The Sixties: Times They Are A-Changin’ (1960-1969)

The Sixties


1 hour

Monday 5 December at 9.30am EST/ NZ

This program describes and discusses the protest movements of the 1960s in the United States of America. It highlights civil rights, the women’s movement, the environment movement, migrant workers’ rights and the “gay” rights movement. At the core of the documentary is Lyndon B. Johnson’s vision of the “Great Society” and the conservative response.

There is archival footage supporting the narrative throughout with contemporary commentators providing input as well. There is also an overview and some insight provided into the competing agendas of the USA’s main political parties in this era.

This program would be an ideal starting point for an overview of the 1960s or for a Study in Depth of pop culture. It would also be useful for any work on the various “protest” movements by providing a context for them in relation to the generation that they represent.

Dr Denis Mootz


Features discussion of sexual “freedom”, birth control and the “gay” rights movement.


Stop the video programs at the end of each section.
Allow students to share and discuss answers to the questions below.


What issues are introduced in the opening?
Note the images used in the opening.

Part 1.

Note the verdict given on the 1960s in 1969.
Why were the 1960s a time of incredible economic growth? Result?
Why were also “tensions”?
What was the aim of the “civil rights” movement?
Note Gloria Steinem’s comment on the role of women in the movement. Implications?
Note John F. Kennedy’s response to a 1961 question about women’s rights? Implications?
What did the Commission on the Status of Women set up by Kennedy discover? Result?
What was the “traditional” position of women? Implications?
Note Jack Palance’s comments on “reins”. Implications?
Why was the position of women changing? Result?
What was the “Feminine Mystique”? Impact? Result?
Why was there a “mismatch” in society? Result? Implications?
Note the impact of Helen Gurley Brown’s book. Result? Implications?
How did “the experts” react to this “sexual” revolution/renaissance?
Why was “reproductive freedom” a public issue?
For what condition was the contraceptive “pill” approved in 1957? Result?
When was the “pill” approved for “birth control”? Implications? Result?
Why was it “hard to get”?
Why did some consider birth control to be “immoral”? Result? Implications?
How were laws against birth control proven to be unenforceable? Result?
When did birth control become legal for all US women? Result? Implications?

Part 2.

Note how the Ford Company justified not employing women. Implications?
Note the clause included in the 1964 “Civil Rights Act”. Implications? Result?
What was N.O.W. campaigning for? Result?
Note the anomaly in the airline industry. Implications? Result?
What issue was used to define this struggle? Implications? Result?
How did Gloria Steinem expose the sexism of Playboy Clubs? Result?
In what sense did Gloria Steinem challenge the “stereotype” of a “feminist”? Implications?
How did the women’s movement become “women’s liberation”? Result?
In what sense was That Girl a subversive television program? Implications?
What was Rachel Carson’s book about? Implications? Result?
How did the chemical industry respond to Carson’s claims? Result?
Note the major pollution events experienced in USA. Implications? Result?
Note the impact of the Environmental Movement.
Note the conditions for Latino migrant farm workers. Implications? Result?
How did the United Farm Workers Organising Committee “motivate” people? Result?
Note the tactics adopted by Cesar Chavez and the NFWA. Result?

Part 3.

Note President Lyndon B. Johnson’s concept of the “Great Society”. Implications?
How did many in the USA regard Johnson’s vision? Implications? Result?
What did the USA conservative Republicans like Goldwater believe in? Implications? Result?
How did they get an audience in the 1960s? Result?
What “Pandora’s box” did Goldwater open? Result?
Why did Ronald Reagan change his political stance in 1964? Result?
Note the result of the 1964 election?
What was the response from the Republicans?
Who was the new “star” of the conservative Republicans?
Why was there “unease” and “resentment” about the “new” America? Implications? Result?
Note the result of the Presidential election in 1968.

Part 4.

What was the most “despised minority group” in USA society?
What sanctions did society place on homosexuals?
Note the tactics used by Florida police to identify “sex offenders”? Implications?
When did the “Gay Rights” movement begin to emerge? Result?
What was the major obstacle to activism for “gays”? Result? Implications?
Note the case of Frank Kameny. Result?
How did the medical profession in the USA define homosexuality?
How was this mental illness “treated”? Result? Implications?
What was the dilemma for the “gay” community?
When was the “spark” lit? Result?
Note comments on the overall result of the “protests” of the 1960s.


Useful, interesting, challenging, materials can be found at the websites below.
These sites are not recommended as definitive sources.
They need to be read critically and evaluated before being used for note making.
The evidence collected here should supplement and complement the notes made during the video program. Both should be used in the notemaking exercise that follows.

United States of America in the 1960s:

1960s popular culture:

Democratic Party:

Republican Party:

US Conservatives:

Barry Goldwater:

Ronald Reagan:

Lyndon B. Johnson:

The “Great Society”:

Civil Rights:

Women’s Movement:

Birth Control:

Gloria Steinem:

Helen Gurley-Brown:

Betty Friedan:


Environmental movement:

Rachel Carson:


“Gay” Rights movement 1960s:

Music of the 1960s:


This is the collation stage of the activity.
Encourage students to compose the suggested summaries and to organise the field of information and begin to explore its context.
This activity could be done in teams, groups, or by individuals, or as a class with teacher direction.

1. Draw up a timeline / chronological chart of the events described and discussed in this program.

2. Note details of the US Presidents in the 1960s and the party they represented.

3. Note details of the platform of the Democratic Party.

4. Note details of the platform of the Republican Party.

5. Note details of the platform of “conservative” Republicans.

6. Note details of the program and tactics of the civil rights movement.

7. Note details of the program and tactics of the women’s movement.

8. Note details of the program and tactics of the Farm Workers Association.

9. Note details of the program and tactics of the “gay” rights movement.

10. Note details of the changes that were affected in USA society in the 1960s.


Address and discuss the key issues and questions that have been raised by the video at this stage.
Some are suggested below. Students will probably raise others.

1. What did “liberals” in USA stand for in the 1960s? What did they stand against?

2. What did the “conservatives” in USA stand for in the 1960s? What did they stand against?


It is necessary always to address questions of reliability and validity of the perspectives, evidence and sources presented in the documentary and other sources. These need to be considered, tested and researched. Some are suggested below. Students will probably raise others.

1. What were the core issues that motivated some Americans to organise the various “protest” movements of the 1960s?

2. What were the core issues that caused some Americans to oppose the various “protest” movements of the 1960s?


Use the key issues and inquiry questions as topics for debate, essay writing, reports, historical recount and explanation.

Be imaginative. A report, or debate notes, could be a digital “essay” of slides and text…or any other IT application available.

1. Write a REPORT on one of the personalities featured in this program, such as Gloria Steinem, Martin Luther King, Cesar Chavez, Frank Kameny, Lyndon B. Johnson or Rachel Carson. There are others mentioned.

2. The 1960s was a time of change in popular culture as well. Popular music particularly experienced a “revolution”. Most of the issues raised in this program were reflected in the music played on radio and available on record. Explore some of this music and suggest what music could be used as a “soundtrack” for this documentary.

3. Why is the 1960s reported as a decade of “revolutionary” change in USA society?

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