Watershed Year

**college forum post**

What were the critical events of 1968 that have led historians to describe it as a “watershed year?”  If an individual looks at the 1968 timeline (Brown Education ), one would think that the world was ending.  The Vietnam War, protests across the nation, assassinations to name a few.  However it was the events that defined a generation.

The Vietnam War was in full swing.  At the beginning of the year, the Tet Offensive ensured.  The Vietcong attacked South Vietnam which included Saigon and the U.S. embassy.  To make matters worse, television now could broadcast horrific images of people dying and executions (Henretta, 2012).  The Tet Offensive was considered an utter failure and President Johnson’s numbers plummeted.  During 1968 there were draft card burning days and thousands of people were protesting.  It was an unpopular war with ultimately a bad ending.

Protests were occurring all across the country as the youth of the United States was taking a stand against the government.  Students and young people did not want to participate in the war and would avoid the draft by hiding with friends, family or running to Canada or Mexico to avoid participation.  At the Democratic Convention in Chicago garnered a full on police riot on full display in people’s living rooms via television. (Henretta, 2012) Over 100 people were sent to emergency rooms and 175 people were arrested.  (Brown Education ) The young people of this era were not going along with the governments’ status quo and were defying authority.

The world suffered a loss of two great men in 1968.  First, Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on April 4th while in Memphis Tennessee.  The murder of King Jr. spurred riots in “Baltimore, Chicago, Detroit, Kansas City, Newark and Washington D.C.” (Brown Education ) 46 people died as a result of these riots.  King Jr. was a champion for the black rights movement in the United States.  Another individual who was murdered was Senator Robert Kennedy.  He had announced his run for the 1968 Presidential race.  On the early morning hour on June 5th, Kennedy was shot by Sirhan Sirhan at the Ambassador Hotel in San Francisco. Kennedy was only forty-two at the time of his death.  (Brown Education )

1968 was a year of turmoil of the United States and the world.  It is clearly understandable why that year was named the “Watershed Year” based on all of the death, mayhem, protests and destruction that the year left in its wake.  Not only 1698, but the 1960’s as a whole clearly defined a new generation of free thinkers, to question authority and to protest when wanting to be heard.


Brown Education . (n.d.). The Whole World Was Watching, an oral history of 1968. Retrieved

from Brown Education:

Henretta, J. A. (2012). America: A Concise History, Volume Two: Since 1865. Boston: St.Martin’s.