Many social changes that were addressed in the 1960s are still the

issues being confronted today. the \'60s was a decade of social and

political upheaval. in spite of all the turmoil, there were some positive

results: the civil rights revolution, john f. Kennedy\'s bold vision of a

new frontier, and the breathtaking advances in space, helped bring about

progress and prosperity. however, much was negative: student and anti-war

protest movements, political assassinations, and ghetto riots excited

american people and resulted in lack of respect for authority and the law.


The decade began under the shadow of the cold war with the soviet

union, which was aggravated by the u-2 incident, the berlin wall, and the

cuban missile crisis, along with the space race with the ussr.


The decade ended under the shadow of the viet nam war, which deeply

divided americans and their allies and damaged the country\'s

self-confidence and sense of purpose.


Even if you weren\'t alive during the \'60s, you know what they meant

when they said, "tune in, turn on, drop out." you know why the nation

celebrates Martin luther king, jr.\'s birthday. all of the social issues

are reflected in today\'s society: the civil rights movement, the student

movement, space exploration, the sexual revolution, the environment,

medicine and health, and fun and fashion.


The Civil Rights Movement


The momentum of the previous decade\'s civil rights gains led by rev.

Martin luther king, jr. carried over into the 1960s. but for most blacks,

the tangible results were minimal. only a minuscule percentage of black

children actually attended integrated schools, and in the south, "jim crow"

practices barred blacks from jobs and public places. New groups and goals

were formed, new tactics devised, to push forward for full equality. as

often as not, white resistance resulted in violence. this violence spilled

across tv screens nationwide. the average, neutral american, after seeing

his/her tv screen, turned into a civil rights supporter.


Black unity and white support continued to grow. in 1962, with the

first large-scale public protest against racial discrimination, rev. Martin

luther king, jr. Gave a dramatic and inspirational speech in washington,

d.c. After a long march of thousands to the capital. the possibility of

riot and bloodshed was always there, but the marchers took that chance so

that they could accept the responsibilities of first class citizens. "the

negro," King said in this speech, "lives on a lonely island of poverty in

the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity and finds himself an exile

in his own land." King continued stolidly: "it would be fatal for the

nation to overlook the urgency of the moment and to underestimate the

determination of the negro. this sweltering summer of the negro\'s

legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn

of freedom and equality." when King came to the end of his prepared text,

he swept right on into an exhibition of impromptu oratory that was

catching, dramatic, and inspirational.


"I have a dream," King cried out. the crowd began cheering, but king,

never pausing, brought silence as he continued, "i have a dream that one

day on the red hills of georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of

former slaveowners will be able to sit down together at the table of



"I have a dream," he went on, relentlessly shouting down the

thunderous swell of applause, "that even the state of mississippi, a state

sweltering with people\'s injustices, sweltering with the heat of

oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice. i

have dream," cried King for the last time, "that my four little children

will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of

their skin but by the content of their character."


Everyone agreed the march was a success and they wanted action now!

but, now! remained a long way off. president kennedy was never able to

mobilize sufficient support to pass a civil rights bill with teeth over the

opposition of segregationist southern members of congress. but after his

assassination, president johnson, drawing on the kennedy legacy and on the

press coverage of civil rights marches and protests, succeeded where

kennedy had failed.


However, by the summer of 1964, the black revolution had created its

own crisis of disappointed expectations. rioting by urban blacks was to be

a feature of every "long, hot, summer" of the mid-1960s.


In 1965, King and other black leaders wanted to push beyond social

integration, now guaranteed under the previous year\'s civil rights law, to

political rights, mainly southern blacks\' rights to register and vote.

king picked a tough alabama town to tackle: