- Politics and Social Issues»
- North America Political & Social Issues
How the 1960s Changed America Politically and Socially
How the 1960s Changed America
The 1960s was an extremely transformative time for the United States. The decade shaped the country and made it how it is today. It was a dynamic time for many reasons, including politics, the life of MLK, the creation of children's toys, and the rise of the hippies.
John F. Kennedy
One of the greatest movers and shakers of politics in the 1960s was Martin Luther King, Jr. He changed the lives of blacks for many years to come. He once said, “Faith is taking the first step, even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” Martin Luther King Jr. took such a leap of faith when he began to speak out for blacks from 1955 until 1968, when he was assassinated while leading a protest in Tennessee. Though he was killed, his dream lives on today.
Another changing element in politics in the 1960s was the presidential term of John F. Kennedy. He famously said, "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country,” a reference to the draft. He was one of the four presidents who were successfully assassinated. The assassination of JFK eventually led to the creation of a police force that protected the president. Before his death, he was involved in three major events in US history: the Cuban Missile Crisis, the American Civil Rights Movement, and the building of the Berlin Wall. The presidential term of JFK has changed America and made it the way it is today.
A third political change that occurred during that decade was caused by the Vietnam War. It was a time of change because of several reasons. One of the many reasons is because of the draft; a draft is when people are chosen to serve in the military. This caused protests because many moms and wives had to send their sons and husbands to fight and more than likely to die in the war. Ho Chi Minh declared, "Our resistance will be long and painful, but whatever the sacrifices, however long the struggle, we shall fight to the end, until Vietnam is fully independent and reunified,” and it the US was a part of the long and painful fight. Those are just a few reasons why the Vietnam War in the 1960s was a time of change.
The 1960s also reflected a change in children's toys. The Barbie doll revolutionized commercial playthings in 1960, spawning the production of other action figures such as G.I. Joe and the trolls. Suddenly, the ideas and possibilities for new toys were endless. Altogether, these toys provided the spark for an explosion of different and unique children’s toys. They have revolutionized what little kids play with today.
Not only was children's entertainment shifting, but so was adults'. A second element of changing entertainment in the 1960s was found in the Woodstock festival. An outdoor concert that lasted for three days, it was one of the largest and most memorable gatherings in music history. Ben Wattenburg of PBS expains, “Critics argue that Woodstock represented much of what was wrong with the '60s: a glorification of drugs, a loosening of sexual morality, and a corrosive disrespect for authority.” And although Woodstock may have just seemed like a hippie gathering, it was an expression of freedoms on many levels. It opened the doors for many new musical genres and the independence to act freely in public.
The third element of change in entertainment was in sports. For example, the 1960 Olympic Games brought lots of attention to American sports. The United States teams had brought back more than 10 gold medals. Also, many started observing Muhammad Ali because he was the world heavy weight boxing champion. His saying was, “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.” But when he won his Olympic gold medal for boxing, he threw it into a river because he was so disgusted with racism in the US. And although it may not have seemed like it affected others, it gave anti-racial fighters an extra boost in their struggle to rid the United States of racism. There are many other stories about sports athletes who helped fight the fight against racism, but Muhammad Ali was one of the more well-known ones. Sports have changed everything and made the world the way it is today.
The hippies were representative of a social shift in the United States. One person said, “The hippies just wanted peace and love.” The reason they wanted peace was because the Vietnam War was starting and many people were dying. Another reason the hippies wanted love was because blacks were just set free, and racism was just kicking in. They changed the social status of the United States because of the way they lived.
Another social change in the 1960s was in the fight against racism toward blacks. Two famous people for fighting against racism in the 1960s were Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. Malcolm X stated, "I believe in the brotherhood of all men, but I don't believe in wasting brotherhood on anyone who doesn't want to practice it with me. Brotherhood is a two-way street." He was saying that all men are equal and that racism will always exist, we just have to keep going on the good path that we are to fight against it. But even though many fought strongly against racism, it still exists today.
Lastly, a third social change in the 1960s was the new freedoms that everyone had. One said, “The people in the 1960s utilized their ability to free speech.” For example, the people realized their right to free speech and protests. And the diverse people who protested and spoke out for what they believed in changed the government’s decisions about several issues. The different freedoms that the people utilized have changed and shaped the US today.
As previously mentioned, one of the biggest influencers in the fight for social change was Martin Luther King, Jr. He fought strongly against racism and is one of the main reasons why the US is the way it is today. MLK is one of the most influential people in the United States, and he changed our lives with his "I Have a Dream" speech, his March on Washington, and his winning of the Nobel Peace Prize.
He changed the '60s when he gave his “I Have a Dream” speech. He included in it, “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: 'We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.' I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave-owners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood.” By this, he meant that he wanted everyone to just get along. He was tired of people getting disrespected because of their race or religion. This speech impacted millions of people and changed their lives and ways of thinking.
Another way that MLK changed in the 1960s was his March on Washington. It was attended by about 250,000 people. MLK was arrested and put in jail during his protests in Washington. And while in jail, he wrote a letter which he called “Letter from Birmingham City Jail.” This was a letter that advocated civil disobedience against unjust laws. His March on Washington changed the US and made it how it is today.
In the 1960s, Martin Luther King, Jr. Also won the Nobel Prize. When he did, he gave the money away. In his acceptance speech, he said, "I must ask why this prize is awarded to a movement which is beleaguered and committed to unrelenting struggle, and to a movement which has not yet won the very peace and brotherhood which is the essence of the Nobel Prize.” When he said this, he was asking he should be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize when he had not yet fully achieved peace with blacks and whites. This line of thought was the reason he gave away the entire $54,000 to the civil rights movement. His winning of the Nobel Prize and giving all the money to the civil rights movement affected the lives of many people in the 1960s.
In conclusion, Martin Luther King Jr. changed the 1960s with his "I Have a Dream" speech, his March on Washington, and his giving away of the Nobel Peace Prize. Together, he, JFK, the Vietnam War, the rise of the hippies, the Woodstock festival, and the Olympics changed the US politically and socially. The 1960s was a very dynamic time for the United States of America.