Daily Life in the United States, 1960-1990: Decades of Discord

By Myron A. Marty | Go to book overview

20
The Peoples of America

The initial successes of the civil rights movement persuaded many Americans that working together with others in their racial or ethnic group held promise of improving their lot. Further, if all racial and ethnic minorities, women, and others in groups sometimes referred to as "marginal" could achieve a sense of common purpose, sweeping changes in America's social structure might be possible. Legislation and court decisions over several decades had worked in their favor, but the potential of a backlash remained considerable.

The civil rights movement on behalf of African Americans in the mid to late 1970s contrasted sharply with what it had been a decade earlier. During the latter period, there were few organized protests, as civil rights leaders reexamined their strategies in the face of strengthened opposition. An extension of the Voting Rights Act that abolished literacy requirements was the only civil rights law enacted during these years. In 1977 the Supreme Court upheld the use of racial quotas in reapportioning legislative districts, but by then there were signs that court actions favoring the cause of African Americans were less promising.

African Americans

In a case that attracted national attention, the Supreme Court heard arguments in a lawsuit brought by Allan Bakke, a white man who contended that his denial of admission to the medical school at the University of California at Davis was unconstitutional. A quota plan, he claimed, allowed the admission of less-qualified blacks and Hispanics, resulting in his exclusion. Many observers believed this to be the Court's most important civil rights case since its unanimous ruling in Brown v.Board of Education

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