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Trend of Civil Rights During the Decade of the 1970’s


Civil rights are the rights that citizens of sovereign nations are entailed to by law, since they have a legal and philosophical basis. They are rights guaranteed in the constitution, e.g. freedom of speech, right to information, freedom of religion, and equal protection under the law. The choice one make is mainly affected by the surrounding in which one lives and his/her attitude towards the subject. Social movements are groups of people who lobby for specific goals or changes to be made. Civil right and social movements started as long as history dates and have been the main change to traditions since they bring a trend of events that keep changing society and its thought towards held traditions.

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Civil rights and traditions

The intense aftermath of the war in the 60’s extended to the 70’s, with trends that included disillusioning of government, advances in civil rights, increased influence of the women’s movement and concerns on the environment being witnessed. Most ideas of the 60’s were mainly accepted in the 70’s despite the war and social realignment (Calisle and Golson, 2007 p. 94). The assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968 saw the proceeding years more vocal. For example, the feminism and gender equality became a major issue in the 70’s. Cesar Chavez also campaigned for the right of migrant workers in California, while capital punishment was ruled to be constitutional; the Supreme Court also legalized abortion and affirmative action policies were implemented (John, 2005, p. 67).

Generally the civil rights and social movements came to transform traditions, since most laws passed were those which staunch believers in tradition believed were impossible. The trend can be seen as the rights are passed one after the other; once one law is passed, they notice that other rights are being infringed on so the cycle continues.

Emergence of Social movements

Social movements in the early 70’s included environmentalist, who were triggered by the transmitted satellite images of earth as an integrated life supporting system, which made the 22nd April 1970 the first Earth day. Following this day various laws were passed which included “the Environmental Protection Agency (1970), the Clean Water Act (1972) and the Endangered Species Act (1973)” (Social movements of the 1970’s, 2009, para. 1). These laws were in series or gave trend to change the traditional use of exploitation of natural resources and adopt new methods. The use of nuclear power over fossil energy became more evident which sparked a protest from environmentalists due to degradation. Tradition defiance could not withstand this change making it inevitable.

Feminism was entrenched in the law by the nineteenth amendment of the US Constitution which legalized female suffrage. This gave the gay community insight despite the stonewall riots of 1969 as gay and lesbians became vocal. The removal of homosexuality as a disorder by the American Psychiatric Association was a step to its legalization, with the first gay marriage being witnessed in 1972 (1970s – Social movements, 2009, para. 5). The first marching protest was held in 14th October 1979 in Washington, D.C. by the gay community to protest for their rights gave a clear indication of the radical change in heterosexual marriages as strongly believed by tradition. The change of any right of one sex then ignites the other to demand for his/her rights.

Education being a sensitive aspect of the society which was largely seen as the drive to civilization was also on the civil rights list. Achieving a racial integration school system was the agenda of social movements. The US congress passed the Higher Education Act which did not allow any discrimination in gender to receive federal funds. In addition, the Women’s Education Equity Act of 1974 gave support to Higher Education Act (American History of the 1970’s, 2009, para. 6). Equality in education was also enhanced to include even the handicapped. This period saw conflict over wide issues such as the adoption of women and people with disability in schools. Retention of tribal customs of the blacks was also influenced when they were allowed to take care of their own education. Questions arise whether the quality of education actually dropped.

The disabled movement protested for social acceptance of the Disabled people and a group by the name American Coalition of Citizens with Disabilities had been formed in 1974 (Social movement of the 1970’s, 2009, Para. 2). The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) was passed in 1972, whose aim was to curb discriminations based on sex; and since then, gay rights groups have been on the alert. The trend in education was viewed as the introduction of the girl child education and the education of the physically challenged which was not valued traditionally.

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Changes in lifestyle and technology

Lifestyle and fashion were deemed to change in this era of civilization, dress codes raging from bellbottoms to hot pants to platform shoes to t-shirts knit and denims suits for men became common. Movies like the 1977 Annie Hall changed fashion trends of the 70’ derby hats and tweed jackets neckties worn with baggy pants or skirts, (Gillis, 1999, para. 7). When one changes his/her lifestyle, definitely traditions erode, western culture as described by many are attached to trendy fashions which no doubt shows the spirit of eroding tradition defiance.

Technology as a sign of change saw the introduction of the floppy disc in 1970, and in 1971 a microprocessor by Intel. Other introductions of the 70’s included Video Cassette recorders, Jumbo jets, neutron bombs, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), DNA technology (1973), email (1971) laser printer (1971) among others (American Natural History 1970’s, 2009, para. 8). This change in technology makes thing easier to handle and creates more opportunities, hence traditions get erased and no spirit of maintaining it exists.


In conclusion, the 1970’s is recalled as the civil rights and social movement days where all the trends of change in the traditions of the people on every part of the nation whether a reformist or conservative was witnessed. In all aspects of our life socially, economically, medically and culturally we have trends that bring change to what we do, think, practice or believe (tradition). The major days and acts include 22nd April 1970 as the First Earth Day, 28th May 1970 as the First Gay Pride march, 29th May 1972 the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALTI) was signed and 1975 the international year of the woman (America Cultural History 1970’s, 2009, para. 8). The inference is; the 1970’s activities show a spirit of traditional defiance with its radical changes in behavior including gay marriage, legalizing abortion and gender equality hence traditional defiance. With increased day to day rights and movements, the spirit of maintaining culture is compromised hence we experience the diversity in all cultures to join and form one westernized culture as the world is becoming a global village.

Work Cited

Carlisle, Rodney P. & Golson, Geoffrey. America in revolt during the 1960’s and 1970’s. Oxford, ABC-CLIO.

Gillis, Charles. American Cultural History 1970-1979. Lonestar College Kingwood. 1999. Web.

John, Super C. Seventies in the United States. West Virginia, Salem press. 2005.

Social movement of the 1960’s and 1970’s. Social movement of the 1960’s and 1970’s. 2009. Web.

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1970s – Social movements. 1970s: Encyclopedia II – 1970s – Social movements. 2009. Web.

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StudyCorgi. (2021, November 5). Trend of Civil Rights During the Decade of the 1970’s.

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StudyCorgi. "Trend of Civil Rights During the Decade of the 1970’s." November 5, 2021.


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StudyCorgi. (2021) 'Trend of Civil Rights During the Decade of the 1970’s'. 5 November.

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