Civil rights protesters beaten in “Bloody Sunday” attack

On March 7, 1965, in Selma, Alabama, a 600-person civil rights demonstration ends in violence when marchers are attacked and beaten by white state troopers and sheriff’s deputies. The day’s events became known as “Bloody Sunday.”

The demonstrators—led by civil rights activists John Lewis of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and Hosea Williams of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference—were commemorating the recent fatal shooting of Jimmie Lee Jackson, a 26-year-old church deacon, by state trooper James Bonard Fowler. The group planned to march the 54 miles from Selma to Montgomery, the state capital. Just as they crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge outside Selma, they were ordered to disperse. Moments later, police assaulted them with tear gas, bullwhips and billy clubs. Lewis, then 25, was one of 17 marchers hospitalized; dozens more were treated for injuries. 

The violence was broadcast on TV and recounted in newspapers, spurring demonstrations in 80 cities across the nation within days. On March 9, Martin Luther King, Jr. led more than 2,000 marchers to the Edmund Pettus Bridge. On March 15, President Lyndon B. Johnson spoke on the need for voting reform, something activists in Selma had long been fighting for: “There is no issue of states’ rights or national rights. There is only the struggle for human rights. We have already waited 100 years and more, and the time for waiting is gone.”

King completed the march to Montgomery, along with 25,000 demonstrators, on March 25, under the protection of the U.S. military and the FBI. The route is now a U.S. National Historic Trail. Prodded by what Johnson called “the outrage of Selma,” the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was signed into law five months later, with the purpose to “right that wrong.” Lewis became a U.S. congressman from Georgia in 1986. 

READ MORE: How Selma’s ‘Bloody Sunday’ Became a Turning Point in the Civil Rights Movement

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Delano Grape Strike begins

Year
1965
Month Day
September 08

September 8, 1965 marks the beginning of one of the most important strikes in American history. As over 2,000 Filipino-American farm workers refused to go to work picking grapes in the valley north of Bakersfield, California, they set into motion a chain of events that would extend over the next five years. We know it as the Delano Grape Strike.

READ MORE: When Millions of Americans Stopped Eating Grapes in Support of Farm Workers

Filipino and Mexican immigrants had worked for decades along the West Coast, moving with the seasons to harvest the region’s crops. The Filipino contingent in particular was growing restless, as many of the workers were aging and anxious for decent medical care and retirement funds. When one of their number, labor organizer Larry Itliong, declared a strike on September 8, he asked for the support of the National Farm Workers Association and its Mexican-American founders, Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta. Although Chavez had reservations about his union’s capacity to pull off the strike, he put the issue to the workers, who enthusiastically joined.

The strike lasted five years and went through a number of phases. From the outset, the already poor farm workers faced opposition from law enforcement and cruel attempts at sabotage by the growers—some reported that farmers shut off the water supply to their meager dormitories. As frustration grew and workers increasingly spoke of violence three years into the strike, Chavez decided to go on a hunger strike, emulating his hero Mahatma Gandhi. In addition to ending the calls for violence, the hunger strike drew further attention to the movement, earning praise from figures like Martin Luther King, Jr., and Senator Robert F. Kennedy.

The union, by then known as the United Farm Workers, also called for a boycott of table grapes. Individual households stopped buying grapes, and union workers in California dockyards let non-union grapes rot in port rather than load them. Eventually, the industry could take no more, and the growers came to the table. In July of 1970, most of the major growers in the Delano area agreed to pay grape pickers $1.80 an hour (plus 20 cents for each box picked), contribute to the union health plan, and ensure that their workers were protected against pesticides used in the fields.

“We said from the beginning that we were not going to abandon the fight, that we would stay with the struggle if lit took a lifetime, and we meant it,” Chavez said of the grueling strike. “[Soon] all grapes will be sweet grapes again.”

READ MORE: Cesar Chavez: His Life and Legacy

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Fidel Castro announces that Cubans are free to leave the island

Year
1965
Month Day
September 28

On September 28, 1965, six years after he led the Cuban Revolution and four years after the failed U.S.-backed Bay of Pigs Invasion, Fidel Castro announces that any Cuban who wished to leave the island was free to do so. With Cuban forces no longer blocking civilians from leaving, a massive wave of emigration ensued, bringing hundreds of thousands of Cuban immigrants to Florida.

Poverty and political repression had brought about Castro’s revolution, but much remained the same under the new regime. As Castro became increasingly vocal about his belief in socialism and opposition to American imperialism, he faced dissent from political opponents at home and hostility from the American political establishment. The year after the Bay of Pigs, the United States and Soviet Union nearly went to war over the latter’s placement of nuclear missiles on the island. Due to the recent hostilities, many Americans assumed Castro was behind the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963, although no such evidence has ever emerged. Castro refused to allow Cubans to leave for America, although a number of dissenters and supporters of the deposed Batista regime did succeed in escaping.

With further anti-government protests and widespread poverty, due in no small part to the American embargo on all trade with Cuba, Castro believed his society was close to the breaking point. He therefore announced on September 28th that those who wished to leave were free to do so. Immediately, several thousand refugees boarded boats at the port of Camiorca, leading to a haphazard crossing that threatened to overwhelm the U.S. Coast Guard and immigration authorities. As the continuation of such perilous crossings was in neither’s interest, the U.S. and Cuba engaged in surprisingly cooperative negotiations, resulting in the “Freedom Flights” airlift program.

For the next eight years, ten flights a week left Cuba for Miami, and many Cubans waited years for their spot on the planes. Roughly 300,000 made the trip. This mass movement of people had several major effects on both countries. Castro was able to rid the island of many dissenters, although their departure was a propaganda victory for the Americans and may have led to significant “brain drain” in Cuba. It also markedly changed the demographics of Miami—it was during this period that the city’s Little Havana neighborhood became a permanent enclave for Cuban culture, and as of the 2010 census 34.4 percent of Miami residents were of Cuban origin.

READ MORE: How the Castro Family Dominated Cuba for Nearly 60 Years

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Lawrence Joel awarded Medal of Honor

Year
1965
Month Day
November 08

For action this day in the Iron Triangle northwest of Saigon, Specialist Five Lawrence Joel, a medic with the 1st Battalion, 503rd Airborne Infantry, 173rd Airborne Brigade is awarded the Medal of Honor, becoming the first living African American since the Spanish-American War to receive the nation’s highest award for valor.

When his unit was outnumbered in an attack by an enemy force, Specialist Joel, who suffered a severe leg wound in the early stages of the battle, continued to administer aid to his wounded comrades. Wounded a second time—with a bullet lodged deep in his lungs—Joel continued to treat the wounded, completely disregarding the battle raging around him and his own safety. Even after the 24-hour battle had subsided, Joel, a 38-year-old father of two, continued to treat and comfort the wounded until his own evacuation was ordered.

President Johnson presented the Medal of Honor to Specialist Joel on March 9, 1967, in ceremonies held on the South Lawn of the White House.

Also on this day: Edward W. Brooke (R-Massachusetts) becomes the first African American elected to Senate. In California, former movie actor Ronald Reagan was elected governor.

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Martin Luther King, Jr. begins the march from Selma to Montgomery


Year
1965
Month Day
March 21

In the name of African American voting rights, 3,200 civil rights demonstrators in Alabama, led by Martin Luther King, Jr., begin a historic march from Selma to Montgomery, the state’s capital. Federalized Alabama National Guardsmen and FBI agents were on hand to provide safe passage for the march, which twice had been turned back by Alabama state police at Selma’s Edmund Pettus Bridge.

In 1965, King and his Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) decided to make the small town of Selma the focus of their drive to win voting rights for African Americans in the South. Alabama’s governor, George Wallace, was a vocal opponent of the African-American civil rights movement, and local authorities in Selma had consistently thwarted efforts by the Dallas County Voters League and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) to register local blacks.

Although Governor Wallace promised to prevent it from going forward, on March 7 some 600 demonstrators, led by SCLC leader Hosea Williams and SNCC leader John Lewis, began the 54-mile march to the state capital. After crossing Edmund Pettus Bridge, they were met by Alabama state troopers and posse men who attacked them with nightsticks, tear gas and whips after they refused to turn back.

READ MORE: Civil Rights Movement Timeline

Several of the protesters were severely beaten, and others ran for their lives. The incident was captured on national television and outraged many Americans.

King, who was in Atlanta at the time, promised to return to Selma immediately and lead another attempt. On March 9, King led another marching attempt, but turned the marchers around when state troopers again blocked the road.

On March 21, U.S. Army troops and federalized Alabama National Guardsmen escorted the marchers across Edmund Pettus Bridge and down Highway 80. When the highway narrowed to two lanes, only 300 marchers were permitted, but thousands more rejoined the Alabama Freedom March as it came into Montgomery on March 25.

On the steps of the Alabama State Capitol, King addressed live television cameras and a crowd of 25,000, just a few hundred feet from the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, where he got his start as a minister in 1954.

READ MORE: How Selma’s ‘Bloody Sunday’ Became a Turning Point in the Civil Rights Movement

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Winston Churchill dies


Year
1965
Month Day
January 24

Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill, the British leader who guided Great Britain and the Allies through the crisis of World War II, dies in London at the age of 90.

Born at Blenheim Palace in 1874, Churchill joined the British Fourth Hussars upon his father’s death in 1895. During the next five years, he enjoyed an illustrious military career, serving in India, the Sudan, and South Africa, and distinguishing himself several times in battle. In 1899, he resigned his commission to concentrate on his literary and political career and in 1900 was elected to Parliament as a Conservative MP from Oldham. In 1904, he joined the Liberals, serving in a number of important posts before being appointed Britain’s first lord of the admiralty in 1911, where he worked to bring the British navy to a readiness for the war that he foresaw.

In 1915, in the second year of World War I, Churchill was held responsible for the disastrous Dardanelles and Gallipoli campaigns, and he was excluded from the war coalition government. He resigned and volunteered to command an infantry battalion in France. However, in 1917, he returned to politics as a cabinet member in the Liberal government of Lloyd George. From 1919 to 1921, he was secretary of state for war and in 1924 returned to the Conservative Party, where two years later he played a leading role in the defeat of the General Strike of 1926. Out of office from 1929 to 1939, Churchill issued unheeded warnings of the threat of Nazi and Japanese aggression.

After the outbreak of World War II in Europe, Churchill was called back to his post as first lord of the admiralty and eight months later replaced the ineffectual Neville Chamberlain as prime minister of a new coalition government. In the first year of his administration, Britain stood alone against Nazi Germany, but Churchill promised his country and the world that the British people would “never surrender.” He rallied the British people to a resolute resistance and expertly orchestrated Franklin D. Roosevelt and Joseph Stalin into an alliance that crushed the Axis.

In July 1945, 10 weeks after Germany’s defeat, his Conservative government suffered a defeat against Clement Attlee’s Labour Party, and Churchill resigned as prime minister. He became leader of the opposition and in 1951 was again elected prime minister. Two years later, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature for his six-volume historical study of World War II and for his political speeches; he was also knighted by Queen Elizabeth II. In 1955, he retired as prime minister but remained in Parliament until 1964, the year before his death.

READ MORE: 10 Things You May Not Know About Winston Churchill

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Mariner 4 studies Martian surface

Year
1965
Month Day
July 15

The unmanned spacecraft Mariner 4 passes over Mars at an altitude of 6,000 feet and sends back to Earth the first close-up images of the red planet.

Launched in November 1964, Mariner 4 carried a television camera and six other science instruments to study Mars and interplanetary space within the solar system. Reaching Mars on July 14, 1965, the spacecraft began sending back television images of the planet just after midnight on July 15. The pictures–nearly 22 in all–revealed a vast, barren wasteland of craters and rust-colored sand, dismissing 19th-century suspicions that an advanced civilization might exist on the planet. The canals that American astronomer Percival Lowell spied with his telescope in 1890 proved to be an optical illusion, but ancient natural waterways of some kind did seem to be evident in some regions of the planet.

Once past Mars, Mariner 4 journeyed on to the far side of the sun before returning to the vicinity of Earth in 1967. Nearly out of power by then, communication with the spacecraft was terminated in December 1967.

READ MORE: Space Exploration: Timeline and Technologies

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“Satisfaction” comes to Keith Richards in his sleep

Year
1965
Month Day
May 07

In the early morning hours of May 7, 1965, a bleary-eyed Keith Richards awoke, grabbed a tape recorder and laid down one of the greatest pop hooks of all time: The opening riff of “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.” He then promptly fell back to sleep.

“When I woke up in the morning, the tape had run out,” Richards recalled many years later. “I put it back on, and there’s this, maybe, 30 seconds of ‘Satisfaction,’ in a very drowsy sort of rendition. And then it suddenly—the guitar goes ‘CLANG,” and then there’s like 45 minutes of snoring.” It wasn’t much to go on, but he played it for Mick Jagger later that same day. “He only had the first bit, and then he had the riff,” Jagger recalls. “It sounded like a country sort of thing on acoustic guitar—it didn’t sound like rock. But he didn’t really like it, he thought it was a joke… He really didn’t think it was single material, and we all said ‘You’re off your head.’ Which he was, of course.”

READ MORE: Keith Richards Wrote One of the Rolling Stones’ Biggest Hits In His Sleep

With verses written by Jagger—Richards had already come up with the line “I can’t get no satisfaction”—the Stones took the song into the Chess studios in Chicago just three days later, on May 10, 1965, and completed it on May 12 after a flight to Los Angeles and an 18-hour recording session at RCA. It was there that Richards hooked up an early Gibson version of a fuzz box to his guitar and gave a riff he’d initially envisioned being played by horns its distinctive, iconic sound

Though the Stones at the time were already midway through their third U.S. tour, their only bona fide American hits to date were “Time Is On My Side” and the recently released “The Last Time.” “Satisfaction” was the song that would catapult them to superstar status. Forty years later, when Rolling Stone magazine ranked “Satisfaction” #2 on its list of the “500 Greatest Songs of All Time,” it put the following historical perspective on the riff Keith Richards discovered on this day in 1965: “That spark in the night…was the crossroads: the point at which the rickety jump and puppy love of early rock and roll became rock.”

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The FBI Laboratory weighs in on the “dirty” lyrics of “Louie Louie”

Year
1965
Month Day
May 17

Based on outcry from parents who bought into what may have started as an idle rumor, the FBI launched a formal investigation in 1964 into the supposedly pornographic lyrics of the song “Louie, Louie.” That investigation finally neared its conclusion on this day in 1965, when the FBI Laboratory declared the lyrics of “Louie Louie” to be officially unintelligible.

No one will ever know who started the rumor that “Louie Louie” was dirty. As written by Richard Berry in 1955, the lyrics revolve around a sailor from the Caribbean lamenting to a bartender named Louie about missing his far-away love. As recorded in crummy conditions and in a single take by the Kingsmen in 1963, lyrics like “A fine little girl, she wait for me…” came out sounding like “A phlg mlmrl hlurl, duh vvvr me” Perhaps it was some clever middle-schooler who started the rumor by trying to convince a classmate that those lyrics contained some words that are as unprintable today as they were back in 1963. Whatever the case, the story spread like wildfire, until the United States Department of Justice began receiving letters like the one addressed to Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy and dated January 30, 1964. “Who do you turn to when your teen age daughter buys and brings home pornographic or obscene materials being sold…in every City, Village and Record shop in this Nation?” that letter began, before going on to make the specific assertion that the lyrics of “Louie Louie” were “so filthy that I can-not enclose them in this letter.”

Over the course of the next two years, the FBI gathered many versions of the putative lyrics to Louie Louie. They interviewed the man who wrote the song and officials of the record label that released the Kingsmen’s smash-hit single. They turned the record over to the audio experts in the FBI laboratory, who played and re-played “Louie Louie” at 78 rpm, 45 rpm, 33 1/3 rpm and even slower speeds in an effort to determine whether it was pornographic and, therefore, whether its sale was a violation of the federal Interstate Transportation of Obscene Material law. “Unintelligible at any speed” was the conclusion the FBI Laboratory relayed to the investigators in charge on this day in 1965, not quite exonerating “Louie Louie,” but also not damning the tune that would go on to become one of the most-covered songs in rock-and-roll history.

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Bob Dylan records “Like A Rolling Stone”

Year
1965
Month Day
June 16

By the spring of 1965, Bob Dylan’s presence in the world of music was beginning to be felt well outside the boundaries of his nominal genre. Within the world of folk music, he had been hailed as a hero for several years already, but now his music was capturing the attention and influencing the direction of artists like the Byrds, the Beatles and even a young Stevie Wonder. With Dylan as a direct inspiration, popular music was about to change its direction, but so was Dylan himself. On June 16, 1965, on their second day of recording at Columbia Records’ Studio A in Manhattan, he and a band featuring electric guitars and an organ laid down the master take of the song that would announce that change: “Like A Rolling Stone.” It would prove to be “folksinger” Bob Dylan’s magnum opus and, arguably, the greatest rock and roll record of all time.

It was the fourth of 11 takes that day that yielded the six-minute-and-34-second recording that very nearly didn’t become a revolutionary hit single. Returning to the CBS studios to hear “Like A Rolling Stone” several days after the recording session, Dylan and manager Albert Grossman were thrilled by what they heard, but the sales and marketing staff of Columbia Records—the gatekeepers who decided what songs would and wouldn’t be released as singles—did not agree. At 6:34, “Like A Rolling Stone” was nearly twice as long as the average single, and its raw rock sound was way outside the comfort zone of a label best known for artists like Andy Williams and Johnny Mathis. As Shaun Considine, the coordinator of new releases for Columbia Records at the time, recounted 40 year later in a New York Times Op-ed, Dylan’s magnum opus was rejected as a single and resurrected only after Considine slipped a studio acetate to a DJ at a prominent Manhattan nightclub in mid-July. Two well-known radio DJs in the audience heard “Like A Rolling Stone” and the overwhelming crowd reaction to it that night and called Columbia the next day, demanding their copies of “the new Bob Dylan single.” Sales and marketing got its last dig in by chopping “Like A Rolling Stone” in half and putting it on separate sides of 45, but a re-spliced full version was what radio stations played and what climbed very nearly to the top of the Billboard pop charts. (It peaked at #2 in the week of September 4, 1965, blocked from the #1 spot by the Beatles’ “Help.”)

The most important impact of “Like A Rolling Stone” was not commercial but creative. As Rolling Stone magazine wrote in 2004 in naming it the greatest song of all time, Dylan “transformed popular song with the content and ambition of ‘Like a Rolling Stone.’” Or as Bruce Springsteen said of the first time he heard it, “[it] sounded like somebody’d kicked open the door to your mind.”

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