Skip to main content

1965 Twenty-five Years Ago

March 2023
1min read

Bob Dylan had done so much to inspire the revival of folk music in the early 1960s that some proclaimed him the heir to Woody Guthrie’s legacy. Some of his followers sensed a betrayal of that legacy when, on July 25, Dylan shocked the audience at the Newport Folk Festival by taking the stage in a leather jacket and leading an amplified band in an earsplitting set of rock-’n’-roll songs. Folk purists who had expected Dylan to perform alone with his familiar acoustic guitar and harmonica registered their disapproval by booing their idol. “You could hear it all over the place,” Dylan said later. “I don’t know who they were. … I mean, they must be pretty rich to go some place and boo.” By the end of the summer, Dylan’s electric music had won him new and larger audiences, and “Like a Rolling Stone” had become his first No. 1 song on the charts.

A minor traffic arrest in the Watts section of Los Angeles on August 11 sparked a six-day riot that engulfed 150 blocks and left thirty-four people dead. Watts was an almost entirely black area suffering from poverty, segregation, and 30 percent unemployment. “Negro leaders have been predicting a riot like this for three years,” said the writer Louis Lomax. “The whites think they can just bottle people up in an area like Watts and then forget all about them. It didn’t work.”

The city’s police chief dismissed the first night of violence as “nothing like what happened in New York City, where it went on for days and days.” The following evening seven thousand people launched a guerrilla war with police in the streets, looting stores and burning whole blocks before the National Guard finally appeared on August 13. Fifteen thousand guardsmen and police made four thousand arrests, and some nine hundred people ended up in the hospital. The clumsy reactions of Gov. Edmund G. Brown and Mayor Sam Yorty to the crisis made it a central issue in the 1966 race for governor, ultimately won by a conservative political newcomer, Ronald Reagan.

We hope you enjoy our work.

Please support this 72-year tradition of trusted historical writing and the volunteers that sustain it with a donation to American Heritage.


Stories published from "July/august 1990"

Authored by: Jack El-hai

Nearly a hundred years ago two rival cities fought hard and dirty to win the battle of numbers

Authored by: John Steele Gordon

Two hundred years ago the United States was a weakling republic prostrate beneath a ruinous national debt. Then Alexander Hamilton worked the miracle of fiscal imagination that made America a healthy young economic giant. How did he do it?

Authored by: Anne Hollander

Fashion disposes, the camera exposes. Here’s what was new and exciting for half a century. It didn’t seem quaint then.

Authored by: Andrew S. Ward

When the author moved into a 1905 house on an island near Seattle, he found himself sharing it with the uncommon people who had lived there before him

Authored by: Samuel Sifton

In February 1970 the editors of American Heritage published “A Wrecker’s Dozen,” by David McCullough. It predicted the destruction of thirteen American buildings and lamented the lack of a widespread conservation ethic in the United States. A while ago G. W.Leaworthy of Titusville, Florida, wrote to us, asking what had happened to the doomed buildings. We decided to find out, and we’re happy to report the news is mostly good.

Authored by: D. R. Martin

Dan Patch never lost a race. But that’s not how he made his owner a multi-millionaire. America’s best-loved horse was also perhaps the most shrewdly marketed animal of all time.

Authored by: D. R. Martin

Dan Patch never lost a race. But that’s not how he made his owner a multi-millionaire. America’s best-loved horse was also perhaps the most shrewdly marketed animal of all time.

Featured Articles

Rarely has the full story been told about how a famed botanist, a pioneering female journalist, and First Lady Helen Taft battled reluctant bureaucrats to bring Japanese cherry trees to Washington. 

Often thought to have been a weak president, Carter was strong-willed in doing what he thought was right, regardless of expediency or the political fallout.

Why have thousands of U.S. banks failed over the years? The answers are in our history and politics.

In his Second Inaugural Address, Abraham Lincoln embodied leading in a time of polarization, political disagreement, and differing understandings of reality.

Native American peoples and the lands they possessed loomed large for Washington, from his first trips westward as a surveyor to his years as President.