Social Movements in the Sixties and Their Effects

In the nineteen-sixties, several social movements took place that have either had a positive outcome or no outcome at all. Some of these were The New Left, Black Power, and the movements by Martin Luther King Jr. In reference to Doug McAdam’s concept of “framing,” these social movements framed themselves in a way which significantly affected their outcomes over time.

Doug McAdam’s concept of “framing” is defined by interpreting or assigning meaning to relevant events and conditions. These are to happen in ways that are intended to assemble potential supporters and constituents, to accumulate bystander support, and to disband antagonists (McAdam 348-349).

The first social movement that had a positive outcome using “framing” was The “New Left” movement. This social movement assigned meaning to activism against the Vietnam War as well as advocating for participatory democracy in the Port Huron Statement written in 1962. According to the Port Huron Statement, written by Thomas Hayden, the reasons that compelled this organization to begin its activism was racial bigotry and the victimizing fact of human degradation, the failure to adhere to the proclamation that “all men are created equal,” as well as the participation by American individuals in politics (Hayden 1-2).

The Port Huron statement was essentially a new start to Democratic political views, referred to as the “New Left.” Previously, Democrats had slightly different principles and views, and with the Port Huron Statement it brought out more important things to focus on, such as active participation of American citizens in politics.

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It was important for the liberals of the time the statement was written that everyone participated in politics in order to minimize corruption and have more representation for the individual and those who were oppressed. “We would replace power rooted in possession, privilege, or circumstance by power and uniqueness rooted in love, reflectiveness, reason, and creativity,” (Hayden 6). Like today, the same concepts of “politics [being] seen positively, as the art of collectively creating an acceptable pattern of social relations” and “politics [having] the function of bringing people out of isolation and into community” were very significant to the principles of the “New Left.” Even within recent years, Hayden himself has stated, “For a long while I thought the Port Huron Statement was a relic of a hopeful past, but frequently students would read it and say how surprised they were at its sounding like the present,” (Roberts). As a result, the Port Huron Statement reached several college campuses throughout the United States and gained more followers in the “New Left” movement. With these ideals, several liberal student organizations and the Port Huron Statement successfully used the concept of framing to have a positive outcome in society and spread the important messages of the time period that came with this movement’s views.

Martin Luther King Jr.’s Civil Rights movement was the next social and protest movement that successfully used the concept of “framing” in order to have a positive outcome. King led several peaceful protests against segregation and racial inequality during the sixties. Specifically, in his Letter from Birmingham Jail, written when he was arrested in Birmingham, Alabama, he writes about the need for change in response to eight prominent white clergymen who criticized him and the movements he led. He also addressed the fact that people may criticize his concern for segregation in different states than the one he resided in, but he countered that argument saying that “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” (King). This means that just because a certain issue may not be taking place anywhere that it affects you, it doesn’t negate the fact that it still isn’t important and doesn’t need to be stopped. King also fired back at the clergymen for the criticism of the protests in the first place. He argues that if they had cared about the reasoning behind the protests and had done anything about it, there would be no reason to have them at all. “You deplore the demonstrations taking place in Birmingham. But your statement, I am sorry to say, fails to express a similar concern for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations… It is unfortunate that demonstrations are taking place in Birmingham, but it is even more unfortunate that the city’s white power structure left the Negro community with no alternative,” (King). With this, he means that the black community cannot simply sit back and watch as the mistreatment of black people continues and do absolutely nothing about it. If no one in power will do anything about it, they felt like they had to. This is still relevant today in several aspects; racial inequality still exists in covert ways as well as overt ways whether people choose to accept it or not. King’s letter was very significant because it led to even more nonviolent protesting and marches against racial inequality. In this way, his use of framing was successful because it brought out more advocates for the movements and this specific work served as an example of a powerful argument, as well as resulting in more civil disobedience as a form of protest.

The final social movement that used the concept of “framing” in attempt to positively affect their outcome was the Black Power movement. The Black Power movement’s initial purpose was to reclaim the history and identity of black people from cultural terrorism in order to begin to empower them (Ture & Hamilton 34-35). The Black Power movement can be seen as a success in that it is still prevalent and active to this day. It has been reformed several times in order to fit each time period but still shares the same initial principles from when it was first formed. Otherwise, the Black Power movement of the sixties was a failure. This movement used methods of protest that were the opposite of those that Martin Luther King Jr. preached and advocated for. They did not rely on nonviolent protests and instead thought that the best solution was to riot in order to acquire change and reform. The movement insisted on self-reliance in order to gain more rights and impose change. The Black Power movement can also be viewed as counterproductive; many see it as having done the opposite of its intentions. Instead of uniting the American people and ending segregation, this movement just isolated black people further due to their violent methods of protest. Martin Luther King Jr. himself stated that the movement “connotates [sic] black supremacy and an anti-white feeling that does not or should not prevail,” (Ogbar 64). He again condemned this method of protest by stating, “Violence will only create more social problems than it solves,” and that black supremacy was “as evil as white supremacy,” (“Baptists to Shun Dr. King’s Rally”). Although the Black Power movement in the sixties was a failure, its significance is still relevant today and the purpose and reason behind the movement has had positive outcomes since.

The social movements of the New Left, Martin Luther King Jr., and Black Power were all movements that had an impactful outcome for years to come. These movements used Doug McAdam’s concept of “framing” in order to attempt to frame themselves in a positive light, in turn significantly affecting their outcomes over the course of the next several decades.

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Social Movements in the Sixties and Their Effects. (2021, Apr 26). Retrieved from

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