1961 History Events: What Happened in 1961

The 1960s saw a growth in freedom marches and movements by civil rights organisations all over the world. JFK became the youngest president in history after a successful presidential campaign on the Democratic Party ticket. The world watched as JFK took the oath of office delivered by Chief Justice Earl Warren in the newly restored East front of the US Capitol. On the chilly morning of January 20, 1961, JFK, who is famous for stating, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but ask what you can do for your country,” was inaugurated.

During JFK’s presidency, racial segregation in the United States, particularly in the south, had reached unprecedented levels. The Freedom Rides were founded by a 13-member group of African-American and white human rights campaigners. The freedom riders set off on a voyage from Washington, D.C. on May 4 with the goal of integrating bus station facilities, such as blacks using whites’ only restrooms and vice versa. White protestors attacked the Freedom Riders, but the rides brought international attention to the situation in America. In September of 1961, the Interstate Commerce Commission issued regulations prohibiting racial segregation at all bus and train terminals.

1961 would be a watershed moment in Kenya’s quest for independence from British colonialists, while racial discrimination raged in the United States. Kenyatta was tried for commanding the outlawed Mau Mau under the state of emergency in 1952 and found guilty despite pleading innocence to the accusations. Kenyatta and five other KAU leaders were condemned to seven years in prison by a judge in Kapenguria, Kenya, where they are known as the ‘Kapenguria Six.’ Kenyatta was imprisoned for six years in Kapenguria and one year in Lodwar before being released on August 21, 1961.

Many civil rights organisations around the world began fighting for various injustices in 1961. It sparked an awareness of the predicament of the segregated, and a new world order was set in motion as a result.

Continue reading to discover more about the events of 1961.


(January 20, 1961)
John F. Kennedy is sworn in as the 35th President of the United States of America, making him the youngest man and the first Catholic to hold the position. "And so, my fellow Americans," he continued in his inaugural address, "ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country."


(January 25, 1961)
President John F. Kennedy holds the first live presidential television news conference in Washington, D.C.

(February 13, 1961)
A 500,000-year-old rock has been unearthed near Olancha, California, in the United States, which looks to anachronistically encapsulate a spark plug.

(April 03, 1961)
Eddie Murphy is an American comedian and actor who was born in Brooklyn, New York.

(April 11, 1961)
Adolf Eichmann's trial began in Jerusalem and ended eight months later with the sole death sentence ever given by an Israeli court.


(April 12, 1961)
Yuri Gagarin, a Soviet cosmonaut, becomes the first human to journey into space and completes the first crewed orbital voyage, Vostok 1.

(April 27, 1961)
Sierra Leone, a British colony and protectorate for many years, gained independence within the British Commonwealth, with Sir Milton Margai as the first prime minister.

(May 04, 1961)
The first Freedom Ride—a political protest against interstate bus segregation in the South—began when a group of white and black Americans boarded buses destined for New Orleans from Washington, D.C.

(May 05, 1961)
Alan Shepard, Jr. became the first American astronaut to journey to space during a 15-minute suborbital mission in the Freedom 7 spacecraft.


(May 06, 1961)
George Clooney, an American actor who rose to prominence in the 1990s as a popular leading man noted for his good looks and versatility before going on to become a well-respected director and screenwriter, was born.

(May 28, 1961)
Amnesty International was founded in London on this day in 1961 with the goal of informing the public about human rights and securing the release of political prisoners. It earned the Nobel Peace Prize in 1977.

Happy Birthday! (August 04, 1961)
Barack Obama, American lawyer and politician, 44th President of the United States, Nobel Prize laureate. photo source:

(September 16, 1961)
A total of eight silver iodide cylinders were released by the United States National Hurricane Research Project into the eyewall of Hurricane Esther. The speed of the wind decreases by 10 percent, hence leading to the project known as Project Stormfury. photo source:

(September 17, 1961)
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania's Civic Arena, the world's first retractable roof stadium, goes into operation. photo source:


(September 29, 1961)
Julia Gillard was born in Wales and became Australia's first female prime minister in 2010. photo source:

(October 27, 1961)
The first Saturn rocket was successfully launched, and the Saturn V was employed in the Apollo Moon-landing missions years later. photo source:

(October 30, 1961) Tsar Bomba, the world's largest nuclear weapon, was exploded above Novaya Zemlya Island in the Arctic Ocean, producing the most intense human-made explosion ever recorded. photo source:

(December 09, 1961)
Tanganyika gained independence, with Julius Nyerere as its first prime minister, and in 1964 the province merged with the island of Zanzibar to form Tanzania. photo source:

Written by James

James has always been intrigued by dinosaurs, the universe, technology, and animals. With a Bachelor of Computer Science and years of writing expertise, he joined World Amazing Facts in 2021 as a staff writer.

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1960 History Events: What Happened in 1960

1962 History Events: What Happened in 1962