US National Portrait Gallery Looks Back at 1968

2018-07-09

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  • The year 1968 was a time of great social and political unrest in the United States.
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  • The Vietnam War had reached a turning point.
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  • The Civil Rights Act was signed into law, which helped guarantee fair housing to all Americans.
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  • On television, people were watching everything from the summer and winter Olympics to the first manned orbit of the moon.
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  • Newsmakers from 1968 included President Lyndon Johnson, civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Junior, and then-presidential candidate Richard Nixon.
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  • It was also the year when the Smithsonian Institution opened the National Portrait Gallery to the public.
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  • The museum is a short walk from the National Mall in Washington, D.C.
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  • To celebrate its 50th anniversary, the museum is presenting a show about that memorable year and the people who helped shape it.
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  • It is called "One Year: 1968, An American Odyssey."
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  • The show offers 30 images -- from photographs, paintings and magazine covers that represent that period.
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  • Museum director Kim Sajet says the show is especially timely, as the nation is once again dealing with major political and social changes.
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  • A large part of the dissatisfaction 50 years ago was U.S. involvement in Vietnam.
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  • Americans increasingly opposed the war.
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  • President Johnson supported the war effort, and the government in South Vietnam.
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  • His unpopularity is represented in a political cartoon that is part of the exhibit.
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  • Artist David Levine created the cartoon.
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  • The image shows Johnson as King Lear, the lead character of the Shakespeare play of the same name.
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  • As theater-goers know, the king slowly loses his ability to think clearly.
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  • Other major social and political issues were entering American culture in 1968, too.
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  • Sajet says she sees many similarities between 40 years ago and today.
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  • "So for example, there is a very dramatic cover that was put on Time magazine in June to describe a story that they were doing about the gun in America, and it's very confrontational because a gun is literally pointed at you, the reader, (the) viewer. This is, of course, a conversation that continues in America today."
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  • There is also a photograph of Shirley Anita Chisholm of New York.
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  • She was the first African-American woman elected to the House of Representatives.<