1960s brought with it a radical generation of young people most of whom were born during the World War II. This generation wreaked havoc as civil rights activists and human rights defenders. These were the people responsible for gay rights movements, the women movements, the anti Vietnam War protests among others (Frum 27). In varying degrees, these were the individuals responsible for change in government policy and perhaps every aspect of the American life (Wright 181). This generation questioned the way people were treated. They have come to be known as the baby boomers, and they are closely associated with either redefinition or rejection of the traditional values (Skrentny 80).
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The college age men and women broke away from the values which had defined the previous generations. They came up with different types of music, protest movements among other issues (Frum 29). Further, there was a group which just did away with the general aspirations of the preceding generations and differentiated themselves by their lifestyles, appearance, attitudes towards sexuality and disregard for roles such as housewifery. During the first six months of 1968, there were more than 200 main demonstrations in 100 universities and colleges and involved up to 40,000 students. The most celebrated among these early demonstrations was the 198 confrontation at the Columbia University.
During the 60s, 70 million children from the war period became young adults and teenagers. The movement away from the conservative fifties continued eventually resulting in real change and revolutionary mindsets. The young people no longer wanted to be images of the generation ahead of them, and hence changes in the way of life were inevitable (Hall, Jefferson 62). These changes had unprecedented impact on laws, values, education and lifestyles (Skrentny 72). One feature among the boomers was that they thought themselves as a special group of people which was different from those before them.
This generation was also characterized by wearing jeans, ties and dyed shirts (Frum 32). The drug, hip hop, and sex lifestyles were the major determinants of this generation. The number of people who attended colleges during this time also skyrocketed and many of them were involved in either left or right civil rights movements. The political activism during this period acted as a catalyst for the women rights liberation and made feminism a major phenomenon. The 1960s also saw the emergence of four genres namely girl groups, “Motown”, surf music and the folk music revival.
This generation did not believe in traditional methods of political activity. Instead, they took direct action in means intended for more immediate change. They used methods such as teach-ins, rallies, picketing and public marches. They contributed their passion, time and energy in the hope that they would make a society which is just for all people (Skrentny 92). The participants had spent considerably more years in school compared to previous generations and hence were more affluent resulting in increased spending power (Frum 33).
The colleges teemed with people who had the capability to question the spiritual and moral health of their country. These were years of youthful exuberance and unbridled idealism. The group of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) had almost 100,000 young people. The free speech movement of Berkeley California University protested after the university administration banned any leaflets of politics within the campus.
In addition, many youth groups engaged in activities intended for change in the political scene by campaigning for various candidates. In the 1968 during presidential elections, thousands of volunteers worked for various candidates especially for Eugene McCarthy who had positioned himself as the most appropriate candidate to end the war on Vietnam. The 1960s were, therefore, shaped by antiwar sentiments and youth culture which was nonexistent during the 1950s and early 60s.
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