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The 1960s Youth Movement

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Some of the most influential people were part of the 1960s youth movement. The sixties was a time of both cultural and political revolution. It changed the way many people thought of society and moral values. The children of the post-World War II baby boom were moving into adulthood and shaping their opinions and ideas of cultural improvement along the way. From the civil rights movement to the new teenage morality views, the young people of the United States greatly influenced society. They were responsible for branding the entire decade as one of the fight for racial equality, birth of the hippies, and political activism.



The civil rights movement is one of the most famous crusades for equal rights in the world. Segregation was just a part of life at the time and accepted by many white Americans, mainly in the South. Public transportation heavily enforced this law of inequality. African Americans were forced to sit in the back and often had to give up their seats to white folk if the front was full. Some were even kicked off the bus after already paying the fare. Whites and African Americans were also separated in education, the conditions of the African American schools completely contradicted the term “separate but equal”, which seemed to justify legal segregation. Kentucky not only required separate schools, but went as far as to prohibit a textbook from a white school to be redistributed to a black school, and vice versa. New Orleans actually created separate red light districts for black and white prostitutes (Segregation in US). In addition to this, there were laws passed to prevent African Americans from voting, such as the requirement of poll taxes and literacy tests. Many blacks were severely beaten for even standing in line to register to vote. This poor treatment of fellow Americans, ones who also helped fight in World War II, was unacceptable to blacks and a good number of whites. As a result, a rebellion began in the early stages of the civil rights movement were full of nonviolent protesting like sit-ins and marches. This response was met with violence. Many protests ended with aggressive arrests and sometimes death. After some time of this, the peaceful approach lost popularity with a number of protesters (Ayers, et al 582-83). The civil rights movement was successful because of great leaders and supporters. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X were very influential because of their charisma need to help people. Also, without the support of Presidents John F Kennedy and Lyndon B Johnson, anti-segregation laws might not have been passed.



When most people think of the sixties, they automatically think of things like Woodstock, drugs, and unhygienic long-haired teenagers. The hippies celebrated the earth and the freedom to express their individuality and views on the world. The hippies tried to raise awareness of the beauty of the earth and the importance of keeping it beautiful. These hippies called themselves “Flower Children”. To escape from society, they lived in communes, sharing resources and growing their own foods. They did all






they could to refrain from buying into the mainstream and supporting The Establishment. The hippies avoided most material things and regular bathing was usually neglected as a way of staying natural to the Earth. Drugs were a significant part of the hippie subculture. A few of the most popular among them were LSD and marijuana. "When you smoke herb it reveals you to yourself." (Bob Marley). Both were said to give them creative inspiration and a new sense of need for peace and harmonious living (Ayers, et al 622-623). The fashions of these people were diverse. “Ethnic” styles to unisex clothing were very popular (Connikie 22). Body painting was another fashion statement used for self-expression. Music helped hippies express themselves and share their values with the rest of the world. Folk and psychedelic rock were the most popular genres. Folk music expressed their love of the earth and nature while psychedelic rock went hand in hand with drug use. Some of the most influential rock figures of the culture were The Grateful Dead, Jimi Hendrix, The Who, The Rolling Stones, and Janis Joplin.



Activism was also a large part of the youth movement of the sixties. One of the most famous protests was the Free Speech Movement. This took place at Berkeley University after a rule was made banning protests on campus. The students and even some professors were angered at this because it prevented them from reaching out to other students and raising money (Freeman)."We on the faculty," Assistant Professor John Leggett says, "have allowed the administration, over the years, to take the university away from us, to turn it into the multiversity. It isn't easy, but we're going to have to try to take it back. The students and the faculty, together, should control the university. The administration should administrate." Another large gathering of activism was the Anti-Vietnam War protest. Young people around the country held rallies, demonstrations, and openly spoke out against the war (Ayers, et al 622-623). This movement lasted the entire decade and spilled into the 70s. Women’s rights, gay and lesbian rights, and environmental rights were also popular movements that greatly dominated the era.. The young people of 1960s America were deeply concerned about the lack of equality in the “land of the free”, and did everything in their power to achieve it.


We see the sixties as a time of radical thinkers and the desperate need for change. The youth of the country stepped beyond the conservative ways of the generations before them in a way that rivaled the Roaring Twenties. Their tactics and drastic lifestyle shocked many people still mentally living in the fifties. It almost seems arguable that the young people had the most power. They certainly found their voices and used them as much as possible. In many ways, they shaped society and politics today. The effects of the decade lasted more than forty years and will continue to influence American culture for future generations. The fight for equality, the hippie culture, and the many political wars remain the most memorable parts of the 1960s. The accomplishments of the youth of this era greatly influenced the way society is today. Just think, where would we be if the young people of America decided to keep their silence?



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writeitloud This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Nov. 16, 2009 at 9:31 pm:
This is great!
 
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