Many changes occurred between the 1950s and the 1970s. Many groups stood out and fought for equal access. There were also some groups who were very wary of the changes going on. Many women, racial minorities, and LGBT fought for many years to gain simple freedoms. “America was rife with discord during the 1960s. Much debate centered on liberalism and its willingness to use the government to protect civil rights and expand economic opportunity” (Keene, 814). Many groups like immigrants and women fought for equal access, but African Americans had the most successful civil rights movement and gained the most out of it.
The movement of change first begun during Kennedy’s New Frontier and then continued through President Johnson. President Kennedy created a liberal agenda through the New Frontier. That was meant to make changes in schools and within healthcare. Then in 1953, Chief Justice Earl Warren as the Supreme Court focused on the liberal agenda and how to protect those who were overtaken by the majority. After Kennedy’s assassination, Lyndon B. Johnson attempted to continue fighting for individual rights of people. “Kennedy and Johnson each believed in the power of the federal government to reform American society, but each faced intense resistance from conservatives who were certain that the less the government interfered in the economy or society, the better” (Keene, 816). The works of these men started to encourage people to fight for equal access.
The Civil Rights Act and all the movements had the biggest and most positive impact on racial minorities. “Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, the court dismantled Jim Crow piece by piece, striking down segregated interstate and city buses, upholding the rights of civil rights protesters to hold sit-ins, and embracing mid-1960s federal laws that desegregated public places and guaranteed the right to vote as constitutional” (Keene, 817). The Civil Rights Movement for equality for African Americans was the most successful due to the fact that towards the end of the movement they had many whites on their side. In the beginning, it was very tough and the whites were the main issue in holding back African American’s freedoms. Many influential people consisted of Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and all the Freedom Riders. Whites and blacks took a bus journey towards the south in order to hopefully make the federal government aware of all the issues who were known as the Freedom Riders. I believe a reason this movement was so successful is that it was almost reckless in cases. Many of these people took extreme risks where they knew they would get hurt but did it anyways in order to prove a point. The African Americans fighting for their freedoms were extremely bold and brave.
Due to all their bold battles, African Americans gained the freedom of no legalized segregation and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The “Civil Rights Act of 1964, which banned segregation in businesses and places open to the public (such as restaurants and public schools) and prohibited discrimination in employment on the basis of race, religion, ethnicity, or sex” (Keene, 830). African Americans were starting to see a change slowly but surely. Then in 1965, the Voting Rights Act which prohibited things like literacy tests which made it more accessible for blacks to attempt and register. During what was known as the Freedom Summer, many African Americans attempted to register to vote. They gained the most through laws passed for their betterment and in the shift of society. It took many years, but it seemed like the 1960s was a breakthrough to address some serious issues for African Americans. It was still difficult for some people to accept it, but it never stopped this successful group of fighters.
Other groups fighting for equal access during this era were immigrants. Through the Immigration Act, many types of people thought this was their start to a new beginning and to feel equal but it was not as successful as the African Americans fight. “The Immigration Act of 1965 eliminated the quota system established in the 1920s that set stringent caps on immigration from Southern and Eastern Europe and barred all Asian immigration” (Keene, 822). Keene’s further statement on whether immigration benefited or hurt the nation supports my belief that they did not have the most effective movement. Many ethnicities gained access to the United States which expanded their equal rights. However, they were not welcomed like full-blooded Americans. Immigrants continually got pushed back and viewed differently, restricting them from gaining full equality that America should be providing them.
Another large group that fought hard for equal access was women during the 1960s through the Women’s Liberation movement. Many women left the Civil Rights movement and gained the notion known as feminism. Helen Gurley Brown and Betty Friedan were two empowering women who wrote books to encourage women to explore their sexuality and to fight for the right to do the same things as men (Keene, 837). Those were the two of the most influential women during this time through writings. The idea that women were supposed to be housewives was completely changing. The National Organization for Women (NOW) secured “equal rights for women in employment, education, and politics—traditionally, male domains” (Keene, 837). Dr. Keene’s research supports my belief that women were ready for a change and were going to band together to make it happen. They were tired of waiting around for something to change, so they did it themselves. The women’s movement was pretty successful in the fact that they were actually able to start joining manly types of jobs while having an actual organization for them. Women will continue to fight for equal access even in today’s world for those who fight to reduce the wage gap between men and women. Their movement during this era was only a start for more to come.
Many groups like immigrants and women fought for equal access, but African Americans had the most successful civil rights movement and gained the most out of it. Every person in the world will continue to fight for equal access in some part of life. For groups like the feminists, African Americans, and immigrants in the 1960s they had to fight for life-changing effects. Immigrants were able to break loose from the strict restrictions of immigration, while women were able to gain personal liberation of empowerment. African Americans were able to gain freedom to many public things like non-segregated schools, yet they also gained the liberating feeling of the thought that things will change. The dream of life how they imagined was becoming more of a reality slowly but surely. Many groups like the LGBTQ community and Black Lives Matter campaign continue to express their frustrations and work to make a change on a societal standard, but take it even further to the government level. The battles fought for equal access from the 1950s through the 1970s set the road for those to come. One day “We Shall Overcome” and equal access in all things will be a right.
Keene, Jennifer D., Cornell, Saul, and O’Donnell, Edward T. Visions of America: A History of the United States, Volume2, 3rded. 2019.