US activism, the Revolutionary War and the 60’s

In the US, activism is defined by with two time periods: the Revolutionary War period and the 60’s. In the build up to the Revolutionary War, colonists illustrated activism by protesting against the actions of their mother country. This was done using propaganda, boycotts and specific demonstrative events such as the Boston Tea Party. In comparison, in the 60’s there were a multitude of different protest movements including but not limited to, the protests against the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights Protests which included protests against injustice based on race, gender and disability.

Activism in these two time periods are particularly notable because of their impact on the US. Following the Revolutionary War and the acts of activism that took place during the war, the Constitution was written with the First Amendment specifically being written to protest citizen’s right to protest and voice their displeasure with the government. This Amendment has been evoked multiple times in US history and is what allowed the activism in the 1960’s to take place. The activism that took place in this time period is particularly notable due to the role of media. As discussed in class, photographs and TV allowed others to see what the protests were like, including how they sometimes descended into violence. Furthermore, the activism in the 60’s were impactful because the methods used to protest set a precedent for today. People often protested by participating in sit ins and marches, gathering to support and listen to notable speakers. These shows of activism occurred across the country, allowing the activism in the time period to exist on a large scale. As illustrated by the current acts of activism, these large scale demonstrations occurring across the country still happens today.

Overall, the while the Revolutionary War period made activism legal and began to normalize it, it was the 60’s that finished normalizing activism and provided precedents for acts of activism. In this way, these two time periods defined activism in the US.


  1. Interesting blog post on the historical emergence of US activism. You mention protests against the Vietnam War – this makes me wonder in what ways anti-Vietnam war protests were similar or different in the USA and in Europe …

  2. Hi Shelby! I find your divisions of Activism in the U.S. into two time periods interesting because it allows us to see what has changed and what continues to be a problem even now. The fact that this country was founded in opposition to an unfair and unequal regime is important to note because the United States has, to a large extent, become that unfair and discriminatory regime.

  3. It’s very interesting to compare such different time periods and find the commonalities between activism among them! Looking at America’s intimate history with activism shows a lot about how it takes shape today. However, while activism has been a part of America since the Revolutionary War period I’d push back on saying activism has been normalized in the US. The current Blak Lives Matter protests have illustrated to me that activism is seen as a very political act and criticized for being divisive. I’d love to further explore how activism has, or hasn’t, been normalized through historical protests!

  4. How do you think the 2020s will affect Americans relationship with activism? I feel like this year is only the start of a decade of change; we see that as we go back to normal, a lot of people are pushing back and saying that normal was the problem. To me, the combination of crises has ignited a movement that is fed up with what America currently represents.

  5. Julia Carnine

    June 24, 2020 at 4:25 am

    It seems your course with Prof Love on Social Movements offered you a good background on US activism and you make key arguments here about how that came to be. The question here was to compare this knowledge with the few examples given in Europe regarding 1968 and satire, could you say more on that?

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