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Late 20th Century Political & Social Changes

The 1960's and early 1970s were a time of political turmoil in the country. The United States was entangled in an ill-advised war in Vietnam. As the war progressed, sentiments against our involvement grew. There were anti-war protests on several college campuses. A student union fire at Kansas University in 1970 was linked to those protests. The civil rights movement also gained momentum during the 1960's. The United States Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and 1965, which were intended to provide equal opportunities for African Americans.

Women also began to call for greater political and social rights during the 1960s and 1970s. Women who had worked in the civil rights movement became increasingly political and most aware of their own issues and problems. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 included Title VII. It prevented discrimination on the basis of sex. Even so, women found that federal laws did not always change societyís views or practices. Because women were still discriminated against, many of them began to organize and to fight for their rights. In 1972, Kansas ratified the Equal Rights Amendment to the United States Constitution. In 1991, Kansans elected Joan Finney as its first woman governor.

Two senators from Kansas who achieved national prominence in the late 1900s were Republican Senators Nancy Landon Kassebaum and Bob Dole. Senator Kassebaum was the daughter of a former governor, Alf Landon. She was the first woman to be elected Senator who was not a widow of a former Senator. Senator Dole was one of the most influential members of the Senate during his time in office as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee and as Senate Majority and Minority Leader. He was selected as the presidential candidate for the Republican party in the 1996 election,  but lost to the Democrat nominee, Bill Clinton. Kassebaum and Dole both retired from the Senate in 1996.

Bob Dole and his wife, Elizabeth at the 1996 Republican Convention.

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) created an economic crisis in the United States because of its monopoly on international oil sales in the mid 1970s. Because the United States helped the Israelis in the Israeli-Arab War of 1973, OPEC quit supplying the United States with oil. OPECís actions created chaos in the overall economy. Like the rest of the United States, Kansas saw high inflation and recession at the same time. Interest rates soared and Kansas industries and consumers experienced difficult times. Farmers were hit particularly hard by the high interest rates and economic recession. In the late 1970s, many Kansas farmers joined American Agricultural Movement and participated in marches, known as tractorcades, and farm strikes

During the late 1900s, the population in Kansas increased moderately. By 1990, the population in Kansas was approaching 2.5 million. The growth in population was concentrated in the large metropolitan areas, particularly in Johnson County, which is part of the Kansas City metro area. Population in the rural areas and small towns continued to decline.

Additional Resources

bulletVisit the National Civil Rights Museum
bulletSee some historic sights of the Civil Rights Movement.
bulletLearn more about the Vietnam War.
bulletVisit the Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics.

Study Guide Questions

  1. Who was Nancy Landon Kassebaum?
  2. Who was Bob Dole?
  3. What was the Kansas economy like during the 1970s?
  4. Where was population growth the greatest in Kansas during the late 1900s?

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