1950-1970 was a very turbulent time in American politics as well as for the people living in America, it was a time of great change for the ordinary citizen. Not only were the rights of African Americans being fought for, but other minorities such as Mexicans and Native Americans, were also fighting for their freedoms. Additionally, sex also played a role, as women were putting their feet through the door of equality.
Through the work of activists such as Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks, the African community was gaining ground in the war for equality. After the assassination of King in 1968 however, riots broke out across the country and the African community. John F. Kennedy, the president during the movement, was slow to fully support the Civil Rights movement until the incidents in Birmingham, Alabama. After many nonviolent protests held by Martin Luther King’s civil rights group, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in the city, police reacted with dogs, arrests and powerful fire hoses. With the aid of television, the African American citizens were able to make significant strides, by having the abuses televised and viewed by millions of Americans. Soon after the March on Washington, congress would pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which would ban segregation in all public buildings as well as end discrimination in terms of employment. Although the passing of a law was a huge step forward, African Americans would continue to face discrimination, especially in the South.
On the feminine front, women were also making strides. Helen Gurely Brown wrote the book Sex and the Single Girl. In her book she advocated women to use their looks and feminine charm to get free things from men, as well as to flirt with men to move up in occupation and social status, and finally, to only marry once your looks start to deteriorate. Betty Friedan wrote The Feminine Mystique. Friedan argued that women were not allowed to do certain things men were. Socially, they were expected to be housewives, raise children and to grocery shop. In politics, they rarely had a voice, and that voice was not very strong. Eventually, Friedan would help found the National Organization for Women, an organization that helped get women into the work place, and fight against discrimination in the work place.
Mexicans were also fighting for their rights around the same time. Cesar Chavez, an activist, staged strikes from Mexicans working on farms. He also rallied for buyers of the products to make sure they were only buying from farms that supported unions. In March of 1968, 10,000 Mexican students in LA walked out of school to protest the poor education received.
Natives also began protesting for more rights. They protested for more control of their reservations and funding from the government to help. Through many demonstrations throughout the United States, Natives were granted more sovereign power of their land and given the funding needed to help them maintain the way of life that they wanted.
1950-1970 was a time of enlightenment for the American people. It was time when people really started to see people of different religions, races and genders as human. It is important to note that although equality was gained on paper, it was gained culturally for many more years. Despite the law, many racists and sexists would continue to combat the ongoing fight for equality. We as Americans, can all take pride in the fact, that we are a lot better off than we were 50 years ago.
Keene, Jennifer D., et al. Visions of America: a History of the United States. Pearson, 2017