For a visual glimpse at what happened in 1968, the telling exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, One Year: 1968, An American Odyssey provides a quick history lesson about a year no one wants to remember.
It was a tumultuous, tragic time: Two national leaders were assassinated, the Vietnam war continued, violence and police beatings were normal in Chicago, the site of the Democratic National Convention, where the mayor, Richard J. Daley boasted that no one was killed at the convention. Richard Nixon's lies persisted.
It was a year of national sadness, one I hope every high school student studies to learn what happened and may happen, a year which certainly ranks near the top of "worst years."
Many of the 30 portraits in the exhibition are political, sports, rock stars, and other celebrities on the covers of Time which the magazine has given to the Portrait Gallery.
Also included is a video of Janis Joplin belting out a song before she died of a heroin overdose in 1970.
The exhibition is part of the 50th anniversary celebration of the National Portrait Gallery.
The 1968 Democratic presidential ticket of Hubert Humphrey (1911-1978) and Edmund Muskie (1914-1996) was overshadowed by 23,000 police troops who beat 3,000 protestors and onlookers under direction by Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley (drawn in the background above, shouting orders) at the Democratic National Convention. This Time cover by Louis S. Glanzman (1922-2013) ran Sept. 6, 1968.
David Levine,(1926-2009), President Johnson as King Lear, Time, Jan. 5, 1968. President Lyndon Baines Johnson (1908-1973) was named Time's "Man of the Year" in 1964 and 1967, the latter year "because of his perceived failures," including the interminable Vietnam War, according to the wall label. His approval rating sank to 38 percent from a high of 80 percent. Mr. Levine modeled Johnson after King Lear, both of whom had troubles with close "associates."
One of the most hated vice-presidents in memory, Spiro Agnew 1918-1996 by Louis S. Glanzman, 1922-2013, ran on the cover of Time Sept. 20, 1968, five years before Agnew resigned the vice presidency due to financial scandal. (John C. Calhoun was the only other vice president to quit.) Richard Nixon chose Agnew as a running mate partially to avoid being usurped as Nixon had been when he served as vice president under President Dwight Eisenhower (1890-1969). Nixon's and Agnew's mediocrity served as springboards to persistence intolerance.
Ardent segregationist George C. Wallace 1919-1998 of Alabama was photographed by Jerome Liebling (1924-2011) in 1968 when Wallace launched the first of three campaigns for president. He won five states in the national race that year but did not do as well in 1972 and 1976. In the 1972 race while campaigning at a shopping center in Laurel, Maryland on May 15, Wallace was shot and paralyzed.
Unidentified artist, no date, Jimi Hendrix, 1942-1970. After a successful run in Europe, when he returned to the U.S. in 1968, rock star Jimi Hendrix was named "Artist of the Year" by Rolling Stone and Billboard. Like Janis Joplin, he died of a drug overdose in 1970.
At the press briefing to open the exhibition, curator James Barber gave details of the gun screenprint by Roy Lichtenstein (1923-1997) which ran on the cover of Time June 21, 1968. Above is a photo by Richard Darby (no known dates) of Helen Chavez, 1928-2016, Robert Kennedy, and Cesar Chavez, 1927-1993, from March 10, 1968 when Mr. Kennedy visited a rally in California to show support for Mr. Chavez, recently ending a 25-day fast. He was the president of the United Farm Workers which sought better working conditions and wages/Photo by Patricia Leslie
What: One Year: 1968, An American Odyssey
When: Closing May 19, 2019. The National Portrait Gallery is open daily from 11:30 a.m. - 7 p.m.
Where: Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, 8th and F streets, N. W., Washington, D.C. 20001
For more information: 202-633-8300 or visit the website
Closest Metro station: Gallery Place-Chinatown or walk 10 minutes from Metro Center
Inside the Christmas White House, 2012/Photo by Patricia Leslie