"During the 1960s, the United States had become a more open, more tolerant, freer country." How would you defend or refute that statement with specific examples that demonstrate more openness, tolerance, and freedom or the lack thereof?

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There are several examples that one might cite to support this argument. The first would be the passage of federal legislation that ended legally-sanctioned segregation and white supremacy. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 essentially outlawed segregation based on race, sex, national origin, or other basis. It was followed by the Voting Rights Act that worked to eliminate discrimination in voting, ensuring that more people had access to the political process. Very public movements for the rights of women, Native Americans, the LGBTQ community, and other groups also emerged from the 1960s, bringing their concerns before the national consciousness. The period witnessed a so-called "sexual revolution," in which people began to break free of traditional mores, and women, thanks to increased access to contraception, could live more open and free sexual lives. Some major federal initiatives that were part of the Great Society attacked poverty, especially in rural areas and inner cities. So there is little doubt that many different groups of people staked a claim to equality during this period, but I think two points should be emphasized. The first is that the difficulties of the struggles these people faced demonstrates how unequal and closed American society was for many in the 1960s. The second is that the end of the 1960s experienced a backlash against the developments described here, with many conservatives appealing to working-class white males by asserting that progress had come too fast. So despite an increased sense of openness and tolerance, and the indisputable expansion of freedoms during the 1960s, these developments were hard-won and tenuous.

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America became a more open, freer, and more tolerant nation during the 1960s. This is evident upon examination of four aspects of the society: the counterculture movement, feminism, the sexual revolution, and gay rights.

First, the counterculture promoted—even worshiped—freedom. Tie-dyed shirts and sandals were in fashion. Drug use and rock music became very popular. Hippies were inspired by Timothy Leary. Back-to-nature and collective-living arrangements were in vogue. The counterculture movement culminated with the famous Woodstock concert in 1969.

Second, women asserted their rights. The Feminine Mystique (1963), written by Betty Friedan, reminded women that they were much more than mere homemakers. In 1966, the National Organization for Women (NOW) was founded.

Third, the introduction of the birth-control pill in 1960 helped lead to a sexual revolution. The increased promiscuity also led to a rise in the number of sexually transmitted diseases.

On June 28, 1969, the New York police raided Stonewall Inn, a gay bar. The bar's patrons fought back and a riot ensued. The incident inspired gays to stand up for their rights.

As the new decade began in 1970, the US had become a very different place.

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In some ways, the United States was a freer country as the 1960s went on, but African Americans still lacked basic freedoms. In many parts of the South, African Americans were denied the right to vote. Their rights were abridged, and their attempts to register to vote were met with fierce resistance. For example, during the initial march on Selma, Alabama, in March of 1965, protestors were attacked by the police. This day was known as "Bloody Sunday," and it helped lead to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, enforcing the right of African Americans to vote. Still, African Americans in the North and South lacked economic parity with whites, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. went to Chicago to publicize the poverty and lack of economic opportunity in the African American community.

In addition, even by the end of the 1960s, women earned less than 60% of what men did for the same work (see the link below). Women were still restricted to certain occupations, such as teaching and nursing, though professions such as law and medicine would start to open up to them over time. Therefore, the 1960s was still an era of limitations rather than freedoms.

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Many examples exist to show that the United States became a freer, more open, and more tolerant country during the 1960s. One needs only look at some of the federal legislation that was passed in the 1960s to show that the country was becoming more open. For example, while segregating neighborhoods by race and ethnicity had been a common, legal, and accepted practice for more than a century, the Fair Housing Act of 1968 made segregation in housing illegal. Owners could no longer refuse to sell to person based on race, and realtors were legally required to show any home on the market to any person who might want to buy it, regardless of race.

Another important piece of legislation passed in 1968 banned race, sex, and age discrimination in hiring. Before this time, companies could advertise a position as particularly for a woman, labeling it, for example, "Girl Friday," and refusing to interview men. Women also were routinely required to leave jobs for no other reason than that were too old—such as more than 25—or pregnant. Other positions were considered male only or white only. This legislation opened up many opportunities for people who were once channelled into low-paying, low-status jobs.

During the 1960s, the lid blew off a culture that had been bottled up too long because of people being slotted arbitrarily into roles and denied opportunities based on such markers as race, sex, and age. The new freedom energized society and was manifested in more self expression in clothing and hair style and the loosening of many social taboos so that people could live and express themselves more honestly and freely.

The changes were not embraced by everyone and are still a work in progress, but the 1960s nevertheless marked a huge cultural shift in the direction of freedom.

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