Inside America: The Rise and Fall of An Empire

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The voice of the African American in many ways set in motion the big changes that made the Sixties so famous. The struggle between the Soviet Union and America for the free rights of all humans helped define for Americans the reasons they were fighting the Soviets. But this seemed to make little sense to some Americans if freedom was denied to certain Americans at home.

These Americans were the descendants of former African slaves brought to the new world, four hundred years earlier. America's Civil War which had been fought in the 1860's had been partially based on the need to end slavery in America. It had been a struggle between the First and Second Wave cultures back then. A struggle between a society based on agriculture with its traditional ways and a society based on industrial production with its modern ways of life. Now once more a different form of slavery became an issue for Americans as the Second Wave fought the Third Wave in America during the 1960's.

It was the hidden slavery of discrimination both in the North and South of the country. African Americans in the South could not vote and had few job and education opportunities. Many economic and political freedom were denied to the African American. In the South, African Americans were also physically segregated from the white population and were seriously restricted to where they could live, eat, and work. In the 1960's the voice of the African American began to shout loudly for more freedom and most white Americans had no wish to hear this voice. Yet it was shouting on television almost every night.

The civil rights movement led by Martin Luther King used mostly non-violent means to end most kinds of segregation in the South. By government order in Washington, African Americans were allowed to enroll in white schools under the protection of American soldiers. New federal laws guaranteed the right to vote for all African American citizens. Violence escalated as whites fought blacks. By 1967, battles in American cities between African Americans and white police led to a more violent attitude among African Americans in their quest for more rights. " Black Power " was seen as a better way to achieve African American aims. As non-violence became unfashionable, African Americans began to arm themselves. Especially, after Martin Luther King had been killed by unknown gunmen. Also many African American soldiers began to question what they were really fighting for in Vietnam.

The struggle for civil rights became a nightly television drama for many Americans much like the Vietnam war. Uncomfortable questions were being raised on a daily basis about the most basic American values. White middle class students began copying the non-violent tactics of the African American civil rights movement in their escalating confrontation with the various university authorities, even as African Americans began breaking away from the same white middle class students that had initially helped them.

The influence of African American rhythms could be found even in many forms of American popular music.. Rock 'n' Roll was basically African American music modified for white culture. Indeed, the very language of the hippies and the unfolding white counter-culture was influenced by African American speech patterns which were considered " hip " by many American middle class students. Who were able to " dig " this new and " groovy " kind of language.


Hip: " To be fashionable and popular.
To dig. " To understand with deep feeling. "
Groovy: " Desirable and pleasant.


In 1963, a book called the " Feminine Mystique " was published which questioned the limited roles women were playing in American society. After this book, women in America began to change their attitudes about themselves. Many began to see themselves as completely equal to men and they began to insist that men treat them as equals in the workplace and at home. Most women involved in the woman's liberation movement were also against the war in Vietnam and supported civil rights for African Americans and other minorities. In the process of working for these causes women discovered that they were treated as second-class citizens within the movements they were trying to support.

Women began to demand more political and economic power. More women also went on to higher education in greater numbers. This would cause an even greater cultural revolution in the decades ahead. America was now being forced to take stock of itself as it became challenged on every cultural level. Basic beliefs, dress codes, core values and even the very length of one's hair were being closely re-examined now. Many Americans wanted to be free and equal, but also different.

Even the right to control one's reproductive cycle was called into question as birth control pills entered the market. But most young women did not take these birth control pills while having sex in the student dormitories and hippie communes. It was in domestic homes that married American women began to use the pill as a new source of greater sexual freedom. This shift in sexual values would spread to the entire culture and change the way men and women saw their respective roles in American society. It was thought that freedom in the bedroom would eventually lead to freedom elsewhere.

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