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America in the 1960s

Example 1

The Nineteen Sixties was a decade that changed America forever. The people reformed the decade not so much by the government. The Sixties contained more spiritualism, people were against the Vietnam war, protests, civil rights, and new beliefs on every aspect of living. The topics that arose during the sixties were not small; when they were accomplished or challenged the outcome changed American society forever. Most legislative bills passed in the sixties still remain today.

The Domino Effect was the scare of the spread of communism in East Asia during the Vietnam War; the theory was spread and made to sound like communism would take over the world in time. This theory is one of the reasons the United States entered the Vietnam war (The American crusade, propelled as it was by the ” Domino Theory,” and the naïve assumption that the entire region would collapse to the communist if they one in Vietnam, disregarded the complex nationalistic diversity of South East Asia). (#3 pg.43)

The American government also believed if countries fell to communist rule the surrounding regions would rush to make peace. The regions in China are an abundant source of natural resources, if the regions made peace or fell to communist rule it would only greater escalate the situation forcing America into the war (” There would be a domino effect,” as a former secretary of state John Foster Dulles called it.

Other countries in Southeast Asia- al weaker than Vietnam would rush to make peace with the Chinese communist. In the long run, as most Asians see it, This would mean the resources of South East Asia would fall to the Chinese Communist Block). (#4 pg. 87) The Vietnam War went on for several more years without a good outcome to America, most people describe it as a waste of time, waste of money, and a waste of life.

The Tat Offensive an attack by North Vietnam against South Vietnam shocked the American Government and people, these attack gave the country a visual of how strong the communist rebellion was (Tat Offensive went down in history as a U.S. victory but it emphasized the strength of communist resistance and the high cost of continuing the war effort in Vietnam). (#3 pg. 22) The offensive was a series of attacks on Vietnamese cities dividing the country in two (Despite its psychological effect, the campaign failed, and Vietcong forces were driven back from most of the positions they had gained, having lost 85,000 of it’s best troops). (#9 Encarta)

The small victory lifted America’s hopes for the time but soon the American people started to lose hope (Americans felt defeated and delusional after the Tat offensive and even members of the president’s cabinet, once staunch supporters of the war, began to express doubts of validity). (#9 Encarta) Rebellious draftees burned their draft cards in protest and all across the nation younger people opened their minds to peace instead of supporting the war effort.

The Hippie Movement wasn’t just one movement it consisted of new ideas, people rebelling against the government, freedom of speech, civil rights, and when protestors mentioned the Vietnam War, the thought was peace. Some of the popular leaders of the hippie society had to do with drugs or new ideas. Timothy Leary, a college professor convinced kids to do drugs to open their mind to reach the truth (Respected figures such as Timothy Leary encouraged the use of LSD as a mind-opening drug). (#3 pg. 22) Leary was praised by many but some didn’t believe in his idea of reasoning, also the school and parents felt Leary was leading their kids out on his own experiment (Thrown out of Harvard in 1963 for tampering with unwary undergraduates, Leary and his colleague Richard Alpert took their drug experiments to a millionaires heirs mansion in upstate New York, a quasi-religious ashram for what Leary called the international federation of internal freedom, were psilocybin was super seeded by the even more mind-blowing chemical LSD). (#7 pg. 8)

Not all Social leaders of the sixties encouraged such radical methods of opening the mind, some just simply published their ideas and let the public try them (The American youth upheaval was but part of a worldwide surge which cannot be explained simply by the baby boom, the economic boom, the growth and bureaucratization of universities, civil rights, the Vietnam War, Dr. Spock, the democratic party’s defaults, the mass media, or any other single factor). (#2 pg. 206)

Dr. Benjamin Spock was an Idealist of changing child care methods, some of the nation’s public tried blaming him for the youths upsurge (In the late sixties, it became fashionable for conservatives to blame the youth upsurge on Dr. Spock whose best-selling manuals were supposed to have encouraged ” permissive” parents to ” throw discipline out the window”). (#2 pg.4) Not all people thought this way of Dr. Spock’s publications; the majority of the households had at least one of these manuals in their home. People thought of Dr. Spock as being wise and knowledgeable enough to run for office (An older cadre including Marcus Raskin and Arthur Waskow put together a National Conference for New Politics, which aimed to be a coalition in the making; some anticipated a national effort form an electoral campaign against Johnson, with hopes that Martin Luther King and Dr. Benjamin Spock would be the candidates). (#2 pg. 226)

Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society was aimed at the war o poverty, sweeping the nation with the renovation project of all categories, and tackling a few major political issues, for example, health care, civil rights, education, and national parks conservation (In February he asked for two Further measures: A law to protect consumers from unsafe products and deceptive packaging; and a program known as Medicare, an extensive scheme for hospital and nursing- home care for the elderly through social security). (#9 Encarta)

The Civil Rights movement Lead by Martin Luther King first handled by John F. Kennedy was taken up by Johnson and was said to have been his greatest accomplishment (The president’s greatest legislative triumph was the passage on June 19 of a sweeping Civil Rights Bill outlawing racial discrimination in public accommodations ad by employers, unions, and voting registers). (#9 Encarta) Part of Johnson’s renovation and renewal programs was the building up of education and getting better materials to schools all over the nation. Johnson was supportive of the educational needs of children (The Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 was the first broad federal aid given to education in U.S. history, allotting more than one billion dollars to help schools purchase materials and start special education programs). (#9 Encarta)

The Tonkin Gulf incident president Johnson increased military involvement and bombing raids (Admiral Ulysses Grant Sharp Jr. now American commander for the pacific, sent out the order to the seventh fleet to deploy the aircraft carrier Ticonderoga and its ancillary force at the entrance to the Tonkin Gulf). (#3 pg. 366) American troops began to increase more during the Tonkin Gulf, but President Johnson still aimed for peace (In 1964 Johnson reported that the North Vietnamese had attacked U.S. vessels in the Gulf of Tonkin and asked congress for a resolution to increase U.S. military involvement). (#9 Encarta) Throughout the war Johnson wanted peace the Vietcong wanted no part in this though, the president halted bombing raids and met with representatives trying to obtain peace in this war, the life loss was already phenomenal halfway through the war (In November 1967 the Defense Department announced that U.S. casualties in Vietnam since the beginning of 1961 had reached 15,058 killed and 109,527 wounded). (#9 Encarta)

The Environment during the sixties had a lot to do with ” The Movement,” also. People wanted to be free, love the animals, and celebrate life and the way they did that was through the environment (Yosemite Park was supposed to fuse the Movement and counter culture, it ended up driving a wedge between them). (#2 pg. 360-361) A majority of the people were just looking for a way to escape the draft and others who just wanted to celebrate life, save the forest, protect the animals, and love everyone was called “flower children”(But most of the park- lovers were mild souls depressed and horrified by bloodshed). (#2 pg. 360) The non-movement people couldn’t understand what had set all this rebellion and reform off, where did it come from? They sought somebody to blame for it but never found the answer (It became easy to imagine the whole youth was regressing or evolving, into what? Barbarism?

A new society unto itself, a Woodstock Nation? A children’s crusade? A subversive army? A revolutionary class?). (#2 pg. 205) The festival of life as it was called Woodstock was the rock concert to let the flower children celebrate life (Woodstock, in June, had been the long-deferred festival of life). (#2 pg. 406) The flower children were the environmental protestors; they rejected almost all the values of society (The hippie movement endorsed drugs, rock music, mystic religions, and sexual freedom. They opposed violence. The Woodstock festival, at which 400,00 young people gathered in a spirit of love and sharing, represents the pinnacle of the hippie movement). (#7 pg.8)

The sixties were a time of rebellion, a time of love and sharing, time for peace, reformation, revolution, war, and politics. America was changed forever after the sixties, drugs were deemed illegal to use, people were more open to each other, and the thought of peace instead of ” Go Fight Win,” crossed people’s minds. New ideas were welcome with open arms, given some of them weren’t very bright. The flower children changed the nation forever.


Example 2

The 1960’s were one of the most significant decades in the twentieth century. The sixties were filled with new music, clothes, and an overall change in the way people acted, but most importantly it was a decade filled with civil rights movements. On February 1, 1960, four black freshmen from North Carolina Agriculture and Technical College in Greensboro went to a Woolworth’s lunch counter and sat down politely and asked for service. The waitress refused to serve them and the students remained sitting there until the store closed for the night. The very next day they returned, this time with some more black students and even a few white ones.

They were all well dressed, doing their homework, while crowds began to form outside the store. A columnist for the segregation-minded Richmond News Leader wrote, “Here were the coloured students in coats, white shirts, and ties and one of them was reading Goethe and one was taking notes from a biology text. And here, on the sidewalk outside was a gang of white boys come to heckle, a rattail rabble, slack-jawed, black-jacketed, grinning fit to kill, and some of them, God save the mark, were waving the proud and honoured flag of the Southern States in the last war fought by gentlemen.

Eheu! It gives one pause”(Chalmers 21). As one can see, African-Americans didn’t have it easy trying to gain their civil rights. Several Acts were passed in the 60’s, such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. This was also, unfortunately, the time that the assassinations of important leaders took place. The deaths of John F. Kennedy, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King, Jr., all happened in the ’60s. Slavery in the United States existed from the early seventeenth century until 1865. It was put to an end by the combination of the Emancipation Proclamation, 1863, and then the thirteenth amendment to the Constitution.

Although blacks may have been freed from slavery, it didn’t mean that they were treated the same as everyone else. In 1896, Plessy vs. Ferguson, the Supreme Court defined separate but equal standards. Rarely was anything equal though. Segregation went on until the landmark case, Brown vs. Board of Education, declared that separate schools based on race was unconstitutional (Microsoft). This case “…became the cornerstone of sweeping changes (Chalmers 17)” because the decade following the Brown decision “…witnessed a complex interplay of forces between black citizens striving to exercise their constitutional rights, the increasing resistance of southern whites, and the equivocal response of the federal government (Robinson 2).” From 1955 to 1965, boycotts, sit-ins, demonstrations, marches, and community organizing raised black people’s spirits and expectations and greatly hurt legal segregation.

In the weeks that followed the Greensboro sit-in more sit-ins occurred throughout the country. Thousands had taken place by the end of 1960 and many people had often gone to jail for it (Chalmers 21). The Kennedy Era, 1960 – 1963, saw many important events. In 1961, Charlayne Hunter and Hamilton Holmes were the first African-Americans admitted into Wayne State University (Adams 6).

The March on Washington, August 28, 1963, was a huge gathering of two hundred thousand people who gathered at the nation’s capital to show their support for civil rights for blacks and hear Martin Luther King, Jr., speak. It was here that King gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. It was the March on Washington that led to the Civil Rights Act of 1964(Microsoft). The Kennedy Era came to an abrupt halt with the result of his assassination on November 22, 1963 (Chalmers 25). With the death of Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson took over the presidency and then was reelected in the next election of 1964(Chalmers 25). Johnson won the ’64 election by a landslide. His plan was to extend black suffrage and pass the Civil Rights Act in memory of Kennedy (Chalmers 43).

It was during the Johnson Era that blacks gained most of their civil rights. Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which outlawed racial segregation in public places, proscribed discrimination in employment, and established enforcement machinery for school integration. The only thing that this legislation failed to address was voting rights (Robinson 4). The twenty-fourth amendment was put into law on January 23, 1964, and struck down the poll tax. In recent years, a poll tax was to be paid in order for citizens to vote in the South. This kept most African-Americans from voting because they didn’t have enough money to pay the tax. In 1965, the Voting Rights Act was passed which gave every citizen the right to vote regardless of intelligence, race, or any other reason. Also, in 1965, the Economic Opportunity Act was passed.

This act aimed at calming riots and providing job training and employment for the poor and coloured people (Bogal-Allbritten 12-13). By 1966, the mood and phase had changed. Street marchers were no longer effective and the civil rights movement was breaking up (Chalmers 44). One of the most horrid days in the ’60s would have to go down in the books as March 7, 1965. It was a Sunday and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference planned a march from Selma, Alabama, to the state capital, Montgomery (Microsoft). Also, there to help organize the voting rights march, was Martin Luther King, Jr. (Robinson 5). This was a distance of about fifty miles. Over five hundred marchers were stopped just outside of Selma by state troopers and were told to go home.

The marchers refused and as a result the police then attacked. They beat and tear-gassed the protestors. Seventy people went to the hospital that day. Luckily there were television cameras on the scene to record the bloody incident and show the United States viewers what was really going on. The scenes shocked everyone and Lyndon Johnson was prompted to deplore the violence. This day would be called Bloody Sunday. SCLC petitioned a federal district judge for an order that would allow them to march again without any interference from the police. Two weeks after Bloody Sunday, the march was redone with over three thousand people protesting.

This march created the support needed to pass the Voting Rights Act of 1965 into law (Microsoft). Although the march to Montgomery was successful, the trip back was not for one white housewife who was driving marchers back. On the way back to Selma, some Ku Klux Klansmen overtook her and she was shot. State juries found the Klansmen innocent on the murder charge but were eventually convicted in federal court for violating their civil rights (Chalmers 29). Martin Luther King, Jr., was an important figure that worked hard throughout the ’60s in order to gain black Americans’ civil rights.

In 1959, King went to India where he studied Gandhi’s techniques of nonviolence. Sit-in movements began in Greensboro and soon followed many others throughout the country. King was arrested in October of 1960 at a major Atlanta department store. The charges on all the other protestors were dropped. King was kept in jail on a charge of violating probation for a previous traffic arrest case. He was kept in jail for four months of hard labour. The next year, December 15, 1961, King was arrested while fighting to desegregate public facilities in Albany, Georgia. He was charged with obstructing the sidewalk and parading without a permit. King’s home was bombed on May 11, 1963, and then there was an explosion at his headquarters in the Gaston Motel. In response to the bombings, blacks began to riot in Birmingham. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech at the largest and most dramatic civil rights demonstration, the March on Washington, was the high point of the event. In 1964, King was named “Man of the Year” in Time magazine.

King was then awarded the Nobel Peace Prize later on that year, December 10. King then set up a voter registration drive in Selma in February 1965. King’s civil rights movements came to an abrupt halt when he was assassinated April 4, 1968, in the balcony of the Lorraine Hotel in Memphis. The president then declared April 7 a national day of mourning for King (Biography 1-7). The 1960s also had many other people that were important to the development of the civil rights movement. Malcolm X was a man who had a lot of influence over blacks. Although he spent most of his time outside of the United States travelling to such places as Africa and the Middle East, he did help out in the civil rights movement.

Malcolm established a secular Black Nationalist party called the Organization of Afro-American Unity (OAAU). Malcolm was assassinated on February 21, 1965, while addressing an OAAU rally in New York City. Malcolm’s assassins were allegedly associated with black Muslims (Microsoft). Stokely Carmichael attended Howard University in 1960 and became active in the civil rights movement. He participated in sit-ins along with many other students and joined the Non-violent Action Group in Washington. He was arrested in 1961 when participating in the Freedom Rides, a campaign against segregation in interstate transportation, by trying to integrate a bus terminal in Jackson, Mississippi. He ended up spending most of his summer vacation in jail that summer.

He graduated in 1964 with a degree in philosophy. In 1966, he was elected as a chairperson of SNCC. Carmichael then started to give speeches and was looked upon as a successor of Malcolm X. In 1969, he moved to Africa where he changed his name to Kwame Turé, a name derived from two African leaders, Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana and Sékou Touré of Guinea. He established a permanent home in Guinea that year and only returned on occasions to the United States to give lectures (Microsoft). Bobby Seale was the founder and leader of the Black Panther Party. The BPP was founded on reaction to the racism he and his friend, Huey Newton, had experienced.

The goals of their party were: to end police brutality, full employment, improve housing and education, and exemption of blacks from military service. Seale organized many community-based activities. In 1967, he led a group of armed Black Panthers to Sacramento, California, to protest a gun-control bill being considered by the California state legislature. He and thirty others were arrested, but the media coverage of the event attracted attention and the organization grew. Seale was again arrested in 1968 along with seven others for indicting a riot at the Democratic Convention in Chicago. Seale eventually left the Black Panther Party in 1974 (Microsoft). On February 13, 1960, a man by the name of Rev. James Lawson, inspired by the Greensboro sit-in movement, convened the first sit-in movement mass meeting.

He then set up a plan in which five hundred students, from Baptist Seminary, Fisk University, Meharry Medical, and Tennessee State, would be sent to downtown Nashville sit-in sites. Lawson was much like Martin Luther King, Jr.; he went to India as a missionary and studied the philosophy of nonviolence with the disciples of Gandhi (Adams 49).

The sixties youth generation was, for the first time, a powerful force in the civil rights movement. During this time there were a lot of young people attending college. The number of college students had increased dramatically during this time. In 1946, there were 1.7 million college students. By 1960, this number had increased to 3.8 million and over the next five years increased to 6.5 million. In 1970, there were over eight million college students. Campuses revolted throughout the sixties against the Vietnam War and protested for civil rights, but then calmed down by the early seventies (Chalmers 68-69). It wasn’t just the college campuses that revolted and rioted though.

Riots were breaking out across the nation during the sixties. There was a riot in the summer of 1964 called the Red Summer riot and the following year the Long, Hot Summer riot went on. Urban riots in 1965-1967 challenged the notion that the civil rights movement had purged racial injustice from America (Robinson 1). Richard Flacks summed up the sixties as romanticism (the search for self-expression and a free life), antiauthoritarianism (opposition to arbitrary, centralized rule-making), egalitarianism (belief in popular participation and rejection of elitism), anti dogmatism (rejection of ideology), moral purity (antipathy toward self-interested behaviour and the “sell-out” of the older generation), community (the breakdown of interpersonal barriers, a desire for relationships), and antiinstitutionalism (distrust of conventional institutional roles and careers).

Flack was a previous leader of SDS (Chalmers 74). The sixties were filled with civil rights movements and great leaders guided people through this time. Before the sixties, blacks may have been free persons in the United States, but they weren’t looked upon as the same as everyone else. Blacks had almost no rights and couldn’t vote. The sixties granted them their well-deserved rights.


Adams, J. (1998). Freedom Days-365 Inspired Moments in Civil Rights History. New York: John Wiley & Sons. “Biography(Martin Luther King, Jr.)”. Retrieved November 18, 1999 from the World Wide Wed: Bogal-Allbritten, R. (1998). Civil and Welfare Rights in the New Reform Era 1960-68. Retrieved November 18, 1999. from the World Wide Web: U 10 Civil and Welfare Rights in the New Roman Era 1960-68/ Chalmers, D. (1991). And the Crooked Places Made Straight-The Struggle for Social Change in the 1960s. Maryland: The John Hopkins University Press. Martin Luther King Day-“I have a Dream” by Martin Luther King, Jr. Retrieved November 18, 1999 from the World Wide Web: Microsoft Encarta 99 on CD-ROM. (1998). 1993-1998 Microsoft Corporation. Robinson, A. and Sullivan, P(Eds.). (1991). New Directions in Civil Rights Studies. Virginia: Rectors and Visitors of the University Press of Virginia.

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