Few minorities had deeper or more justifiable grievances against the prevailing culture than American Indians—or Native Americans, as some began to call themselves in the 1960s.
The Native American unemployment rate was ten times the national rate.
Joblessness was particularly high on the reservations, where nearly half the Indians lived.
But even most Indians living in cities suffered from their limited education and training and could find only menial jobs.
Life expectancy among Indians was some twenty years less than the national average.
Suicides among Indian youths were a hundred times more frequent than among white youths.
The tribes grew weaker, and many Native Americans adapted to life in the cities became less able to fend off the white influence
Termination led to widespread corruption and abuse
The Eisenhower administration barred further “terminations” without the consent of the affected tribes
Far more numerous than Indians were Latinos (or Hispanic Americans), the fastest-growing minority group in the United States.
They were no more a single, cohesive group than the Indians were
During World War II, large numbers of Mexican Americans had entered the country in response to the labor shortage, and many had remained in the cities of the Southwest and the Pacific Coast.
After the war, when the legal agreements that had allowed Mexican contract workers to enter the country expired, large numbers of immigrants continued to move to the United States illegally.
By the late 1960s, Mexican Americans were one of the largest population groups in the West—outnumbering African Americans—and had established communities in most other parts of the nation as well.
They were also among the most urbanized groups in the population; almost 90 percent lived and worked in cities.
But most newly arrived Mexican Americans and other Hispanics were less well educated than either “Anglo” or African Americans and hence less well prepared for high-paying jobs.
Some of them found good industrial jobs in unionized industries, and some Mexican Americans became important labor organizers in the AFL-CIO. But many more (including most illegal immigrants) worked in low-paying service jobs, with few if any benefits and no job security.
Partly because of language barriers, partly because the family-centered culture of many Latino communities discouraged effective organization, and partly because of discrimination, Mexican Americans and other Hispanics were slower to develop political influence than other minorities.
One of the most visible efforts to organize Mexican Americans occurred in California, where an Arizona-born Latino farmworker, César Chávez, created an effective union of itinerant farmworkers
Latino Americans were at the center of another controversy of the 1970s and beyond: the issue of bilingualism.
Another important liberation movement that made gains in the 1960s was the effort by homosexuals to win political and economic rights and, equally important, social acceptance.
Homosexuality and lesbianism had been unacknowledged realities throughout American history
The “Stonewall Riot” helped make the gay liberation movement
They argued that no sexual preference was any more “normal” than another.
Most of all, however, the gay liberation movement transformed the outlook of gay men and lesbians themselves.
By the early 1990s, gay men and lesbians were achieving some of the same milestones that other oppressed minorities had attained in earlier decades.
Some openly gay politicians won elections to public office.
Universities were establishing gay and lesbian studies programs.
And laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual preference were making slow, halting progress at the local level.
But gay liberation also produced a powerful backlash.
By the early 1970s, the public and private achievements of the women’s movement were already substantial.
Women were also becoming an important force in business and the professions.
Nearly half of all married women held jobs by the mid-1970s, and almost 90 percent of all women with college degrees worked.
In professional athletics, women were beginning to compete with men both for attention and for an equal share of prize money.
By the late 1970s, the federal government was pressuring colleges and universities to provide women with athletic programs equal to those available to men.
In 1972, Congress approved the Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution, which some feminists had been promoting since the 1920s, and sent it to the states.
For a while, ratification seemed almost certain.
Until the mid-twentieth century, most people who considered themselves environmentalists (or, to use the traditional term, conservationists) based their commitment on aesthetic or moral grounds: they wanted to preserve nature because it was too beautiful to despoil, or because it was a mark of divinity on the world.
In the course of the twentieth century, however, scientists in the United States and other nations—drawing from earlier, relatively obscure scientific writings—began to create a new rationale for environmentalism.
They called it “ecology.” Ecology is the science of the interrelatedness of the natural world.
It rests on an assumption—as the American zoologist Stephen A. Forbes wrote as early as 1880— that “primeval nature… presents a settled harmony of interaction among organic groups,” and that this harmony “is in strong contrast with the many serious maladjustments of plants and animals found in countries occupied by man.”
Such problems as air and water pollution, the destruction of forests, the extinction of species, and toxic wastes are not, ecology teaches, separate, isolated problems.
All elements of the earth’s environment are intimately and delicately linked. Damaging any one of those elements, therefore, risks damaging all the others, the science of ecology was spreading widely in the scientific community. Among the findings of ecologists were such now-common ideas as the “food chain,” the “ecosystem,” “biodiversity,” and “endangered species.”
The science of ecology was spreading widely in the scientific community. Among the fi ndings of ecologists were such now-common ideas as the “food chain,” the “ecosystem,” “biodiversity,” and “endangered species.”
Between 1945 and 1960, the number of ecologists in the United States grew rapidly, and that number doubled again between 1960 and 1970.