The Reinvention of Change: The 1960s in the Transformation of Modern U.S. Society
“Change” is the operative word in understanding and assessing the history of the decade encompassing (and often including the early years of the 1970s) the 1960s. Political, military, social, and cultural life was marked by the heightened display of new forms of power in the United States—specifically demands for free speech and shared governance. The 1960s cannot be effectively analyzed without critical attention given to society’s reaction to the Cold War, the implications of the “space race,” and most important—the concept of civil disobedience (especially nonviolent, peaceful protest).
Prominent examples of Civil Disobedience included, but were not limited, to: the anti-war protests (i.e. specifically against the war in Vietnam, SDS, 1965, The Chicago 7 Trial, 1969), certain aspects of the “Hippie lifestyle” (i.e. drugs, communal living), music festivals (i.e. Woodstock, 1969), the Civil Rights Movement (Martin Luther King, Jr., i.e. teach-ins, sit-in’s, freedom rides [transportation and public services, access to education, equal employment, voting rights, the creation of organizations, boycotting, and marches, etc.]), anti-nuclear war protests (aka “Ban the Bomb”), environmental protection, Big Business (i.e. Ralph Nadar and the Automotive Industry in 1965), unrest in the cities (i.e. Watts Riots, 1965), women’s rights (i.e. Gloria Steinem, “The Pill” 1960, the Miss America Pageant, 1968, Feminist Movement [“Women’s Liberation”], NOW [National Organization for Women]), the Black Power Movement (i.e. Kwame Toure (Stokely Carmichael), Malcolm X, Black Panthers, US, SNCC), academic uprisings (freedom of speech, Black Studies [San Francisco State], Ethnic Studies, Chicano Studies, etc.), and Prison rebellions (i.e. Alcatraz, 1979).
Notwithstanding these selected higher profile personalities, issues and events, the 1960s was impacted by a resurgence of Native American rights, protests of Chicanos and other Latin American students, the rise of Gay Rights. President Nixon promised the public a return to “law and order,” but all of the events comprising the 1960s, particularly those in the area of Civil Disobedience, reveal that the world would never be the same again.
Dr. Katherine Bankole-Medina
Some Interesting YouTube Videos From a Variety of Sources:
“Gil Scott Heron – The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X6OASOH_66A&feature=related
“Berkeley In the Sixties (1990 Documentary) – Part 4 of 12” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iROmLKP-KaU
“The Sixties: Part 1” (ewingjb), http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rklVelmLGPs&feature=related
- Mayor Menino: ‘Civil Disobedience Doesn’t Work For Boston’ (thinkprogress.org)
- Boston Mayor Tom Menino: ‘I Will Not Tolerate Civil Disobedience In The City Of Boston’ (thinkprogress.org)
- You: Why Wall Street protests don’t speak to blacks (japantimes.co.jp)
- MECHA History and SJSU Introduction (latinonewz.wordpress.com)
- Contributors’ Civil Disobedience and Arrests (nplusonemag.com)