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

  • Arun Thakur / AFP / Getty

    Photos of the Week: Bull Vault, Buddha Wash, Bass Guitar

    A diving championship in England, Darth Vader on trial in Chile, Manhattanhenge in New York City, a graduation ceremony at West Point, ongoing floods in northern Italy, and much more

  • Kin Cheung / AP

    The 2023 Cooper’s Hill Cheese-Rolling Race

    Images of racers running and tumbling down a very steep hill—in pursuit of cheese

  • Martin Meissner / AP

    Photos of the Week: Double Ducks, Thirsty Monkey, Island Cathedral

    The Chelsea Flower Show in England, a scarecrow fair in Italy, a mountain-bike race in Bolivia, a volcanic eruption in Indonesia, the Cannes Film Festival in France, and much more

  • Libkos / AP

    Photos: Ukraine’s Battlefield Drones

    Images of some of the many small drones being used on Ukraine’s battlefields