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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 wa...
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