Further Social Activism in the 1960s
Further Social Activism in the 1960s
Encouraged by the success of the antiwar and civil rights movements during the 1960s, many groups launched their own movements to redress perceived wrongs in American government and society.
The Youth Movement
Many reform movements during the 1960s sprang from the college-age population. College attendance soared during the decade, and college campuses became centers for protest movements. While it must be noted that the majority of college students did not engage in such protests, the minority that did was both significant and vocal. Leading the youth movement was the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), a group founded in 1962. The SDS aimed to create a “New Left” in the U.S. in order to mobilize support for leftist goals throughout the nation. Students sat-in, marched, and rallied to end mandatory ROTC programs, halt military research, address racism, and, most prominently, to express their disgust with the Vietnam War. The antiwar cause inspired huge rallies, draft-card burning, and harassment of anyone connected to the military.
Notable student protests included a mass demonstration at Columbia University in the spring of 1968, which resulted in a temporary shutdown of the school, and the fall 1969 March Against Death, in which about 300,000 people marched in a long, circling path through Washington, D.C., for 40 hours straight, each holding a candle and the name of a soldier killed or a village destroyed in Vietnam.
The youth movement began to fade following a series of violent crackdowns on protesters. In the most infamous, on May 4, 1970, students at Kent State University in Ohio who were protesting Richard Nixon’s expansion of the Vietnam War into Cambodia were met by armed National Guardsmen and inundated with tear gas. Then a panicking troop of guardsmen fired into the crowd, killing four and wounding nine; two of the dead had not even been a part of the demonstration. Events like this sapped the student movement of its zeal, and college campuses grew steadily quieter.
Women’s Liberation
The feminist movement, which had grown somewhat dormant in the 1950s, reawakened in the U.S. during the 1960s. The most prominent symbol of this resurgence was the 1963 publication of Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique, which urged women to break free from the domestic role and seek “something more.” JFK created the Presidential Commission on the Status of Women, which issued a report in 1963 detailing the inequalities between men and women in the American workforce. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibited sexual as well as racial discrimination in hiring practices. The National Organization for Women (NOW) formed in 1966 to lobby Congress, file lawsuits, and publicize the feminist cause. By 1970, more than 40 percent of all women worked outside the home.
Spurred on by the publication of Betty Friedan’s The Feminist Mystique, the feminist movement reawakened in the 1960s. Organizations like NOW pushed for change at the national level to promote equality.
Many women involved in the liberation movement had gained experience in the antiwar or civil rights movements and dedicated the same tactics to the feminist cause. They encouraged women to meet in small groups to discuss their problems and met in larger groups to burn bras and beauty items seen as demeaning. They founded health centers geared toward women and advocated abortion education. In 1970, the Women’s Strike for Equality saw tens of thousands of women nationwide hold demonstrations to demand the right to equal employment and legal abortions. Pro-choice activists gained a major success in 1973, when the Supreme Court legalized abortion in the landmark decision Roe v. Wade.
Help | Feedback | Make a request | Report an error