American Pastoral Historical Context

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Race Riots in the Sixties

The 1960s was a period of great upheaval in American society. The civil rights movement made solid gains and forced people in the United States to confront centuries of racism and discrimination against African Americans. The landmark Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964. In the later part of the decade, the nonviolence advocated by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave way to more militant approaches to confronting racism favored by groups such as the Black Panthers. In 1966, there were race riots in the Watts area of Los Angeles, and in June 1967, serious riots broke out in Newark, New Jersey, as described in American Pastoral. At the time, Newark was a city in which the white population had shrunk by more than one-third since the 1950s. By 1966, blacks found themselves in the majority, but power and influence in the city remained in white hands...

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