The New Frontier and the Civil Rights Movement

By — McGraw-Hill Professional
Updated on Feb 4, 2012

Time Line



John F. Kennedy elected president

Sit-ins in South

Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee formed


Summit meeting between United States and Soviet Union

Berlin Wall

1962 Cuban Missile Crisis

Birmingham protests

“I Have a Dream” speech

Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty

Kennedy assassinated; Lyndon B. Johnson becomes president


Twenty-Fourth Amendment ratified

Civil Rights Act of 1964


The New Frontier and the Civil Rights Movement

The presidential election of 1960 brought the Democratic Party back to the White House. John F. Kennedy took the helm of American politics at a challenging and dangerous time, when the threat of nuclear war was at its height and Cold War tensions were growing.

At home, the Civil Rights movement that had begun in the 1950s continued to make advances. Under the leadership of Martin Luther King, Jr., African Americans organized nonviolent protests throughout the segregated South. The quiet, well-behaved protesters, exercising their First Amendment rights to “peaceably assemble,” provided a strong contrast to the brutal armed policemen and the jeering crowds of segregationists. The protesters won public opinion over to their side, and by 1964 the Civil Rights Act had been signed into law, ending segregation in fact about 100 years after the Civil Rights amendments to the Constitution had ended it in law.

In foreign affairs, the United States was brought to the brink of nuclear war at least twice. East German officials under Soviet control, deciding to put a stop to the exodus of East Germans into West Berlin once and for all, built the Berlin Wall. The United States did not want to go to war over this issue, but Kennedy did fly to Berlin and give a strongly worded speech claiming that the rule of Communism had clearly failed when the East Germans had to resort to building a wall to keep people from leaving. Closer to home, the Cuban Missile Crisis developed when the Soviets installed nuclear missiles in Cuba, 90 miles from the U.S. coastline. During a tense two weeks, Kennedy responded with a naval blockade of Cuba. Although both nations were poised for nuclear war, Soviet premier Khrushchev withdrew at the last moment, ushering in a new era of attempting to find common ground between the two superpowers.

The nation and the world went into shock when Kennedy was assassinated on a campaign trip to Dallas, Texas. Lyndon Johnson took over the presidency and was soon to reshape the nation’s domestic policies.

Practice questions for these concepts can be found at:

The New Frontier and the Civil Rights Movement Practice Test

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