A Turbulent Time: How the Late 1960s Challenged American Democracy and Culture

Burton Atkins
Movies / History

Course Description

The late 1960s, and especially 1968, was a tumultuous and challenging time in the United States and around the world. Mass protests against the war in Vietnam and in support of civil rights and racial equality were commonplace. Urban unrest racked major American cities. The assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy, coming so soon after President Kennedy’s assassination, led many to fear that the country’s democratic foundations were crumbling, and the chaos surrounding the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago only confirmed, for many, that our basic institutions were indeed under threat and weren’t to be trusted. A social and political counter-culture, spawned largely on college campuses, used everything from protest to music to inspire resistance to the “establishment” and, by the late 1960s, its influence was spreading throughout American society. Everything from politics to popular culture seemed touched by these events. This presentation will be a retrospective analysis of this turbulent time. Using clips from several notable movies such as Cool Hand Luke, The Graduate, In the Heat of the Night, and Easy Rider, as well as music and other aspects of popular culture, the lecture will examine how the events of the late 1960s left an indelible mark on our country and its values.

About the Instructor

  • Burton Atkins, PhD, is Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Florida State University (FSU). Currently, he teaches political science at FAU and for Penn State University. In his 35-year career at FSU, Atkins taught a variety of courses on and wrote extensively about constitutional law and U.S. politics and served as chair of the political science department. He lived in London from 1992 to 1997 while serving as the Director of FSU's London Study Center and from 1997 until his retirement in 2006, he served as Director of the FSU International Affairs Program.