History 398 Second Mid-Term

History 398 Second Mid-Term - Eric Dobson 4/23/07 History...

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Eric Dobson 4/23/07 History 398 Domestic America from the 1960-80’s: Social Reform and Backlash The Civil Rights movement played a pivotal role in shaping the course of American society not only through the changes that it enacted directly in achieving its goals, but through its implication that a social reform movement could produce such a massive impact on domestic America and in the further reform movements that it spurned. At the end of the 1960’s the winds of change were sweeping through America, and the Civil Rights movement had opened the door for a plethora of additional social changes that would be enacted throughout the rest of the decade and into the beginning of the next. Many of the movements that enacted these changes, however, proved to be too revolutionary by the 1970’s and alienated much of the “silent majority” of American society. This silent majority lashed back against these immense social changes and ultimately converted the liberal developments of the 1960’s into conservative gains in the late 1970’s and 1980’s. Perhaps the greatest direct influence that the Civil Rights Movement would have in shaping the social reform movements of the 1960’s and 1970’s can be seen through its effect on the Women’s Movement. As Ruth Rosen aptly articulates in The World Split Open , the Women’s Movement’s “story begins in the segregated South, where young white women absorbed ideals, values, and strategies that would eventually shape the women’s liberation movement (Rosen 96).” Women working in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) were exposed to beatings, fire-bombings, and a great deal of terror during their nonviolent protests with the civil rights group (Rosen 100).
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These women were prepared during their time working within the Civil Rights Movement to face the hardship and fierce opposition that are the natural products of attempting to achieve a great social change in the face of a resistant majority. SNCC member Dorothy Burlage stated that the actions of women within the organization “inspired me to think that women could do anything (Rosen 101).” Not only were these women prepared for the consequences of undertaking such a demanding social endeavor and inspired to take further action, but many of the ideas that would drive the Women’s Movement were solidified during women’s work for Civil Rights organizations. Historian Sara Evans wrote that the SNCC “created the social space within which women began to develop a sense of their own potential. A critical vanguard of young women accumulated the tools for movement building (Chafe 321).” Not only did they learn invaluable lessons in movement organization, but within Civil Rights organizations women experienced sexual discrimination that gave them valuable insight into precisely what they were up against. Casey Hayden and Mary King, both members of the SNCC in the 1960’s, stated that “the assumption of male superiority among SNCC men is as
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History 398 Second Mid-Term - Eric Dobson 4/23/07 History...

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