days. Astronauts James McDivitt, David Scott and Russell Schweickart are on the spacecraft.
March 3rd: In Los Angeles, Sirhan Sirhan testifies in a court that he killed Robert Kennedy.
March 4th: At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Nobel Prize winner, George Wald declares his opposition to the war in Vietnam, conducting his speech: “A Generation in Search of a Future.”
March 10th: James Earl Ray pleads guilty to the murder of Dr Martin Luther King in Memphis, Tennesse and is sentenced to 99 years in jail.
March 23rd: Over 30,000 took part in the teenage crusade Rally for Decency in Miami. Teenagers organised the rally in protest of The Doors lead singer, Jim Morrison, charged for indecent exposure during a concert.
March 25th: John Lennon and Yoko Ono stage a bed-in for peace in Amsterdam.
March 28th: In Washington D.C., Dwight D. Eisenhower, former United States General and President, dies after a long illness in the Walter Reed Army Medical Centre.
April 4th: Dr. Denton Cooley implants the first temporary artificial heart in Houston, Texas.
April 6th: On foot, covering the 3,720 miles in 16 months, English explorer, Sir Wally Herbert reaches the North Pole and becomes the first man to cross the frozen surface of the Arctic Ocean.
April 14th: Oliver wins the best picture at the 41st Academy Awards whilst Barbara Streisand nominated for Funny Girl and Katherine Hepburn for Lion in Winter tie for best actress.
April 15th: Above the Sea of Japan, a US aeroplane is shot down by North Korea where all 31 persons are believed to have died.
April 16th: In Los Angeles, Sirhan Sirhan is convicted for assassinating Senator Robert F. Kennedy.
April 19th: In Ithaca, New York, some 80 armed, militant black students from Cornell University take over Willard Straight Hall demanding a black studies program and make a deal for total amnesty with the administrators.
April 23rd: Sirhan Sirhan is sentenced to death for assassinating Senator Robert F. Kennedy.
April 22nd: Robin Knox-Johnston becomes the first person to sail around the world without stopping and entirely on his own.
April 30th: Northern Irish candidate, Bernadette Devlin becomes the youngest woman ever elected to British Parliament, exposing the discrimination against Roman Catholics in Northern Ireland.
May 5th: N. Scott Momaday, the Kiowa author becomes the first American Indian to receive the Pulitzer Prize for Literature for “House Made of Dawn.”
May 7th: Commodore William Warwick sails The Cunard Queen Elizabeth 2 (QE2) into the New York Harbor for the first time.
May 12th: Placed in solitary confinement for seventeen months, Winnie Mandela is detained under South Africa’s Terrorism Act.
May 13th: One of the darkest cultural events in 1969: in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, deadly race riots take place.
May 14th: Canada officially legalises the use of contraception and the practice of abortion.
May 15th: Reagen declares martial law on UC Berkeley and the entire city as they try to build planned dorm buildings on People’s Park. 3,000 protesters try to seize it back but are waded off by riot police and tear gas. One man is shot and killed.
May 20th: Nine days of fighting cease and U.S. troops of the 101st Airborne Division and South Vietnamese forces captured Ap Bia Mountain, Hill 937. It is known as one of the bloodiest battles of the Vietnam War.
May 20th: 19-year-old Alex Rackley was fatally shot by Warren Kimbro, both members of the Black Panthers. Rackley was believed to be an FBI informant.
May 25th: “Midnight Cowboy” is released with an X rating, based upon James Leo Herlihy’s novel of the same name.
May 31st: During the “Bed-In” at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal, John Lennon and Yoko Ono record “Give Peace a Chance”.
June 2nd: 74 US sailors are killed as the destroyer USS Frank E. Evans is sliced in half by the Australian aircraft carrier Melbourne during NATO manoeuvres off the shore of South Vietnam.
June 6th: “Broadway Joe”, Joe Namath resigns from NFL prior to Pete Rozelle, the football commissioner stating he must sell his stake in a bar.
June 6th: The Gibraltar border with Spain, also known as “The Fence of Gibraltar” is closed by dictator General Franco.
June 7th: ABC premieres The Johnny Cash Show from the Grand Ole Opry. Bob Dylan is the special guest, including June Carter and Carter Family, Tennessee Three, Statler Brothers and Carl Perkins.
June 9th: President Nixon meets with Nguyen Van Thieu, President of South Vietnam at a joint press conference announcing the reduction of US troops in Vietnam.
June 17th: William Brent, a member of the Black Panther group hijacks a US aeroplane to Cuba and becomes the 28th person in this year to do so.
June 22nd: In London, American film actress, Judy Garland, the star of The Wizard of Oz dies.
June 22nd: The Cuyahoga River in Cleveland, Ohio, catches fire due to pollution levels in the water.
June 27th: The Denver Pop Festival opens for three days. An estimated 50,000 people attend throughout the event.
June 28th: New York’s Stonewall Inn, an underground gay bar, is raided by police on the grounds the bar refused to pay an increase in bribery. For three days, 400 to 1,000 patrons rioted against police. This clash came to be known as The Stonewall Rebellion, considered the birth of the homosexual rights movement.
July 1st: Prince Charles is invested with the title ’Prince of Wales’ at Caernarfon in a televised ceremony.
July 3rd: Founder of The Rolling Stones, Brian Jones dies at 27 years of age. His body was found at the bottom of Cotchford Farm swimming pool.
July 4th: The California Zodiac killer shoots a waitress in Vallejo. The shot is fatal, adding the woman to the list of victims of the unknown, notorious murderer.
July 7th: Less than a month after President Nixon implements the removal of U.S. troops in Vietnam, the first U.S. troops leave South Vietnam in Saigon.
July 7th: The final approval to make the French language equal to English throughout the national government is given by the Canadian House of Commons.
Jul 11th: David Bowie, music phenomenon and icon releases his single “Space Oddity”. A groundbreaking hit supposedly released in conjunction with the moon landing.
July 17th: The “New Left and Extremist Movements” from the FBI surfaced, revealing Reagan’s plans to destruct the disruption on California’s campuses through “psychological warfare”.
July 25th: In Chappaquiddick, a car driven by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy plunges off a bridge leading to the death of the passenger, Mary Jo Kopechne. Kennedy survives.
July 20th: Neil Armstrong becomes the first man to walk on the Moon.
July 31st: The halfpenny ceases to be legal tender in the United Kingdom.
August 2nd: Richard Nixon becomes the first president to visit a communist nation, Romania, since the beginning of the Cold War.
August 8th: Cult Leader Charles Manson and a group of his disciples murder five people including Sharon Tate, in her Los Angeles home.
August 12th: A Protestant fraternal group known as the Apprentice Boys lead a parade in Northern Ireland, causing riots. Attacks on Loyalist Catholics lead to riots in Belfast also. A bloody period known as “The Troubles”.
August 14th: One of the key 1969 events, British troops are deployed in Northern Ireland following the three-day Battle of the Bogside.
August 15th: In New York, The Woodstock Music and Art Fair opens with over 400,000 young people in attendance. Performers feature Ravi Shankar; Crosby, Stills and Nash; Joan Baez; the Grateful Dead; Creedence Clearwater; Jimi Hendrix; Janis Joplin; the Jefferson Airplane and Canned Heat.
August 18th: Two people die at The Woodstock Music and Art Fair in New York. One concertgoer died from a heroin overdose and the other died from a burst appendix.
August 19th: A three-day recording session takes place for Miles Davis and three other performers. The album, Bitches Brew is created.
August 31st: Andrew Phillip Cunanan is born. The would-be serial killer becomes notorious for murdering Gianni Versace, later made into a series, The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story.
August 31st: The day before his 46th birthday, the legendary boxer, Rocky Marciano dies in an aeroplane crash over Iowa.
September 1st: Drenched in racial unrest and disputes between classes, activism breaks lose as race riots begin in Hartford, Connecticut.
September 1st: In protest to the British government’s involvement with the events in Biafra and their support of U.S. troops in Vietnam, John Lennon returns his OBE medal.
September 1st: King Idris is overthrown by a coup in Libya. The revolutionary government is now led by Moammar Gadhafi. The termination of a U.S. Air Force Base is put in place.
September 2nd: Ho Chi Minh, the North Vietnamese president dies. He is one of the founders of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam in 1945.
September 4th: A report by the US Food and Drug Administration is released claiming birth control pills are safe. There is a concern of possible blood-clotting associated with the pills.
September 24th: Known for their anti-Vietnam War protests, the trial of “The Chicago Eight” begins.
September 26th: The Beatles release their Abbey Road album, receiving critical praise and enormous commercial success.
September 26th: ABC premieres The Brady Bunch, the comedy series created by Sherwood Schwartz.
September 30th: The German minister of armaments, Albert Speer and Baldur von Schirach, the leader of the Hitler Youth, are freed from Spandau prison. The two Nazi war criminals served in total twenty-year prison sentences.
September 30th: The first African-American superhero, Sam “The Falcon” Wilson is introduced in the Captain America series by Marvel Comics and becomes the new patriotic avenger.
October 5th: One of the greatest cultural events in 1969 for Britain, Monty Python’s Flying Circus airs on BBC One for the first time.
October 11th: In Presidio Heights, Washington, cab driver Paul Stine is shot and killed. This is the last known murder of The Zodiac killer.
October 12th: Nancy Ann Kerrigan, the figure skater is born. She would later be referred to in the biopic, I, Tonya, with Margot Robbie playing Tonya Harding.
October 15th: A candlelight march and other activities are staged by peace demonstrators around the White House and the streets of Washington as part of Vietnam Moratorium Day.
October 16th: Capping a momentous season, the New York Mets win the World Series in Game 5, a 5-3 triumph over the Baltimore Orioles.
October 18th: Cyclamates found in artificial sweeteners are banned by the U.S. federal government due to evidence they caused cancer found laboratory rat test subjects.
October 18th: “Nativity”, the painting by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio is stolen from the Oratory of San Lorenzo in Palermo, Sicily.
October 21st: Author and prolific presence of the Beat generation, Jack Kerouac, dies of alcoholism in St. Petersburg.
October 29th: Samuel Beckett, the Irish author of Endgame and Waiting for Godot is awarded the Nobel prize in Literature.
October 29th: Economists Jan Timbergen and Ragnar Frisch are awarded the first Nobel Prize in Economics for developing and harnessing the dynamic models for the analysis of economic processes.
November 3rd: In Cairo, the Arab League make a deal that gives the PLO in Lebanon refugee camps freedom from government interference as they plan to recruit and train fighters for their army.
November 9th: Alcatraz Island is occupied by a group of American Indians. The events go on to inspire Troy R. Johnson to chronicle the story.
November 15th: Regular color television broadcasts begin on BBC One and ITV.
November 15th: 250 thousand protesters stage a peaceful demonstration against the Vietnam War in Washington D.C.
November 19th: Football great Pelé scores his 1,000th goal.
November 20th: 80 Native American college students seize Alcatraz Island in the name of “Indians of All Tribes”, explaining why the island should become an Indian reservation.
November 24th: The My Lai Massacre, the mass murder of unarmed South Vietnamese civilians at the hands of U.S. troops, is investigated.
November 25th: John Lennon returns his MBE medal in protest to the British government’s support of the war in Vietnam.
November 28th: The Let It Bleed album, with the famous cake made by Delia Smith, is released by the English rock band, The Rolling Stones.
November 28th: Andy Warhol and Gerard Malanga create “Interview” magazine, known as “The Crystal Ball of Pop”, featuring celebrity interviews, features and cutting-edge graphics.
December 1st: The Heads of State and Government of six European countries meet in The Hague to establish the methods of putting in place the European integration process on the initiative of the French President, Georges Pompidou.
December 3rd: Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice offer John Lennon the role to play Jesus Christ in the rock opera, Jesus Christ Superstar.
December 4th: Fred Hampton and Mark Clark, two members of the Black Panther party are murdered by Chicago police in an apartment on the West Side.
December 6th: At the Altamont Speedway in Livermore, California, The Rolling Stones stage a concert and hire the Hells Angels for security. Four people die, leading to a documentary featuring the events called Gimme Shelter.
December 8th: Over two separate locations, the Los Angeles police make surprise attacks on Black Panthers. Party members and children are arrested by some 400 police officers. A shoot-out involving Roland Freeman leaves him with mass bullet wounds. He survives.
December 14th: Michael Jackson makes his first show appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show with brothers and sisters as The Jackson 5.
December 17th: NBC’s “Tonight Show” hosted by Johnny Carson airs Tiny Tim’s marriage to fiancé, Miss Vicky with an estimated 50 million TV viewers.
December 18th: In Britain, the House of Lords votes to abolish the death penalty in England, Wales and Scotland, later followed by Northern Ireland on 25th July 1973.
December 30th: The robbery at the Clydesdale Bank, Bridge Street in Linwood Scotland, leaves two police officers dead.
December 30th: Ferdinand Marcos wins his second term as president of the Philippines by an unprecedented landslide vote.
Apollo 11 Moon Landings
On July 20th, Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon, one of the most historic cultural events in 1969. Apollo 11 landed with Armstrong and Lunar Module Pilot Buzz Aldrin. It was the fifth mission by NASA’s Apollo program. Whilst technology was defying gravity, David Bowie was soaring through the charts with Space Oddity. These are some of the most defining events during the summer of 1969.
Woodstock Music Festival
Music wasn’t solely art. In 1969 it became a platform to send a message. The Denver Pop Festival opened on June 27th with 50,000 people in attendance. Shortly after, The Woodstock Music and Art Fair was in full force on the 15th August with 400,000 attendees. People were gathering to hear the voices of their generation, those like themselves, ordinary, but with the belief that there was more to the world than the chaos of war around them.
Chaos ensued. Two concertgoers died: one of a heroin overdose and the other from a burst appendix. Other famous events in 1969 were about to follow. New York’s Stonewall Inn, an underground gay bar was raided by police. It was a place for the marginalized of the gay community.
Charles Manson and the Manson Family
What happened in 1969? Social and political movements were exploding at every corner; the Civil Rights Movements, the emerging counterculture of the 1960s and the Anti-Vietnam War Movement. One of the single-most shocking events was the murder of Sharon Tate and four other victims in her Los Angeles home at the hands of the cult leader, Charles Manson and a group of his subjects. You can read more about how this shocking event was reported in our Tate murder newspaper blog.
The summer of 1969 events paralleled revolutionary freedom and abuse of power. A surging music scene swept the youths no longer held by conscription, whilst others were submerged in activism, battling the devastating revelations of the Vietnam War and protesting race inequality and police brutality.