Our Summer of 1969 Timeline highlights key moments for both the nation and New York City. Dive deeper with the videos and links below to learn more.
N. Scott Momaday awarded Pulitzer Prize for Literature
The Kiowa author becomes the first American Indian to receive the Pulitzer Prize for Literature for House Made of Dawn. In May 2019, he received the Ken Burns American Heritage Prize. This fall, watch the premiere of American Masters — N. Scott Momaday: Words from a Bear on PBS.
City College protests
The City University of New York closes down after coalitions of African Americans, Puerto Ricans, and others at the City College of New York protested and occupied campuses to advocate for open admissions for NYC high school graduates, support for low-income students and a new Black and Puerto Rican Studies Department. The latter two objectives were established in September 1969.
The Who releases Tommy
The British band The Who releases the double album rock opera Tommy, featuring songs like "Pinball Wizard." The Tommy tour stop includes Woodstock in August.
"Midnight Cowboy" released
The first wide-release, X-rated film is "Midnight Cowboy," starring Jon Voight and Dustin Hoffman and directed by John Schlesinger, who was openly gay. The Academy Award winner for Best Picture and Best Director is set in New York City and includes the line, “Hey, I’m walkin’ here!” – which "Ratso" Rizzo yells when a cab nearly hits him in a crosswalk. It is a rare film of its era for gay intimacy.
Joe Namath briefly retires from football.
The New York Jets won Super Bowl III in January. The team's MVP quarterback briefly retired rather than comply with the NFL request that he give up his stake in a bar, Bachelors III, in New York City's Upper East Side.
Nixon and the Vietnam War
President Nixon announces the withdrawal of 25,000 U.S. troops from Vietnam.
El Museo del Barrio founded in NYC
Founded by artist Raphael Montañez Ortíz and a coalition of Puerto Rican educators, artists, and activists, the museum is initially conceived to highlight Puerto Rican art and culture within the NYC public school system, later expanding to include the cultural contributions of Latinos and Latin Americans in the United States.
"Hee Haw" debuts on CBS
The country music variety show hosted by Roy Clark and Buck Owens debuts and doesn’t end its initial run until 1993. Loretta Lynn and Charley Pride are guests on the first episode.
Norman Mailer and Jimmy Breslin cut from Mayoral Race
The NYC mayoral campaign of author Norman Mailer and newspaper columnist Jimmy Breslin (who ran for City Council President) ends with the primary vote; the ticket finishes second to last with 5% of the city vote (41,288 votes). Their platform was "New York City: the 51st State," proposing that it secede from New York State.
Judy Garland Dies
The singer and actress introduced as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, and famous for her film career and concert appearances, dies at age 47 in London. Learn about her life in this video segment filmed at the Judy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids, Minnesota.
The Cuyahoga River Fire
The Cuyahoga River in Cleveland Ohio flows into Lake Erie. On this day, the river – filled with oil and toxic chemicals – burst into flames. It's considered a key moment in the environmental movement.
The Faces of the American Dead in Vietnam
Life Magazine publishes photographs of 241 Americans killed in Vietnam in one week. Some were among the 72 killed (and 372 wounded) at the 10-day battle of Hamburger Hill from May 10-20.
Stonewall riots begin
In the early morning hours, gay patrons of the Stonewall Inn on Christopher Street in Greenwich Village, New York City, fought back against a police raid. This was a first-time and spontaneous uprising (police raids of gay establishments were frequent). The riots unfolded over six consecutive nights.
Last Annual Reminder in Philadelphia
This annual July 4 protest for equal rights for gay people takes place for the last time at Independence Hall. The Annual Meeting was first organized in 1965 by Craig L. Rodwell, founder of the Oscar Wilde Bookshop in New York City.
"Give Peace a Chance" released
The anti-war song by John Lennon, performed with his wife Yoko Ono, is released by the Plastic Ono Band in the U.S. It is Lennon’s first solo single while a member of the Beatles. It became an anthem of protests against the Vietnam War.
David Bowie releases "Space Oddity"
The single by glam rock icon David Bowie is released to coincide with the Apollo 11 moon mission. In 2013, a NASA astronaut on the International Space Station made a music video cover of it.
Aretha's Gold is released
All but two tracks of Aretha Franklin's first greatest hits album is recorded at Atlantic Studios in New York City. The Queen of Soul's tracks include "Respect," "Dr. Feelgood," "Think" and more.
Apollo 11 launch
The first of six American lunar missions is launched from Cape Kennedy in Florida. NASA astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins are aboard Apollo 11.
Apollo 11 lands on the moon, fulfilling a pledge made by the late President John F. Kennedy. Mission commander Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walk on the moon.
Apollo 11 returns to Earth
The Apollo 11 Command Module "Columbia" brought man to the moon and back. The successful mission ends when the module lands in the Pacific Ocean near Hawaii.
Johnny Cash releases “A Boy Names Sue”
Written by Shel Silverstein, Cash recorded this song at San Quentin Prison in February. After releasing the live single July, it rose to the top of the Billboard country chart and was number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100, after "Honky Tonk Women."
The Manson murders
Actress Sharon Tate and seven others are killed in Los Angeles by Charles Manson and his cult followers.
NYC tickertape parade for astronauts
Four million people lined Broadway, from the tip of Manhattan north to 42nd Street and eastward to celebrate the Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins. On the same day, the Apollo 11 crew continued to Chicago and Los Angeles. See the 8mm home video made in NYC, or click for the reporting for ABC by Peter Jennings.
British troops sent to Northern Ireland
After clashes between police and Catholic residents in Northern Ireland, more than 300 British troops are ordered into a Londonderry neighborhood. The temporary assignment and violence escalated and stretched into the decades-long "Troubles," until the peace agreement of 1989. British troops remained until 2007.
The Miracle Mets
Future Hall of Fame pitchers Nolan Ryan and Tom Seaver lead the New York Mets in a comeback that builds to winning baseball's World Series in the fall. The Mets beat the Baltimore Orioles.
Woodstock Music Festival
Nearly 400,000 people attend this chaotic music festival held in a farm field in Bethel, NY. Joan Baez, Jimi Hendrix, the Who, the Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, and Sly and the Family Stone and more perform.
The Category 5 storm with winds up to 190 miles per hour kills more than 250 people in Mississippi, Louisiana, and Virginia. NASA delays the Apollo 12 mission, distributes aid in Mississippi and turns a facility into a homeless shelter. Watch a 1969 FEMA film about preparations for the storm and its devastating aftermath.
Miles Davis records Bitches Brew album
The jazz trumpeter records his groundbreaking album over the course of three days. Released in 1970, it becomes his first gold album, known for innovations in rhythm and studio effects. In 2020, American Masters—Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool will premiere on PBS.
First ATM in U.S.
Chemical Bank installs the first ATM in the U.S. at its branch in Rockville Center, in Long Island's Nassau County.
Ho Chi Minh Dies
Ho Chi Minh was the president of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam) and one of its founders. His leadership for Vietnamese independence began when he led Communist Vietnamese forces in the Anti-French Resistance War (First Indochina War) in the 1940s.
A new home for Dance Theatre of Harlem
New York City Ballet icon Arthur Mitchell and Karel Shook found Dance Theatre of Harlem, a ballet company and school, in early 1969. Mitchell premieres his first ballet, "Ode to Otis," in February. In late September, the company moves from a garage on 152nd Street to the Church of the Master at 86 Morningside Avenue at 122nd Street, where it remained until September 1971. The company celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.