This now iconic image of Marxist revolutionary Ernesto "Che" Guevara depicts him at the March 5, 1960 funeral for the victims of the La Coubre explosion. Guevara believed that the destruction of the French freighter in Havana harbor and the 75-100 resulting deaths were a deliberate act of sabotage on the part of the U.S. because of Cuba's new communist government following the revolution the year before.
Guevara helped carry out that revolution before attempting to foment similar uprisings elsewhere around the world, which helped make him an enemy of the U.S. Eventually, in 1967, C.I.A.-assisted Bolivian forces captured Guevara in Bolivia and executed him.Alberto Korda/Wikimedia Commons
The Bay Of Pigs
Taken in April 1961, this photo shows a group of Cuban counter-revolutionaries after their capture in Cuba. The members of this group, Assault Brigade 2506, were part of a failed C.I.A.-sponsored invasion of Cuba known as the Bay of Pigs operation.MIGUEL VINAS/AFP/Getty Images
The First American In Space
Rear Admiral Alan Bartlett "Al" Shepard Jr. right before takeoff in May 1961.
Shepard became the first American, and the second person ever, to travel into space. He was also the first to manually control a spacecraft.Wikimedia Commons
The Largest Weapon Ever Detonated
On October 30, 1961, the Soviet military successfully tested Tsar Bomba, the most powerful weapon ever created. Its blast was five miles in diameter with a yield of 50 megatons -- 25 times more powerful than all the munitions used in World War II (including the two atomic bombs dropped by the U.S.) put together.Wikimedia Commons
"Happy Birthday, Mr. President"
While all but unsubstantiated, rumors of an affair between President John F. Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe persist to this day. Perhaps fueling the rumors more than any other incident was Monroe's sultry rendition of "Happy Birthday" sung to Kennedy at Madison Square Garden on May 19, 1962.
Pictured: Kennedy (right), Monroe, and Kennedy's brother Robert backstage just after Monroe's song. This is one of the few pictures of Monroe and Kennedy together.Wikimedia Commons
The Cuban Missile Crisis
For 13 days in the fall of 1962, it seemed as if the world was going to end. Known as the Cuban Missile Crisis, this tense period saw Soviet forces attempt to move nuclear missiles to Cuba, just 90 miles from the coast of Florida. The U.S. responded by blockading Cuba with its own military forces. It was the closest the Cold War ever came to all-out nuclear annihilation.
Ultimately cooler heads prevailed and both sides agreed to back their nuclear weapons further away from the enemy's borders.
Pictured: A U.S. navy aircraft flies above a Soviet freighter carrying two bomber planes in late 1962.Wikimedia Commons
"Ich bin ein Berliner"
The following summer, President John F. Kennedy traveled to Berlin, Germany, the city that stood at the border of the communist and non-communist worlds, literally divided down the center by a wall.
In Berlin, Kennedy hoped to underline U.S. support for all people on the non-communist side of the world's great political divide, famously declaring "Ich bin ein Berliner" ("I am a citizen of Berlin").AFP/Getty Images
The March On Washington
At home, millions of Americans hoped to overcome racial divides. By 1963, despite fierce opposition, the Civil Rights Movement had begun gaining momentum. In August, activists including Martin Luther King Jr. led the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, which drew approximately 250,000 people to the nation's capital in an unprecedented show of support for the movement.Wikimedia Commons
"I Have A Dream"
Martin Luther King Jr. gave his famous "I Have A Dream" speech during the march.AFP/Getty Images
The Folk Boom
Joining activists and political leaders like King at the March on Washington were folk singers like Joan Baez and Bob Dylan.
Artists like these had come to represent the voice of both the younger generation and highlight the plight of nation's oppressed through verse -- a trend that would only grow as the decade went on.Wikimedia Commons
At 12:30 p.m. CST, on November 22, 1963, the world was still moving. President Kennedy's uncovered 1961 Lincoln Continental four-door convertible limousine had just entered Dealey Plaza in Dallas, Texas.
Nellie Connally, the First Lady of Texas who was riding in the front seat of the president's car, turned herself around and said, "Mr. President, you can't say Dallas doesn't love you."
President Kennedy's reply were his last words: "No, you certainly can't."
Seconds later, the fatal shot was fired.Wikimedia Commons
Jackie Kennedy (right), still wearing the suit stained with her late husband's blood, looks on as Lyndon B. Johnson takes the presidential oath aboard Air Force One in Dallas just two hours and eight minutes after the assassination.
The suit will remain out of public view in the National Archives in Maryland, together with an unsigned note reading "Jackie's suit and bag worn Nov. 22, 1963" until 2103. Its precise location is kept a secret. It was never cleaned. Wikimedia Commons
Ruby Shoots Oswald
Jack Ruby fatally shoots alleged Kennedy assassin Lee Harvey Oswald as Dallas police escort the latter to a transport vehicle.
Ruby told several witnesses immediately after shooting Oswald that he was trying to help the city of Dallas "redeem" itself in the public's eye, and spare "...Mrs. Kennedy the discomfiture of coming back to trial."Wikimedia Commons
The British Invasion
The Beatles arrive in America for the first time, landing at New York's newly christened John F. Kennedy International Airport on February 7, 1964.Wikimedia Commons
Martin Meets Malcolm
On March 26, 1964, the decade's two most prominent civil rights leaders shared their only meeting.
As Martin Luther King Jr. (left) was leaving a news conference, Malcolm X (right) stepped out of the crowd, extended his hand, and smiled.
"Well, Malcolm, good to see you," King said.
"Good to see you," X replied.
The gaggle of photographers surrounding the men took photos to immortalize the historic moment that lasted all of about one minute.Wikimedia Commons
Bold New Fashions
As was the case with music and politics, fashion also took a bold leap forward in the 1960s.
The famous 1965 Mondrian Collection by French designer Yves Saint Laurent took an innovative approach to fashion by combining classical Western forms with the aesthetics of modernist fine art.
Today, some of these dresses themselves are displayed at museums around the world.AFP/Getty Images
Women Take To The Skies
Sporting some of the decade's most distinctive fashions, flight attendants became emblematic of the era and symbols of modern womanhood.Flickr/SDASM Archives
Many saw flight attendants as evocative of a new "kind" of woman, one who traveled the globe and free from the gender-specific duties that had kept women at home in previous decades.Flickr/Archives New Zealand
Conflict Begins In Vietnam
A U.S. helicopter pilot runs from his aircraft after Vietnamese forces shoot it down in early 1965.
The U.S. had just begun bombing operations and troop deployment in Vietnam, for the first time escalating in earnest the conflict that would make the 1960s a truly bloody decade.AFP/Getty Images
Muhammad Ali knocks out Sonny Liston after a one-minute-long championship match in Lewiston, Maine on May 25, 1965. Just seconds after the knockout, referee Joe Walcott, holds Ali back.
Ali's courage both in and out of the ring would come to define the decade. -/AFP/Getty Images
The First American Spacewalk
Ed White floats just outside the Gemini 4 capsule hatch on June 3, 1965. This made White the first American to ever perform a spacewalk, which lasted 23 minutes for White.
NASA via Getty Images
The Watts Riots
On August 11, 1965, the Los Angeles Police Department pulled over an African-American man named Marquette Frye for drunk driving. His arrest soon evolved into a roadside scuffle and many quickly accused the officers of police brutality. Six days of riots followed in the city's predominantly African-American Watts neighborhood.
To contain the riots, the LAPD needed nearly 4,000 members of the California Army National Guard. In total, the riots resulted in 34 deaths and $40 million in property damage.Wikimedia Commons
LBJ Meets MLK
More than any other two people, Martin Luther King Jr. and President Lyndon Johnson (meeting here in the White House on March 18, 1966) may have had the greatest impact on civil rights in the 1960s -- the former as the movement's de facto leader and the latter as the one who pushed the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 into law.
While they differed in approach, the two held each other in high esteem. As King later wrote of Johnson: "His approach to the problem of civil rights was not identical with mine— nor had I expected it to be. Yet his careful practicality was, nonetheless, clearly no mask to conceal indifference. His emotional and intellectual involvement was genuine and devoid of adornment. It was conspicuous that he was searching for a solution to a problem he knew to be a major shortcoming in American life."Wikimedia Commons
The Newark Riots
While the 1960s brought extraordinary progress for civil rights, the decade also brought violent setbacks.
On July 12, 1967, an act of police brutality against an African-American man in Newark, New Jersey sparked riots throughout the city that would last for six days and leave 26 dead and hundreds injured.-/AFP/Getty Images
The Detroit Riots
That very month, an even worse race riot in Detroit proved to be the most destructive of the decade.-/AFP/Getty Images
The Detroit Riots
The trouble started when police raided an unlicensed bar in a predominantly African-American neighborhood. The ensuing confrontations between patrons and police lit the powder keg of racial unrest that had long threatened the city. Five days of rioting followed.-/AFP/Getty Images
The Detroit Riots
Soon, President Johnson called in the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions to aid the overwhelmed police and quell the rioting. More than 8,000 national guardsmen joined in as well. Many accused these men of using unnecessary force during the operation.Getty/Stringer
The Detroit Riots
When it was all said and done, the riots resulted in 43 deaths, hundreds of injuries, more than 7,000 arrests, and about $50 million worth of damage.Getty/Stringer
Martin Luther King Jr. Assassinated
The following year, on April 4, 1968, the civil rights movement took another devastating hit with the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. at the hands of James Earl Ray (pictured).
After a failed career as a pornographer in Mexico, Ray had returned to the U.S. -- where he was wanted for escaping prison -- to take dance and bartending lessons before setting in motion his plan to kill King.
Ultimately, Ray's crimes earned him 99 years in prison, where he died in 1998 at age 70.Wikimedia Commons
The King Assassination Riots
King's assassination once again brought racial tensions to a head in more than 100 cities across the country.
Washington, D.C. (pictured) saw the worst of it. Over the five days following King's death, rioters burned more than 1,000 buildings, causing about $27 million in damage and prompting President Johnson to call in 13,600 federal troops.Wikimedia Commons
In early 1968, the violence intensified overseas as well, as fighting in Vietnam reached new heights with the communists' devastating Tet Offensive and the Americans' brutal My Lai Massacre.
Pictured: American soldiers burn a Viet Cong base in My Tho on April 5, 1968.NATIONAL ARCHIVES/AFP/Getty Images
A female Viet Cong soldier fires an anti-tank missile during a fight in the southern Cuu Long delta during the Tet Offensive.
The surprise attack on nearly 100 targets in South Vietnam marked a turning point in favor of the communists.AFP/Getty Images
American soldiers at the frontlines during Operation Hue City in early 1968.NATIONAL ARCHIVES/AFP/Getty Images
Viet Cong fighters take position in a lotus field as they prepare to ambush American troops stationed in South Vietnam.AFP/AFP/Getty Images
TV made Vietnam the first war where civilians at home saw the realities of the conflict -- and they had something to say about it.
Pictured: American forces interrogate a Viet Cong prisoner near Thuong.
With images and reports of the brutality in Vietnam making it back to the U.S., many Americans turned against the war -- and took to the streets to protest.
Pictured: Demonstrators rally outside the White House.AFP/AFP/Getty Images
A female demonstrator offers a flower to military police on guard at the Pentagon during an anti-Vietnam demonstration.Wikimedia Commons
Military police officers hold back protesters during their sit-in at the Mall Entrance to the Pentagon.Wikimedia Commons
U.S. Marshals remove a protester from demonstrations at the Pentagon.Wikimedia Commons
Mounted policemen watch over protesters in San Francisco.Wikimedia Commons
Protest In Paris
Protests raged overseas as well, especially in Paris in May 1968 (pictured). These protests were driven by leftist students and striking workers who brought the country to a halt and to the brink of socialist revolution. Ultimately, the government called for new legislative elections and the protests quieted down.-/AFP/Getty Images
The Prague Spring
Elsewhere in Europe in 1968, liberal leadership in Czechoslovakia attempted to loosen overarching Soviet restrictions on human rights including free speech and travel. Clashes between protesters and Soviet forces reached a fever pitch when the latter invaded on August 20 and countless demonstrators took to the streets to fight back.
In the end, Soviet forces withdrew and granted Czechoslovakia some freedoms, but the country nevertheless remained under Soviet control, with future leaders tightening back up the restrictions that had been briefly loosened in 1968. AFP/AFP/Getty Images
Robert Kennedy Assassinated
On June 5, 1968, Sirhan Sirhan assassinated Senator Robert Kennedy in Los Angeles. The killer, a Palestinian/Jordanian immigrant, is believed to have carried out his plot in response to Kennedy's support of Israel in the country's Six-Day War with Egypt, Jordan, and Syria the year before.
After the assassination of John F. Kennedy five years earlier, many took the killing of his brother as a sign that, by 1968, the U.S. had truly reached its breaking point.Wikimedia Commons
The Raised Fists
American athletes Tommie Smith (center) and John Carlos (right) raise gloved fists during the American national anthem just after receiving their Olympic medals in Mexico City on October 17, 1968. The gesture, widely interpreted as a Black Power salute, was meant to express their opposition to racism in the U.S.-/AFP/Getty Images
The cast of the musical production Hair rehearse at the Porte Saint-Martin in Paris on April 22, 1969.
Soon after debuting in 1967, the revolutionary production -- noted for its controversial use of rock music, its embrace of the sexual revolution, and portrayal of drug use -- became a cultural touchstone of the era whose legacy lives on to this day.STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images
Police clash with patrons following a raid on New York's Stonewall Inn, a bar well known for catering to the LGBT community, on June 28, 1969.
Decades of LGBT mistreatment helped fuel what transpired at Stonewall. Soon after the riots, activist groups formed in New York and around the country, and today the event is widely recognized as the start of the LGBT rights movement in the U.S.Wikimedia Commons
The Moon Landing
On July 20, 1969, following a space race that had pitted the world's superpowers against each other for more than a decade, the U.S. became the first and only country to put a person on the moon.
Astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edward "Buzz" Aldrin (pictured) walked the surface of the moon for two minutes and 34 seconds -- and in that brief time, made history like few others before or since.NASA/AFP/Getty Images
The Moon Landing
Buzz Aldrin photographed on the moon's surface by Neil Armstrong, who is visible in the reflection of Aldrin's visor.Wikimedia Commons
Perhaps the 1960s' most defining moment -- at least culturally -- came very near the decade's end.
The Woodstock Music & Art Fair ran from August 15 to August 18, 1969, but its impact reverberates to this day.Wikimedia Commons
What was supposed to be a music festival of no more than 50,000 people turned into a sprawling, generation-defining moment that brought together more than 400,000 — a union sorely needed in the 1960s.Wikimedia Commons