Fifty years ago, we were still very much in the midst of a long and contentious Civil Rights battle in America. This program, a monthly news feature of the pre-PBS NET Public Broadcasting network, looks at what transpired during the pivotal year of 1968; a year that had high hopes and stark realities for Black America.
It was the year the conversation started turning from non-violence to violence – it was the year Martin Luther King was assassinated. It was the year Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated. Both were symbols of the Civil Rights Movement and what was possible. It was also the year of Richard Nixon; a President whose election saw only 10% of the eligible Black vote turning out at the polls. It was the year of backlash; the optimistic programs of The Great Society were failing or were never implemented. It was a year that ended with more of the same.
During the hour of this truly unique and highly informative show, a close look at the atmosphere and the outlook of where America was heading – how much was accomplished and how many steps back were taken in the course of a year. The argument of violence versus non-violence is actively discussed – which is something I am not sure would be a subject for discussion now – and wonder why not. There is an honest and openness about this program which was revolutionary at the time, and all but gone from the 24 hour news cycle of TV now. But, much as the emphasis of the 60s has been focused on the Anti-War movement and (white) counter-culture, the issue of Civil Rights and what was still very much a hot-button topic went largely ignored on mainstream TV, even in 1969 – until tensions grew into violence and cities came under fire.
To get a better idea of the wider and more stark the issues and atmosphere of the 60s really were, have a listen to this news program from January 27, 1969 – Black Journal, as it aired on NET.