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... for the gradual with drawl of troops from Vietnam, and in 1975, the last of the troops returned home. The Vietnam Peace Movement was only part of the student movements that went on at the time. The baby boom after World War II more than doubled the population of U. S. colleges in 1960 - 1964.
This was also the first generation to grow up with the knowledge that an atomic bomb could destroy the world. The students felt power of their numbers, and they felt also that they should have more say in the issues that affected their lives (Benson 50) A prime and initial example of these feelings are the events taking place at Berkely University in 1964. University officials passed a new regulation which forbade students from using a popular sidewalk in front of the school to demonstrate political activities. Claiming that the ban was a restriction on free speech, more than a thousand people attended a rally and sit-in the following day in which more than eight hundred people were arrested (Benson 53). However, the administration eventually backed down, and after a thirty-two-hour standoff (Sann 137), the victorious protestors were awarded their rights to the sidewalk. Mario Said, who considered himself non-political, was considered the spokesperson for the movement.
In a later interview in Life magazine, he said of America, intellectually it is bankrupt and morally its poverty stricken (Benson 56). The Berkely free speech movement was one of the first campus movements of the time, but its success paved the way for campus revolutions to come. The incidents at Kent State in 1970, however, rapidly brought an end to this form of demonstration. After President Nixon made a decision to send American troops into Cambodia in 1970, an ROTC building at Kent State was set on fire as a form of protest and the Ohio governor felt it was necessary to call in the National Guard.
Guard members threw tear gas canisters to disperse a huge gathering in the campus commons, and when a small group of students threw the canisters back, the soldiers disobeyed direct orders and shot into the crowd. Four students were killed and ten were injured (Benson 78). The events at Kent State outraged the nation. Most of the students had been shot in the back, proving that a majority of demonstrators were peaceful, and had been fleeing, not pursuing, the soldiers (Emmens 123). Strikes and demonstrations that involved fifty to sixty percent of students broke out on more than half of the campuses in the nation.
At least a million students were demonstrating for the first time in their lives. More than five hundred campuses canceled classes and fifty were forced to close for the entire semester due to demonstrations. Ironically, the National Guard was called onto twenty-two campuses to quell demonstrations protesting exactly that. As a result of these events, Congress finally realized the significance of student opinion and changed the legal voting age from twenty-one to eighteen (Gitlin 4).
After this, campus demonstrations steadily decreased and, before long, , fizzled out altogether. Almost all of the events of the sixties can in some way be traced to the music of the time. The majority of the bands and musicians of the time had extreme political views and sang songs that were directed more towards American youth and which talked of equal rights or the immoralities of war. British bands such as the Beatles, along with Motown Records, however, made a point of staying neutral, especially in situations involving integration (Benson 95). Consisting of mainly black groups in a time when black music was just beginning to grow in popularity, Motown would have been insane to risk the loss of any fans by making taking a side on such issues. As black music grew, however, the popularity of traditional folk music continued to travel steadily downhill.
By the late sixties, all that remained was Pete Seegers We Shall Overcome, which was the unofficial anthem for the Anti-Segregation Movement, along with the music of Joan Baez. Baez was a strong believer in non-violence and non-violent methods of protest. She once stated, nonviolence is-well, totally misunderstood. Its not avoiding violence. Its the opposite of running. It means confronting violence and having to come up with something more intelligent in response (Benson 153).
Janis Joplin was also a strong supporter of non-violence, especially that of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the ideas behind integration. Unlike Baez, though, her style of music was entirely new. She is described as having brought African-American blues to white Americans (Norton 940). In her song Get it While You Can, she belted lyrics like, In this world if you read the papers, Lord, you know that everybody's fighting on with each other. You got no one you can count on baby, not even your own brother, and in Down On Me, she proclaimed that, Love in this world is so hard to find The fame that usually accompanies being a musician, however, drew her into a never-ending whirlwind of drugs, and in 1970 when she was only twenty-seven years old, she overdosed on heroin in a Los Angeles motel (Joplin 1 - 2), a mere sixteen days after Jimi Hendrix suffered the same fate (Benson 104).
Another strong advocate of equal rights and peace at the time was Bob Dylan. Recently voted by Life magazine as one of the most important Americans of the twentieth century, his songs have been covered by literally hundreds of artists. The bulk of his music protested the war, with his most famous song being Blowing in the Wind, in which he pleaded for the answers to such questions as, How many times must the cannonballs fly before theyre forever banned? how many ears must one man have before he can hear the people cry? how many deaths will it take till he knows that too many people have died?
Badly injured in a motorcycle accident in 1966, Dylan made a brief return to music, but after 1970, he disappeared from the public eye entirely and went into seclusion (Dylan 1). With the tremendous influence of the music of the sixties, it makes sense that one of the most memorable events of the decade was Woodstock, a three day celebration of song, drugs, sex, and peace. Held in the Catskills in August 1969, Max Yusgar was paid fifty thousand dollars for the use of his farm. Bands included Janis Joplin, Joan Baez, Richie Havens, The Who, Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Grateful Dead, and Jimi Hendrix, among many others (Sann 287). The number of people attending Woodstock was equivalent to the population of the fourth largest city in the U. S.
at the time, and traffic was backed up for literally miles (Benson 103). The celebration received a lot of negative feedback from older generations, but other than excessive drug use premarital sex, Woodstock-goers handled themselves very well. Of the five thousand people treated for injuries, the majority were foot problems as a result of going barefoot, but not a single injury was inflicted upon anyone by another human being (Sann 287). Amazingly, a store owner told a New York Times reporter, Ill tell you something we cashed I dont know how many checks and not one of them bounced (Benson 103). The 1960 s indeed were a time of tremendous change and social upheaval for the United States. The youth of the generation discovered a voice which no generation before them had ever discovered, and they refused to do anything short of discovering its full potential.
Disregarding fears of police and even of physical violence, they fought and in some cases even died for what they knew they rightfully deserved. They earned their freedom of speech and their right to vote. Their fight against war was not won quite as quickly, but they made themselves heard in a time when only the strong and dedicated survived. Racial equality to this day is not fully recognized, but it has come a very long way, due expressly to the movements of the 60 s.
It is doubtful, however, that any of these movements would have gone anywhere without the music, for it was the music that truly inspired and united the country. The people of a decade finally rose as a unit to change the fate of our country for the better. No one could better state the feelings of the country as a whole than did Mario Mario when he declared, Im tired of reading history. I want to make it (Norton 938).
Bibliography: Works Cited Archer, Jules. The Incredible Sixties: The Stormy Years That Changed America. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovic h Publishers, 1986. Benson, Kathleen and James Haskins.
The 60 s Reader. New York, New York: Viking Kestral, 1988. Bob Dylan. [ web = BIO&lookup string = 317. ] Emmens, Carol A. An Album of the Sixties.
New York: Franklin Watts, 1981. Gitlin, Todd. Reading McNamara: Vietnam and Kent State. Peace and Change. April 1996: 12.
Hakim, Joy. A History of US: All the People: 1945 - 1999. Book 10. New York: Oxford University Press, 1995.
Joplin, Laura. Biography. [ web 1999 Fatality Corporation. Norton, Mary Beth, et. al. A People and a Nation. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1998.
Sann, Paul. The Angry Decade: The Sixties: A Pictorial History. New York: Crown Publishers, 1979.
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