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Essay/Term paper: 1960's

Essay, term paper, research paper:  World History

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Many social changes that were addressed in the 1960s are still the

issues being confronted today. the '60s was a decade of social and

political upheaval. in spite of all the turmoil, there were some positive

results: the civil rights revolution, john f. Kennedy's bold vision of a

new frontier, and the breathtaking advances in space, helped bring about

progress and prosperity. however, much was negative: student and anti-war

protest movements, political assassinations, and ghetto riots excited

american people and resulted in lack of respect for authority and the law.


The decade began under the shadow of the cold war with the soviet

union, which was aggravated by the u-2 incident, the berlin wall, and the

cuban missile crisis, along with the space race with the ussr.


The decade ended under the shadow of the viet nam war, which deeply

divided americans and their allies and damaged the country's

self-confidence and sense of purpose.


Even if you weren't alive during the '60s, you know what they meant

when they said, "tune in, turn on, drop out." you know why the nation

celebrates Martin luther king, jr.'s birthday. all of the social issues

are reflected in today's society: the civil rights movement, the student

movement, space exploration, the sexual revolution, the environment,

medicine and health, and fun and fashion.


The Civil Rights Movement


The momentum of the previous decade's civil rights gains led by rev.

Martin luther king, jr. carried over into the 1960s. but for most blacks,

the tangible results were minimal. only a minuscule percentage of black

children actually attended integrated schools, and in the south, "jim crow"

practices barred blacks from jobs and public places. New groups and goals

were formed, new tactics devised, to push forward for full equality. as

often as not, white resistance resulted in violence. this violence spilled

across tv screens nationwide. the average, neutral american, after seeing

his/her tv screen, turned into a civil rights supporter.


Black unity and white support continued to grow. in 1962, with the

first large-scale public protest against racial discrimination, rev. Martin

luther king, jr. Gave a dramatic and inspirational speech in washington,

d.c. After a long march of thousands to the capital. the possibility of

riot and bloodshed was always there, but the marchers took that chance so

that they could accept the responsibilities of first class citizens. "the

negro," King said in this speech, "lives on a lonely island of poverty in

the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity and finds himself an exile

in his own land." King continued stolidly: "it would be fatal for the

nation to overlook the urgency of the moment and to underestimate the

determination of the negro. this sweltering summer of the negro's

legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn

of freedom and equality." when King came to the end of his prepared text,

he swept right on into an exhibition of impromptu oratory that was

catching, dramatic, and inspirational.


"I have a dream," King cried out. the crowd began cheering, but king,

never pausing, brought silence as he continued, "i have a dream that one

day on the red hills of georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of

former slaveowners will be able to sit down together at the table of



"I have a dream," he went on, relentlessly shouting down the

thunderous swell of applause, "that even the state of mississippi, a state

sweltering with people's injustices, sweltering with the heat of

oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice. i

have dream," cried King for the last time, "that my four little children

will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of

their skin but by the content of their character."


Everyone agreed the march was a success and they wanted action now!

but, now! remained a long way off. president kennedy was never able to

mobilize sufficient support to pass a civil rights bill with teeth over the

opposition of segregationist southern members of congress. but after his

assassination, president johnson, drawing on the kennedy legacy and on the

press coverage of civil rights marches and protests, succeeded where

kennedy had failed.


However, by the summer of 1964, the black revolution had created its

own crisis of disappointed expectations. rioting by urban blacks was to be

a feature of every "long, hot, summer" of the mid-1960s.


In 1965, King and other black leaders wanted to push beyond social

integration, now guaranteed under the previous year's civil rights law, to

political rights, mainly southern blacks' rights to register and vote.

king picked a tough alabama town to tackle: selma, where only 1% of

eligible black voters were registered to vote. the violence, the march,

the excitement all contributed to the passage of the second landmark civil

rights act of the decade. even though there was horrendous violence, rev.

king announced that as a "matter of conscience and in an attempt to arouse

the deepest concern of the nation," he was "compelled" to lead another

march from selma to montgomery, alabama.


The four-day, 54-mile march started on the afternoon of sunday, march

21, 1965, with some 3500 marchers led by two nobel prizewinners, the rev.

Martin luther king, jr. And ralph bunche, then u.n. Under secretary for

special political affairs. in the march, whites, negroes, clergymen and

beatniks, old and young, walked side by side. president johnson made sure

they had plenty of protection this time with 1000 military police, 1900

federalized alabama national guardsmen, and platoons of u.s. Marshals and

fbi men.


When the marchers reached the capital of alabama, they were to have

presented a petition to then governor george wallace protesting voting

discrimination. however, when they arrived, the governor's aides came out

and said, "the capital is closed today."


About this same time, the term, "black power" was coming into use. it

was meant to infer long-submerged racial pride in negroes. Martin luther

king, jr. Specifically sought to rebut the evangelists of black power. "it

is absolutely necessary for the negro to gain power, but the term black

power is unfortunate, because it tends to give the impression of black

nationalism. we must never seek power exclusively for the negro, but the

sharing of power with white people," he said.


Unfortunately, the thing that really moved the civil rights movement

along significantly was the murder of rev. Martin luther king, jr. In late

1965. cruelty replaced harmony with nightmarish suddenness. rioting mobs

in the negro suburb of watts, california, pillaged, burned and killed,

while 500 policemen and 5000 national guardsmen struggled in vain to

contain their fury. hour after hour, the toll mounted: 27 dead at the

week's end, nearly 600 injured, 1700 arrested, and property damage well

over $100 million.


The good that came out of all of this, is that thousands of negroes

were flocking to register in the nine counties in alabama, louisiana, and

mississippi where the government posted federal examiners to uphold the

voting law. in four days, 6,998 negro voters were added to the rolls in

counties where there had previously been only 3,857.


In that time of sorrow and guilt when King was murdered, there was an

opening for peace between the races that might otherwise never have

presented itself. president johnson pleaded, "i ask every citizen to

reject the blind violence that has struck dr. King." he went on to say

that to bring meaning to his death, we must be determined to strike

forcefully at the consciences of all americans in order to wrest from

tragedy and trauma, the will to make a better society.


The Student Movement


Americans who were young in the 1960s influenced the course of the

decade as no group had before. the motto of the time was "don't trust

anyone over 30." another, "tell it like it is," conveyed a real mistrust

of what they considered adult deviousness.


Youthful americans were outraged by the intolerance of their

universities, racial inequality, social injustice, the viet nam war, and

the economic and political constraints of everyday life and work. one

group that formed during this time was s.d.s. (students for a democratic

society). opposed to "imperialism," racism, and oppression, the s.d.s.

found the american university guilty of all three. they did do some good

at the beginning like organizing northern ghetto dwellers in projects such

as chicago's jobs or income, now (join). but the viet nam war led to a

change in their tactics. they became an independent radical force against

society. the deluge of disorders made it harder and harder for most

americans to keep events in perspective. they tended to forget that most

of the nation's 6,700,000 collegians were studying hard at school and not

causing trouble. an underlying pattern emerged in the american university.

the university suddenly became a political arena. the students wanted to

address the national problems of war, race, and poverty. as a result, the

university lost some of its neutrality. students created a new u.s.

institution: the political university.


However, another element among youths was also emerging. They were

called hippies. this movement marked another response to the decade as the

young experimented with music, clothes, drugs, and a "counter-culture"

lifestyle. in 1967, hippies preached altruism and mysticism, honesty, joy

and nonviolence. they had a child-like fascination for beads, blossoms,

and bells, strobe lights, ear-shattering music, exotic clothing and erotic

slogans. they wanted to profess "flower power" and love. they were

predominantly white, middle-class, educated youths, ranging in age from 17

to 25. Perhaps the most striking thing about the hippie phenomenon, is the

way it touched the imagination of the "straight" society. hippie slang

entered common usage and spiced american humor. boutiques sprang up in

urban and suburban areas to sell the "psychedelic" color clothes and

designs that resembled art nouveau.


A major development in the hippie world was the "rural community,"

where nature-loving hippie "tribesmen" escaped the commercialism of the

cities in an attempt to build a society outside of society. another

development was the illicit use of drugs, creating the slogan, "tune in,

turn on, drop out." "better living through chemistry" was another

advertising slogan that was a sly joke to the young, but a real worry to

their parents.


Marijuana (pot, grass, mary jane, weed) was their favorite

preparation. however, some were smoking hash, taking mescaline, peyote,

lsd, barbiturates and sedatives. The list goes on and on. and it was only

the beginning. Drug use was everywhere. rock musicians used drugs

frequently and openly. their compositions were riddled with references to

drugs, from the beatles' "i get high with a little help from my friends" to

the jefferson airplane's "white rabbit."


Space Exploration


At the end of 1968, americans became the first human beings to reach

the moon. seven months later, they were the first to actually walk on the

moon. their telecast gave earthbound viewers an unforgettable view of the

moon. Astronaut lovell reported, "the moon is essentially grey, no color.

we can see quite a bit of detail. the craters are all rounded off."


On christmas eve, the astronauts of apollo 8 (borman, lovell, and

anders) gave their best description of the moon in a most impressive

telecast. "this is apollo 8 coming to you live from the moon," reported

borman, focusing his camera on the lunar surface. "the moon is a different

thing to each of us," said borman. "my impression is that it's a vast,

lonely, forbidding-type existence......it certainly would not be a very

inviting place to live or work."


Lovell agreed, but added, "the vast loneliness up here is

awe-inspiring, and it makes you realize just what you have back there on



In apollo 11, the astronauts landed on the moon on july 25, 1969.

astronaut neil armstrong called out the word everyone was waiting

for......."houston," he called. "tranquility base here. the eagle has

landed." all of america was on the edge of their seats. it was a very

exciting time; cheers, tears and frantic applause went up around the



"That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind," became

the watchword when u.s. Astronaut armstrong said this as he placed his foot

firmly on the fine-grained surface of the moon. after centuries of dreams

and prophecies, the moment had come. man broke his terrestrial shackles

and set foot on another world. the new view could help man place his

problems, as well as his world, in a new perspective. The Sexual Revolution


The medical introduction of the "pill" changed the interaction between

the sexes dramatically in 1964. Americans discovered that the freedom from

fear of unwanted pregnancy went hand in hand with other kinds of sexual

freedom. it became an era in which morals were held to be both private and

relative, in which pleasure was being considered almost like a

constitutional right rather than a privilege, in which self-denial became

increasingly seen as foolish rather than virtuous.


The "pill" is a tablet that contains as little as one

thirty-thousandth of an ounce of chemical. it used to cost 1 1/4 cents to

manufacture and a month's supply sold for $2.00, retail. yet, in a mere

six years, it changed and liberated the sex and family life of a large

segment of the u.s. Population. did the convenient contraceptive promote

promiscuity? are americans paying the price today for the decline in

morals and values?


The Environment


A book written by rachel carson, silent spring, earned her a

reputation not only as a competent marine biologist, but as a gifted

writer. the villains in silent spring are chemical pesticides, against

which miss carson took up her pen in alarm and anger. many readers were

firmly convinced that most of the u.s. Was already laced with poison that

would soon start taking a dreadful toll. the only way to fix the situation

was to stop using chemical pesticides and let the "balance of nature" take

care of the insects.


Another "activist" of the day was lady bird johnson, president

johnson's wife. she envisioned beautification all over america. she is

generally credited with inspiring the highway beautification act of 1965.


This is the decade when scientists were becoming more vocal about the

ozone layer, pollution, and smoking cigarettes. americans became aware of

the dangers they encountered everyday and would perhaps hand down to their

children. the federal communications commission voted 6 to 1 to ban

cigarette advertising on radio and tv. eventually, with congressional

approval, cigarette packages had a new warning on them: "caution:

cigarette smoking may be hazardous to your health."


Medicine and Health


Mistakes made in the past caused great social and health problems to

children around the world when it was discovered that using a tranquilizer

called thalidomide caused severe birth defects. babies were born with

hands and feet like flippers, attached close to the body with little or no

arm or leg. as results of using thalidomide became apparent, every

compound drug containing thalidomide was taken off the market.


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