Movements (Feature)

~Katherine Clark

Mazer 2006

The 1960s was a time for change. People wanted to be heard, noticed, and they wanted America’s laws to be adjusted. Movements, protests, riots, sit-ins, peaceful protests, and demonstrations were all words used to describe the scenes in the 1960s. Hippies, African Americans, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, President Nixon, and President Kennedy all were famous people in the 60s. The Civil Rights Movement, the Anti-War Movement, the Hippie Movement, Birmingham, the March on Washington, the “I Have a Dream” speech all represent protests and peaceful movements during the 1960s.

Bring our troops back! End the War Now! Make Love Not War! Slogans such as these were used in Anti-War protests in the United States and all over the world in protest to the Vietnam War. People did not want this war to continue, Americans were dying, and with the reports on television Americans knew they were losing the war. Protests occurred in cities, towns, and on college and university campuses. Everybody was involved from college students to the elderly, nobody except for the government wanted this war to proceed. People protested because they “argued that it was not…a vital struggle against world Communism…Many protestors believed that the Vietnam War was the last stage of a long struggle by the Vietnamese for independence.

Due to all of these protests the Anti-War Movement was established in 1965.  The Anti-War Movement “encompassed political, racial, and cultural spheres,” says author Mark Barringer. The Anti-War Movement involved several minor protests, however; the main protest it contained was the March on Washington in 1965. The New York Times wrote that on, “November 27, 1965…the sponsors of today’s March on Washington [is] for Peace in Vietnam.”

For this demonstration, thousands of people marched down to Washington, D.C. to protest against the bombings in Vietnam, and against more involvement in the Vietnam War. The people wanted peace, they wanted their family and friends back, and they did not see a reason for the United States to be involved.

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A group, known as the hippies, helped protest against the Vietnam War and promote peace throughout the Untied States during this time period as well. The hippies, wrote reporter Michael Stern of the New York Times, were thought of as “alienated, disorganized and often troubled youths who were against the mainstream values of American life, but for nothing in particular.” Stern also reported that, “Allen Ginsberg…denies that being a hippie ever meant complete withdrawal from life. ‘These people are simply seeking another form of social cooperation.’” The hippies were involved in several protests against the Vietnam War promoting love, peace and a new way of society. For example, on March 23, 1968 the hippies “an invasion of Grand Central Terminal by 3,000 chanting youths [hippies] that was transformed from a spring be-into a militant antiwar demonstration” wrote reporter Michael Stern. Stern reported later on “the gathering became a disorderly rally in which the youths chanted anti-draft slogans and painted antiwar messages on the walls until they were shoved out of the terminal by wedges of police.” The hippies participated in many anti-war demonstrations promoting peace and non-violence all over America. Stern also included in his article that “young men wore bits of cast off military uniforms, beaded headbands and bell necklaces, and tangle-haired girls in long skirts, leather jackets and winter-stained boots.”

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As the hippie movement came to an end, store owners started to go out of business. For example, the Hartford Courant wrote an article titled “Haight-Ashbury Hippies Gone Home” which said, “the Psychedelic shop, main hippie gathering place…have been so inactive lately he’s going broke…Thelin believes the hippies have grown tired of conforming to the image created by news media.”

Due to the media coverage hippies decided that wasn’t their way of life, the way that the media exposed it to be and moved on and eventually faded out as the sixties came to a close.

Even after all of these protests, the government still continued to put soldiers in Vietnam and Cambodia. For example, when people heard about the “My Lai massacre…[that] U.S. forces had entered Cambodia” people headed to the streets in rage. Students at Kent State protested soon after the announcement of deployment to Cambodia and the protest ended up turning into a school shooting. Other protests in the U.S. included an “18-year-old Wesleyan University Freshman, arrested while he took part in an anti-Vietnam war demonstration in Washington.” At this protest “Marshalls were clubbing people and not concerned with peoples’ rights at all. People were arrested and fined and then returned back to school the next day.”

Another protest occurred when 550 people marched on 5th avenue in New York. This protest was in “sympathy for the fallen in Vietnam, a two-hour peaceful march that went from Washington State Park to 5th avenue and 59th street.” Nobody at this demonstration was injured or harmed by the police, they were just moved around by the people walking around them.

Meanwhile, outside of the United States soldiers and other people were also protesting against the Vietnam War. For example, two U.S. soldiers ended up being reprimanded in Turkey and reassigned to different bases. “Outside of the embassy thirty people gathered as well to have a silent vigil for peace in Vietnam. The people stood outside for an hour and then reported a statement to the Ambassador calling for immediate withdrawal from Vietnam.” Due to all of the protests and movements, president Nixon, in January of 1973 President Nixon announced the end of the Vietnam War.

Anti-Vietnam movements were not the only protests going on during the 1960s. The Civil Rights Movement, a movement against racial segregation and discrimination in the southern United States was a movement that broke segregation between African American and white people.

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This movement caused a lot of change for African Americans; it ended segregation by President Johnson passing the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and gave African Americans the right to vote by passing the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The beginning of this movement started way before the 1960s though. African Americans were protesting since the beginning of the 1950s, in which they were trying to abolish slavery and now, in the 1960s, abolish segregation. Although the protests and demonstrations started in the 50s all the change and adjustment occurred in the 60s. In the 1960s the Freedom Riders were the group that sparked the Civil Rights Movement. The Freedom Rides started in 1961 and showed people that “militant but nonviolent youth activists could confront Southern segregation.”

During the Freedom Rides, African Americans would go into restaurants or places that had segregation and silently sat in the ‘white people only’ place to protest segregation. The Freedom Rides did non-violent protests, however; what they were doing was breaking that law. Due to their silent and non-violent demonstrations their protest turned violent because when the cops came they would not obey what the police officer told them, therefore they were physically removed from the place and put into a police car.

One Freedom Ride in particular caused great chaos among the African American community; this Freedom Ride took place in Birmingham, Alabama. In Birmingham, Alabama, African Americans decided to perform nonviolent demonstrations such as sit-ins and marches to City Hall, to promote the abolishment of segregation. This event turned violent quickly with several people getting arrested, the jails filling up, police using dogs and fire hoses on men, women and children.  These events were televised and it made people even angrier which created more protests, and riots, which led to more violence by the police. For example, The New York Amsterdam News wrote, “since our nonviolent direct action campaign…the Negro community has…[been] restrained in the…use of police dogs on nonviolent demonstrators and the pressure hoses of the fire department against school children.”

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The Freedom Rides helped people in the North become more aware of what is going on in the South. Due to the televised events, many more people started to help. The northerners at first started to help by joining some of the protests and demonstrations, or agreed that segregation wasn’t allowed in their store, restaurant etc. The northerners were not the only ones that become more aware, but the President, President Kennedy at the time, became more aware of what was happening in the South, however; nothing was accomplished until 1964.

An important figure during this movement was Martin Luther King Jr., “a Baptist minister that led several organizations including the MIA, or the Montgomery Improvement Association, and the SCLC or Southern Christian Leadership Conference”. Martin Luther King Jr. became such an advocate in this movement against violence, intervention with Vietnam, and segregation of African Americans that he ended up leading a majority of the protests and making a famous speech that eventually made President Johnson pass the Voting Act and Civil Rights Act.

The March on Washington in 1963 was one the most memorable marches to this day, and is celebrated every year around Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, which is on January 15, however; this day is “celebrated on the third Monday in January.”  The March on Washington in 1963 gathered thousands of people, both African American and white. They marched to Washington D.C., singing the song “We Shall Overcome” as they marched toward Washington D.C.  The New York Times wrote that people marched ‘“to redress old grievances and to help resolve an American crisis…our bodies, numbering over 100,000 will bear witness—that Jobs and Freedom are needed NOW.’”

After the March on Washington speech, many more organizations arose such as the Black Panther Party, and more speakers like Dr. King became famous too. For example, Malcolm X, “an African American leader…who articulated concepts of race pride and Black Nationalism.”  He wanted African Americans to achieve political power, and build black-controlled institutions.

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Later on, Martin Luther King Jr. “received the Nobel Piece Prize in 1964”, created more organizations for anti-violence in certain states such as Chicago. In 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, which led to “the FBI’s counterintelligence program (COINTELPRO) started to repress black militant groups and the Kerner Commission said that the country is now separate and unequal.”Although the Kerner Commission said that the country was “separate and unequal” African Americans did get their dream of the right to vote, and the right to unity between races.Today, there is still discrimination and stereotyping against African Americans, and not much is done, however; there are a few cases that turned into riots and people are being prosecuted and tried in court because of it.

During the 1960s many protests, movements, riots, and shootings broke out. Most turned violent when they were not meant to be, but still caused chaos among the people. The two main movements during the 1960s were the Anti-War movement and the Civil Rights movement. The Anti-War Movement dealt with the Vietnam War, and as President Nixon kept deploying troops to Vietnam and Cambodia, the United States people responded with burning of draft cards, peaceful protests, and shouting that Nixon needed to end the war in Vietnam, in which he did in 1973. The movement incorporated the Civil Rights movement as well because of the March on Washington in 1963 with Martin Luther King Jr. leading the movement and his famous “I have a Dream” speech.
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The Anti-Vietnam movement helped end the war in Vietnam because it made the U.S. seem vulnerable and the United States was losing too, so with the pressure from the people and from losing in battle eventually led to leaving Vietnam in 1973. The Hippie Movement helped with protests against the Vietnam War as well. The hippies, created their own movement, and promoted peace and a new way of life for society in a nonviolent way as well. They appeared deviant from most Americans because of the way they dress, and because of where they lived, nonetheless they did make an impact in the 1960s. Many other protests helped end the Vietnam War, but the November 27, 1965 March on Washington helped the most. This march showed President Nixon that if something were not done that the American people would not trust him anymore. Americans during this time period took their democratic right to the next level, not just “by voting for a political candidate and hoping that the elected official would make good policies, these protesters believe in a more direct democracy. They took direct action…to win converts to their causes and change public policies at the local, state, and federal levels.”

The Civil Rights movement made several changes in the 60s, mainly for African Americans. African Americans in the 1960s earned the right to vote, and ended segregation. Both, the Civil Rights Movement and the Anti-War Movement, together helped promote unification of the races, the right to vote for African Americans, and the end of the Vietnam War. These movements involved nonviolent acts, such as sit-ins, peaceful protests, riots and peaceful marches; no harm was supposed to come to anybody, but harm came specifically to the people that were doing the nonviolent demonstration. Although sit-ins did break the law, the people doing the sit-ins did not fight, or talk back they were physically removed from their seats and escorted to prison. The most known Freedom Ride in Birmingham, Alabama was one of the most protested areas in which nonviolent marches, sit-ins, and demonstrations were treated with fire hoses, police batons, and police dogs attacking people.

The 1960s protests were what made the 60s the 60s. People were seen as deviant, such as the hippies, people were protesting and gaining the attention of the President. They wanted to end the war in Vietnam, stop the bombings, create peace and bring their troops home. They didn’t see a reason for the United States being there. African Americans wanted the same rights as every white man in America, the right to sit in a restaurant without going to a different part of town or to the back of the restaurant. They wanted to be able to select whom their next President was by gaining the right to vote. All of these things happened within one decade. One filled with famous people, brilliant speeches, and celebrated holidays.

(Published 4/29/15)


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Barringer, Mark. “The Anti-War Movement in the United States.” The Anti-War Movement in the United States. January 1, 1999. Accessed April 18, 2015.

Carlson, Barbara. 1967. “Student Protests Treatment.” The Hartford Courant (1923-1989), Oct 25, 4.

Carson, Clayborne. “American Civil Rights Movement.” Encyclopedia Britannica Online. March 1, 2015. Accessed April 18, 2015.

DR MARTIN LUTHER KING, J. R. “Life in Birmingham.” New York Amsterdam News (1962-1993), Nov 09, 1963.

Edgerly, David. 1969. “2 Officers Chided for War Protest.” The Hartford Courant (1923-1989), Nov 05, 6.

“Haight-Ashbury Hippies Going Home.” The Hartford Courant (1923-1989), Oct 06, 1967.

Herbert, Bob. 1993. “Youth and Optimism in the 90’s.” New York Times (1923-Current File), Aug 25, 1.

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Stern, Michael. “Political Activism New Hippie ‘Thing’.” New York Times (1923-Current File), Mar 24, 1968.

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