Chapter 28—Uncivil Wars: Liberal Crisis and Conservative Rebirth
The civil rights movement stirred American liberals and pushed them to initiate bold new government
policies to advance racial equality. The clashing of left, right, and center made it one of the most
contentious and complicated eras in American history.
Liberalism at High Tide
Lyndon Johnson had only been president for a few months, but promised to push to renew American
education, rebuild the cities, and restore the natural environment. New Deal for a new era.
A. John F. Kennedy’s Promise
1.) Kennedy promised liberal reform but congressional partisanship and resistance put a
damper on his efforts.
2.) Kennedy was shot and killed in Texas on November 22 , 1963 by Lee Harvey Oswald.
B. Lyndon B. Johnson and the Great Society
1.) Johnson pushed for civil rights legislation as a memorial to his slain predecessor.
2.) He also fought to end poverty.
3.) Created the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964, which was an outreach to suffering and
i.) The 1964 Election
- Lyndon Johnson wanted to win this election on his own rather than just being in
- Johnson won by a landslide.
ii.) Great Society Initiatives
- The Great Society’s agenda included environmental reform as well as an
expanded national park system, improvement of the nation’s air and water,
protection for endangered species, stronger land-use planning, etc.
iii.) Assessing the Great Society Jessica DeLancy
- The proportion of Americans living below the poverty line dropped from 20% to
13% between 1963 and 1968.
- The Great Society dramatically improved the financial situation of the elderly
and increased racial diversity in American society and workplaces.
C. Rebirth of the Women’s Movement
1.) Feminists entered the political fray and demanded not simply inclusion, but a rethinking of
i.) Labor Feminists
- Women wanted equal pay and maternity leave.
- More women than ever were working outside the home but they faced a labor
market that undervalued their contributions.
ii.) Betty Friedan and the National Organization for Women
- The Civil Rights Act protected against sex discrimination and women used this to
their advantage and founded the NOW.
- Civil rights organization focused on helping women be treated equally.
The Vietnam War Begins
JFK stated withdrawal from Vietnam would be a great mistake. American engaged in a long and
costly civil conflict in the name of fighting communism.
A. Escalation Under Johnson
1.) Johnson inherited Vietnam from Kennedy but vowed that he would not lose the fight when
he took office.
i.) Gulf of Tonkin
- North Vietnamese torpedo boats fired on the U.S. destroyer Maddox in the Gulf.
- Johnson pledged there would be no escalation but wasn’t sure he could keep
ii.) The New American Presence
- Troops were deployed to North Vietnam.
- America bombed North Vietnam more than the Allies used bombs in WWII but
this only provoked North Vietnam to continue fighting. Jessica DeLancy
B. Public Opinion and the War
1.) People were concerned that Johnson was concealing bad news about the war and the
Vietnam war was growing very costly for the American people.
C. Rise of the Student Movement
1.) Students were inspired by the civil rights movement and founded the Students for a
Democratic Society (SDS) organization to fight for social change.
i.) The New Left
- Founders of the SDS referred to their movement as the New Left to distinguish
themselves from the Old Left—communists and socialists of the 30’s and 40’s.
- Students were on the front lines as the campaign against the war escalated.
ii.) Young Americans for Freedom
- Conservative students asserted their faith in “God-given free will.”
iii.) The Counterculture
- Hippies and tie-dyed shirts symbolized the new counterculture.
- Music like the Beatles became huge and so did the recreational use of drugs.
Days of Rage, 1968-1972
A sense of crisis gripped the country due to riots, campus unrest, and the counterculture escalated into
youth rebellion that seemed on the verge of tearing the country apart.
A. War Abroad, Tragedy at Home
1.) There was no quick victory in Vietnam like Johnson had hoped and American casualties
i.) The Tet Offensive
- Vietcong unleased a massive assault in South Vietnam that coordinated with
Tet, the Vietnamese new year.