This chapter describes how the civil rights movement inspired several groups to express their own ideals and protest for expanded rights during the 1960s and 1970s.
Section 1 discusses the student protest movement of the 1960s and the emergence of the counterculture. In the 1960s college students throughout the country began rejecting traditional values, political structures, and social norms. As they became increasingly active in social causes, these young radical activists protested the Vietnam War, poverty, campus regulations, and racism. A New Left emerged, and student groups such as the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) gained national attention. Students in the Free Speech Movement not only demanded and won the right to hold political activities, they also established a model for other college demonstrators. While the student movement sought to change traditional society, the counterculture chose to simply leave it behind. The hippies rejected materialism, promoted personal freedom, and embraced spirituality. Ironically, the counterculture influenced many changes in the food, clothing, music, and art of the mainstream society they had rejected.
Section 2 describes how women organized to gain greater rights and opportunities during the 1960s and 1970s. The early 1960s saw the women's movement reawaken and gain focus as more women entered the workforce. New feminist networks and strong leaders helped influence Congress to include women in the 1964 Civil Rights Actóthe decisive legal basis for advances made in the women's movement. New organizations, such as the National Organization for Women (NOW) formed to demand equal pay, expanded employment opportunities, greater educational opportunities, and representation in government. In 1972 feminists won a significant victory with the passage of a law that prohibited gender discrimination in education. While the women's movement brought about profound changes in society, some issues created strong opposition. A Supreme Court ruling on abortion sparked an impassioned debate that continues today, while a constitutional amendment guaranteeing equality failed to win ratification.
Section 3 explains how the 1960s and 1970s saw minority groups develop new ways to improve their status. With reawakened pride in their cultural heritage, minority groups organized to fight discrimination and exploitation. Civil rights leaders hoped new policiesósuch as affirmative actionówould help improve the social and economic status of minorities and disadvantaged groups. During the 1960s and 1970s, new political leaders, such as Jesse Jackson, helped rally minorities for political change, while new organizations formed to protest unfair policies. In 1965 Hispanic American farmworkers organized a grape boycott that gained national attention. As Hispanic Americans became more politically active, they lobbied for better working conditions, job training, and bilingualism. Native Americans chose self-determination over assimilation. While some Native Americans formed militant groups to fight unemployment, police brutality, and poverty, others used the courts to win claims to ancestral lands.
Section 4 discusses how environmental and consumer issues came into national focus. Beginning in the 1970s, grassroots efforts started an environmental movement to protect the environment and promote conservation of natural resources. The movement influenced the government to establish the Environmental Protection Agency and to enact a series of environmental protection laws. Consumer protection was the goal of the consumer movement. During the early 1960s, a young lawyer named Ralph Nader charged that automobile manufacturers compromised consumer safety. He not only succeeded in winning mandatory safety standards for cars, but he also spurred a national consumer protection movement that expanded regulations for numerous other consumer goods.