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1960S Essay, Research Paper

The 1960’s was a decade that forever changed the culture and society of America. The

1960’s were widely known as the decade of peace and love when in reality, minorities were

struggling to gain freedom from segregation. The war to gain freedom for all minorites was a

great obstacle to overcome.

On February 20, 1960 four black college freshmen from the Negro Agricultural and

Technical College in Greensboro, North Carolina quietly walked into a restaurant and sat down at

the lunch counter. They were protesting the Jim Crow custom that blacks could be served while

standing up but not while they were sitting at the lunch counter. The students quietly sat there

politely asking for service until closing time. The next morning they showed up again

accompanied by twenty five fellow students. By the next week their sit down had been repeated in

fourteen cities in five deep south states. In the weeks to follow many new protests arose. After a

black woman was beaten with a baseball bat in Montgomery, Alabama, 1,000 blacks silently

marched into the first capital of the Confederate states to sing and pray. Six hundred students

from two colleges walked through the streets of Orangeburg, South Carolina with placards that

exhibited phrases like “We Want Liberty” and “Segregation is Dead.” By late June some kind of

public place in over one hundred and fifty different cities across America had been desegregated.

John F. Kennedy was never able to gain enough support to pass a civil rights bill during

his short time in office, but Lyndon Johnson drawing on the Kennedy legacy and the support of

the nation succeeded in passing the bill. The bill passed 71 to 19, four more votes than required.

By early 1965 a new black leader had arose, whose name was Malcolm X. His gospel was

hatred and his motto was; “If ballots won’t work, bullets will.” Malcolm X was a former pimp,

cocaine addict, and thief. He started a militant, all black group called the Black Panthers. On a

bright Sunday in a ballroom in Manhattan in full view of 400 blacks Malcolm was murdered.

Three men casually walked down the aisle; and from eight feet opened fire with sawed-off double

barreled shotguns. Malcolm was killed by a pair of point blank range shots to the chest.

On March 12, 1965, U.S. Highway 80 was blocked by sixty state troopers who stood in a

wall three deep 400 yards past the Edmund Pettus Bridge, which crosses the Alabama river. When

black marchers came within 100 yards the troopers were ordered to put on their gas masks. At

twenty five yards the marchers stopped. Seconds later the command “troopers forward” was

barked. The troopers moved in a solid wall pushing back the front marchers. At 75 yards the

troopers were joined by posse men and deputies with tear gas canisters, in seconds the road was

swirling with clouds of smoke. The mounted men brought out bull whips and began beating the

marchers. Never in history had the American public responded with such fury. Over 15,000

thousand people marched in five different cities across the country.

On Sunday, March 21, 1965 a crowd of 3,400 marchers lead by two Nobel Peace Prize

winners, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Ralph Bunche, departed from Selma on their four day

march to Montgomery. They were accompanied by 2,900 military police, U.S. Marshals, and FBI

agents. The goal of the march was to serve the governor with a petition protesting voter

discrimination. When the crowd reached the capital the governor reneged and blandly told them

“the capitol is closed today.”

By August of 1965 riots began to erupt in Los Angeles. At the end of one week there

were 27 dead, almost 600 injured, 1,700 arrested, and over $100 million dollars worth of property

damage. The riots were finally stopped when 5,000 national guardsmen were called in from

around the country. No one actually knows what started the riots, but some blame it on the heat

wave that was hitting Los Angels and others blame it on the irritation of the urban blacks because

of their isolation and poverty.

By the end of 1966 the federal government was getting fed up with the lack of obedience

by some school districts in the deep south that were refusing to desegregate schools. They

decided to take action and cut off all federal funding to six more districts bringing the total to 37

southern schools without funding. Though losing funding many schools were still segregating

students. In Louisiana only 1 in 28 black students attended school with whites, 1 in 31 in

Mississippi, and only 1 in 42 in Alabama.

The Los Angeles ghetto of Watts plunged into anarchy in 1965 after a black man named

Marquette Frye was arrested for drunk driving. After six days of rioting ended a total of 35 were

dead, 900 were injured, and there was millions of dollars worth of property damage. A Cleveland

ghetto broke into rioting after a white bartender denied a glass of ice water to a black man. In

Newark, New Jersey some of the most violent race riots broke out after a black cab driver was

killed by white policemen. At the end of the week there were 21 dead, over 1,000 injured, and at

least 1,600 arrested. Property damage was once again in the high millions. By 1967 forty five

were dead and property damage was up to almost one billion dollars. During the summer of 1967

riots intensified in Detroit. By the end of one week 41 were dead, 350 injured, 3,800 arrested,

5,000 homeless (mostly blacks), 1,300 buildings completely destroyed, and 2,700 businesses

ransacked. Property damage reached an astonishing $500 million dollars.

Upon a brisk spring night in Memphis, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stood on a second story

balcony discussing the next week’s march on Washington with his colleagues. Suddenly a single

shot broke the silence of the night air. King’s co-workers thought it was some kind of bad joke

until they saw him lying on the ground in a pool of blood with a bullet hole torn through his neck.

In response to the shot, some thirty Memphis police converged on the building. Somehow,

possibly on purpose, all thirty policemen missed the shooter. The weapon used to kill King was a

scope- sighted 30.06 cal. Remington pump rifle. The range from which the shot was taken was a

short 205 feet. After King’s murder, rioting took place in scores of cities around the country.


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