Segregation and the Civil Rights Movement

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What cultural changes took place in the US over the late 1960s and 1970s facilitating change? In the 1950s, social critics often spoke of something called “the American character" that reflecting the white middle-class conformist culture of the period. Yet, this single “American character” was thrown out the window after a decade of cultural upheaval in the late 1960s and 1970s.

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I think that one of the most profound elements that accounted for significant social change was the emergence of rights based movements.  These movements were mobilized about enfranchising more Americans.  By definition, this challenged the Status Quo of conformity that dominated much of the 1950s and the early part of the 1960s.  Rights based movements for people of color, women, and those who were economically challenged sought to transform what is into what should be.  By their very definition, these movements desired the changing of society.  The emergence of these movements changed the idea of "American character" in their attempts to expand the definition of what it meant to be "American" in the first place.  In contrast to the exceptionalist notion of identity that was so much a part of the 1950s and early portion of the 1960s, the conflict- based movements of the latter part of the decade explicitly sought to transform the face and fabric of the nation.  In this, the classification of American character in the mindset of upper to middle class White Americans was posited alongside a vision in which people of color and women were able to actively voice their own desire to be included.  Additionally, movements that openly embraced Marxist thought challenged what was being offered as a conformist vision of the good.  It is here where it becomes evident that the cultural changes that would define the decade also went very far in defining what America would be seen at the time and what it would be seen afterwards.

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