Before the 1960's Americans had battled a long war which really affected the nation and at the end of world war two, most people were seeking for peace. By 1960, the most influential people were the youths who emerged and influenced the way people thought of the cultural and moral values. During this period, youths (Baby Boomers) came up with new and improved cultural ideas and opinions. They rejected their parent's values and ideas as they started being exposed to different cultures and they had money, opportunities, and time as compared to the previous generations. The youths really fought for these changes, and from our discussion, we will look at some of the cultural changes that greatly influenced the Americans.
In the 1960s, the US was economically rich. Youths from the middle class had a more bargaining power, and the entertainment industries were growing. The need for cultural change lead to the development of new dress code, media use, social habits, films, music, housing, and anticipations changed drastically in a manner that showed parents, teachers and the society at large that the young adults wanted a change in their way of living. Different from their parents who had experienced a lot of wars learned to work extra hard and survive.
Civil Right Movement
The civil right movement was the major campaign for social justice in America. Although civil war had eliminated slavery, discrimination against blacks did not end. They continued to suffer the devastating impact of racism mostly in the South. African Americans were forced to live in separate areas, required to sit at the back of the buses and schooled separately with the white (Jansson 239). Public transportation was the most affected area where African Americans were required to sit at the back, and if the front seats were full, they were forced to give the whites. At times the African Americans were even thrown out the vehicle after already paying the ticket. Education went hand in hand with housing, and most African Americans lived in the deprived parts of the state with the worst services. The worst financed schools came from these parts; therefore, segregation between education and lifestyle was a clinical one. Kentucky went ahead and abandoned the African American education (Smith 8). Black Americans were also low-wage workers, servants, and farmers. Consequently, in the late 1950s, a peaceful campaign for civil rights started and with the help of supporters who involved youths and prominent leaders like Malcolm X, Martin Luther King jr., president Lyndon B Johnson and John F Kennedy they managed to pass the civil right laws.
Activism was another major youth campaign in the 1960s. The free speech campaign started in 1964 at Berkeley university where students criticized the administration for preventing them from conducting political movement on campuses which later spread to other universities. Scholars held demonstrations and sit-ins to protest controls on their rights (Brooks and Glenn 93). This went on for several years, and free speech movement by youths was the first to succeed through violation campaigns in the civil rights movements which really influenced the youths/students. The youth movement's rallies later amalgamated with the students' protestors who opposed the Vietnam war.
The Woodstock Festival
The Woodstock festival occupies a renowned place in America's music culture history. Initially, it was known as "3 days of peace and music." Its victory greatly surprised the producer's anticipations. It involved sharing the music, taking drugs, dressing colorful attires, having sex in public, or stripping. Over the years to date, The Woodstock celebration has been a remarkable feature for total sovereignty as it offered a sense of social love and brotherhood. Besides, these young people were listening to music that provided similar feelings. This concert took place on August 15-18th 1969 at Max Yasgur's farm, a 600-acre dairy farm in Bethel town (outside the White Lake in New York). This festival turned out to be different as 32 acts were presented in front of 500,000 young hippies (Fenwick and Husselby 55). The organizers of this festival were four young guys: Mike Lang, John Roberts, Artie Kornfeld, and Joel Rosenman and the oldest one was 27 years old, and the most memorable artist was Jimi Hendrix. Other artists included; Joan Baez, The Grateful Dead, Arlo Guthrie, Jefferson Airplane, Richie Havens among others.
Psychedelic rock was initially started to discover unknown regions in regards to various cultures and technical research. The starting of psychedelic rock by counterculture movement enabled young people to broaden their explorations. This was mostly associated with drugs consumption. The Gamblers were the first to record a solo known as "LSD 25." The rock'n'roll music started to be connected with LSD since then. The Gamblers music did not change in any way from the previous performances. It was only toward the 1950s when psychedelic songs came to inspire young musicians who significantly enhanced their songs and formed "psychedelic rock." Later "acid rock" became a global frenzy with surprising effects in the world of music with the creation of groups such as The Beatles lead by John Lennon, The Rolling Stones, The Doors, and performers like Janis Joplin. The first trip by John Lennon influenced him to write "Tomorrow Never Knows" which was released in 1966 portraying the acid practices. The Rolling Stones produced the song "Paint It, Black" and became the first to the renowned both in the UK and the US (Simonelli 100). Psychedelic rock connected most musicians from all over the globe as these songs were not only about writing music and consuming LSD but also translating the spiritual and physical practices from the drug into sounds. Psychedelic rock was meant to give audiences similar experiences got from LSD without consuming the drug. Music was not only entertaining anymore but also brought about universal peace and unity in the US.
Sex and Gender Roles
In the 1960s, cultural changes were changing the role of women in the US. Previously, divorce was unacceptable, women were supposed to remain virgin until marriage, and homosexual was not allowed. Sex for women was solely believed of in terms of procreation until sexologists talked about the need for women to fulfill their sexual desires. Later contraceptives were introduced by George Pincus to control unwanted pregnancies, which gave women more freedom and choices in their lives (May 69). Medicines to treat STD's were also introduced hence eliminating the fear of having sex. Slowly, Americans allowed some of the major objectives of the 60s feminists such as an end of domestic violence, equal compensation for equal work, and, end of sexual harassment among others. Besides, it led to more choices for men and women in terms of relationships like not to marry or dating with someone and having sexual intercourse with him/her before marriage. This opening brought about homosexuality as well during the same period, divorce rate increased, pornography arose and grew at a very high rate, and most people began living together without getting married. It brought awareness of justice and reunion of different forces like whites and blacks, male and female, and high and low culture.
The need for social change in the US in the 1960s was led by the conventional Americans way of life to become a 'hippie.' During counterculture campaign, new social activities emerged like drugs. The main of cultural change was to free the youths' minds from the thin vision that their parents had and be open to better opportunities. Incidentally, Timothy Leary's involvements on LSD greatly played a significant role in the counterculture practices. The early 1960s, by then Timothy Leary was a professor at Harvard University, started to lead tests on the effects of LSD on social awareness. With a number of scientists, he took specific LSD doses and saw their impact on him (Cassity and Maxine 12). The outcomes of the tests were very satisfying. He came up with a program recommending an exact controlled amount of the LSD meant for creating awareness in the long-term. Different from Aldous Huxley's who argued that though one will feel satisfied, users will not develop the society as being in a state of happiness has no help that humanity was in such a hopeless situation. Therefore, that consumption of drugs led most of them lying lifelessly.
The cultural changes between the 1940s to 1970s really benefited the US. The contraceptives really benefited women as unwanted pregnancies and STDs were easily cured. They also got the freedom to live as they wished. Music brought about learning different cultures, developed new music styles, and psychedelic rock as a way of eradicating drugs like LSD. Youths astonished the whole world in the 1960s as a symbol of freedom amongst youths which influenced other people from all over the world through 'Hippies'.
Jansson, Bruce. Brooks/Cole Empowerment Series: The Reluctant Welfare State. Nelson Education, 2011.
Smith, Gerald L. A Black educator in the segregated south: Kentucky's Rufus B. Atwood. University Press of Kentucky, 2015.
Brooks, F. Erik, and Glenn L. Starks. Historically Black colleges and universities: An encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO, 2011.
Fenwick, J. and Husselby, M. It Could Have Been Yours: The Enlightened Person's Guide to the Year's Most Desirable Things. Profile Books Ltd, 2011.
Simonelli, David. Working Class Heroes: Rock Music and British Society in the 1960s and 1970s. Lexington Books, 2012.
May, Elaine Tyler. America and the pill: A history of promise, peril, and liberation. Basic Books, 2010.
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