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Back to Classroom-tested Lesson Plans and Handouts

Tumultuous 1960s


Civil Rights

The separate but equal doctrine has failed in three important respects. First it is inconsistent with the fundamental equalitarianism of the American way of life in that it marks groups with the brand of inferior status. Secondly, where it has been followed, the results have been separate and unequal facilities for minority peoples. Finally, it has kept people apart despite incontrovertible evidence that an environment favorable to civil rights is fostered whenever groups are permitted to live and work together.

President's Committee on Civil Rights, 1947

The New Left

Loneliness, estrangement, isolation describe the vast distance between man and man today....We would replace power rooted in possession, privilege, or circumstance by power and uniqueness rooted in love, reflectiveness, reason and creativity. As a social system we seek the establishment of a democracy of individual participation, governed by two central aims: that the individual share in those social decisions determining the quality and direction of his life; that society be organized to encourage independence in men and provide the media for their common participation.

Port Huron Statement of Students for a Democratic Society, 1962

Women's Liberation

We reject the current assumption that a man must carry the sole burden of supporting himself, his wife, and family, and that a woman is automatically entitled to lifelong support by a man upon her marriage, or that marriage, home and family are primarily woman's world and responsibility--hers, to dominate--his to support. We believe that a true partnership between the sexes demands a different concept of marriage, an equitable sharing of the responsibilities of home and children and of the economic burdens of their support....

In the interests of the human dignity of women, we will protest and endeavor to change the false image of women now prevalent in the mass media, and in the texts, ceremonies, laws, and practices of the major social institutions. Such images perpetuate contempt for women by society and by women for themselves.

National Organization for Women's Statement of Purpose, 1966

Section 1. Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.

Equal Rights Amendment

1. Examine the origins of the struggles of blacks, students, and women for equal rights. What factors contributed to growing radicalization of these groups during the 1960s?

2. Which strategy--court battles, non-violent protest, or violent confrontation--was most effective in bringing about social change?

3. What do you think was the major goal of the struggles of blacks, students, and women for equal rights--a transformation of American society or equal participation within the existing order?

American Foreign Policy

Why are we in South Vietnam? We are there because we have a promise to keep. Since 1954 every American President has offered support to the people of South Vietnam....We have made a national pledge to help South Vietnam defend its independence. And I intend to keep our promise....

We are also there to strengthen world order. Around the globe, from Berlin to Thailand, are people whose well-being rests, in part, on the belief that they can count on us if they are attacked. To leave Vietnam to its fate would shake the confidence of all these people in the value of American commitment, the value of America's word. The result would be increased unrest and instability, and even wider war.

We are also there because there are great stakes in the balance. Let no one think for a moment that retreat from Vietnam would being an end to conflict. The battle would be renewed in one country and then another. The central lesson of our time is that the appetite of aggression is never

President Johnson defends the American role in Vietnam, 1965

Because we are free we can never be indifferent to the fate of freedom elsewhere. Our moral sense dictates a clearcut preference for those societies, which share with us an abiding respect for individual human rights....Our commitment to human rights must be absolute.

President Carter, 1977

Through the 1950s and on into the 1960s our national security was coupled with a sense of national unity and purpose. But that changed. The Soviet Union has now forged ahead in producing nuclear and conventional weapons....Let us not be satisfied with a foreign policy whose principal accomplishment seems to be our acquisition of the right to sell Pepsi-Cola in Siberia. It is time that we, the people of the United States, demand a policy that puts our own nation's interests as the first priority....Our foreign policy in recent years seems to be a matter of placating potential adversaries. Does our government fear that the American people lack willpower?

Ronald Reagan, 1976

1. Why did the United States intervene in Vietnam according to President Johnson?

2. Were vital American interests at stake in the Vietnam War?

3. On what grounds did anti-war critics protest American involvement in Vietnam?

4. Are American interests best served by a foreign policy emphasizing human rights or a policy emphasizing more concrete national interests?

5. Should the United States conduct its foreign policy unilaterally or through multilateral organizations?

Great Society Legislation
Year Legislation What it provided

24th Amendment Banned poll tax in federal elections
Civil Rights Act Banned discrimination in public accommodations and
Urban Mass Transportation Act Provided financial aid for urban mass transit systems
Economic Opportunity Act Authorized the Job Corps and VISTA
Wilderness Preservation Act Barred commercial use in 9.1 million acres of national forest

Elementary and Secondary School Act Provided $1.3 billion in aid to schools
Medicare Provided medical aid for the elderly
Voting Rights Act Forbade literacy tests and other voting restrictions
Omnibus Housing Act
Department of Housing and Urban Development
Provided rent supplements to low income families
National Endowment for the Arts Provided federal assistance to the arts
Water Quality Act
Immigration reform laws
Air Quality Act
Required states to establish and enforce water quality standards
Higher Education Act Provided federal scholarships

National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act
Highway Safety Act
Department of Transportation
Sets federal safety standards
Model Cities Rehabilitated slums

The Civil Rights Revolution

African American Voter Registration
Before and After Voting Rights Act of 1965
1960 1966 Percent Increase
Alabama 66,000 250,000 278.8
Arkansas 73,000 115,000 57.5
Florida 183,000 303,000 65.6
Georgia 180,000 300,000 66.7
Louisiana 159,000 243,000 52.8
Mississippi 22,000 175,000 695.4
North Carolina 210,000 282,000 34.3
South Carolina 58,000 191,000 229.3
Tennessee 185,000 225,000 21.6
Texas 227,000 400,000 76.2
Virginia 100,000 205,000 105.0

1. What difference did the Voting Rights Act make in black voter participation?

2. In which states was the impact greatest?

Median Income of Families by Race
Ratio of Non-white to White Incomes
1939 37 percent
1950 54 percent
1955 55 percent
1960 55percent
1965 55 percent
1970 64 percent
1975 65 percent
1980 58 percent

African American Family Incomes, 1947 and 1974
(in 1974 dollars)
1947 1974
Less than $3,000 42 14
$3,000 to $6,999 41 31
$7,000 to $9,999 9 16
$10,000 and more 8 38

Employment as Professional, Managerial, Technical, or Administrative Workers
1940 1950 1960 1970 1980
Black males 3 4 5 8 20
White males 17 19 23 25 32
Black females 5 7 8 11 20
White females 19 18 17 19 25

Percentage of Families at Various Income Levels by Ethnicity, 1980
Black Hispanic White
$25,000+ 20 23 42
$15,000-25,000 23 26 28
$ 7,500-15,000 27 29 20
$ 0-7,500 30 22 10

Years of Schooling
Blacks Whites
1950 6.8 9.3
1981 12.1 12.6

Proportion of Americans 25-29 Completing High School
All Americans African Americans
1940 38.1 11.6
1950 52.8 22.2
1960 60.7 37.7
1970 73.8 55.4
1980 84.5 75.2

Percentage with four or more years of college
Blacks Whites
1950 2.1 6.2
1981 8.2 17.8

Proportion of Families Below the Poverty Level
All Americans African Americans
1959 18.5 48.1
1965 11.8 35.5
1971 10.0 28.8
1976 9.4 27.9
1981 11.2 30.8

1. Compare black and white income distributions and educational attainment over time.

2. Which changes offer evidence of improvement? Which statistics indicate little improvement?

The Vietnam War

U.S. Troop Levels in Vietnam
1960 900
1961 3,200
1962 11,300
1963 16,300
1964 23,300
1965 184,300
1966 385,300
1967 485,600
1968 536,100
1969 475,200
1970 334,600
1971 156,800
1972 24,200

1. When did the American troop commitment increase most rapidly?

2. When did the American troop commitment begin to decline?

America in Our Time

Consumer Price Index
Price Increase
1972 2 percent
1974 8 percent
1976 5 percent
1978 8 percent
1980 12 percent
1982 4 percent
1984 4 percent

Consumer Prices, 1967
3-bedroom house $17,000
New Cadillac de Ville convertible $6,700
New Volkswagen $1,497
5-ounce tube of Crest toothpaste 39 cents
Sirloin steak 89 cents a pound
Hershey chocolate bar 5 cents
Regular gasoline 34 cents a gallon
Portable typewriter $39
Transistor radio $14
Man's gray flannel suit $69
Black and white TV set $79

1. How have prices changed since 1967? Are increases greatest, in your view, in luxuries or in necessities?

2. What factors have contributed to increased price levels?

Automobile Imports

Proportion of Auto Market Held by Foreign Manufacturers
1946-50 0.2
1961-65 6.1
1966-70 10.6
1971-75 15.2
1976-80 20.1

1. When did automobile imports increase most rapidly?

2. Why, in your view, did automobile imports increase?


The Changing Family
1960 1980
Married couples 75 % 55 %

with children

44 % 48 %

without children

33% 27%
Female heads 17% 29%

with children

3% 22%

without children

14% 7%
Lone male head 8% 16%

with children

1% 1%

without children

7% 15%

1. Describe the fundamental ways that the nature of work has changed over the course of the 20th century?

2. What kinds of work do people do if they do not make food or goods?


Distribution of Wealth and Income 1980
Top Fifth Middle Fifth Bottom Fifth
Wealth 76 % 6 % 0%
Income 42 % 18 % 5 %

Families at Various Income Levels, 1980
$50,000+ 7 %
$25,000-50,000 33 %
$15,000-25,000 28 %
$10,000-15,000 14 %
$ 5,000-10,000 13 %
$ 0-5,000 6 %

Ethnic Composition of the U.S., 1980
German-Austrian 19 %
English-Scottish 17 %
African 12 %
Irish 11 %
Hispanic 7 %
Italian 6%
Scandinavian 6 %

U.S. Population Statistics
Year Population Median Age
1790 3,929,000 15.9
1800 5,297,000 16
1810 7,224,000 16
1820 9,618,000 16.7
1830 12,901,000 17.2
1840 17,120,000 17.8
1850 23,261,000 18.9
1860 31,513,000 19.4
1870 39,905,000 20.2
1880 50,262,000 20.9
1890 63,056,000 22.0
1900 76,094,000 22.9
1910 92,407,000 24.1
1920 106,466,000 25.3
1930 123,188,000 26.5
1940 132,122,000 29.0
1950 151,683,000 30.2
1960 180,671,000 29.5
1970 204,879,000 28.1


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