Historical Development of the 1960s

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25 November 2015

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Historical Development of the 1960s


       Of the many historical eras, the 1960 era is regarded as one of the most controversial eras ever in the history of America. However, this was not the anticipation that most of American citizens had. At the very beginning of the 1960s, many believed that this was perhaps the most promising era yet. They even dubbed this era the golden age. The expectations of the people intensified in 1961 when John F. Kennedy took the office of the president. His charisma and enthusiasm won the hearts and trust of the American people. They strongly believed that his government would provide solutions to the major problems that they were facing at the time. However, to the surprise of many, the decade turned out to be the complete opposite of what they had expected. The president himself was assassinated, a chaotic storm characterized by protests by civil rights movements engulfed the country, and instead of the war in Vietnam coming to a halt, it intensified. This essay will strive to create an interconnection between these events which shaped up the 1960s. It will tackle incidents relating to the free speech movement, the Vietnamwar, the Black Panther Party, Rock-n-roll, and the women’s movement, also known as the feminist movement, as witnessed in this decade.

       An issue that had been a thorn in the flesh of the American people was coexistence of the white Americans and the African-Americans. Though the slave trade had been abolished by this time, issues of discrimination were still rampant in society. The African Americans would hence dedicate themselves to fighting for equality for their people in this society. At the very beginning of 1960, some four black students defied the norms of society at that particular time and sat down at a white’s-only lunch counter. Their actions were succeeded by demonstrations at that counter every day, drawing the nation’s attention.

       6 years down the line, the African-American community still wanted society to regard them as equal with the rest of the Americans and this led to the formation of the Black Panther Party. It was originally known as the Black panther Party of self-defense but the name changed. This party movement was however founded for the sole purpose of eradicating police brutality in African-American neighborhoods. However, with the rapid expansion of the party and the start of a publication, the objectives of the party had diversified. This diversification meant that the party was keener on social empowerment thus disregarding the exclusivity of race. This however sparked up problems within the party since the radical members differed in opinion with the members that were in support of their socialistic cause. This made the party’s political motive to be disoriented and the government at that time considered the party as a national threat.

       The Black community of the United States was not the only entity that was fighting for its civil rights. Gender inequality was still a societal vice that America was struggling with. During this time, men were given more opportunities as compared to women in virtually every field and this led to the second wave of the feminist movement. The job market viewed women as the less productive species. One of the reasons why this notion was upheld was because the women needed time off when they delivered and most employers believed the assertion that women would quit their job when they got pregnant. More to this, the society had branded the man as the provider of the home. It was therefore argued that men needed jobs and better paythan women because of the fact that there were people who were dependent on them. Generally, society had defined the place of a woman as the home; whether she was educated or not.

       In 1963, Betty Freidan wrote a book, The Feminine Mystique. This book highlighted the frustration of the educated housewives and how society had forcefully put them in a state of dissatisfaction. What shocked many is the fact that she defied society’s assumption that women found satisfaction in only serving their families. This book stirred a revolutionary movement, one which historians refer to as the second wave of the feminist movement. This movement saw society begin to give women more chances in schools, the job market and also in matters involving remuneration.

       From the historical facts available from this era, it is evident that civil rights protests and demonstrations were the order of the day. Even students took the liberty of staging their own protests during this period. The Free Speech Movement was the name given to the protests that the students staged. This movement took place in 1964-1965 at the University of California, Berkley, when students were expressing their discontentment on the ban that the school administration had imposed on on-campus political activities. The students rationale for the protests was that this ban was infringement of their academic freedom and right to free speech. The students felt that they could do more than just confine themselves to books. The objectives of the movement had been put in place way before the movement began when students in the campus formed a political party that enabled them to get involved in off-campus political and societal issues.

       The students used this platform to source funds from campus students to support civil rights causes. However, this right was exclusively granted to the political clubs in the school and this is what prompted the school to impose the ban on on-campus political activities. Though the students were doing this out of good will, society was of a contrary opinion. For this reason, voters gave the governor seat to Ronald Regan in 1966 whose campaign forte was to make good the mess that the Berkley students had made.

       Events in this era were not just restricted to the local scene. The events that America was involved in during this era also crossed boarders. America had been in conflict with Vietnam since the 1950’s. With the election of J. F. Kennedy, Americans were hopeful that this conflict was finally going to come to an end following his campaign theme; his government had answers to America’s biggest problems. However, these hopes seemed to go down the drain in 1963 when Kennedy was assassinated. The hopes of the American people were now in Lyndon B. Johnson’s hands. His government had two wars to fight; the war against poverty, and the war in Vietnam.

       However, Johnson had committed himself to establishing an anti-communist south-Vietnam, a trait he had inherited from his predecessors in their solidarity to the country. For this reason, he had to make a choice to forego the war on poverty to attend to the war in Vietnam. More to this, the president had gained the support of the congress and they gave him the authorization to protect the American soldiers and their allies by all means necessary. The prolongation of the war caused a divide in the nation. Some were in support of the war, others protested against the war, whereas others fled to neighboring Canada to avoid being drafted into the war.

       Amidst all these events that were happening, people needed something to give them an escape from it all even if it was temporary. Entertainment was the surest way of attaining such. In this era, the most common form of entertainment was music. Rock-n-rollwas the most popular music genre at the time. The developments in this genre were referred to as invasions and were named on the basis of where they originated from. The British invasion occurred in the early 1960s. In mid 1960s, garage rock was unveiled. The genre was common in North America. The genre gained this name because it was played by armatures at the comfort of their homes in their garages. However, this genre barely made it past the 1960s as it was replaced by other genres.


       The 1960s era, as highlighted above was a rather event-full one in the American history. Though it may seem like the era did not live up to its expectation as the golden age, it can be argued that to some extent it did. This is because the events during this time acted as milestones especially with regards to civil rights issues. However, the prolongation of the war in Vietnam did injustice to the country as it caused a divide. In conclusion, the 1960s were not shy of historical events.


Fischer, Klaus P. America in White, Black, and Gray: The Stormy 1960s. New York [u.a.: Continuum, 2006. Print.

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