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 ←/→.

Most Recent

  • David Gray / Reuters

    Australia's Great Barrier Reef at Risk

    The health of the largest living ecosystem on Earth is in danger, and UNESCO World Heritage delegates will announce on Wednesday whether they will place the Great Barrier Reef on a list of endangered World Heritage sites.

  • Joshua Roberts / Reuters

    Photos of the Week: 6/20-6/26

    Surfers waiting for a wave at sunset in Chile, the San Juan festival in Spain, erupting volcanoes in Indonesia and Chile, an anti-U.S. rally in North Korea, a gorgeous sunset over Boston’s Fenway Park, celebrations of same-sex marriage supporters in Washington, D.C., and much more.

  • JPL-Caltech / MSSS / Texas A&M Univ. / NASA

    A Trip Around the Solar System

    A quick visual tour of our neighbors in the solar system, with recent images from Mars, Pluto, Saturn, Ceres, Earth, and several other bodies.

  • Rafael Ibarra / Reuters

    Expanding the Panama Canal

    Work on the massive $5 billion Panama Canal Expansion is nearly complete.

Join the Discussion