Something Happened: A Political and Cultural Overview of the Seventies

By Edward D. Berkowitz | Go to book overview

7
The Rights Revolution

As presidents tried and failed to cope with the consequences of Watergate, the loss of Vietnam, and the energy crisis, a genuine rights revolution occurred during the seventies. The beneficiaries of this revolution included women, gays, and people with disabilities. Each of these groups profited from the positive example set by the black Civil Rights Movement that culminated in the passage of the civil-rights laws in 1965, 1966, and 1968. These laws of the sixties provided texts for the new civil-rights laws of the seventies. Women and people with disabilities incorporated sections of these laws, such as the requirement that activities receiving federal funds be accessible to blacks, into new laws of direct benefit to them.


AN OVERVIEW

Even as the events of the sixties served as a preview of and model for the civil-rights-laws movements of the seventies, the two eras differed from each other in their approach to civil rights. The black Civil Rights Movement of the postwar era sought the end of the Jim Crow system of racial segregation in the South. The new civil-rights movements of the seventies involved more fundamental critiques of postwar society. Women sought to reorient gender relations. They toppled an edifice of federal and state laws that distinguished people by sex and as a result barred sexual discrimination in employment, education, job training, and credit. People with disabilities sought nothing less than the physical redesign of America to end the physical barriers that prevented them from full participation

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