The Importance of the Civil and Feminist Rights in the 60’s to Shape American Culture

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The 1960’s was a critical time in the adolescence of the United States. Its history of

racism and chauvinism had finally caught up to it, forcing these issues to the forefront. With

feminism and civil rights having their own movements, it was only a matter of time before

someone had to make up their mind about what side they were on. The people who felt the

most this burden of choice were women. If a woman were African American, she would have

to choose to fight either for women or for her race, whereas white women could choose to

ignore what was going on with race, so that she could promote her own cause. These moral

and social conundrums forced tensions to run high, like every time the country faced great

changes. To explore the conflict and or collectivism of the 60’s equality movements, it is crucial

to understand the history of each movement separately, as well as the moment when they

came into contact. It is also important to analyze white women who fought for civil rights and

African American women who fought for woman’s rights, since they are the bridges of the gaps

between these two movements. Once there is a clear understanding of the history of each group

separately, it is possible to examine where and how they may have come into contact with each

other, and whether or not this contact was beneficial to either of the movements.

The Feminist movement began in a chapel in upstate Ney York on July 19, 1848, where

a group of women, led by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, met collectively to declare that they had the

same rights as men. Using the declaration of independence as their framework, they crafted what

they dubbed “a declaration of sentiments,” a document demanding that, “they have immediate

admission to all the rights and privileges which belong to them as citizens of these United

States.” With this finally declared, the long journey began toward getting these demands met.

For the next 72 years, women of all colors, creeds and origins, campaigned around the country

in their quest to spread the message of woman’s suffrage to all women and men. While small

battles for equality were being won in towns across America, women decided that one right

would solidify their campaign for equality, the right to vote. The right to vote encompasses the

ability to always have a voice; therefore it was so crucial for women to get the right to vote.

Finally in 1920, after 72 long years of fighting, women of the United States rejoiced as they

finally could not be ignored because, from then on, they had the right to vote.

Beginning that date, women steadily chopped away the institutionalized sexism all

around them, progressively winning victories for equality. By the time 1960 rolled around,

women had succeeded in gaining some of their reproductive rights, like birth control and the

birth control pill. They were also on the brink of gaining equal pay, which eventually happened

in 1963, when the Federal government finally, after 20 years, passed the Equal Pay Act, making

it illegal to pay a woman less than a man for the same work. Unfortunately, the victories already

achieved were not extended to black women because they were still seen as black, not women.

This brings us to 1964, when the first victory for both the civil rights and feminist movement

was won. This victory was the Civil Rights Act which, interestingly enough, did not initially

include the gender issue. This was added on at the last minute, but in an effort not to get the bill

passed. Even with gender included, the bill was passed on July 2nd 1964 with six titles, including

equal voting registration, desegregation of all public accommodations, facilities and schools, and

banned employer discrimination for any reason.

The Civil Rights movement actually began in 1954 with the ruling of the Supreme Court

case Brown vs. Board of Education, where school...
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