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The 1960's - an Era of Discord

A young black man is brutally murdered for a harmless comment to a white woman. A mother distresses over the discovery of her son's rock and roll collection. A United States soldier sits in a trench in Vietnam contemplating the reason for his sitting knee-deep in mud. The 1960's was marked with confusion, insecurity and rebellion. It was a period of time when Americans stood up and took full advantage of liberalism in America and their God-given right to freedom of speech to create a decade bursting with social revolutions. The Civil Rights Movement, Counter Culture and the War in Vietnam were three of the most prominent events during this era and helped to define the 1960's as arguably the most influential decade in our nation's history. The Civil Rights Movement was marked by public uprisings against segregation and the fortitude of Black-Americans to achieve equal rights among the whites. Many young people used music, drugs, politics and alternative lifestyles in search of a better world and to rebel against the older generation to create what came to be known as counterculture. The Vietnam War further divided the country with opposing views on the situation and public disapproval of the actions of our president. However, these acts were necessary for the advancement of our nation in many aspects and helped accomplish the freedoms enjoyed today.

The Civil Rights Movement was the turning point in social equality for Black Americans. The fruit of the protestors laboring was the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, guaranteeing basic civil rights for all Americans, regardless of race. However, there were many hardships and drastic events leading to this final accomplishment. The Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955 was led by Martin Luther King and a number of other black leaders in Montgomery, Alabama after a woman named Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white man. This was perfect ammunition for the black group to start a boycott and word was spread by ministers in their churches. Other means of transportation were developed for the blacks such as a "personal taxi service." The boycott lasted for over a year until final concession was reached. Also dealing with public transportation were "The Freedom Rides." This was a symbolic plan to reverse the bus system. Whites would sit in the back and blacks in the front on the trip from the north to New Orleans. At rest stops, whites would go in Black's only areas and vice versa. Hostility was faced along the way, as in Montgomery, Alabama, where an uprising occurred and President Kennedy felt it necessary to enforce Martial Law. Although the "ride" never made it to New Orleans, they forced the Kennedy Administration to take a stand against civil rights and segregation was outlawed in interstate bus travel. Arguably the most significant victory for the Civil Rights Movement occurred in Birmingham, Alabama. Martin Luther King led sit-ins and protests against segregation beginning on April 3, 1963. Bull Connor, mayor of Birmingham attempted to stop these protests by jailing MLK. In solitary confinement, King wrote the highly influential, "Letter from Birmingham Jail," further encouraging protests. Children refused to attend school and stayed in parks. Connor sent in firefighters to hose them away but they remained insistent. When all jails were filled and the administration had it's back to the wall, business communities agreed to integrate lunch counters and hire more black workers; a huge victory for Martin Luther King. After events like these and a considerable amount of bloodshed, the segregation problem took an upward swing and differences began to be reconciled, eventually leading to the Civil Rights Act of 1954.

Counterculture in the 1960's sprung from a desire of primarily young people to rebel against the conformities of the preceding era. The counterculture lifestyle integrated many of the ideals of the time: peace, love, harmony, music, and religions outside the Christian tradition. Meditation, yoga, and psychedelic drugs were embraced as routes to expanding one's



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