Rights Consciousness

Basically, 1960s were marked by the unprecedented growth of the civil rights movement in the US which actually changed the country completely. In fact, until this period the democracy in the US was quite limited and, if possible to say one-sided, so that only limited groups of people could really benefit from democracy while vast masses of oppressed people remained deprived of any real opportunity to enjoy civil rights and democratic freedoms.
In fact, such an unexpected progress of the civil rights movement in the US in 1960s seems to be a bit strange, especially in the context of three previous decades of stagnation and agony of democracy. Obviously there are several reasons explaining such a boom after three years of weakness and stagnation of civil rights movement.
First of all, it should be said that starting from late 1920s till early 1960s the US suffered from greatest socio-economic and political disasters in its history which naturally affected the progress of the civil rights movement. To put it more precisely, the late 1920s were characterised as the period of the profound economic crisis which gradually transformed in the Great Depression which was the most serious socio-economic crisis the US have ever suffered from. In such a situation, the concerns of the whole nation were focused on the survival of national economy at large, and each individual in particular. As a result, people were rather focused on the problem of their financial stability than in civil rights which were regularly oppressed, though this oppression of civil rights concerned not all Americans but only oppressed minority. Mainly it was African-American and other non-white population in the US that suffered the most from the domination and privileged position of white population. However, it is worthy of mention that the position of women was also quite difficult and they were also deprived of certain rights and opportunities and their position was not totally equal to the position of men at all. As a result, the life of American society was controlled by white male elite while the rest of the society was oppressed.
Unfortunately, the following economic recovering did not improve the situation a lot for the World War II had broken out soon and the US faced a new serious problem, the problem of national security and even survival as an independent state. Naturally, in such a situation the whole nation had to focus on the victory of American arms in the World War II. At the same time, this was a very important period where the civil right movement had really started to grow in power since practically everywhere females started to substituted males many of which were recruited to American army and left the US. In such a way, females proved to the society, and primarily to themselves that they are equal to males.
Nonetheless, the victory in the World War II did not finally brought the breakthrough in the progress of the civil rights movement. Instead, the country was overwhelmed by practically paranoid fear of the ‘red threat’ or the threat of the communist revolt. As a result, the whole country launched the new struggle against the invisible threat from the internal enemy. Naturally, in such a situation any civil right movement was severely oppressed and was considered as dangerous to national interests of the state.
However, the repressions could not last forever since the USA was still a democratic country though this democracy was far from perfect. Basically, Americans grew tired of constant struggle against enemies they have never actually seen and the oppression of civil rights made Americans realized that such form of democracy was not less dangerous than the communist threat. The country was also tired of the permanent state of war people had to live in.
At the same time, such dissatisfaction with the current situation in the US in the late 1950s – early 1960s was enforced by the appearance of prominent figures struggling for civil rights such as Martin Luther King and his followers, including Malcolm X. Moreover, the assassination of King was probably the most starting point of the open protest of all Americans conscious of the importance of civil rights since they could not live in the country where people could be assassinated only because they are of different race, or political views. The similar effect probably had the assassination of J.F. Kennedy.
Finally, it should be said that along with prominent leaders of the civil rights movement, Americans also got very important experience of struggle for their rights and freedom. Moreover, many Americans saw death with their own eyes and were not afraid of participating in the movements which aimed at changing the existing order for they have been doing this for years taking part in wars.
Thus, the development of civil rights consciousness was predetermined by the growing dissatisfaction of American population with the current situation in the country concerning civil rights, acquisition of historical experience of struggle for freedom, growing consciousness in their own power, and, finally, Americans had got leaders that showed them the way to better and really democratic life.

1. Gideon, Trumpet. New York: Routlede, 1996.
2. Lewis and Patterson, Major Problems in American History. New York: Random House, 1998.

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