Hi, I’m John Green, this is Crash Course US History and today we’re gonna talk about the 1960s. Mr. Green, Mr. Green. Great. The decade made famous by the narcissists who lived through it. Hey, Me From the Past, finally you and I agree about something wholeheartedly. But while I don’t wish to indulge the babyboomers’ fantasies about their centrality to world history, the sixties were an important time. I mean, there was the Cold War, Vietnam, a rising tide of conservatism (despite Woodstock), racism. There were the Kennedy’s and Camelot, John, Paul, George, and to a lesser extent, Ringo.
And of course, there was also Martin Luther King Jr. intro So, the 1960s saw people organizing and actively working for change both in the social order and in government. This included the student movement, the women’s movement, movements for gay rights, and a push by the courts to expand rights in general. But, by the end of the 1960s, the antiwar movement seemed to have overshadowed all the rest. So as you’ll no doubt remember from last week, the civil rights movement began in the 1950s if not before, but many of its key moments happened in the sixties.
And this really began with sitins that took place in Greensboro North Carolina. Black university students walked into Woolworths and waited at the lunch counters to be served, or, more likely, arrested. After 5 months of that, those students eventually got Woolworths to serve black customers. Then, in 1961 leaders from the Congress On Racial Equality launched Freedom Rides to integrate interstate buses. Volunteers rode the buses into the Deep South where they faced violence including beatings and a bombing in Anniston AL. But despite that, those freedom rides also proved successful and eventually the ICC desegregated interstate buses.
In fact, by the end of the 60s over 70,000 people had taken part in demonstrations, from sitins, to teachins, to marches. But they weren’t all successful. Martin Luther King’s yearlong protests in Albany, GA didn’t end discrimination in the city. And it took JFK ordering federal troops to escort James Meredith to class for him to attend the University of Mississippi. The University of Mississippi: America’s fallback college. Sorry, I’m from Alabama. So, the Civil Rights movement reached its greatest national prominence in 1963 when Martin Luther King came to my hometown of Birmingham, Alabama, where there had been more than 50 raciallymotivated bombings since.
WWII. Television brought the reality of the Jim Crow South into people’s homes as images of Bull Connor’s police dogs and water cannons being turned on peaceful marchers, many of them children, horrified viewers and eventually led Kennedy to endorse the movement’s goals. Probably should mention that John F. Kennedy was president of the United States at the time, having been elected in 1960. He was assassinated in 1963 leading to Lyndon Johnson. Alright, politics over. Anyway, in response to these peaceful protests, Birmingham jailed Martin Luther King where he wrote one of the great letters in American history (doesn’t have a great name): Letter.
From Birmingham Jail. 1963 also saw the March on Washington, the largest public demonstration in American history up to that time where King gave his famous speech, â€œI have a Dream.â€� King and the other organizers called for a civil rights bill and help for the poor, demanding public works, a higher minimum wage, and an end to discrimination in employment. Which eventually, in one of the great bright spots in American history, did sort of happen with the Civil Rights Act. So, one reason American history teachers focus on the Civil Rights Movement so much is that it successfully brought actual legislative change.
After being elected president, John F. Kennedy was initially cool to civil rights, but to be fair, the Cold War occupied a lot of his time, what with the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Bay of Pigs and whatnot. But the demonstrations of 1963 pushed John F. Kennedy to support civil rights more actively. According to our dear friend, the historian Eric Foner, â€œKennedy realized that the United States simply could not declare itself the champion of freedom throughout the world while maintaining a system of racial inequality at home.â€�1 So that June he appeared on TV and called on Congress to pass a law that would ban discrimination in all public accommodations.