For President Lyndon Johnson, the year 1965 began in optimism. He won reelection in a landslide against Barry Goldwater in November 1964, and Johnson seized the opportunity the following year. He signed Medicare into law, revitalized elementary and secondary education, and successfully persuaded Congress to pass the Voting Rights Act in the wake of the bloody march on Selma.
Despite his commitment to civil rights and combating poverty, his legislation seemed insufficient for millions of black Americans living in poverty and in city ghettos like the Watts area of Los Angeles. On August 11, 1965, just a week after Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act, Watts exploded with riots, leaving 34 dead, 1,000 injured, and $40 million in damage.
Brown University historian James T. Patterson writes that the rage of African-Americans living in urban ghettos, "stemmed not only from poverty, overcrowding, and racial discrimination, but also from the higher expectations that the civil rights movement had helped to excite by 1965."
As the direction of the civil rights movement changed significantly in 1965, and as Congress approved Johnson's Great Society legislation, he also began to escalate the War in Vietnam. As young American men began their missions in Southeast Asia, their compatriots at home began to rebel, and their music reflected a new attitude. The Rolling Stones's "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" hit number one on the billboard charts that year.
Patterson describes these developments, and how 1965 changed American history, in "The Eve of Destruction: How 1965 Transformed America."