American Experience Presents 1964

An Examination of the Year that Transformed America 

Premieres Tuesday, January 14, 2014

7:00-9:00 p.m. on Panhandle PBS

1964 was the year the Beatles came to America, Cassius Clay became Muhammad Ali, and three civil rights workers were murdered in Mississippi. It was the year when Berkeley students rose up in protest, African Americans fought back against injustice in Harlem, and Barry Goldwater’s conservative revolution took over the Republican Party. In myriad ways, 1964 was the year when Americans faced choices: between the liberalism of Lyndon Johnson or Barry Goldwater’s grassroots conservatism, between support or opposition to the civil rights movement, between an embrace of the emerging counterculture or a defense of traditional values. Based in part on The Last Innocent Year: America in 1964 by Jon Margolis, 1964 follows some of the most influential figures of the time — Lyndon Johnson, Barry Goldwater, Betty Friedan — but also brings out from the shadows the stories of ordinary Americans whose principled stands would set the country onto a new and different course. “1964 was when, for better or worse, the outlines of the America we live in began to be visible,” says Writer/Director Stephen Ives. 1964 premieres on American Experience on Tuesday, January 14, 2014, 7:00-9:00 p.m. on Panhandle PBS.

As champagne popped on December 31, 1963, America’s optimism was tinged with a deep anxiety. Just five weeks earlier, President Kennedy had been assassinated, leaving Americans shaken and vulnerable. Eight days into the new year, the new President, Lyndon Johnson, gave his first State of the Union address, demanding an end to racial injustice and an “unconditional war on poverty in America.” Only a few days earlier, Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater had announced his intention to seek the Republican nomination for president, igniting a conservative movement that would reshape the politics of 1964 and transform the American political landscape for generations to come.

Everywhere one looked in 1964, old conventions and attitudes were under assault. The arrival of the Beatles electrified teenagers across the country. One day after shocking the sports world by defeating Sonny Liston and becoming the heavyweight champion of the world, the young Cassius Clay announced he had become a Muslim, declaring, “I don't have to be what you want me to be. I am free to be who I want.” It was a mantra that seemed to be rippling throughout American society in 1964. Housewives across America were finding a new voice as well. Awakened by Betty Friedan’s bestseller The Feminine Mystique, millions of mostly middle-class women began to reject their conventional roles in society and embrace new identities and new values, sparking a feminist movement that would transform American culture. 

In the spring, visitors flocked to the New York World’s Fair where the stylish Ford Mustang made its debut. On the political front, seismic change could also be felt. At his commencement address at the University of Michigan, President Johnson called upon the graduates to help him build a “Great Society,” and used his legendary powers of persuasion to engineer the passage of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964. But even with such a historic federal commitment to advance the cause of equality, racial unrest, in both the rural South and the cities of the North, would continue to fester.

“In 1964, we see everything being called into question, from our relationship with our government and the military to our notions of free speech and individual freedom,” says American Experience Executive Producer Mark Samels. “We see the schisms widen between young and old and liberal and conservative. 1964 was the year that America came apart, and out of that discord was born the America we have become.”

1964 will be available on DVD on January 15, 2014, as well as for online viewing at pbs.org.

About Panhandle PBS                                                                                                                           Panhandle PBS provides a gathering place for intelligent, trusted community engagement to enlighten, entertain and empower the people of the Texas Panhandle and the world. Licensed to Amarillo College, the station extends the community college philosophy of improving the quality of life for all residents. Panhandle PBS broadcasts on Channel 2.1 in digital High Definition carrying PBS programming and Channel 2.2 in digital Standard Definition carrying Spanish language V-Me programming. For more information, please visit www.panhandlePBS.org.

About American Experience

Television’s most-watched history series, American Experience celebrates its 25th anniversary in 2013. The series has been hailed as “peerless” (The Wall Street Journal), “the most consistently enriching program on television” (Chicago Tribune), and “a beacon of intelligence and purpose” (Houston Chronicle). On air and online, the series brings to life the incredible characters and epic stories that have shaped America’s past and present. Acclaimed by viewers and critics alike, American Experience documentaries have been honored with every major broadcast award, including 30 Emmy Awards, four duPont-Columbia Awards, and 16 George Foster Peabody Awards, one most recently for the series represented by Freedom Riders, Triangle Fire and Stonewall Uprising

Exclusive corporate funding for American Experience is provided by Liberty Mutual Insurance. Major funding provided by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and Public Television Viewers. American Experience is produced for PBS by WGBH Boston.

 

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For further information and photos visit http://www.pbs.org/pressroom

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