CBCA 1250 The 1960s. a Cultural History of Revolutionary America

This course explores the visions, struggles, and enduring legacy of 1960s America through their (cultural) expression in a range of primary sources: essays, speeches, literature, music, film, TV, and the like. It is a curso tipo I, which means it will be taught entirely in English. While students will practice reading, writing, listening, and speaking in English, it is more a “content” than a language class. 


The 1960s were a pivotal decade in American history. In a rainbow-hued explosion of defiance and hope, the social movements and politico-cultural pioneers of the sixties challenged the country to create a new society, in part, by living up to old ideals. For a new generation, the self-proclaimed national exceptionalism, in which many Americans basked after the United States assumed leadership of the “free world” in the wake of World War II, had started to lose its shine. During the 1950s, cutting edge consumer-good manufacturing consolidated a white middle class, propelled suburban expansion, and gave birth to a vibrant youth culture. Yet undercurrents of doubt and dissension rose to the surface to question the post-war return to normalcy and to struggle for a more inclusive American dream. From Beat poets to “sex, drugs, and rock and roll,” the country’s suburban youth rejected their conformist upbringing and challenged the nation’s geopolitical interests. Sitting down at the lunch counter of a Woolworths department store in Greensboro, North Carolina, four students from a historically black agricultural college brazenly challenged racial segregation in the South, sparking a civil rights movement that demanded African-Americans be fully included in the national body. The winds of change spread to college campuses, where students, returning from summers spent as freedom riders, challenged university restrictions on their right to free speech. And feminists, emboldened by the pill, began to question traditional gender roles. As the language of “rights” progressively filled the air, Lyndon B. Johnson pushed Congress to institutionalize his vision of a Great Society. But with Vietnam on everyone’s mind, and television set, things began to spin out of control. While thousands of hippies flocked to Golden Gate Park in the summer of 1967, the nation’s inner-cities exploded in a rage of fury. As much of mainstream America, whom evangelical leader Jerry Falwell would later call to arms as the “moral majority,” stood agape on the sidelines, the conservative movement recovered its footing. By questioning the idea and vision of America, in an intense period of creative upheaval, the 60s also watered the seedbed of reactionary cultural politics that persists to this day.



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