Activism in America: the Past, Present, and Future of Change in Society

By: JoAnn Snavely


In 1841, women all over the country protested for women’s suffrage; since then, people all over the world have decided to take a stand for what they believe in. Today, activism has taken over a major part of our pop culture, with millions of people making changes for the better in the world that they live. People are finding their cause and becoming their own activists. Activism comes in many forms: it can be protesting, signing petitions, attending marches, or it can even be as simple as using a social media platform to bring awareness to injustice. Activism is the future of change and will always play a big role in spreading human beliefs. Why is activism such a prominent way to spread ideas, and what exactly has activism changed? Who has played a major role in making these changes, and why has activism had such exponential growth in pop culture today?


Ever since women finally earned the right to vote in 1921, activism has played a role in almost every political or societal change. People have finally begun to speak up about some of the world’s most pressing issues. The 1950s acted as the catalyst for activism with the civil rights movement. People like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. took a stand for the people who couldn’t be their own advocate; MLK Jr. is one of the most recognizable activists– he helped give African Americans the basic human rights that they deserved. The civil rights movement was truly the start of activism in America and even the world. It is a movement that has evolved, but unfortunately, is still very prevalent today. Another famous movement is the “hippie” movement; the hippie movement was essentially a massive movement for peace in the world, in the summer of 1969, the Woodstock music festival was held in Bethel, New York. What seemed like a free-for-all of young kids doing drugs and listening to music was actually a peace movement to prove to everyone that these young adults were more than a bunch of kids, that they could go three days with total peace. The hippie movement was started during the Vietnam War, a generation of kids born after the second world war had witnessed what the war had done to many of their parents and the people who played a role in raising them. When the Vietnam war had started, baby boomers were tired of all the fighting and protested against it because they viewed the war as unnecessary to the United States. They were labeled as hippies and held activism marches and events such as Woodstock to make a change for a more peaceful world. Since then, there have been many movements to make the changes required to have a better, happier world. People have become more vocal about the changes that need to be made. Today, many movements have been set afoot such as: the MeToo movement, global warming, anti-terrorism, Pro-life/ Pro-choice, gun control/gun rights, Black Lives Matter, and many more. 


Throughout time there have been many activists who have helped shape today’s society. Nowadays it seems to be the youth who are bringing the proper attention to the injustices in the world. Today people like Greta Thunberg are changing the world. Greta is just 17 years old and is known globally for her passion for ending global warming; she first made headlines in 2018 for striking outside of her school in Sweden. 2 years later she is the face of the global warming movement. Another activist is Nelson Mandela; Mandela was a South African who fought for civil rights across the world. He served 27 years in prison for his cause- that’s brave. Today more and more people are joining different social movements because they want to be heard. The 70s was the start of activism in pop culture. For many when you think about the 70s, it is common to think of people protesting because that is something that had been borne into the pop culture movement of the 70s. Since it has become a part of today’s pop culture, celebrities have begun to use their platforms to spread awareness. The Maleficent actress, Angelina Jolie, is a proud U.N. refugee campaigner. Leonardo Dicaprio is also a known global warming activist–he’s even started a foundation to protect our oceans. People all over the world are beginning to change the world they live in, using activism as their platform.


Over the past 6 months after George Floyd was killed by four officers in Minneapolis, a social movement titled the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement has since resurfaced with protests all over the country with overflowing amounts of support towards police brutality and systematic racism. Black Lives Matter was started in 2013 after George Zimmerman’s innocent verdict for the deadly shooting of young Trayvon Martin. Since the killing of Floyd in May, over 1,700,000 people have signed petitions demanding the arrest of the killers of George Floyd. The protests haven’t ended since Floyd’s murderers were detained, people are now working towards getting justice for other victims of police brutality; Breonna Taylor was an EMT who was killed while she was asleep at home. She was shot while unarmed. Atatiana Jefferson was shot at home in front of her 8-year-old daughter because a neighbor made a call reporting her door was left open. There are many other innocent lives that were taken by police officers. Black Lives Matter, which has become very politicized is just a movement for racial justice and equality. 

Activism has always existed and will always exist, one could say that people are tired of being oppressed and are trying to speak out against all the injustices of the world. Today, activism is so widespread and comes in many forms, any injustice today can be addressed. In an ever-changing society, humans are trying to make life just a little bit sweeter. People will always be oppressed. That’s just the way the world works, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make a change for a world you want to live in

Want to make a change? Visit some of these links below:


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