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patterns of ink

How fruitless to be ever thinking yet never embrace a thought... to have the power to believe and believe it's all for naught. I, too, have reckoned time and truth (content to wonder if not think) in metaphors and meaning and endless patterns of ink. Perhaps a few may find their way to the world where others live, sharing not just thoughts I've gathered but those I wish to give. Tom Kapanka

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Christmas 1964 Prologue Part 3

Far more than music made 1964 "the toppling point of a cultural shift" (as mentioned above). This same year marked the peak of the Civil Rights Movement and the years of tension that followed; it saw the first of many "campus protests." We were in a stare-down with Russia in both a space race and a "Cold War" nuclear arms build-up, but the most controversial military action was President Johnson's 1964 deployment of thousands of American troops to Viet Nam. The icing on this complex cake, and very related to all the ingredients, was the self-described "Hippie movement." Are you beginning to get the picture?

Music did not cause the attitude shift in the mid-sixties--it merely reflected the cultural convulsions of the time.

On this day, December 10, 1964, Martin Luther King Jr. was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

At that time in my life, I don't recall having heard the name Martin Luther King Jr. Kids don't watch the news; they pay attention only to what affects them; so the fact that my peers and I were oblivious to the Civil Rights Movement innocently sums up the simmering frustrations that were about to boil over.

I missed the news of King's Nobel Prize on this day (probably because I was still recovering from the shock of seeing a drunk Santa behind Federals and was looking forward to going downtown to Hudson's), but the images and words of this man's life would soon be imortalized in ways none but the most hateful would wish.

His best known speech had been delivered on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial a few months before Kennedy's assassination. The summer after this speech, President Johnson signed into law the Civil Rights Act on July 2, 1964.

Martin Luther King "I Have a Dream"

(Click on both the center arrow and the lower-left arrow.)
Click here to hear the full 17-minute speech. If you have any doubt how some of those cultural changes looked, watch the opening footage of the longer "I have a Dream" link. Notice the appearance of the demonstrators who came to Washington that day. Knee-length cotton dresses, dress slacks, coats and ties, etc. I'm not implying that there is morality in "outward appearance"--only pointing out cultural norms. If you compare the dress code of the Civil Rights era to that of the Viet Nam protesters a few years later, you'll see why some thought that the fabric of America was unraveling. Ironically, the uniformity of non-conformity became a uniform all its own.

The ideals of the Civil Rights Movement are now etched in our national conscience (as is the observance of Martin Luther King Day), but like most legitimate causes, these events picked off many scabs before they led to healing. The social stress made it an interesting time to live in Detroit, a city that was about to become famous for two things other than cars: the first was Motown...and the second I'll talk about later.

It's a well supported local fact that right there at the Hudson's where my family enjoyed the magic of Christmas, worked a clerk who was about to be discovered by Motown Records. Her name was Diana Ross. Click here to watch her perform with The Supremes in 1964.

We'll look at Detroit's more serious mid-sixties issues in the next post.
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