Exercise: Sixties Counterculture

timer Asked: Jan 29th, 2021

Question Description

Answer the questions below from chapter 6, "Sixties Culture," from The Columbia Guide to America in the Sixties, with a statement or sentence that includes a cited phrase or passage to support your answer. Your answers don't have to be long; they just have to be accurate (correct) in both responding to the question and in clearly and effectively including a passage to validate your response. So each answer should include some words of your own as well as a quote.

Here's an example -

Question: What were the hippies trying to accomplish by avoiding the mainstream lifestyle?

Answer: They were tired of the consumerist behavior of mainstream America, so they "set up their own economic, cultural, and even political structures."

  1. Identify three "things" that stirred the counter-culture of the sixties. In other words, what items were Americans, with their newfound affluence, so hungry for that eventually led to the anti-consumerist craze? (In this case, you'll respond with three statements or sentences.)
  2. What was the holiday that Maulana Ron Karenga invented and what was it for (its purpose)?
  3. The hippie, or counterculture, movement eventually fell apart; what was a factor in its downfall? (There are a few; you only need to address one.)

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CHAPTER SIX Copyright 2001. Columbia University Press. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced in any form without permission from the publisher, except fair uses permitted under U.S. or applicable copyright law. Sixties Culture In the Sixties era, Americans challenged cultural boundaries as they sought to build better lives amid general economic prosperity. Young people reaped the whirlwind of material affluence and led society into new consumer fads and a more forthrightly hedonistic lifestyle. Others found America’s material rewards spiritually insubstantial and sought to build a counterculture based on alternative values. Black Power advocates looked on mainstream culture with disdain. They worked to sustain and to foster their own cultural heritage. THE GOOD LIFE During the Sixties era, racial justice and the Vietnam War were not the only sources of conflict in American society. People from all walks of life often heatedly debated how to lead a good life amid national prosperity. While the majority celebrated the material abundance that prosperity made possible, some young people scorned what they regarded as the soulless materialism of America’s consumer society. As one cultural radical commented: “Why should we work 12 or 16 hours a day now when we don’t have to? For a color TV? For wall-to-wall carpeting? An automatic ice-cube maker?”1 It was not just the young rebels who questioned the value of rampant materialism. In a speech given in May 1964 at the University of Michigan, President Lyndon Johnson, too, asked “whether we have the wisdom to use . . . [our] wealth to enrich and elevate our national life, and to advance the equality of our American civilization.” Americans, he insisted, must “prove that our material progress is only the foundation on which we will build a richer life in mind and spirit.”2 While politicians, cultural rebels, and many others questioned the societal meaning of material abundance, most middle-class people simply reveled in the opportunities consumer capitalism provided them. Every single month between 1961 and 1969, the United States economy continued to grow. It was the longest EBSCO Publishing : eBook Collection (EBSCOhost) - printed on 12/31/2020 4:24 PM via GLENDALE COMM COLLEGE AN: 75356 ; David Farber, Beth Bailey.; The Columbia Guide to America in the 1960s 56 the american sixties: a brief history period of continuous economic growth in American history, only exceeded by the expansion that began later in 1991. Unemployment hovered around 4 percent for much of the decade. Per capita income soared while the official poverty rate dropped from more than 22 percent of Americans in 1960 to just 12 percent by 1969. Millions more had extra money in their pockets, and tens of millions had disposable incomes that were unimaginable during the catastrophic Great Depression of the 1930s. As a result of this increasingly widespread affluence, people found new opportunities to have more fun. Traditional activities like bowling, hunting, fishing, and boating experienced boom times as millions more people had both the money and time enough away from work to enjoy leisure activities. More people than ever bought tickets to professional sporting events; baseball, foot- ball and basketball teams expanded throughout the nation, moving south and west, with new franchises and new stadiums. Between 1960 and 1970, attendance at majorleague baseball games alone grew by over ten million people. Foreign travel, once the nearly exclusive preserve of the wealthy, became a normal rite of passage for middle-class Americans. Passport applications rose from a mere 300,000 in 1950 to 2,219,000 in 1970. Domestically, too, Americans were vacationing as never before, flying in new jet-propelled passenger liners like the Boeing 747 (introduced in 1969), which could seat 374 passengers; or they were driving their new cars on the recently built interstate highway system. American prosperity seemed to be symbolized by Americans’ love affair with the automobile. Whereas in the late 1940s a majority of working-class Americans did not own one car, 29.3 percent of American families had two or more cars by the end of the 1960s—an increase of more than 50 percent in a single decade. Emblematic of Sixties-era vehicles were a series of so-called “muscle cars,” which were sold overwhelmingly to young men: the Pontiac GTO, the Plymouth Road Runner, the Mercury Cougar Eliminator, and most successful of all, the Ford Mustang. These vehicles could be bought with huge engines (the Road Runner could handle a 426-cubic-inch engine) that would allow their drivers to hurtle down American highways with rocket-like speed. Even as some people, most famously consumer advocate Ralph Nader in 1965, began to voice doubts about the safety, reliability, and social costs (such as pollution) of American automobiles, throughout the 1960s a majority of Ameri- cans took special pride in their stylish and powerful automobiles. Just as auto ownership had become an American birthright in the 1960s, television had become Americans’ favorite form of entertainment. Commer- EBSCOhost - printed on 12/31/2020 4:24 PM via GLENDALE COMM COLLEGE. All use subject to https://www.ebsco.com/terms-of-use Sixties Culture 57 cial television broadcasting had begun only in 1947; by 1970, though, 96 percent of American families had at least one TV set in their homes. For most of the 1960s, the most popular TV shows revealed a nostalgia for a simpler, rural or smalltown way of life. Favorites like The Andy Griffith Show, Gomer Pyle, and The Beverly Hillbillies showed good-hearted country folk upholding traditional values like neighborliness and love of family, even as they were some- times gently made objects of fun for their slow-mindedness and lack of familiarity with the rapidly changing world around them. Even if most popular TV shows eschewed the political controversies of the 1960s, throughout the era America’s most popular mass medium increasingly began to reflect the nation’s concerns. In 1965, television history was made when white actor Robert Culp and black actor Bill Cosby costarred as American intelligence agents in the hit action series I Spy. Never before had television portrayed a white man and a black man as friends and as equals. That Cosby played the smart partner and Culp the brawnier partner—going against contemporary stereotypes—made the show seem even more daring. By the late 1960s a few popular TV shows began to grapple with the nation’s cultural and political divisions. In February 1967 The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour premiered on CBS. It regularly featured humorous but pointed political commentary, and it contested network censorship rules. The Smothers Brothers invited folksinger Pete Seeger to appear on their show, ignoring the TV taboo against blacklisted performers accused in the 1950s of being communists. At first, CBS censored Seeger, refusing to broadcast his performance of the anti–Vietnam War song “Waist Deep in the Big Muddy.” Under pressure from the Smothers Brothers and their fans, CBS relented, and the performance was aired amid great controversy. In 1969, however, CBS executives decided the Smothers Brothers’ political brand of humor was too controversial and canceled the show. A lighter take on the nation’s controversies, Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In, first aired in January 1968. Marijuana jokes, comedy sketches about the sexual revolution (“Sock it to me!”), and a general spirit of irreverence about society’s sacred cows animated the show, which had a huge appeal for youthful audiences. YOUTH CULTURE The combined social forces of economic prosperity and political controversy were most visibly reflected by the fads, consumer choices, and serious com- EBSCOhost - printed on 12/31/2020 4:24 PM via GLENDALE COMM COLLEGE. All use subject to https://www.ebsco.com/terms-of-use 58 the american sixties: a brief history mitments of America’s burgeoning population of young people. The “Baby Boomers,” defined by demographers as those born between 1946 and 1964, and numbering some 76 million people, rolled through America with the force of a cultural tidal wave, leaving a changed society in their wake. By the late 1950s, the buying power of America’s post–World War II baby boom was already being reckoned with by the business community. Life magazine quantified the matter in a sensational feature story titled, “A Young $10 Billion Power: The US Teen-Age Consumer Has Become a Major Factor in the Nation’s Economy.”3 As this huge generation of young people, born amid prosperity and a general optimism about the nation’s future, moved through American society, their desires shaped both the marketplace of goods and services and their own new lifestyles. In the 1960s, young people made popular music—above all rock ‘n’ roll— the center of their cultural universe. Already by the Fifties (and some historians would point back to the “bobby soxer” music crazes of the Forties, which included Frank Sinatra) young people had enough buying power to make their favorite music stars into national celebrities. Most famously, Elvis Presley, with his gyrating hips, sneering lips, and pounding vocals had became a teen idol in the 1950s. Blending African-American rhythm ‘n’ blues, white-Southern country and western, gospel music, and his own unique style, Presley helped to create the rock ‘n’ roll sound. Sav- aged by most older listeners as a “sexhibitionist” and hated by many racists for his “mongrel” music, Presley’s record sales demonstrated that young people had the money to make their tastes count at the cash register. By the early 1960s, white teenagers had fallen into a decade-long love affair with a very different kind of rock music. In February 1964 the number-one hit song in the United States was “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” by a British group called the Beatles. Until they announced their break-up in 1970, the Beatles were the most popular music group in the United States, selling records almost exclusively to young people. Each of the record albums they released over the course of the Sixties managed simultaneously to mirror and to shape the cutting edge of youth culture, from the sunny, rebellious antics of Meet the Beatles in 1964 to the drug-influenced, mystical, and antiestablishment Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band in 1967 to the elegiac uncertainties of Let It Be in 1970. Young people cherished the Beatles not only because they were brilliant pop musicians but because their confident, rebellious, adventurous style perfectly expressed the spirit of their times. Almost completely apolitical (though at the end of the decade John Lennon did speak out against the Vietnam EBSCOhost - printed on 12/31/2020 4:24 PM via GLENDALE COMM COLLEGE. All use subject to https://www.ebsco.com/terms-of-use Sixties Culture 59 War), the Beatles offered a youthful insouciance that entertained and inspired their fans. When John Lennon announced in 1966 that the Beatles were more popular than Jesus, he appalled most adults, but Beatles fans heard in his words an acknowledgment of their own power to bend American culture to their desires and aspirations. By the early 1970s, rock music accounted for about 80 percent of all record sales. Youths in the Sixties—at a time when society was wracked by conflict over civil rights and, increasingly, the Vietnam War—used rock music as a proud emblem of their rebellion against the more staid and conservative aspects of the society they were poised to inherit. For most of these young people, that rebellion was little more than a demand that their consumer-lifestyle choices—“mod,” and then later “hippie”-style clothes, scruffier hairdos, and loud, pulsating music—be accorded respect from their elders. They wanted to be able “to do their own thing.” For some young people, however, cultural rebellion became a more overtly political and radical challenge to societal norms. COUNTERCULTURE For most Americans in the Sixties, the term “counterculture” referred to the lifestyle of those whom they generally called “hippies.” At least some of these hippies, also known as “freaks” and “longhairs,” sought to create an alternative way of life that overlapped with the more general youth culture but which went much further in its alienation from middle-class consumer society. These young men and women struggled to set up their own economic, cultural, and even political structures. Many hoped to become relatively independent from mainstream America. The most visible manifestations of the counterculture took shape by the mid-1960s in numerous cities and towns around the country. Hippie districts—like the Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco, Old Town in Chicago, the Lower East Side in New York City, and Dinkytown in Minneapolis—began to flower. In these places young people ranging in age from their late teens to their late twenties—many of them runaways—began to congregate. They set up “crash pads,” “communal” houses, food co-ops, and an array of restaurants, rock clubs, bookstores, and “head shops.” The most successful among them built semi-separate urban enclaves in which they could pursue an alternative way of life. These lifestyle experiments challenged most Americans’ values. In San EBSCOhost - printed on 12/31/2020 4:24 PM via GLENDALE COMM COLLEGE. All use subject to https://www.ebsco.com/terms-of-use 60 the american sixties: a brief history Francisco, the Diggers, an edgy, loosely affiliated group of men and women, scorned consumer society and attempted to create a subculture independent of the monetary economy. They believed that everything should be “free,” with goods and services bartered, exchanged, or simply given away. In 1967 and 1968, they and their allies set up a free-food giveaway in Golden Gate Park, and also established a free store, a free transportation network, free medical care, and free concerts featuring rock groups like the Grateful Dead. They, and many others like them around the country, set up rural communes and a variety of co-ops that fostered a collective, nonmaterialistic way of life. Rejecting traditional standards of behavior and seeking new experiences, the young people of the counterculture openly embraced drug use and often practiced a far more open and “liberated” sexuality than the norm. They used marijuana and hallucinogenics such as LSD and peyote. Cheered on by visionaries as diverse as ex-Harvard professor and “acid guru” Timothy Leary, the acclaimed writer Ken Kesey, and the Beat poet Allen Ginsberg, members of the counterculture sought to establish new lifestyles in which cooperation replaced competition and in which Eastern spiritual practices often replaced traditional Christianity. Most older Americans, and many young people as well, looked with horror at the drug-using, anti-materialist, sexually promiscuous counterculture that was so visibly springing up across the country by the late 1960s. Some young women involved in the counterculture also began to find fault with this alter- native way of life. Too often they found themselves being sexually exploited, finding they were expected by their male counterparts to do all the traditional “women’s work” such as housekeeping, cooking, and child care. By 1970, almost all of the countercultural urban enclaves had fallen apart. Too many criminals (most famously, the vicious Charles Manson, who would later be jailed as the ringleader of a mass-murder crime spree) and too many emotionally disturbed young people had been drawn to hippie communities by the promise of sex, drugs, and an “anything goes” atmosphere. The counterculture did not completely disappear, however, as many seek- ers of an alternative way of life moved into rural parts of America in a “back- to-theland movement.” Even as the counterculture retreated, much of its energy and style was repackaged by clothing manufacturers and the entertainment industry. Young people who had little interest in directly challenging social norms but who wished to partake of the rebellious and hedonistic impulses of the counterculture eagerly consumed the countercultural lifestyle, buying psychedelic rock albums and “groovy” clothes. EBSCOhost - printed on 12/31/2020 4:24 PM via GLENDALE COMM COLLEGE. All use subject to https://www.ebsco.com/terms-of-use Sixties Culture 61 BLACK CULTURE The hippies were not the only alternative cultural movement in the United States in the 1960s. While their actions were less publicized, many African Americans also deliberately turned away from so-called mainstream culture. They rejected “white” society and built on generations of ancestral struggle to create a black cultural-nationalism. Evoking an African-American worldview, this cultural struggle was a key component of the Black Power movement. While aspects of this movement, like that of the primarily white counterculture, would be co-opted by mainstream America, the black nationalists of the 1960s offered African Americans a distinctly alternative set of cultural expressions and practices. The purpose and power of the African-American cultural movement was best articulated and promoted by Malcolm X, who was, until shortly before his assassination in 1965, a leader of the Nation of Islam (popularly known as the Black Muslims). Speaking before a large crowd in Harlem in 1964, he explained: “We must recapture our heritage and our identity if we are ever to liberate ourselves from the bonds of white supremacy. We must launch a cultural revolution to unbrainwash an entire people.”4 Malcolm X and other black nationalists believed that African Americans needed to take pride in their African heritage, hold up their own standards of beauty and culture, and create black-controlled and community-based institutions. Through these actions, African Americans could gain greater control over their individual lives and their communities. Black cultural nationalism was a pointedly political ideology. In practice, black cultural nationalism took multiple forms. Most visibly, African Americans in the 1960s began to reject white standards of appearance. Prior to the mid-1960s, many black men and women used harsh chemicals to straighten their hair so that it would look like white people’s hair. And many within the African-American community placed a premium on having light skin and Euro-American features. In 1966, Black Power leader Stokely Carmichael expressed the changing attitude held by an increasing number of young African Americans: “We have to stop being ashamed of being black. A broad nose, a thick lip and nappy hair is us, and we are going to call that beautiful whether they like it or not. We are not going to fry our hair anymore.”5 By the late 1960s, as black men and women let their hair grow naturally into “Afros” and donned dashikis and other African-inspired clothing, the phrase “Black is Beautiful” reverberated throughout the United States. EBSCOhost - printed on 12/31/2020 4:24 PM via GLENDALE COMM COLLEGE. All use subject to https://www.ebsco.com/terms-of-use 62 the american sixties: a brief history Black cultural nationalists tried, too, to build alternative institutions and cultural practices that would promote what they called an African-American worldview. As one radical activist stated: “To leave the education of black children in the hands of the people who are white and who are racists is tantamount to suicide.”6 Some cultural nationalists believed that it was necessary to create an entirely new school curriculum that featured black achievements and prepared African-American young people to challenge the political and economic system ...
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