The 1960s American Movements Essay

The 1960s American Movements

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Governor Ronald Reagan could very well tell the Berkeley professors that the students’ movement of 1960s started with their inability to stop students from protesting on social issues and breaking the law; by telling them not to break law. But the 1960s had a different destiny and background which could not be stopped by any one, to any one from taking the law. The protests as part of the movement  to fight against inequality of women, the demand of students to be  treatment as citizens of the country and their refusal of being controlled by the school administration persons like so called parents. The pragmatic active democratic participation of people in the policy formation process of nation was at the core of all movements of 1960s. It was destiny of United States and also responsibility of the students and the citizens of America to fight against few elites deciding the fate of the whole people. Whether it was fighting and participating in the war in Vietnam, the unequal and unjust treatment of women in society, the fight for giving rights and treating them equal with equal status to black American citizens from South, the care for environment protection or issues of gay population, these were awaiting peoples movements, specially students in colleges and on university campuses. The responsibilities of America to lead the world as world power and to counter the spread of communism of United Soviet Socialist Republics and its growing influence on Asian and African countries, expected America to put its own society and nation on the just, equal and really democratic footing and strong platform of peoples democracy. A ‘no’ from the Berkley faculty, as Governor Nixon desired and expected, was not strong enough to stop the movements of 1960s, these were historical dues of America to be paid by some amount of excesses that resulted from the civil rights, anti-war, and student protest movements that lead America with their principled commitment to racial equality, peace, and university reform.

The 1960s: The Years That Changed the World For Ever

The 1960’s and early 1970s Youth Movement, significant movements as for rights of

Women, the rights of African American, started developing with frenzy. The Vietnam War, in a distant country started attracting people’s mind. It was armed combat for America at home and at abroad and in Vietnam. Killing of national leaders shocked the people’s mind resulting in wide spread violence and unrest. America was passing through a period of huge revolution. The environment was full with conflict and anticipation. Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. observed in 1960 that up to now, the mood is unclear and vague. However, the situation has started unfolding in a massive way, and we are yearning for somewhat beyond our limits. America is uncertain though hopeful, sad but hopeful, worried but optimistic. These are the strange and mystified times in America’s history, the period of uncertainty, expectation and hope. It appears that America is looking for some great changes.

The movement of youth was the most important movement; youth insisted to be listened, his plans for career, family life changed entirely. Youth wanted to live a different life than their parents lived.  People started joining and living in group homes and communes with diverse people, very open regarding intimacy and sex. The student movement wanted to defend their civil rights as citizens; they wanted to participate in making decisions about their future. They asked for a social transformation in US.

The movements of 1960s were (1) the movement for civil rights, 2) the youth or student movement, (3) the movement opposing war in Vietnam, (4) the movement for rights of women, (5) movement for rights of gay, and (6) movement for protecting the environmental. These movements were asking for changes in the policies of US to change the lives of all Americans. They challenged established ways of treating the citizens like separate schools for the white children where blacks cannot study, women restricted to limited jobs of receptionist or assistant. These issues made American people to struggle against inequality. They used non customary methods direct action, public demonstration, protests, sit-ins, public meeting, appeal drives, and most important invention of 60s the teach-ins. The youth gave everything they can to make a just society.

The foundations of Protest Movement

The eruption of social change movement of 1960s has many interconnected reasons (1) the federal government became all important in the lives of Americans from 14930s. (2) The World War II (1939-1945), brought United States in fore front of world leadership as a global power rival to Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR); (3) 1950s and 1960s saw financial prosperity, the financial disparity became obvious (4) national culture of closeness was taking shape linking whole America thanks to television, (5) larger number of students reached college thus bringing concerned activists at one place on College Campus and Universities Campuses.

Developing Role of Federal Government

Great Depression of 1930s brought extensive job loss and poverty, President Franklin Roosevelt implemented “the New Deal programs”. Thus first time the federal government took an important participation in the wellbeing of people. Through 1960s, for Americans the federal government had became an almighty power to defend them from unjust and unfair social situations.

America Became Important Global Leader

Post World War II America emerged as a world power, in absence of democratic, powerful capitalist country to counter the supremacy of USSR. The United States took on itself the responsibility of countering the influence of Communism; US agreed to defend its partners against attacks on them, these were the times of Cold War between US and USSR.

Activists raised a question, why should African or Asian countries reject Communism and adopt American lifestyle, when US has racism and inequality as its social lifestyle. US need to improve democracy, equality first for its people if US has to lead the world and defeat USSR in Cold War. Youth questioned the ethical and spiritual well being of US. The youth became a critical part of social change movements in 1960s.

 The Influence of Extensive Economic Affluence

The social activism of 1960s got its fertilizer from better affluence. Incomes improved in US after the World War II was over bringing more people into middle class. The gross national product (GNP) of US increased from 1945 through 1960 by 250 percent. Financial security also made Americans to ask why many social groups are poor; they look towards finding remedy to inequality and social problems. All were not nor prosperous, so did the poor start looking for reasons of their poverty. Favoritism often played a main role in their poverty. By inequality so obviously a part of US society, they started to succeed in attracting national thought.

US as an interconnected nation began to shape after business market places emerged, national Television broadcasts of news and chat shows began, the nation started thinking as one nation rather individuals spread widely and unconnected from 1960, the information created by a influential mass media. In early 1930s, the majority of Americans lived quite cut off lives the happenings in other areas of the country were not discussed much. America became connected, interstate highways and extensive possession of cars factually brought the nation nearer as one. The countrywide radio and TV set-up made all stories national issues.

The belief that there should be one way of justice and equality started occupying people’s mind. Local traditions such as segregation in the South had to give way to one national standard of justice and equality. Social activists, by the 1960s, counted on Americans to be interested in and informed about problems in any part of the nation. They could trust that the national media would broadcast their situation and their protests around the country. This created a faith and urgency among all Americans who felt concerned for social causes to mitigate the sufferings of Southern people facing discrimination because of their color and race in public services, employment and political system.

The Changing Culture of Youth

Young were most important organ of the mass movement for bringing social changes in the American social life and system of 1960s. They became numerically strong and important close to 77 million children born in the “baby boom.” Period of post World War period reached college spending a long period together in school and college and they were richer than the earlier batches or generations, in 1960s, 3 out of every 4 youth completed high school, and about 50%  of them reached college campuses. These young students started using their freedom of raising questions about the ethical and social condition of people in the country.

Important Protest Movements of 1960s:

The Civil Rights Movement

During 1950s up to starting years of 1960s, The Civil Rights Movement began, to stop the prevailing societal, political, legal, and financial tradition that separate black Americans from white Americans, towering over the coming up changes in social customs and systems, by stirring Americans to struggle for change by means of direct action, like (1) protest marches, (2) protest rallies, and (3) and peaceful civil defiance campaign such as the sit-ins.

These afterward movements incorporated protest of American commitment in Vietnam War during the years 1959 to 1975. These movements also included women’s movement, who were fighting for full equality; the gay activists’ movement attempting to stop established prejudice and existing laws prohibiting homosexual actions; later on environmental movement, to stop the unrestrained population increase, and the unconcerned way of using the natural resources. In the 1960s, Americans took part in protest movements, though with differed goals. The movements were made on the principle of peoples’ activism with a profound faith that the social changes and justice are possible to bring in by way of political change.

Civil Rights Movement

The movement for civil rights marked the beginning of social movements in turbulent years of 1960s. Martin Luther King, Jr. the greatest social activism hero is the product of this movement. The movement for civil rights got itself rooted during 1950s but significantly became long drawn out power during 1960s, began by black Americans of South confronting racial inequity and isolation, that is, division of blacks and whites, in approximately all aspects of their life. The 1960s witnessed black forced to sit on the rear side of public transport buses, witnessed them being refused entry in the hotels and restaurants, going to the racially separated out schools, in spite of the Supreme Court judgment (Brown v. Board of Education, 1954), banning racially separated out schools and colleges. The job advertisements separated “Negro” from “white”, and blacks could take only the lowest salary jobs of very low social status work. The most blacks were not permitted their right to vote, in a democratic country proud of its liberal traditions in cold war with USSR. However the situation in north was not as bad as they were for southern blacks. Though separate out housing and education institutions and separated out jobs was a common sight in north as well.

In spite of blacks contested for their just rights in the courts, blacks lobbied with elected office bearers, and started a prolonged movement of peaceful direct action but no result. Martin Luther King Jr. lead many such in main demonstrations i Georgia, Albany in 1962, then in Birmingham, and in Alabama, and Washington D.C. during 1963; also in the city of Selma, Alabama, in the year 1965. Young black protesters too participated in these movements for civil rights. The culmination of the movements took shape of a non violent organisation named as “the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC)” the SNCC struggled about the “right to vote” and for ending the unfair laws and traditions.

The participants of civil rights movement, the protesters brought to focus the country’s thought on second rate nationality of blacks’. The white Americans, including got shock of their life watching the cruelty imposed and shown to the protesters from Deep South. The shocked Americans looked at television screenings of cruelty inflicted by the police commissioner Bull Connor, in Birmingham, Alabama, by letting loose dogs to bite on the nonviolent demonstration of black people including women, and children in 1963. This brutality infuriated the whole nation. The cool resolve of these tough activists resulted in the enactment of civil rights law.

The 1964 saw that the civil rights movement forced the President Johnson, and US Congress to enact the “Civil Rights Act of 1964”, that outlawed segregation in hotels restaurants and other places of social nature, any discrimination in school education and jobs. In the year 1965 Congress also voted for “the Voting Rights Act” that suspended use of any devices used for voters’ qualification which were used to stop and discourage the black Americans from their voting right.

This was a watershed in the peoples’ struggle as they got their civil rights by using a movement of peaceful direct action to put to an end the brutal open, racism in America that demonstrated to the activists leading other movements that they can bring about change bypassing the conventional political structure. The use of sit-ins, use of boycotts, arranging marches, and organising rallies for bringing flood lights on their cause can help kick off change in law making machinery and in the society at large.

The Most Important Student Movement of 1960s

The students’ movement became the subsequent key social change agitation which found its growth in 1960s. Most of early organizers of the students’ movement initially happen to become politically active during early 1960s operating along the blacks in the civil rights movements. These activists consisted largely of white students. The students’ movement was primarily working for bringing racism and poverty to an end. It was fighting for more student rights, and by now it also asked question about the Vietnam War, to end the war. Participatory democracy was at the center of movement, the stakes were very high, it asked for inclusion of all citizens of America, not merely a small number of elite citizens to decide upon the main financial, political, and public issues which created and mould the US as a nation. The students expected to empower the people of the country to struggle for their rights and to bring about political financial changes.

This faith of democratic activist made student leaders and activists to refuse government and college admin policies. Students opted for sat-in to oppose refusing students their fundamental rights of free expression and speech in letter and spirit and to use organising rallies to press their just demands like the rules that made college and school administration staff to perform like their parents, thereby making curfews and the rules for use of dorm living by students.

The students’ movement also insisted that faculty should stop research contributing directly or indirectly to the Vietnam War.

Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) got shape in 1960 formed by some young citizens, with in 8 years it became metamorphic into 100,000 members joining SDS through out the United States. The Free Speech Movement brought strength to the SDS which took place in 1964 at the University of California in Berkeley. The students in Berkeley demonstrated to oppose the ban on distribution of political pamphlets on Berkley University campus, by the university authorities. They insisted not to be dealt with as a mere number in the over flow of students at Berkeley campus, the movement spread to other Universities quickly demanding and agitating for removal of restrictions those treats students as irresponsible persons.

The Women’s Movement

The movement for women rights of that period started during late 1960s, a large number of women those have taken part in the other earlier movements demonstrated their resolve to fight together for their cause, rights and above all for equality. They have been put to perform the unskilled boring odd jobs of photocopying and replying phone calls. Till 1960s the women was supposed to get  married produce and raise children by living at home, their participation in jobs that men were doing was considered a big no because of their soft and fragile body, never considered for higher salaried and status jobs. The best seller of 1960s, “The Feminine Mystique, by Betty Friedan” was published in 1963; the book brought to fore the frustrations of women with the task the traditional society has thrust upon them. The Feminine Mystique motivated and made them confident and buoyant to struggle to bring change in their state of job and task affairs, making them equal with men.  The women movement got success in bringing out “the Civil Rights Act of 1964” that banned gender based inequity. Though enforcement of the legislation was tardy because of official apathy women led by Friedan formed “the National Organization for Women (NOW)” in 1966 to force government to act against cases of inequity against women.

The Movement for Rights of Gay:

Most American States till 1960s had anti homosexual acts, not permitting marriage of same sex couples and adoption, Gays were discriminated in jobs, and they were ridiculed and harassed. A huge movement for rights of gay took birth in 1960s. By then the peoples’ activism had matured because of civil rights and other social change movements. In 1969, at New York City gay bar, the Stonewall Inn, gay men instinctively resisted the arrest of gay persons and closure of Stonewall Inn.  The movement had two aims (1) to get recognition of homosexuality and (2) to stop discrimination.

Today many Americans have no problems in living as normal life as homosexuals, the discriminatory situation at work and in society does not trouble them now.

Movement for Protection of Environment

The worry about environment among elite Americans became political issue during late 1960s, giving rise to a popular peoples’ movement aimed at safe guarding and preserving our environment. The noted biologist Rachel Carson brought the issue to attention in her book entitled “Silent Spring” published in 1962, informing about insecticides and chemical those destroyed (1) many animal species, (2) quite a few varieties of fish and (3) have put in human existence in danger. The Earth Day of 1970 was inspired by experience of “anti-Vietnam War movement” in which students from 10,000 schools and 1500 higher education institutions participated in “teach-ins” about issues with environment. The citizen protests forced the US Congress to pass act “the National Environmental Act, 1970”,   that made “the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)” to deal with issues related to environment and natural resources. The impact of movement was obvious and visible in time, when people joined groups to work for environmental care and protection. Awareness of people and laws are outcome of movement.

The Analysis Of Movements Of 1960s: Contributions To The Good of America

Many Americans criticized the social change movements in the beginning stage. The protest campaigns which disturbed their business made them angry; any change in the established belief system is bound to be resisted. The anti Vietnam War movement, civil rights protests, students movements suffered cruel suppression, persecution from brute police force and other state agencies. These movements (1) against Vietnam War, and (2) gay rights failed to get acceptance from the Americans. This was calculated by surveys and polls. As the time passed by, the civil rights, environmental, and women’s movement got majority acceptance in surveys and opinion polls.

The movements of 1960s gained public notice and asked questions vital for America. The rights of gay movement, women’s movement and civil rights movements enlightened US citizens to think about equality seriously, while student movement defined freedom. Anti Vietnam War movement made Americans to think about nation’s supremacy and the suitability of foreign policy. The Environmentalists forced Americans to think about the balance between financial growth and damage to the planet earth.

The movements and their think tanks activists posed very hard and intricate questions, though in an offensive way, that would have never got Americans’ attention otherwise. America and Americans changed radically, equality of rights and opportunity could become law, Americans decided to shun discard inequality based on skin color or race, by ethnicity, or based on gender. American foreign policy became open to its people, albeit partially. And last but not the least the health of America’s environment is now a state priority. The students lead democratic activism lead to peoples’ watch over the policies and failures of government administrators and bureaucrats, is now established practice.

References

Jentri Anders, Beyond Counterculture, Washington State University Press, 1990, ISBN 0874220602 & ISBN 978-0874220605
Theodore Roszak (1968); The Making of a Counter Culture
Anderson, Terry H. (1995). The Movement and the Sixties, Oxford University Press. ISBN 0195104579.
Hirsch, E.D. (1993). The Dictionary of Cultural Literacy. Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 0-395-65597-8. p 419. “Members of a cultural protest that began in the U.S. in the 1960s and affected Europe before fading in the 1970s…fundamentally a cultural rather than a political protest.”
Gallup, Alec; Frank Newport. The Gallup Poll: Public Opinion 2005, Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 315-318. ISBN 0742552586.
Martin A. Lee, Acid Dreams The CIA, LSD, and the Sixties Rebellion, Grove Press 1985, Pgs. 157-163 ISBN 0-394-62081-X
http://www.colorado.edu/AmStudies/lewis/2010/students.htm