On a Mission to Save the World!

In the 1950s, the Beat movement was led by a group of poets and writers who deviated from the behaviors and values of mainstream culture. In the 1960s, many movements were also started for the pursuit of a common cause. For instance, the environmental movement began as more and more people became aware of the growing dangers of water contamination, air pollution, and the threat of extinction of certain animal species. The movement received bipartisan support. During Nixon’s presidency, Congress enacted many legislations including the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts and the Endangered Species Act to ensure the quality of air and water and safety  of animals. In addition, on April 22, 1970, the first Earth Day was launched, which attracted many youths to come to the rallies, concerts, and teach-ins.

The Environmental movement had roots in the 1950s because the previous decade was a symbol of consumerism. People were obsessed with their individual desires and ignored the impact of their actions on the enviornment. People pursued the American dream vigorously by purchasing more cars just becaues they could. In the 1960s, people began to realize that there is a consequence for their actions. Therefore, the environmental movement was to undo the spoils of the 1950s.


The Poor Will Prevail

According to Foner, during Johnson presidency he took initiatives of 1965-1967,  known collectively as the Great Society, provided health services to the poor and elderly in the new Medicaid and Medicare programs and poured federal funds into education and urban development. Unlike the New Deal the Great Society was a response to great prosperity. The mid-1960’s were a time of economic expansion and Johnson thought that economic growth will help improve the quality of life.
Great Society centerpiece was Johnson’s response to poverty, he tried to eradicate it. According to Michael Harrington’s book The Other America around 40 to 50 million Americans lived in poverty. This alerted political leaders to take action in stopping poverty. The War on Poverty didn’t directly eliminate poverty Johnson concentrated on equipping the poor with skills to help themselves. The new Office of Economic Opportunity provided job training, legal service, and scholarship for poor college students. The War on Poverty didn’t really eradicate poverty it helped empower the poor to take control of their lives.


The Women’s Movement for Equal Rights

During the 1960’s, the women’s rights movement became active again after being passive during 1940s to 1950s. During the 1950s many women were working, however they had yet to achieve many positions in the work force. One major obstacle that woman overcame was the passage of the 19th amendment in August 18, 1920 giving women the right to vote. The Civil Rights protest prompted women in the 1960’s to continue to push for equal rights in employment, educational fields, end to domestic violence, restriction of limitations on women in administrative jobs, and sharing housework and child nurturing responsibilities.

In the 1960s there were two different types of Women’s Rights groups, they were the Women’s Liberation group and the Women’s Rights groups. The Women’s Liberation group focused on equality between men and women in education, employment and in marriage. This feminist movement also focused on attaining sexual and reproductive freedom, feminists wanted birth control, affordable child care, abortion and women’s shelter. While the Women’s Rights group pushed for equal rights laws to be enforced. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed, protecting the rights of minorities and women’s rights.


Birmingham, We shall Overcome

According to Foner, the high point in protest was in the spring of 1963. There were many demonstrations that took place in cities and towns in the south which put emphasis on the black discontent over inequality in education, employment, and housing. In one week there were 15,000 arrests in 186 cities. Birmingham was marked as one of the most dangerous cities. There were over fifty bombings of black homes and institutions since WWII. Martin Luther King was among one of the many leaders invited to come to Birmingham during these protests. He was serving a 9 day prison term in April 1963 for violating a ban on demonstrations when he developed the “Letter from Birmingham Jail”.  In this letter he related the abuses faced by black southerners from police brutality to the daily humiliation of having to explain to their children why they could not enter amusement parks or public swimming pools.

One of the significant things King has done was make a bold decision to send black schoolchildren into the streets of Birmingham. The images of what was going on in Birmingham during this time was a triumph for the civil rights movement. The events in Birmingham cause white Americans to decide whether they had more in common with fellow citizens demanding basic rights or with violent segregationists. The events in Birmingham are related to the Civil Rights movement which began in the 1950s. Martin Luther King began fighting in silent protest over the rights of African Americans during this time. The fight to gain advancement at this time was  working through massive resistance and protest.


Who Has the Bigger Gun?

One major political change that occurred during the 1960’s was Kennedy’s quarantining of Cuba. In 1962 American spy planes figured out that the Soviets were installing missiles in cuba, which could reach the United States. Kennedy determined that the missiles were intolerable and had to act upon this threat immediately. Kennedy decided to blockade Cuba, and demanded that the missiles be removed. Khrushchev, of the Soviet Union, agreed to withdraw the missiles, and America said that they would not invade Cuba. This was known as the Cuban Missile Crisis.

This series of events stems from the “massive retaliation” of the 1950’s. In 1952 the US exploded the first hydrogen bomb. This was the most deadly bomb yet. The Soviets retaliated and created their own bomb. What resulted was that both sides now had weapons of mass destruction that could potentially harm a big chunk of the world. This began “massive retaliation,” or the idea that the US would attack the Soviets if the Soviets were ever to attack them. While none of this actually occurred, it did create an even bigger competition between the US and Soviet Union, and it make both sides very paranoid of the other’s weapons. This is why the Cuban Missile Crisis occurred during the 1960’s.

Below is a video showing Kennedy’s reaction to the discovery of Soviet missiles. These missiles were only created because of US hydrogen bomb, the Cold War, and massive retaliation, which all took place in the 1950’s.


Assignment due 4/27

1) Read Foner, Chapter 25
2) Pick one important political, social, cultural, or economic change discussed by Foner that occurred during the 1960s, which you can argue has roots in 1950s era change.  Write 1-2 paragraphs discussing the connection between the change of the 1960s and what came before it in the 1950s.  Use images or video to prove your point.