Why were there so many protest movements in the United States during the 1960s? Analyze the factors that contributed to the rise of all of the various freedom, liberation, and rights movements in the 1960s, in order to understand the overarching forces that spanned across all of these various movements.
It is not necessarily possible to know for certain why so many movements arose right at that time. We cannot know why human events happen with complete certainty. All we can do is to provide educated speculation.
People who study social movements say that movements often come about because of “relative deprivation.” This means that members of some group feel that they are not as well off as other groups and not as well off as they think that they could and should be. This is likely what caused the variety of protest movements in the ‘60s.
Given the racism and sexism that had pervaded the United States in the time before the ‘60s, it is not surprising that many groups felt less well off than white males. The US economy was booming and society seemed to be getting better as a whole, but some groups were still left behind. Therefore, they had reason to feel upset.
Just as importantly, they now had reason to think that they were worse off than they could be. In other words, they thought that they now had reason to hope. Much of this came from the Civil Rights Movement.
The Civil Rights Movement for African Americans is said to have occurred largely because WWII and the Cold War (along with the movement of blacks to the North where they could vote) made whites more likely to approve of the idea of black rights. When blacks saw that whites were more likely to be sympathetic, they pushed hard for rights.
When the Civil Rights Movement seemed to be succeeding, it gave other groups hope. They felt that, if African Americans could get rights, so could they. Thus, the movements happened because of a feeling of relative deprivation due to the boom in the US economy and society and due to the success of the movement for African American rights.