chapter  9
18 Pages

Ball of Confusion: Public Health, African Americans, and Earth Day 1970

Despite altruistic eorts to unite the various progressive movements that survived the 1960s, the civil rights movement and the environmental movement eyed each other with some trepidation as they entered the 1970s. On 22 April 1970, the rst Earth Day became a watershed celebration for the newly emergent environmental movement and a “rousing success” that included over 20 million participants nationwide. It was a movement that would dramatically change the way most Americans lived and did business into the new millennium. But Earth Day was also a call to action to protect a planet whose industrial and exploitative practices were spiraling desperately out of control. is notion was captured elsewhere as well. Two weeks a er Earth Day, on 7 May 1970-a week a er President Richard Nixon had announced that the United States would send troops into Cambodia, and a few short days a er four students had been killed at Kent State University-Motown, the foremost African American recording studio, released the Temptations’ song, “Ball of Confusion, at’s What the World is Today.” With lyrics such as “Segregation, determination, demonstration, integration/Aggravation, humiliation, obligation to our nation,” it became an immediate hit, reaching #2 on the R&B charts and #3 on the pop charts, in large part because it aptly captured the tension and confusion in American society that had

grown from the numerous and ever-evolving cultural, political, and social revolutions. at the world was a ball of confusion struck a chord with many Americans, but the song and its lyrics were more eective at drawing immediate connections between the various social movements that sought to remedy the situation.