HIST 102 AMU week 6 lesson Freedoms, Uncivil Wars, and Search for OrderAmerican History since 1877 American Military university
Freedoms, Uncivil Wars, and Search for Order
After the civil rights movement achieved most of its goals, the Liberal agenda turned to ending poverty, environmental concerns, and advancing rights for other marginalized groups, such as women and homosexuals. As the century progressed, the failures of liberalism turned Americans towards a more conservative mindset.
Topics covered will include:
- Great Society
- War in Vietnam
- Violence and Unrest
- 1968 election
- Women’s Liberation and Gay Liberation
- Energy Crisis
- Economic Decline
- Reform and Reaction
- Family Values
- Resurgence of Religion
- Reagan and the New Right
- Economic Growth
- End of the Cold War
- Conflict in the Middle East
In 1960, John F. Kennedy was elected President. At 43, Kennedy was the second youngest person ever to hold the U.S. presidency, a fact matched by his youthful idealism. Handsome, eloquent, and an excellent communicator, President Kennedy’s appeal was in many ways more based on image than on substance. The sweeping agenda that his administration had worked towards was never fully delivered, and he was assassinated before his first term had ended.
His Vice-President, Lyndon B. Johnson, quickly took the reins. Johnson was born in Texas, to a family that had long been farmers and ranchers. After losing their family farm left the Johnsons impoverished, Lyndon became committed to helping those less fortunate. Before entering politics, Johnson worked as a schoolteacher in an underserved community. Compared to that of Kennedy, who had been the product of one of the nation’s wealthiest families, Johnson’s background made him particularly suited as a champion of the poor.
The struggle for equal rights for women became more important than ever in the 1960s, and working women were largely behind this struggle and its growth. As societal norms changed, women waited longer to marry and have children, which afforded them the opportunity to enter the workplace. Soon, more women were employed in the United States than ever before.
The War in Vietnam
President Johnson’s efforts to end poverty and other domestic problems were offset by the nation’s controversial involvement in the Vietnam War and its escalation during his presidency. The conflict in Vietnam began when French colonial forces were defeated, and a battle for control between Communist and anti-Communist forces began. The possibility of further Communist expansion in Southeast Asia concerned the United States.GULF OF
TONKINOPERATION ROLLING THUNDERANTI-WAR
On January 31, 1968, the turning point in the Vietnam War occurred. The Viet Cong, as the Vietnamese guerilla forces were called, staged a series of over one hundred attacks on a number of South Vietnamese cities and towns. The Tet Offensive, named after a holiday celebrating the Vietnamese New Year, included a bold attack on the U.S. embassy in Saigon, in which Viet Cong forces entered the building’s courtyard and briefly captured the embassy before U.S. forces stopped them.
The Tet Offensive resulted in a great setback for Communist forces, and the U.S. government proposed a massive counter-offensive that would involve deploying 200,000 more troops to Vietnam. But by this time, even those who had supported the war from the beginning were starting to lose hope in the prospect of an American victory. In the end, escalation of the war was halted, peace talks that would last for five years commenced, and Johnson announced that he would not seek reelection.
Black smoke covers areas of the capital during attacks by the Viet Cong.
Martin Luther King Jr.
On the domestic front, two political assassinations shocked the public. One was Martin Luther King, the 39-year-old leader of the civil rights movement who had become increasingly involved with the plight of the working poor. He had traveled to Memphis to support a sanitation workers’ strike, when he was shot to death by a sniper on the balcony of his motel on April 4 of 1968.
Escaped convict James Earl Ray was later arrested in London, England for the murder after trying to escape arrest. Riots broke out in major cities throughout the country in the days following, as word of King’s assassination spread. In 1983, a federal holiday celebrating King’s birthday on January 15 was signed into law.
Robert F. Kennedy
The night of King’s assassination, presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy, the brother of the former president, was scheduled to give a campaign speech in Indianapolis, Indiana. He was urged to cancel the speech, since it was to be to a black majority audience, and a race riot was feared, but he insisted on speaking. In his speech, Kennedy spoke about the assassination of his own brother and urged his audience to “replace that violence, that stain of bloodshed that has spread across our land, with an effort to understand with compassion and love.”
It is said that Indianapolis was able to avoid the violence that plagued other major U.S. cities largely because of the calm that Kennedy’s speech was able to impart. Two months later, after gaining a substantial lead in the Democratic campaign, Kennedy was himself assassinated while leaving a hotel in Los Angeles. His assassin, Palestinian-born Sirhan Sirhan, quickly confessed to the crime and claimed he had killed Kennedy to protest the oppression of Palestinians in the Middle East.
Election of 1968
For Democrats, 1968 was a far different election year than 1964 had been. Four years earlier, President Johnson’s election was seen as a great unifying force that would bring the United States into a new age of equality, civil rights, and prosperity. But now, the peak of the Vietnam War and the domestic violence that had culminated in the assassinations of King and Kennedy told a different story.
Women’s Liberation and Gay Liberation
- WOMEN’S LIBERATION MOVEMENT
- TITLE IX
- NATIONAL GAY TASK FORCE
Women were actively involved in the civil rights and anti-war movements of the 1960s. But many of these women felt that they were treated differently—and often unfairly—by these movements, a fact that attested to the need for a similar movement to promote women’s rights. In addition, the idea of sexual politics—differences between the sexes from the perspective of authority—became an issue. The idea of gender influencing authority was not one that was restricted to politics and government; its impact was also addressed in art, literature, and other spheres. The women’s group NOW had been formally incorporated in 1967, with over one thousand members, but some women felt that NOW was not radical enough, and did not encompass a focus wide enough. These women established a less formal movement known as Women’s Liberation.
The Women’s Liberation movement went public when over one hundred women protested the 1968 Miss America pageant. These protesters argued that this pageant celebrated a woman’s physical appearance as her most valuable attribute. Chief to the foundation of Women’s Liberation was the concept of “sisterhood,” the idea that women could relate to each other in ways they could not relate to men, reiterating the idea of previous feminists that women innately possessed qualities that made them better suited for certain societal roles than men.
A Women’s Liberation march in Washington, D.C.
While those who opposed the war in Vietnam were increasingly vocal, Nixon held that a “silent majority” supported the war and opposed an immediate withdrawal. For this reason, Nixon vowed to work towards a peace treaty while continuing the fighting.
Over the course of his presidency, Nixon was able to continue to exploit this silent majority and their dissatisfaction with American society for his own political gain. These white, middle-class Americans, many of whom began as Wallace supporters, helped Nixon win the 1972 election as well. They also laid the groundwork for a conservative resurgence that would occur a decade later in the 1980s.
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Energy Crisis and the Environment
- OIL EMBARGO
- ENVIRONMENTAL AWARENESS
- NUCLEAR POWER
As more Americans owned and drove automobiles, the United States saw a gradual but steady increase in its reliance on foreign oil. Most of this oil came from the Middle East.
In 1960, five oil-producing countries—Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Venezuela—founded the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). Over time, more countries in the Middle East, as well as other parts of the world, joined OPEC.2