Before serious demographic shifts and culture wars directed the national spotlight away from this region, Nassau-Suffolk gripped its position as the most prosperous area in the United States in the early 1960s, as the white ethnic middle class continued to flee the five boroughs of New York City, seeking home ownership and greener pastures on Long Island. Former potato fields became overnight suburban communities and industrial parks.
Mirroring the growth and the shiny newness of it all, the early-to-mid 1960s was an era of optimism on Long Island: the age of Camelot, the Beatles, and rock and roll. Both John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon recognized the region’s up-and-coming status, making stops here during their 1960 campaign. The 1964-65 World’s Fair seemed the perfect location for a celebration of American capitalist and pop cultural preeminence. And right next door, the Beatles made music history at Shea Stadium in August of 1965, kicking off their second tour of the United States with a sold-out live show in front of screaming teenage suburban girls.
Amidst all of this positive energy, more contentious change was underfoot, and the island was a microcosm of the same powerful forces shaking up the rest of the nation. The Civil Rights Movement impacted school district and housing integration throughout the region. Long Island residents, like Americans everywhere, also questioned the status quo in foreign policy, gender relations, and the meaning of “traditional” in American life.
In short, Long Island held both a uniquely privileged status of growth during the 1960s, and a status of vulnerability, experiencing the same dilemmas locally that shook the rest of the nation. This exhibition will take visitors on a tour of the decade when Long Island stood at the precipice of transformations that still hold legacies for our present.
Long Island in the Sixties is sponsored by Astoria Bank; Bracken Margolin Besunder LLP; The Coby Fountation, Ltd.; Empire National Bank; FulfillmentPlus, Inc.; Museum Association of New York; and New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.