Civil Rights Movements of the 1960s and 1970s


The struggle for justice and equality is significant for African Americans on their way to progress and democracy. Grassroots was their search for the right to vote. Historically, whites oppressed and enslaved black people in the United States, which created tension in the society. Although blacks received the abolition of slavery, white supremacy continued to exist. During civil rights movement, African Americans have struggled against the social segregation of the races, the political exclusion of people of color, and economic discrimination practiced against blacks. They used different strategies in their civil rights movements, starting from mass boycotts to peaceful protests. Civil Rights movement of the 60s and 70s created an out lit for African Americans, therefore it lead other nationalities to establish access to political, social and economic beliefs.


The March on Washington DC - August 23, 1963

The march on Washington DC occurred on August 23, 1963 and involved about 250,000 people who gathered together at the National Mall in order to hold protest against inequality of African Americans. This march is prominent for the speech of the African American activist Martin Luther King “I Have a Dream”. He was the most progressive person who united all black population of the USA to struggle for their rights. This activist’s speech was full of calls to stop racism in the country and to obtain civic rights. He stated that their demonstration had induced the oppressed black Americans to wake up from the long sleep. Martin Luther King said that although the Declaration of Independence proclaimed African Americans rights, they still did not have such freedoms as whites did.

For years, King’s “I Have a Dream” speech remains the most appealing one in the history of the USA. His comments regarding “cash a check for life, liberty, and happiness” generated the majestic power among protesters. The title of King’s speech was based on the concept of “The American Dream”, what made it even more convincing. He encouraged people to “let freedom ring” in the American society thus concluding that freedom could be only possible after obtaining civic and economic rights.

This historical demonstration had motivated and inspired thousands of lives who felt frustration and humiliation. However, influenced by King’s speech, black people realized their force and recognized the opportunity to take the initiative in their own hands. In 1960-1961s the whole country embraced mass “sit-ins” where participants demanded to end racial segregation in the field of services. They were supported by trade unions as well as by church organizations in the country. The movement started spontaneously leading, consequently, to the emergence of the new radical mass organizations. The main forces of these protests were representatives of the black students, democratic intellectuals, employees, and young workers.

King’s speech provoked civil disobedience in the movement. In fact, he urged to confront the U.S. Government and to break the unjust laws. Many historians consider that only civil disobedience was able to resolve an explosive situation of African Americans in the country.

African American Women in the Movement

African American women played crucial role in the movement of 1960s. Although their participation was often overshadowed by men, they gained considerable popularity in the history. Due to their activities, women managed to receive a multitude of freedoms and rights that were equal to men’s. After making sure that the federal government was limited in appealing to the authorities and took no concrete steps against racist forces, black women along with men continued the offensive against the inequalities of racism, hence strengthening their unity. In spite of the fact that women were not formal leaders like men, they made a substantial contribution to the movement.

Black women encountered major dilemmas in the era of Civil Rights Movements of the1960s and 1970s. They achieved progress in the field of equal opportunities for women, particularly in the professional sphere. Real progress had also been achieved in other areas related to the issues of women’s health and domestic violence. Equal rights for women were considered a significant achievement, albeit the gap between rhetoric and reality. In the mid-1960s the women’s movement consisted mostly of students, young people as well as representatives of more or less uniform social and age groups. Nevertheless, the fact of their participation at the end of the 1960s did not mean that feminism was adopted by the working class or communities formed along racial lines. In those years, there was a large gap between the feminist call to all the women and the actual reality where they still remained dependent on social origin.

The Black Panther Party was a revolutionary organization of nationalist and socialist character. It became active since 1966 and involved armed people who monitored police and their brutality because of the fact that African-Americans continued to live in the conditions of severe police terror, harassment, and bullying. According to the findings, black women comprised seventy percent of its members. Their purpose was to protect African American neighborhoods from vandalism. Its members contributed into the releasing of black people from jail, providing compensation for their exploitation by whites.

Students’ Roles in the Civil Right Movements

Aggravation of social contradictions in the United States had the most vivid expression in the student environment. Students reflected the course of social development and the alignment of political forces in the country. According to Stobaugh, the economic and social situation of young Americans in the 1960s was characterized by discrimination in many areas of public life, encouraging them to create an intelligible critical reality together with the radical way of thinking. Radical youth groups used to express their discontent and indignation with the overall spirit of greed and selfishness. The existence of complex social problems faced the young people. Thus, the labor market was full of youngsters looking for jobs. Notably, the existence of age discrimination in the workplace and racial segregation were the main obstacles for black youth.

The student movement was initiated in 1960, after the arrest of four young black people. The movement started as an unplanned one, but then it led to the new radical mass organization called the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Local authorities and racist organizations attempted to suppress the movement by force. So-called “sit-ins” marked the beginning of a broad interracial movement against racial segregation and caused the convergence of the leading organizations of speakers under the slogans of racial equality. In 1961 the movement against racial segregation changed its form of struggle adopting “freedom flights”, a basic manual introduced by the Congress of Racial Equality.

Numerous protests against the Vietnam War led to demonstrations and street fighting where the death toll sometimes exceeded the losses at the front. Those who protested against the system were often killed or sentenced. This fact encouraged African Americans to enforce their struggle for equal rights during the next decade. Markedly, the political activity of this period was largely increased due to the anti-war movement.

Inspired by the African American movement, other discriminated nationalities began to fight for their civil rights and benefited from that. For example, Latin Americans, Asian Americans, American Indians, and Alaska Natives began to expand their activities for equal rights with the white population. According to Makaula, African Americans were viewed by other nations as the embodiment of the implementation of civil rights movements. Over this period, people with disabilities, gays, and lesbians also began to struggle for their rights with other social groups.

Civil Right Movement of the 1970s

In the 1970s, women broadened their rights and choices. Virtually, it was the era of the largest achievements, especially for married women who were able to reach their full potential. They had established different groups and organizations that protected their rights in relation to race, gender, culture, religion, marital status, and so on. The opposition of black women resulted in the establishment of democracy in society and family. They began to actively participate in the social life, more and more women received education and acquired equal rights with men. Women no longer stayed at their homes constantly caring for children. On the contrary, they took an active social position, contributing their efforts, knowledge, and experience into the various industries.

After achieving their rights for education, African American students began to fight for the integration with whites. As a result, they gained their right to stay in the same classrooms with white students. Such changes had altered the socialization of black children. However, during the first decades after desegregation only a small percent of African American children used this right, especially in the Deep South.

This court case of Oregon vs. Mitchel was aimed at signing the Voting Rights Act due to the controversies which occurred in different states. In 1970 Idaho and Arizona refused to follow the new Act, and Oregon appealed to the Supreme Court having, eventually, won this case.

Summaries of Both Decades

The Civil Rights Movement was a non-violent movement in the 1960’s when African American struggled for racial equality. The 1970’s was a time in history when African American continued to fight for equal rights. This period is characterized by a range of political goals, from defense against racial oppressions to the point that it turned into a violent tendency often causing riots.

The Similarities of Both Decades

The 1960s and 1970s Civil Rights Movements both formed marches across the country for equal rights for African American and women struggling for racial equality.


In 1960 over 250,000 people, including whites, gathered at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. for the famous “I Have a Dream” speech. During the 1960s they still had peaceful protests. Nonetheless, in the 1970’s the Black Power Movement was demonstrating violence in the process of gaining racial equality.


Civil right Movement in the 1960s and 1970s is the most pivotal era for African Americans and women. During this period, many organizations were formed in order to help the revolutionized population in obtaining the equal rights for all people. The remarkable “I Have a Dream” speech was created to motivate African Americans to fight for equal rights. It helped women to become liberated and acquire the same rights as men. In conclusion, I think that the Civil Rights Movement was crucial for all the American citizens who were treated unfairly.

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