Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination sparked days of rioting in cities across the United States, including Chicago, seen here. Lee Balterman/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
Marked by turmoil, tragedy and triumph, 1968 was a roller coaster. Political protests hit an international crescendo, violence struck at the heart of America and wartime atrocities tested the world’s resolve.
Fifty years later, it’s clear the year left scars that have yet to heal when riots rocked America after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. and protests shook the streets of Paris, Prague and Mexico City.
The Vietnam War raged on with no end in sight, and in the United States a struggling President Lyndon B. Johnson declined to run for office again. The anti-war Democratic candidate, Eugene McCarthy, lost his party’s nomination and Richard Nixon became President No. 37, laying bare a fractured political climate.
Still, the Beatles and Supremes stirred our souls; imaginative filmmakers discovered future dystopias; and the year ended in victory for the crew of the Apollo 8 mission, which orbited the moon in a first for mankind.
For more on the year that changed America, watch the CNN Original Series Event "1968" on Sunday, May 27, and Monday, May 28, at 9 p.m. ET.
Editor’s note: This gallery contains graphic images. Viewer discretion is advised.
January 14: Green Bay Packers head coach Vince Lombardi is carried off the field by his players after the Packers smashed the Oakland Raiders 33-14 in the second Super Bowl
. It was Lombardi’s last game as the Packers’ head coach. Bettmann/Getty Images
January 21: The Supremes, fronted by Diana Ross, perform at a party in Munich, West Germany. The all-female singing group was one of the most popular musical acts in the world. Frings/AP
January 23: The USS Pueblo, a Navy intelligence vessel, is attacked by North Korea, and its 83-man crew was transported to Pyongyang and imprisoned. The crew was charged with spying within North Korea’s 12-mile territorial limit. They were held captive for 11 months before being released. Korean Central News Agency/AP
February 1: During the Vietnam War, Eddie Adams photographed Gen. Nguyen Ngoc Loan, a South Vietnamese police chief, killing Viet Cong suspect Nguyen Van Lem on a Saigon street during the early stages of the Tet Offensive. Adams later regretted the impact of the Pulitzer Prize-winning image, apologizing to Gen. Nguyen and his family for the damage it did to the general's reputation. "I'm not saying what he did was right," Adams wrote in Time magazine, "but you have to put yourself in his position." Eddie Adams/AP
February: American figure skater Peggy Fleming practices on an outside rink in Grenoble, France, during the Winter Olympic Games. Fleming went on to win singles gold. AFP/Getty Images
March 16: About 400 women, children and elderly civilians are massacred by US forces in the village of My Lai in South Vietnam. Army Lt. William L. Calley Jr., who ordered the action, was court-martialed. He was the only soldier convicted in connection with the killings. Ronald S. Haeberle/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images
March 29: US National Guard troops block off Beale Street in Memphis, Tennessee, as civil rights protesters march for the third day in a row. Bettmann/Getty Images
April: During a dramatic wartime moment, US troopers aid wounded comrades in Vietnam. The soldier at left is guiding a medevac helicopter through the jungle foliage. Art Greenspon/AP
April 2: US Sen. Robert Kennedy, brother of former President John F. Kennedy, shakes hands with supporters during a presidential campaign appearance in Philadelphia. Warren M. Winterbottom/AP
April 3: The film adaptation of Pierre Boulle’s novel “Planet of the Apes” is released, starring Charlton Heston, seen at right. The success of the film led to multiple sequels and reboots. 20th-Century Fox/Getty Images
April 3: Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey” hits the big screen and becomes the top-grossing film of the year. Its depictions of space exploration influenced many of today’s legendary directors, including Steven Spielberg and George Lucas. Sunset Boulevard/Corbis/Getty Images
April 4: Civil rights leaders point frantically in the direction of the gunshot after Martin Luther King Jr. was struck by an assassin’s bullet on the balcony of Memphis’ Lorraine Motel. King was pronounced dead around an hour later. He was 39 years old. Joseph Louw/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images
April 9: King’s widow, Coretta Scott King, is joined by her children as she looks down at her husband’s open casket. Costa Manos/Magnum Photos
April 11: Amid anger over King’s slaying, US President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act of 1968. The legislation banned housing discrimination based on race, religion or national origin. Warren Leffler/Underwood Archives/Getty Images
April 23: Students at Columbia University in New York, outraged over the university’s ties to the Vietnam War and plans to build a gymnasium in a public park, begin occupying campus buildings. Around 100 people were injured and hundreds more arrested when police were called in to stop the protests a week later. Steve Schapiro/Corbis/Getty Images
May 6: Anti-riot police charge through the streets of Paris during violent student demonstrations. University students were calling for education reform and political change in France. Later that month, there were labor strikes that brought the country to a standstill and nearly toppled the government of Charles de Gaulle. AP
May 20: From left, comedian Dan Rowan, producer George Schlatter and comedian Dick Martin take home lots of Emmy Awards for their hit sketch comedy show “Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In.” AP
May 29: Manchester United’s Brian Kidd celebrates his 19th birthday in style by scoring a goal in the soccer club’s 4-1 win over Benfica in the European Cup Final. It was the first European Cup title for an English club. Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
June 5: A busboy named Juan Romero tries to comfort US Sen. Robert Kennedy, who was shot and killed after a speech at Los Angeles’ Ambassador Hotel. A Palestinian man named Sirhan Sirhan was later convicted in the assassination and sentenced to life in prison. Bill Eppridge/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
June 8: A funeral train carrying Kennedy’s body from New York to Washington passes a group of children bidding farewell to the slain presidential hopeful. Kennedy was buried at Arlington National Cemetery just 30 yards from his brother, former President John F. Kennedy. Declan Haun/Chicago History Museum/Getty Images
June 12: Roman Polanski’s 1968 horror classic “Rosemary’s Baby,” based on the best-selling book of the same name, terrifies audiences and wows critics. Mia Farrow’s performance as Rosemary — her first leading role — helps catapult her to stardom.
June 15: A woman dances on stage at a rock festival in Venice Beach, California. Dennis Stock/Magnum Photos
June 19: A rally is held in front of the Washington Monument for the Poor People’s Campaign, a cause that was started by Martin Luther King Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Paul Slade/Paris Match/Getty Images
June 23: A woman holds the body of a dead girl, one of the many victims of the Biafran War in Nigeria. Hostilities, disease and starvation claimed an estimated 1 million to 3 million lives during the 30-month civil war, according to globalsecurity.org. Ron Burton/Mirrorpix/Newscom
July 22: Huey Newton’s trial in the killing of a police officer in Oakland, California, draws hundreds to the streets, where they marched under “Free Huey” banners in support of the Black Panther Party co-founder. Newton was convicted on manslaughter charges, but he was released from prison in 1970 after his conviction was overturned. Bettmann/Getty Images
July 28: In the summer of ’68 acclaimed war photographer Don McCullin was invited to spend a day with the Beatles as the British rock band hopscotched around London. McCullin’s photos of the group are some of the most iconic shots ever captured of the “Fab Four.” Don McCullin/Contact Press Images
July 31: US President Lyndon B. Johnson buries his head as he listens to his son-in-law, Marine Capt. Charles Robb, give him on-the-ground updates from Vietnam. Amid growing opposition to the Vietnam War, Johnson announced months earlier that he would not seek a second term. Corbis/Getty Images
August 1: US Sen. Eugene McCarthy gives a speech in St. Louis during his campaign for the presidency. McCarthy’s anti-Vietnam War campaign failed to win him the Democratic nomination at the party’s convention. Instead, the nomination went to Vice President Hubert Humphrey. Leonard McCombe/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
August: Soviet tanks battle protesters in the streets of Prague, Czechoslovakia. Moscow’s military invasion ended the so-called Prague Spring of human-rights reforms, which was led by Czech communist leader Alexander Dubcek. Josef Koudelka/Magnum Photos
August: Anti-war protesters confront federal troops during the 1968 Democratic National Convention. Raymond Depardon/Magnum Photos
September 24: The landmark TV news magazine “60 Minutes” debuts on CBS. Created by legendary producer Don Hewitt, center, and featuring Harry Reasoner, left, and Mike Wallace, right, the show continues today — half a century after it started. CBS/Getty Images
September 30: At its factory in Everett, Washington, Boeing unveils the prototype for the 747, the world’s first twin-aisle airliner. Seating about 400 people, the “Jumbo Jet” would make international travel affordable for an entire generation. It served as the world’s largest passenger airliner until 2007, when it was surpassed by the Airbus A380 “Superjumbo.” SSPL/Getty Images
October 2: The St. Louis Cardinals’ Bob Gibson strikes out a World Series-record 17 batters in Game 1 against the Detroit Tigers. The record still stands today. The Tigers came back from a 3-1 series deficit, however, to win the title in seven games. AP
October 2: Paramilitary forces hired to provide security on the eve of the Mexico City Olympics participate in the massacre of up to 300 student protesters. The killings fueled a series of guerrilla movements that disrupted Mexican society throughout the 1970s. Proceso/AP
October 12: Enriqueta Basilio becomes the first woman in modern Olympic history to light the Olympic cauldron during the opening ceremony in Mexico City. Bettmann/Getty Images
October 13: Apollo 7 astronauts perform NASA’s first live TV broadcast from space. The mission’s chief goal was to test the “command module” portion of the spacecraft before December’s Apollo 8 moon voyage. NASA
October 16: In Mexico City, Olympians Tommie Smith, center, and John Carlos, right, make headlines by raising their fists in protest during their Olympics medal ceremony. Smith has said it was gesture for human rights, not black power. “The right hand in the air with the black glove represents power and tranquility,” Smith told CNN in 2016. “Of course the head bow was a prayer.” AP
November 5: Republican Richard Nixon wins the presidential election after running on a “law and order” platform aimed at the “de-Americanization” of the Vietnam War. Less than six years later, the war would continue to rage and the Watergate scandal would force Nixon to resign in disgrace. Rolls Press/Popperfoto/Getty Images
November 22: An episode of the TV series “Star Trek” includes a kissing scene with stars Nichelle Nichols and William Shatner. It is one of the first times an interracial kiss is shown on a scripted American TV series. CBS/Getty Images
December: The Beatles’ John Lennon and his girlfriend, Yoko Ono, ride together in a car. A month earlier, the couple released an album of experimental music. Susan Wood/Getty Images
December 24: On Christmas Eve, the crew of Apollo 8 — the first humans to orbit the moon — offer a message of peace in a TV broadcast from lunar orbit. Each crewman read part of the Bible’s Book of Genesis, and astronaut Frank Borman said, “Good night, good luck, a merry Christmas and God bless all of you — all of you on the good Earth.” Many think Apollo 8’s successful mission was a bright ending to a horrible year. Astronaut Bill Anders took this photo of Earth as it appeared to rise from the moon's surface. The photo, now nicknamed "Earthrise," became one of NASA's most iconic photos. NASA/Bettmann/Getty Images
Photo editors: Brett Roegiers and Daniel Kim
Producers: Melonyce McAfee, Thom Patterson, Drew Kann and Kyle Almond