50 Years Ago: The World in 1961

A half-century ago, much of the world was in a broad state of change: We were moving out of the post-World War II era, and into both the Cold War and the Space Age, with broadening civil rights movements and anti-nuclear protests in the U.S. In 1961, John F. Kennedy was inaugurated as the 35th president of the United States, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human to fly in space, Freedom Riders took buses into the South to bravely challenge segregation, and East Germany began construction of the Berlin Wall. That year, Kennedy gave the okay to the disastrous Bay of Pigs Invasion into Cuba and committed the U.S. to "landing a man on the Moon" with NASA's Apollo program. JFK also oversaw the early buildup of a U.S. military presence in Vietnam: by the end of 1961, some 2,000 troops were deployed there. Let me take you 50 years into the past now, for a look at the world as it was in 1961.

Read more
Hints: View this page full screen. Skip to the next and previous photo by typing j/k or ←/→.

Ads are being blocked

For us to continue writing great stories, we need to display ads.

Un-block Learn more


Please select the extension that is blocking ads.


Please follow the steps below

Most Recent

  • Wong Maye-E / AP

    Photos of the Week: 10/15–10/21

    Diwali lights in England, a pair of scary clown masks in Nicaragua, a rat stuck in a New York garbage can, a bioluminescent jellyfish in the Marianas Trench, a little Hitler, and much more.

  • Yasin Akgul / AFP / Getty

    The Beginning of the Battle for Mosul

    Thousands of Iraqi and Kurdish troops, supported by the United States, France, and Britain, are now in the early stages of a massive operation to retake the Mosul, Iraq's second largest city, from ISIS militants.

  • Jim Cole / AP

    Fall Is in the Air, Part II

    One last overview of autumn

  • Hector Retamal / AFP / Getty

    A Humanitarian Crisis in Haiti After Hurricane Matthew

    The UN estimates at least 1.4 million Haitians are now in need of urgent assistance as clean water, food, and medicine are in short supply.

Join the Discussion