How did the civil rights movements of the 1960s and the 1970s impact American society?

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Susan Hurn eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The events in the 1960s that resulted from the civil rights movement to secure equality for black Americans affected many white Americans deeply. I remember vividly the images on TV at the time--the beatings, the murders, the attack dogs, and the fire hoses. It was hard to believe that these scenes of such ugly hatred and violence were happening in the United States. They were shocking, often sickening, and they became rooted in our national conscience. These powerful images made many white people examine their personal feelings; they might not have been particularly supportive of integration, but they didn't like what they were seeing and hearing on the nightly news. It was unAmerican; we were better than that.

is interesting that To Kill a Mockingbird was published during this period, and then made into the now-classic film with Gregory Peck. The huge popularity of both the book and the film indicated that American society was changing. The civil rights movement in the 1960s made most Americans realize what had to change, and why.

mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Whenever change is forced upon people, there is always a backlash, especially when this change is made hastily and is unorganized.  Ironically, in the very liberal state of Massachusetts, forced bussing in Boston became a heated issue as many black students were discontent with being made to travel across the city to schools because they had to get up very early and ride for hours on the buses.  For a while Boston had more riots than the big cities of the South over this issue.

In the 1970s there were racial quotas set for jobs, and anyone who was not a minority was too frequently not considered for jobs posted at state unemployment agencies, especially in big cities such as Chicago and New York. (Employment personnel were specifically told in Chicago that they must give positions only to minorities.) Again, the pendulum swung radically another direction instead of gradually.


bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I remember when the public schools were finally fully integrated in Florida in the late 1960s. Black schools were closed in many cases, and the students were integrated into the former mostly-white schools. Most of the African-American students were unhappy with losing their own schools and having to be bussed into white neighborhoods. Both whites and blacks had trouble dealing with each other. Violence broke out repeatedly during and after school, and police were often called in to break up the fights; a large number of parents often showed up to cause further friction. I remember seeing one friend running home bloody after taking a beating at school; other friends were jumped in solitary bathrooms by small gangs, both black and white. It was a time of social upheaval to be sure.

brettd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Consider the idea that today's generations of young people were born into a society that barely remembers segregation.  Where the closest they hear of such experiences come from grandparents.  So these two movements affected our society in that they changed the national mindset, albeit slowly and over long periods of time.  While racism is alive and well, and economic segregation a foregone conclusion, the social consciousness of the country has rejected it completely.

There is also no way whatsoever that Barack Obama's election as President could have happened without the trailblazers of the 60s and 70s who assured his gneration and those after it their fundamental rights.

accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I find it interesting that both #2 and #3 point towards the increased sense of separation between various groups of America as a result of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s and 1970s. I wonder whether the resulting division is one of the most important lasting legacies of the Civil Rights Movement. It is important to realise that the Movement resulted in both positives and negatives, and identifying the divides in American society perhaps rights the balance of regarding the Civil Rights Movement in purely positive terms. [Brit]

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator
There are many ways that the civil rights movement affected our modern society. I think many of them have been mentioned, but one that I would like to point out is the idea that people need to stand up to injustice, and if takes members of the non-oppressed group to ally with the oppressed group. The same thing has been happening with gay rights today, although the efforts have not yet been successful, it is a legacy of the 1960s.
lrwilliams eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I would say that the impact from the Civil Rights Movement was felt by all. As a youngster growing up in a rural area of the Central United States I really had no personal experience other than what was seen on the news. As mentioned above those images made quite an impression on me.