Civil Rights Movement in the '60s and '70s: Successes and Failure

Updated on June 16, 2016

The years between 1960 and 1975 were the pinnacle of civil rights progression for African-Americans dating back to Reconstruction and Nat Turner—or even prior with the United States outlawing of the slave trade in 1808 and the gradual invigoration of abolitionists in the North at the turn of the 19th century. Moreover, this time presented Asian Americans in an all new light, displacing racial prejudice against these peoples so expressed during WWII and from the beginning of their migratory years. New strides were taken. Politicians—though sometimes with questionable sincerity—made unprecedented efforts to curb racial prejudice and segregation in the United States; instituting a more egalitarian society, propelling Americans once and for all out of the pit of moral injustice. In those few years African-Americans and Asian-Americans would make a break for true equality. And to a large degree, these new efforts were met with increasing success.

The Civil Rights Act of 1957

Disregarding the illegitimacy of his methods, Truman made attempts at curbing social discrimination with regards to race and color. However, Truman remained very much paralyzed by conservative southerners for the length of his two-termed presidency. With the succession of Eisenhower, the ideological aura was one of neglect and idleness—stemming in large part from Eisenhower’s belief that government couldn’t force the issue of desegregation and civil rights but rather the change had to come from within each individual.

Nevertheless, Eisenhower soon caved to the multiplication of civil rights demonstrators and, despite lacking the political will that Truman possessed, legislation did pass. The Civil Rights Act of 1957 was introduced during Eisenhower’s presidency that jump-started future progression in the mid 1960’s.

The initial Civil Rights Act of 1957 included a whole host of new regulatory measures on race relations. However, still plagued with the determination of southern conservatives who fought tooth and nail for the continuation of African-American discrimination, many of the Act’s measures were voided. Still, the Act provided symbolism as it was the first civil rights bill to pass since 1875.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965

In 1961, JFK took office. He, like his predecessors, had an unenthusiastic outlook on the whole civil rights movement. Yet Kennedy soon gave way to the increasing protests as Eisenhower did. Kennedy promised new legislation and decisive action. Sadly though, southern conservatives remained unreceptive of the newly enlightened presidential aims and filibustered anything that would improve the state of Black Americans.

Meanwhile, tensions continued to grow as Martin Luther King Jr. gave his Lincoln Memorial speech and thousands marched on Washington in August of 1963. And in sort of an ominous conclusion, Kennedy was assassinated—just as he was about to rectify his past neglect of the African-American peoples. This extensive hardship in the beginning of the civil rights movement took a drastic shift in momentum—from a bureaucratic and legislative standpoint—with the succession of Lyndon B. Johnson, a crafty politician who viewed civil rights as a means to rally support and distinguish himself in the presidential office.

Under his leadership, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 passed into legislation. Certainly this would have been impossible without the exponential rallying and uniting of Blacks, most notably under the leadership of Martin Luther King Jr. and his many inspirational peace walks and non-violent protestations. Amongst these were “sit-ins”, “freedom rides”, and boycotts.

Impact on Asian Americans

For Asian-Americans, their gains were obvious and simplified. With the repeal of the Chinese exclusion act during WWII and the passage of the McCarran-Walter Act in 1952, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and other Asians enjoyed a much more fluid immigration relationship with the U.S. Furthermore, the Immigration Act of 1965 worked to magnify these earlier effects so that Asian-Americans could migrate to the U.S. in record numbers.

Inequality and the Secondary Education Act in 1965

Both minority groups—Asian-Americans and African-Americans alike—were still suffering from poverty. Though voting rights and immigration standings may have been improved upon, nothing was done hence to remedy the fiscal deterioration of minority groups. With the advance of Johnson as president, however, government began to visit these social ills with legislative decisiveness.

Considering the extreme importance of education with regards to familial and personal livelihood, Johnson took it upon himself to devise a plan for federally assisted loans and grants. The Secondary Education Act passed in 1965 authorizing an unprecedented 1 billion dollars for the sole purposes of educational proliferation for the disadvantaged.

Of course, the “disadvantaged” defined overwhelmingly minority groups such as African-Americans and Asian-Americans. Therefore, and in this sense, the two groups experienced salutary governmental action and the rise of an egalitarian society.

A Lasting Legacy

All in all, during the period between 1960 and 1975 America as a whole reawakened its moral high ground. New political strides were made in accordance with new and extensive social protestation by minorities—especially Blacks. It was a slow and gradual reawakening at first, but towards the latter years a much more vigorous enthusiasm pervaded the American political and social climate. Undoubtedly, this period founded the roots of our modern egalitarianism.


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    • profile image

      Tayvion Jackson 

      4 months ago

      is he black

    • kenneth avery profile image

      Kenneth Avery 

      5 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama


      I will tell you the truth. I really love this hub.

      This is an excellent piece of writing. Amazing work. I loved the way you presented your topiic. Wonderful graphics.

      This piece was helpful, informative and very interesting.I was glad to vote Up and all of the choices--Funny.

      You are certainly a gifted writer. Please keep up the fine work.


      Kenneth Avery, Hamilton, Alabama

    • gclitty profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago

      Hello there Miles! Very interesting to get a taste of your first-hand perspective on the subject. Thanks for the comment.

    • MilesArmbruster profile image


      8 years ago from Somewhere on the journey

      Great hub. Of course, I lived through a good part of it and watched these events unfold on TV. You ask whether it was a success or failure, and like most turning points in history, it was a mixed pot of good and bad. When I was in school in the 60's, I lived in a small northern town that was about 30% Italians and about 30% African Americans. Those of us of European descent were mixed in a diverse culture so I never really picked up on what the fuss was all about. I had friends from all over the cultural tree. But later I had an odd experience when I owned my own business. My partner and I went in for a loan to buy some equipment and we were turned down. Each of us had sterling personal credit so we asked the banker why we were turned down. He replied, "We need to choose who we give loans to based on, well, on company policy." Then he lowered his voice and confided to us, "If you want the loan, appoint a black woman to your board." Needless to say, we were stunned. It seemed that some people were more equal than others, and we were left out. These personal examples, of course, don't suggest whether the Civil Rights movement was a success or failure as a whole, but it does demonstrate, like your college assistance, that the pendulum has perhaps swung too far. The Civil-Rights movement of the sixties forced us to examine our values closely and make some desperately needed changes. But we always need to re-evaluate and confirm that our national values are being followed.

    • gclitty profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago

      Thank you! I much appreciate your comment, and I agree with you 100%. I think that today's atmosphere of legislated race relations has moved us from one ditch to the other. I will be going to college this fall and it is disheartening to say the least when "slackers" (and that is putting it kindly) receive affirmative action type assistance because they were born a different color than I. My view is that we should live in a society based on purely merit, wherein colleges disregard ethnic background as a basis for admission and distribution of funds. We should get back to judging each other on the basis of character as Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. advocated.

    • Allen Williams profile image

      Allen Williams 

      8 years ago from Pennsylvania

      The Civil Rights movement was a good thing in the time period. I think today we have taken it too far with going overboard to go out of our way with affirmative action. In today's society it is time to abolish affirmative action because it over compensates a needed change.

      I like this hub and I believe you did a good job writing it. I voted it up and interesting.


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