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Stories from 1968, the year that changed America
1968 was a year of huge social upheaval for the United States. Heat and Light goes deep into six key but lesser known stories from that year, guided by people who were personally affected by them. So much so that they have devoted their lives to studying the history of 1968 – and how it continues to shape our society today. From the students who challenged their schools’ military connections and the tortured set up of American TV’s first interracial kiss to the roots of Silicon Valley and the beginning of the end of the “traditional” American family. What was just heat? What brought light, too?

Latest Episodes

The Left’s Gift to Nixon

The Left’s Gift to Nixon.

1968 is often remembered as a time of revolution, when liberal activists stood up to the powers that be and established progressive movements that endure to this day. However, 1968 was also the year the GOP’s Richard Nixon won the White House – and the start of more than two decades of nearly unbroken Republican power in the executive branch. Arizona State University’s Donald Critchlow explains that…

1 Host: Donald Critchlow

Why God Votes Republican

Why God Votes Republican.

The white Christian left was once a powerful influence on American politics, in an era when faith did not dictate political inclination. Then came the 1968 declaration against the Vietnam War by the National Council of Churches. President-elect Richard Nixon would later eschew liberal Christian leaders – and become the first of a series of presidents who built their base on the anxieties of white Christian…

1 Host: Jill K. Gill

The Mother of All Demos

The Mother of All Demos.

A computer may have been the size of room in 1968, but it was still a watershed year for tech industry. That year saw the founding of the Intel Corporation that would revolutionize microprocessors and "the mother of all demos," a landmark event that featured the first public demonstration of a computer mouse. Our guest, Margaret O’Mara, a professor of U.S. history at the University of Washington, became…

1 Host: Margaret O'Mara

Detroit is Burning

Detroit is Burning.

As 1968 began, the city of Detroit was dealing with the aftermath of some of the worst race riots the country had ever seen. That year, the Kerner Commission, appointed by president Lyndon Johnson, placed the blame squarely on the way the police and the city government had handled the response. In this episode, Jeffrey Horner, a professor of urban studies at Wayne State University, speaks with Phillip…

1 Host: Jeffrey Horner

An Interracial Kiss – on Another Planet

An Interracial Kiss – on Another Planet. CC BY-ND33.8 MB (download)

Warning: This episode contains a racial slur. In 1968 America, a country where interracial marriage had been legal nationwide for only a matter of months, the idea of romance between the races was still a controversial proposition. That made it all the more shocking when, in November of that year, William Shatner, a white man, kissed Nichelle Nichols, a black woman on the sci-fi show "Star Trek." In…

1 Host: Matthew Delmont

Fear of a Non-Nuclear Family

Fear of a Non-Nuclear Family. CC BY-ND38.2 MB (download)

In 1968 the "Norman Rockwell" picture of the American family – the husband as breadwinner, the stay-at-home wife and mother, two kids, a white picket fence – was still widely accepted as the ideal. But things were starting to change. The feminist movement was encouraging more women to enter the workforce and protest traditional American ideals of femininity – including the 1968 Miss America pageant…

1 Host: Natasha Zaretsky

Revolution Starts on Campus

Revolution Starts on Campus. CC BY-ND47 MB (download)

The radical student takeover of Columbia University in 1968 sparked a worldwide student protest movement: From Eastern Europe to South America, students rose up against authoritarian governments, racial inequality and, most passionately, against the war in Vietnam. Host Phillip Martin talks to African-American studies professor Stefan Bradley about how the Columbia uprising inspired similar events…

1 Host: Stefan M. Bradley

Heat and Light: Trailer

Heat and Light: Trailer. CC BY2.25 MB (download)

Coming August 28th, The Conversation US presents Heat and Light: Stories from 1968, the year that changed America. 1968 was a year of huge social upheaval for the United States. Host Philip Martin goes deep into six key but lesser known stories from that year, guided by people who were personally affected by them. So much so that they have devoted their lives to studying the history of 1968 – and how…

1 Host: Phillip Martin