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“Black Power” in the Civil Rights Movement Essay

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Updated: Jul 8th, 2021

Who were Students for a Democratic Society (SDS)? What activities did they routinely engage in, in an effort to “change” American society? Do you agree with their methods of promoting change? Why? What was their overall effect on the United States? Explain.

The SDS was a group of activist young adults, mostly college students, who were focused on addressing social issues and encouraging other to participate in activism as well. The SDS was troubled by ongoing social events. To them, the struggle against racism in the South that was a symbol of human degradation, which enabled social activism from the group. (“Students for a Democratic Society, The Port Huron Statement” 1962). The group denounced the military-industrial complex as anti-democratic and called for an end to poverty. They wanted to reform the system to ensure a more democratic and actively participating society in the decision-making process of governance for the country.

The SDS most often engaged in wide-scale protests and uprising occurring on college campuses. The most famous one which began the movement occurred at Berkley in 1964 as civil rights activists began to rally for support of Mississippi voter protection and desegregation. Although the government attempted to use force to end the protests, the students went on strike, supported by many faculties.

This spread to other campuses as students protests everything from the Vietnam War to their curriculum (Moss and Thomas 2012, 142). I agree with their methods since they used relatively peaceful means to voice the opinions of the younger generation that the general population did not want to hear. This had an effect on the United States by creating pressure on the government and any authority to include young adults in decision-making. The extensive protests, especially of the Vietnam war and subsequent media coverage led to policy changes and eventual withdrawal of the US from the war.

Describe the concept of “counterculture” as it applied to U.S. society during the 1960s? The “Jesus People” are an example of a 1960s counterculture. Who were they and what was their effect on Christianity in the United States?

The counterculture was a concept to describe any individuals and ideologies that were alienated by the liberal affluent society. Counterculture consisted of various groups, the most well-known of which were the hippies. They stood against technological progress and economic prosperity but rather focused on the individual. They disagreed with rationalism and scientific progress but embraced mysticism and becoming one with nature.

It impacted US society since hippies gathered a significant following and they rejected many traditional practices, which included sex, the use of drugs, and music which became central to their counterculture image. However, countercultures strongly valued peace and heavily protested against the Vietnam War. In addition, they garnered attention to the ecological and human impacts on the planet which began the environmental movement (Moss and Thomas 2012, 145).

Jesus People was a movement which combined conservative evangelism with hippie styles. The hippy lifestyle led to continuous drug use and promiscuous sex was not appealing to everyone, which led to the foundation of the Jesus People group. These people were dissatisfied with middle-class Christianity and promoted many values shared by counterculture groups, but maintained a form of stability, choosing to avoid irresponsible behavior as well as providing shelter and guidance to many young hippies. This led to many hippies to commit to following Christianity after interaction with the clergy.

This had an effect since Christianity was no longer a strictly conservative religion but had chapters, which were enthusiastic about counterculture values and even entertainment, it changed the attitude of Christians towards popular culture.

What was “Black Power”? Describe the role of “Black Power” in the Civil Rights movement.

Black Power was a term originally meant to represent African American defiance of the social status quo, pushed by the Student for Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). It soon became a political slogan for the ideologies of black self-determination, which emphasized racial pride and supported black institutions (Moss and Thomas 2012, 149). Martin Luther King Jr. described black nationalist groups, often using the slogan Black Power, as arising due to a lack of substantial social change.

It was a force of bitterness and hatred, which often led to violence. These groups had become frustrated with continuous racial discrimination and lost faith in the American institutions and hypocritical sense of white-dominated Christianity which continued segregation. The black nationalist groups inherently represented the last desperation of black populations to incite change through protest (“Martin Luther King Jr., Letter from a Birmingham Jail” 1963).

The Black Power slogan had a significant role in the Civil Rights movement as a uniting ideology and politics, which helped push back against segregation. Its symbolic slogan and gesture of a raised fist was easily recognized and widely used by leaders, athletes, and famous personalities as support for African Americans. The ideology helped to organize communities and mobilize black voters and protestors in the fight for civil rights.

What was the “Silent Majority”? Describe the conservative backlash during the social upheaval of the 1960s. Assess its positive and negative effects.

The Silent Majority represented the middle-class, predominately white Americans who did not actively participate in protests for minority rights, feminism, or against the Vietnam War amongst other social issues which were against traditional American values. The term was coined by President Nixon in one of his addresses to the nation, referencing to how the media portrayal was focused on the numerous protests and civil rights groups and disproportionately voice opinions of this middle-class conservative groups. Although, this media portrayal can be considered as a conservative backlash as it was almost always portrayed as negative and violent, particularly against African Americans (Moss and Thomas 2012, 154).

The conservative backlash resulted in political involvement of this group, leading to extremely conservative political groups such as evangelicals and future President Ronald Reagan to emerge, strongly influencing policy for the next few decades. There was also a strong distrust of centralized government and liberal Democrats. Many believed that the needs and opinions of the middle class were not considered while minorities, radicals, and the poor were in the spotlight. This led to an inherent divide in society. Nevertheless, the positive effect was that it instigated a stronger pressure from liberal forces and eventually led to the social acceptance of minorities.

How did the 1968 Democratic Convention embody the social upheaval of the 1960s? Assess its positive and negative consequences on U.S. society.

The Democratic Convention had a number of candidates, which were split between supporting the Vietnam War and being fully against it. Additionally, each candidate was focused on secondary issues rather than the major ones that troubles society. Protesters at the convention were primarily anti-war and upheaval which erupted represented a society which was deeply divided and negatively impacted by the ongoing crisis (Moss and Thomas 2012, 156). The political status quo was challenged by the people, but there was little indication that elected officials had an understanding of ongoing sentiments.

The 1968 Democratic Convention had long-term political consequences. Some of the negative factors include the fact that it shattered faith in politicians for many, as the status quo candidate ended up winning. People were more divided than ever leading to violent protests which were controlled by force by police and National Guard. This led to an even stronger distrust of government institutions. The country was swept up in racially-based conflicts and involvement in Vietnam increased. The weakness of the Democratic party caused it to lose the election and led to Nixon becoming President which was inherently a shameful period for the country. In terms of positive consequences, it impacted the long-term perceptions of society as people began to shift away from a traditional cold-war mentality towards a more liberal and complex understanding of societal and political events.


” 1963. Pearson Myhistorylab. Web.

Moss, George D., and Evan A. Thomas. 2012. Moving on: The American People Since 1945, 5th ed. London: Pearson.

” 1962. Pearson Myhistorylab. Web.

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