How and why did minority rights become significant, 1960-80?

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Native Americans

Government policies towards Native Americans managed by the BIA shifted between breaking up or supporting tribal existence. The BIA encouraged Native Americans to move to towns and cities for work. By 1970, about half of all Native Americans lived in towns or cities and it was from these groups that the civil rights campaigners came.

  • The issues 
  • Tribal homelands: Many Native American had been driven from their homelands following the Indian Removal Act The federal government made treaties with individual tribes, giving land and money for their removal. By the late 1960s, it was widely agreed that the treaties had been unfair. Many natives wanted new treated and a return to their homelands
  • Self-determination: The tribes had long had an unusual position in the USA. Tribes ran their own affairs but only in reservations under control of the BIA. The BIA had implemented regulations to break up Indian Culture. It set up Indian Boarding school from 1893 which made children spek english and cut their hair. Native Americans wanted respect for the tribal organisation and freedom to run their own affairs.
  • Organised Protest 
  • In 1968, the Indian Civil rights act banned tribes from restricting the Civil rights of tribal members. It didn't do anything to redress issues Natives had with the government. AIM in response was set up and it took a radical stance 
  • Its slogan was 'Red Power' and it adopted the direct action techniques of black American civil right groups including sit-ins and demonstrations. AIM also targeted the demeaning of American Culture by white people 
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Native Americans Gains and Limitations

  • Nixon sympathised with Native American campaigners and felt it should be possible to make changes for 830,000 people. He rejected both termination and forced assimilation
  • By 1980, Congress had passed the 1972 Indian education act, 1974 Indian Financing Act and 1975 Indian Self-Determination act .
  • The voters rights act was extended to cover more racial groups, including Native Americans and to provide language assistance when voting. 
  • In 1970, Congress returned land at Blue Lake to the Taos Pueblo tribe. In 1971, the Alaska Native Claims Settlement act transferred 40 million acres of land to Native Alaskans 
  • However, Nixon's administration didn't reform the BIA nor did Nixon renegotiate about Native American sacred sites. Hawaii in 1971 continued to evict Indians from land if the state wanted it for building or other sue 
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Hispanic Americans

Hispanics are Americans with a Spanish speaking background. Hispanic people tended to cluster together, Puerto Ricans tended to live in the poor areas of Northern cities and Mexicans tended to settle in California.The bracero programme guaranteed incoming Mexicans the same wages as existing workers.When Mexicans were forced to work for lower wages, other farmers resented it

The issues 

  • Land: The 1846-48 American-Mexican war was ended by the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. It settled the border between USA and Mexico, also allocating land in other states. Mexicans living in areas that became American could become US citizens or relocate to Mexico. The issue of land rights in what became New Mexico became a focus of protest.
  • Workers right: Hispanic farm workers often had appalling living and working conditions. Most workers had no unions & there was a large pool of illegal migrant workers to call on 
  • Discrimination : In towns and cities, they lived in Spanish-speaking areas in the worst parts of towns with poor government provision. 
  • Deportation: The US immigration services deported millions of Hispanic people (3.8 million in operation ******* during 1953-58)
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Hispanic Americans Fighting for rights

Fighting for rights

  • Cesar Chavez fought a non-violent campaign for the rights of farm workers, focusing on working conditions & set up a farm workers union & organised protests where he gained publicity
  • Reis Lopez Tijerina organised protests about Mexican land rights in New Mexico. He and Black Power leaders signed an agreement to work together in 1967.
  • Rodolfo Gonzales worked for Hispanic rights within the system, but he came to favour more radical methods. His Crusade for justice offered a version of black pride stressing the importance of racial identity and the need to fight for Hispanic rights at once. 
  • Some Hispanics decided to work through Political influence. Jose Angel Guiterrez's La Raza Unida party set out to encourage Hispanic people to register to vote and provide them with candidates to vote for. It campaigned for better work, housing and education
  • The Brown Berets was a young militant organisations, set up in 1967 in LA, who were uniform like the Black Panthers and campaigned against Police brutality. 
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Hispanic Americans Gains and Limitations

  • It wasn't until 1954 that the Supreme court ruled that Hispanic people as equal citizens. 
  • In 1966, Congress's Cuban-American Adjustment Act said that all Cubans who had lived in the US for a year were permanent citizens. In 1968, the Mexican American Legal Defence and Education fund was set up to pursue civil rights in the courts 
  • Civil rights campaigns produced some changes within the states - Chavez' campaign made a significant difference to the conditions of farm workers. Local campaigning improved schools and housing.
  • In 1975, a Voting Rights act extension provide language assistance at polling stations and extended rights to Native Americans, Asian Amerian and Hispanic groups.
  • However, the land issues raised by protestors have still not been settled.
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Gay rights

Gay Americans were not part of a visible racial group but they were still discriminated against. In the 1950s, Congress said that homosexuality was a mental illness. A 'Lavender scare' ran parallel to the Red Scare to root out homosexuals and thousands lost their jobs. Prior to 1962, homosexuality was illegal in every state in the USA. They argued the CRA applied to them 

The gay rights movement 

  • The gay rights movement was formed after police raided the Stonewall Inn gay bar in 1969 .About 400 people began to fight back when a policeman was too rough with one of the customers.
  • For several nights running, there were protests and clashes with the police in the area and the Gay Liberation front was set up as a result. Gay marches were held in cities, the New York march alone had about 10,000 marchers. 

Taking to the streets 

  • Gay liberation groups took to the streets in protest, and a combination of public support and the liberal climate of the late 60s meant that the gay rights movement expanded rapidly. Visible gay communities sprang in New York and Chicago.
  • People discovered that people they knew and liked were gay and many prejudices against gays dissolved because of this. As early as 1977, polls suggested that 5% of people believed in equal rights for gays. However, groups like the KK were still hostile to gay people 
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Success, Gains and Limitations


The mid-to-late 1970s were the heyday for the gay right movement. Kathy Jozachenko became the first openly gay candidate elected to public office. Harvey milk was elected to office in San Francisco & supported the gay rights movement &took a stand against Proposition 6.Milk was the first gay official who made it clear that being gay affected his political activities & his private life. 

Gains limitations

Gay pressure on some states led to positive gay initiatives at local level on issues. Between 1979 and 1981, the governor of California appointed 4 openly gay state judges. In 1980,a gay teenage boy in Rhode Island sued his high school for the right to bring a male date to prom. He won. 

However, in the 1970s people began to campaign against gay rights. Anita Bryan, set up Save our Children and collected petitions against a law stopping discrimination saying gay integration meant normal children could become corrupted. The law was rejected after action by the SOC.Also, the religious right became more outspoken in its opposition and gained more outspoken support from conservatives.

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