37 1980’s: Reagan and Domestic Considerations


In 1984, President Ronald Reagan was running for reelection. His campaign released possibly one of the most memorable, powerful political ads of the 20th century (maybe only second to the Daisy Girl ad). Actually called “Prouder, Stronger, Better,” the commonly known name was “Morning in America” due to the tagline “It’s morning again in America.” The exceptionally upbeat ad, shows people going to work, moving into newly purchased homes, getting married, and raising the American flag. The ad claims the upswing in the economy (since 1980) was based on Reagan’s economic policies. “It’s morning again in America” suggests a bright beginning for all. But was that the case? Was the country, under the Reagan administration, accurately reflected in that famous commercial? This chapter examines domestic issues of the 1980s.

Reaganomics, President Reagan’s economic strategy, consisted of four parts: 1) Cut government spending; 2) lower taxes; 3) lower inflation through the Federal Reserve; and, 4) cut government regulations. He supported what was known as trickle-down economics, which failed during the Gilded Age and under President Hoover during the start of the Great Depression. Reagan said, like most Republicans, he supported supply-side economics and free trade, but what he really meant was that he supported regulations and policies that helped certain segments of the economy (such as utilities and farmers).


“Many politicians, including Republicans, were wary of Reagan’s economic program; even his eventual vice president, George H. W. Bush, had referred to it as “voodoo economics” when competing with him for the Republican presidential nomination. When Reagan proposed a 30 percent cut in taxes to be phased in over his first term in office, Congress balked. Opponents argued that the tax cuts would benefit the rich and not the poor, who needed help the most. In response, Reagan presented his plan directly to the people . . . Reagan was successful at cutting taxes, but he failed to reduce government spending. Although he had long warned about the dangers of big government, he created a new cabinet-level agency, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the number of federal employees increased during his time in office. He allocated a smaller share of the federal budget to antipoverty programs like Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), food stamps, rent subsidies, job training programs, and Medicaid, but Social Security and Medicare entitlements, from which his supporters benefited, were left largely untouched except for an increase in payroll taxes to pay for them. Indeed, in 1983, Reagan agreed to a compromise with the Democrats in Congress on a $165 billion injection of funds to save Social Security, which included this payroll tax increase.”[1]

There was a joke going around when I was in high school (about 1981) that to save money on the school lunch program, Reagan wanted to reclassify ketchup as a vegetable. “There is not one official government position on such things as “ketchup is a vegetable.” Basically, different agencies might define a certain food a certain way for their own purposes. In this case, the USDA was proposing these changes as part of its subsidized school lunch program, where school lunch programs could receive funds for each lunch they served, as long as they met nutritional standards. After the cuts were made to child nutrition funding, the USDA was mandated to change the standards in a way that would enable school lunch programs to save money while still meeting nutrition needs. Whatever the reasoning behind these dubious efforts, Ronald Reagan had nothing to do with them, and nor did his predecessor Jimmy Carter. The idea that any President would push for ketchup to be called a vegetable seems a bit out there, doesn’t it?”[2] And some 40 years later my mom still jokingly refers to ketchup as Reagan’s vegetable whenever she brings out the bottle of ketchup.

Illustration by Slug Signorino

Anyhow, Reagan’s promise of a balanced budget and reduced government spending did not keep up with the realities of increased spending and less money filling the federal coffers. “Reagan’s economic policymakers succeeded in breaking the cycle of stagflation that had been plaguing the nation, but at significant cost. In its effort to curb high inflation with dramatically increased interest rates, the Federal Reserve also triggered a deep recession. Inflation did drop, but borrowing became expensive and consumers spent less. In Reagan’s first years in office, bankruptcies increased and unemployment reached about 10 percent, its highest level since the Great Depression. Homelessness became a significant problem in cities, a fact the president made light of by suggesting that the press exaggerated the problem and that many homeless people chose to live on the streets. Economic growth resumed in 1983 and gross domestic product grew at an average of 4.5 percent during the rest of his presidency. By the end of Reagan’s second term in office, unemployment had dropped to about 5.3 percent, but the nation was nearly $3 trillion in debt. An increase in defense spending coupled with $3.6 billion in tax relief for the 162,000 American families with incomes of $200,000 or more made a balanced budget, one of the president’s campaign promises in 1980, impossible to achieve.”[3] Between the increased spending, lower taxes, and the Federal Reserve raising interest rates, the country fell into a recession -The Reagan Recession. The budget deficit increased over $30 billion from when President Carter left office, unemployment was at 11%, and Reagan’s approval rating fell to 35% as he seemingly was picketed wherever he went.[4]

President Ronald Reagan and Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill (D), 1982. PHOTOGRAPH BY DIANA WALKER / TIME & LIFE PICTURES / GETTY

For ten years (1977-1987) Rep. Thomas “Tip” O’Neill (D-Mass) was the Speaker of the House. Reagan and O’Neill’s relationship ran hot and cold. At times they demonized each other in the public. But privately, they seemed to get along:

Reagan set aside a significant amount of time to woo the speaker. A December 1981 lunch at the White House for O’Neill’s 69th birthday continued well into the afternoon. Both Irishmen, O’Neill and Reagan loved to swap old stories. Reagan, never a heavy drinker because of his dad’s alcoholism, ordered up a bottle of champagne.

“Tip, if I had a ticket to heaven and you didn’t have one too, I would give mine away and go to hell with you,” Reagan said, repeating an old Irish toast.

They walked out with their arms around each other’s waist. Then O’Neill went on the South Lawn and criticized the administration.[5]

Reagan wanted a major increase in military spending (10%) in addition to the pillars of Reaganomics. O’Neill wanted to protect Social Security and other entitlements. They really needed each other and in the end, they did work together. “they announced an agreement that formed the basis of the Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 1982, which increased tax revenues by about one per cent of G.D.P. Reagan and O’Neill also set up a bipartisan commission on Social Security, and the following year they both endorsed a set of reforms that put the finances of the public retirement system on a firmer footing. (The agreement delayed a cost-of-living adjustment and raised the retirement age. It also increased contributions and cut benefits for future retirees.)”[6]


John Hinckley Jr. wanted to gain the attention of Jodie Foster, a Hollywood star with who Hinckley was enamored. So he did:

“As Congress debated Reagan’s tax and budget proposals—their passage still in doubt—tragedy nearly struck. After a speech at a Washington, D.C., hotel on March 30, John Hinckley Jr., a loner afflicted with mental problems, fired several shots at the President, one of which hit Reagan in the chest. At first, Reagan did not realize he had been shot and thought his ribs had been broken when he was hurled into the presidential limousine. (Reagan’s press secretary, James Brady, was permanently injured with a bullet to the brain; a Secret Service agent and District police officer were also wounded.) Secret Service agents diverted the presidential limousine that was en route to the White House to a hospital, a move that probably saved Reagan’s life. Reagan, gasping for breath but ever the trouper, walked into the hospital, then collapsed. Later he won the plaudits of the nation when his jokes on the operating table were relayed to the public, including a quip to an anxious Nancy Reagan, “Honey, I forgot to duck.” On the operating table, Reagan told the doctors he hoped they were all Republicans. The doctors appreciated Reagan’s humor, but they were not laughing. The bullet had missed Reagan’s heart by less than an inch.”[7]

Damaris Morris examines the assassination attempt of President Ronald Reagan, , the effects of this assassination attempt, and how it changed the president.[8] On March 30, 1981, while leaving a speaking engagement at the Washington Hilton hotel, President Reagan and three others were shot and wounded by John Hinckley. Hinckley was obsessed with Jodie Foster from the movie Taxi Driver he watched over a dozen times and had attempted to reenact the events of the film in his own life hoping it would get Ms. Foster’s attention and that it did.

President Reagan was shot in the left lung, White House Press Secretary James Brady was shot in the head and critically wounded, Secret Service agent Timothy McCarty was shot in the side, and District of Columbia policeman Thomas Delahanty was shot in the neck. President Reagan was rushed to George Washington University Hospital and quickly went into surgery. Two hours later he was listed in condition and stabled. “The victims of the assassination attempt Timothy McCarty and Thomas Delahanty eventually recovered, on the other hand, James Brady who nearly died suffered permanent brain damage.”[9] On April 11, President Reagan returned to the White House.

John Hinckley was taken to trial and found not guilty by reason of mental insanity and he was committed to a Washington’s-area mental facility. “Since the attempt of Reagan’s life, magnetometers have been a more regular feature at the presidential outings. People are no longer to get so close without being scanned.”[10] Also rigorous training for members of the presidential security at the Secret Service Facility. “You wonder how the hell you respond that fast,” Shaddick says. The training makes it “almost instinctive.” If Parr and Shaddick had been even a second slower reacting to the attack, Reagan’s skull probably would have been struck, Wilber says.”[11]

The attempted assassination perhaps gave him a temporary boost. Reagan’s near-death experience change his outlook on the Cold War. “In 1987, Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev signed the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty, which pledges to destroy a whole class of nuclear weapons-making it the first true arm reduction agreement.”[12] These assassination attempts also led to the signing of the Brady bill. Named after the press secretary James Brady who served Ronald Reagan during the assassination attempt and was critically injured. In 1987, gun control legislation succeeded in getting a bill introduced to congress with Brady being a leading proponent.




Reagan said the US did not have a homeless problem. He said they voluntarily lived that way, that they were “campers” in what others called “Reagan Ranches.” Hoover had his Hoovervilles. Regan had his Reagan Ranches. Then there was the Stewart B McKinney Homeless Assistance Act. That law provided federal money for homeless shelters -the first of its kind. And Reagan signed the Act into law in 1987. The Act, in its original form, contained numerous mechanisms and strategies for dealing with the homeless crisis of the mid-80s to include immediate and long-term assistance. However, leaving only the “Emergency Shelter Grant program and transitional housing demonstration program; both programs were administered by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).”[13]

Issues of New York magazine from December 21, 1981, and August 29, 1988.

From the New York Magazine:

August 29, 1988 | … To frustration.

Seven years later, middle-class New Yorkers were beginning to lose patience with the relentless panhandling.

A large man entered the McDonald’s on Broadway near 96th Street, wearing a red Marlboro cap over a rolled purple hand towel, a blue warm-up jacket, sweatpants, and blue Velcro-flap Nikes. He carried a golf club in one hand and moved edgily from table to table, opening the tops of burger containers, looking for scraps. A woman moved past him toward a trash can, and the man gestured with his club at an unfinished sandwich on her tray.

“Done with that?” he asked.

The woman looked at him with an expression of unalloyed terror, handed over the sandwich, put down her tray, and walked out the door, her high heels clattering on the tile floor.

The man sat down, ate the sandwich, and started asking people for money. More than one looked at him, looked at the golf club, and came up with some change.

“My name is Peter,” he told me. “I’m from Hartford, but I ran away from home three years ago. I couldn’t get along with my father. I thought I’d come to New York and get a job in a factory or maybe a McDonald’s. I filled out lots of applications, but they never called. Now I’m 21, and I live in a shelter in Queens. I guess you could say I’ve given up.

“I don’t beg on the street much, ’cause there’s too much competition. I work the subways. Three months ago, I saw this McDonald’s, thought I’d try my luck. At least it’s out of the heat. Now I come in almost every day, make $2 or $3 and something to eat. They don’t seem to mind.

“I found this golf club on the street a week ago. I carry it so people won’t f— with me — there’s a lot of crazy people in this city, you know that? But since I been carrying it, people give me more money. I don’t threaten nobody” — his eyes, the color of some exotic ceramic glaze, tried for a sincere look — “but they seem more generous now.” He broke into a wicked smile.

“Now that I’ve made a little, I gotta go see a friend of mine, lives in Queens. He’s got his own place, got a good job.”

I asked what his friend did.

“What’s he do? He deals … in computers.”

I asked him if he smoked crack.

“I can’t afford crack. I’m homeless.” He laughed and went out the door. —Eric Pooley[14]


“Welfare Queen”


The Social Security Act of 1935 established Aid to Families with Dependent Children. The Social Security Act excluded agricultural workers and domestics (which relied heavily on Black laborers) so welfare or AFDC might have filled that hole. Except initially, it did not. Quickly 80% of recipients were white families. Yet in the media, it was black families who were more likely to be portrayed as welfare recipients: “In 1964, only 27 percent of the photos accompanying stories about poverty in three of the country’s top weekly news magazines featured black subjects; the following year, it rose to 49 percent. By 1967, 72 percent of photos accompanying stories about poverty featured black Americans.”[15]

In 1976, while running against President Ford for the Republican nomination, Reagan gave his first “welfare queen” speech. He reported on the campaign trail in New Hampshire “There’s a woman in Chicago, she has 80 names, 30 addresses, 12 Social Security cards and is collecting veterans’ benefits on four nonexisting deceased husbands. And she’s collecting Social Security on her cards. She’s got Medicaid, getting food stamps and she is collecting welfare under each of her names. Her tax‐free cash income alone is over $150,000.”[16] At the time of Reagan’s report, there was a woman in Chicago, Linda Taylor, who was charged with fraud, but only used four aliases (not 80), and had received $3,000 illegally not $150,000. Taylor had not gone to trial when Reagan made his attacks against Taylor, who was Black.

His first year in office, Reagan’s budget cut AFDC and added a work requirement so poor parents would have to find jobs in order to obtain federal support for their children. Here were some effects:

“President Reagan’s welfare cuts for working mothers forced many poor families deeper into poverty, according to a study of 207 Georgia welfare families funded by the Ford Foundation and released [in 1984] by the Center for the Study of Social Policy.

Center director Tom Joe, a welfare official in the Nixon administration, said the 207 families consisted of single mothers who had been working but receiving some benefits under the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program, plus food stamps and Medicaid.

Before the 1981 AFDC changes enacted by Congress at Reagan’s request, Joe said, the average family included in the study received $609 a month from earnings, AFDC and food stamps.

The immediate effect of the changes was that families lost their welfare payments, averaging $64 a month. While their food-stamp benefits went up $9 a month, they were left with $554 net. They also lost Medicaid eligibility.”[17]

States began to set up welfare-to-work programs to try to get people off welfare. States might have been influenced by the sociologist Charles Murray and his book Losing Ground, which argued that welfare trapped people in a lifetime of welfare and poverty. Get rid of welfare. Get rid of poverty, Murray argued. Akin to what happened in the summer of 2021 when Republican governors stopped paying increased unemployment benefits arguing that the benefits were so high they discouraged people from working, Stop the benefits, and people would return to work. Republican governors, like Abbott in Texas, did stop the unemployment benefits, however, those people did not return to work.


Reagan won out. By the end of his presidency, “64 percent of Americans felt that ‘welfare benefits make poor people dependent and encourage them to stay poor,’ shoring up the political support for reform.”[18]

So some 40 states in the 80s set up these programs and so the federal government followed suit when Congress established the Orwellian named “Family Support Act” of 1988 mandated that all states implement a welfare-to-work program by 1990, effectively setting the stage for ending welfare as we knew it under President Clinton and the Republican-controlled Congress.[19]


Moral Majority (to be added)


Women and Law/Government

Sandra Day O’Connor’s significance was not that she was the first woman on the Supreme Court. While in fact, she was, more so she was appointed by the conservative President Ronald Reagan and so there was the belief that Justice O’Connor would rule with the other conservative justices. However, as time went on, Justice O’Connor became the swing vote on more and more issues such as these three important decisions[20]

Grutter v. Bollinger (2003) affirmed the right of state colleges and universities to use affirmative action in their admissions policies to increase educational opportunities for minorities and promote racial diversity on campus.

Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992) broke with Chief Justice Rehnquist and other opponents of a woman’s right to choose as part of a 5-4 majority in affirming Roe v. Wade.

Lee v. Weisman (1992) continued the tradition of government neutrality toward religion, finding that government-sponsored prayer is unacceptable at graduations and other public school events.

A First for Women[21]

The appointment of Sandra Day O’Connor to the Supreme Court in 1981 by President Ronald Reagan, resulted in one of the greatest milestones for the feminist movement in the twentieth century.  During the 1980 presidential elections, Ronald Reagan did not have the female popular vote as women were against him.  During his campaign, Ronald Reagan promised to appoint a female to the United States Supreme Court since he felt that would help obtain more female votes.[22] In March of 1981, an attempt on the life of Ronald Reagan was made by John Hinkley Jr., a lunatic man who believed this act would impress actress Jodi Foster, however, this did not deter President Reagan from moving forward with his plans.[23]

Sandra Day O’Connor spent her childhood between El Paso, Texas, and her family’s Lazy B Ranch in Southeastern Arizona.[24]  She attended Stanford Law School, where she dated William Rehnquist for a brief time before marrying her husband John O’Connor who also attended Stanford Law School.[25]  After graduating from Stanford Law School Sandra Day O’Connor had trouble landing a job as an attorney because in the 1950s law firms did not hire women.[26]  The only job offer she received was as a legal secretary at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher Law Firm, where one of the partners was William French Smith.[27]  Nevertheless, Sandra Day O’Connor declined the secretarial job and took a job as a deputy county attorney job for San Mateo, California.[28]  In 1953, Sandra Day O’Connor moved to West Germany to be with her husband John, who had been drafted by the United States Army as a judge.[29] After returning to Phoenix, Arizona 1957, she started a private law firm and in 1965, later she was elected assistant attorney general for the state of Arizona.[30]  During her time in Phoenix, she became acquainted with Chief Justice Warren Burger and built a friendship with his family.[31]  As her career progressed, she served as the Arizona State Senator, a Superior Court Judge of Maricopa, and soon after an Appellate Court Judge for the Arizona Court of Appeals.[32]

On June 25, 1981, Sandra Day O’Connor received a formal invitation to interview by then-Attorney General William French Smith, unbeknownst to her, she was being considered for the Supreme Court.[33]  Her interview with William French Smith on June 30, 1981, went well and on July 1, 1981, she found herself in the oval office meeting with President Ronald Reagan.[34]  The meeting with Ronald Reagan proved to be successful as she was confirmed as a US Supreme Court Justice on September 25, 1981, when she was sworn in by Chief Justice Warren Burger.[35]

The nomination of Sandra Day O’Connor into the Supreme Court is one of the most important and historical events of 1981. The fact that females had to wait 191 years to be afforded the opportunity to join the Supreme Court is an indication of how slow we have progressed as a country.  Sandra Day O’Conner gave women legal and social status and opened the door to the beginning of the fight for equality.  Perhaps it takes a woman to really appreciate the meaning of this paramount nomination.

The Visionary Barbara Jordan[36]

In the 1980s, Barbara Jordan was teaching ethics at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at UT-Austin. Interestingly, she was not able to attend UT as a student due to segregation laws when she was younger. In 1984 she was inducted into the Texas Women’s Hall of Fame. Who was Barbara Jordan?

She a woman in a man’s world, or an African woman in a world filled with powerful white men at a time when it was nearly impossible for women to even be seen as equals. The only thing she had in common was she had a passion for politics. This incredible person was the legendary Barbara Jordan. This paper delivers Barbara Jordan’s emotional journey to becoming the first southern female African American Congresswoman to set the way for a new outlook on politics. This paper will take you through her mesmerizing story from her early childhood to her involvement in the impeachment of President Nixon. Clearly, she was ahead of her time.

Barbara Jordan was born on February 21, 1936, in Houston Texas. She was raised by her mother, Arlyne Patten Jordan, and her father the Reverend Benjamin Meredith Jordan. Her parents met at the Good Hope Missionary Baptist Church.  Both her parents started working at that church but eventually, her father decided to get his own church started called Greater Pleasant Hill Baptist Church in the greater Heights. Her mother was a strong speaker in the church community as well as a humble teacher too. Over time her mother settled into the role of being a housewife. Barbara Jordan got many of her amazing skills from watching her mother give speeches, and it helped shape her future as a congresswoman.[37]

Barbara Jordan was the youngest of three kids, but that didn’t stop her from being such a spunky and outgoing innovator. Her mind even as a child was strong and her self-esteem even stronger. As a child she recalls her father and grandfather, John Ed Patten, making comments about her being born too dark. Barbara recognized that although she was “different” in the pigmentation of her skin, she was not going to let that draw away from her mind and her personality. In fact, it gave her the strength to build a mature perspective on life that eventually got her to not care about the critics like her father or political opponents.[38] John Ed Patton preached to her his “Gospel of St. John” that put being self-sufficient and not getting sidetracked like everybody else as the goal of a good life.[39] She believed his saying “Just remember the world is not a playground, but a schoolroom. Life is not a holiday, but an education. One eternal lesson for us all: to teach us how better we should love.”[40]

After graduating high school in and from Texas Southern University in Houston, she earned her law degree from Boston University, Barbara wanted to stay in Boston but had trouble getting a job. She decided to return home in 1961. She landed a job teaching a government course at Tuskegee Institution in Alabama. When that was finished, she was able to set up an office on Lyons St. in Houston to practice law. With her sister Bennie recently married, she had a lot of time on her hands.[41] In that time she got interested in politics.

In the early 1960s, African Americans were still struggling for their rights in Houston, trying to implement school desegregation required under the 1956 Supreme Court ruling Brown v Board of Education. Their efforts were opposed by white people in the city and in the state of Texas and the south in general. Racial segregation in Houston made it difficult for African Americans to gain political power and integrate the Houston Independent School District. Barbara’s frustration at the slow pace of progress inspired her to use some of the time she had on her hands in 1961 to get into politics. She had worked with the Harris County Democrats to help elect John F. Kennedy. Through the party, she made political connections and was put on the Harris County Democratic Party’s speech-making circuit. This ignited her desire to run for office. She ran for the Texas House of Representatives in 1962. She lost in the general election to Willis Whatley. In examining her defeat, Jordan wrote, “I thought, all the Harris County Democrats, they had come to teas and coffees in their areas in the southwest part of town, and the people would come to hear me and be very polite. But they didn’t give me their votes. The votes were just not there from these fine white people. That was very puzzling to me and disturbing. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what did happen in that race.”[42]

Jordan ran against Whatley again in 1964 and lost again. She won 97% of the black vote and increased her white vote by 50%, but again white voters dominated, and not enough of them voted for Barbara.[43] Even in the city of Houston, it was extremely difficult for blacks to gain political office.

In 1965 Jordan became assistant to Bill Elliot, a Harris County judge, and in doing so became the first African American to work at Harris County Courthouse in any capacity other than a janitor.[44] Efforts to integrate the Houston schools were still slow, and Barbara became active in pressuring the Houston school board. She was one of the leaders of a group called “PUSH,” People for Upgraded Schools in Houston. The group organized a march and boycott of schools by minority students. These events and the group’s negotiations with the school board helped the Board move to speed up its desegregation efforts. The work with PUSH made Barbara a hero in the Houston African American community.[45]

She decided to run for office again, this time for Texas Senate District 11. Her campaign in 1966 was successful, making her at age 31 the first African American woman elected to the Texas Senate. As she began her new career, Jordan didn’t want to come off as a militant black woman. She is quoted as saying, “I wanted them to know I was coming to be a Senator and I wasn’t coming to lead anything. I was not coming, carrying the flag and singing ‘We Shall Overcome’ I was coming to work…”[46] In the Texas Senate, Barbara was very smart and made a point to work with powerful conservatives in the Senate, like Dorsey Hardaman, as well as the Lieutenant Governor who presided over the Senate. She learned valuable skills to make her an effective lawmaker, which she viewed as a “moral imperative.”[47]

Barbara gained national attention as a black State Senator and advocate for racial equality and labor issues. In 1967, President Lyndon B. Johnson invited her to a meeting of civil rights leaders at the White House to give input on his proposed Fair Housing legislation.[48] Johnson was impressed with her status in the civil rights movement and her success with voters. He appointed her to his Income Maintenance Commission in 1968, which connected her with business leaders, governors, economists, and cabinet secretaries. Back in Austin, Jordan maneuvered her way to the center of a fight between Governor John Connally and Lieutenant Governor Preston Smith. Jordan was an ally of Smith, and her deciding vote advanced Smith’s budget. This earned the praise of none other than arch-conservative Dorsey Hardeman. [49]

In 1968, Jordan was re-elected to the Texas Senate, and Smith was appointed Governor as John Connally had moved on to enter national politics.[50]  In her re-election bid, the National Democratic Party raised money for her, as they saw her as a rising star. Her accomplishments in the Senate include the passage of a $1.25 per hour minimum wage, the first minimum wage passed in Texas. [51]

The expanding population in Houston gave the city a new U.S. Congressional district after the 1970 census. In 1971, Barbara was running for the new seat. Lyndon Johnson, now out of office, was coming to Houston to give a speech at a fundraiser for another politician. Johnson asked Barbara to introduce him at the event. She used this opportunity to ask him to attend a fund-raiser for her, and he did. That event was covered in the New York Times. [52]

Barbara, of course, won her Congressional race and in 1973 became the first African American woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from the South. She came to the House during a rocky period as the Vietnam War was still on, and the House was holding hearings on the Watergate scandal. The impeachment of President Richard M. Nixon would dominate the House in 1974. Barbara delivered an incredible speech that captivated the opening of the House Judiciary Committee hearings on the Articles, saying, “My faith in the Constitution is whole, it is complete, it is total. I’m not going to sit here and an idle spectator to the diminution, the subversion, the destruction of the Constitution.”[53] This gave a clear perspective on where she stood on this matter. She voted for 5 Articles of Impeachment, but Nixon resigned in the summer of 1974 before he could be removed from office. This resulted in Vice President Gerald R. Ford becoming President.[54]

After many years of being under the spotlight of politics, Jordan decided to retire in 1979 due to health complications from multiple sclerosis that led her to be in a wheelchair. Although, she wasn’t working she received much recognition for her amazing efforts during her time in office. Bill Clinton awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1994, the country’s highest civilian honor.[55]

As I reflect back on her Keynote Address at the Democratic National Convention on July 12, 1976, her words still echo in my mind as she said: “We are a people trying not only to solve the problems of the present: unemployment, inflation- but we are attempting on a larger scale to fulfill the promise of America. We are attempting to fulfill our national purpose, to create and sustain a society in which all of us are equal.”[56]

Barbara never failed to deliver a breath-taking speech that made the hair stand up on your arms and your body get goosebumps. Barbara’s audiences were captured by every word she said and every ton she set when delivering her speeches. Her message was loud and clear and I recall thinking, as I was watching her speech, “Why aren’t there more amazing speakers like her today?” Have we failed to keep her legacy alive? Barbara wanted to open people’s eyes and bring a nation together in times when we were lacking the ability to do so for our country. Governing was blinded by lust for power instead of actions to help people, and treat all people equally regardless of color.

I believe Barbara’s efforts were historical yet essential. Her voice wasn’t without being heard as she touched so many hearts. Sadly, her story was cut too short when she died from leukemia and pneumonia on January 17, 1996, at age 59. Her legacy is still remembered as she carved the path for future African American leaders, females, and politicians.

Pop Culture

Michael Jackson really came into his own in the 1980s, but when MTV launched in 1981, the channel was not playing black artists. Supposedly because MTV was a rock and roll platform and there were no black rock and roll performers. That slowly changed and MTV began playing black performers in the middle of the night, the wee small hours of the morning. Then MTV got into trouble when, during an interview, one of their Video Jockeys (Mark Goodman) said “We have to try and do what we think not only New York and Los Angeles will appreciate, but also Poughkeepsie or the Midwest, pick some town in the Midwest that would be scared to death by Prince, which we’re playing, or a string of other black faces.We have to play the type of music the entire country would like.”[57]

Guess what? MTV decides, after some pressure from SONY, Epic, and other labels, to put black performers on prime time. And Michael Jackson’s first album on MTV happened to be Thriller (1982). One year later the Thriller video premiered. That opened the door for other black performers such as Run DMC. Anyhow, Zohya Iqbal looked at Jackson’s Thriller album. Here is what she found:

Jackson’s career was not like any other. From frontman, “frontboy” (10 years old), and chief dancer of the Jackson 5 to stepping out on his own. But he really did not achieve major, worldwide success on his own until 1982.[58]


Thriller was released on November 30, 1982, and won eight Grammy’s. It consisted of songs that were based on topics that were considered taboo during that time. The album was set as an example for conveying meaningful messages through music. According to The Guardian, the Thriller music video “dissolved racial barriers in the station’s treatment of music” and “revolutionized music video production.”[59] In addition to that, the music videos of the songs “Beat It” and “Billie Jean” were the first videos by an African American to be played on MTV. The Thriller music video was premiered on MTV as well. This was a step towards African American singers growing more popular and being appreciated.

“That’s the jelly, that’s what makes me want to dance.” – Michael Jackson on the intro to “Billie Jean.”

The most popular music style in the 1980s was called New Wave. Songs of this genre were a mix of rock music, pop music, and disco music, which was Jackson’s form of music. That era was a big turning point for music and technology like Will Straw said in his article, “music video was one of a number of innovations producing structural changes in the music-related industries during that period,” and “the most important of these transformations was the constitution of a new pop music mainstream in North America in the years 1982-83.”[60] These innovations were introduced through Michael Jackson’s songs and videos. His music was different and had deeper meanings behind it. He was ahead of his time, but at the same time, he wanted everyone else to move forward with him. The progressive era in music these days would not have been possible if Jackson had not been motivated to make a difference.


During the 1980s, it was not typical for an African American man to be the king of something. The American Perspectives book suggests that “all the traditions of our past, all the lessons of our heritage, all the promises of our future point to another path, the path of common purpose and the restoration of American values. That path leads to true freedom for our nation and ourselves.”[61] This explains that the past is helping the future. Jackson making songs without having the fear of being judged has motivated people today to do things that make them happy. He knew that one day African American people would be appreciated in the music industry, and he was right.


To conclude, Michael Jackson played a big part in changing the way music is composed and depicted today. As Matthew Delmont stated in his essay, “Michael Jackson helped to set the terms by which future musical artists would be judged. Jackson helped to make artists’ televisual image inseparable from their music.”[62] He tried to make a change and have equality. Even though society is still in the process of reaching that goal, Jackson gave it a significant push.



The most devastating prison riot in US history was Attica in upstate New York. 1971. 39 dead. A prison in ruin and turmoil. The second worst prison riot in US history, and the worst in the 1980s, took place in New Mexico. What follows examines the causes and events of the New Mexico State Penitentiary riot in 1980, which took place during a presidential election year. President Jimmy Carter (D) was running for reelection against Gov. Ronald Reagan (R) at the time of this riot. Reagan saw himself as a “law and order” guy. In 1967, at USC during something called “Law Day” Reagan said:

“Liberty, without law, without legal safeguards is not and cannot be liberty in the long run. It becomes, instead, license, revolution, and anarchy. It leads, without qualification, to mob rule and from there to the rule of the many by the few. And these in turn establish or disestablish law as they see fit, or ignore the law and rule by fiat or edict. What free men must achieve in order to remain free is a delicate balance wherein some liberty is sacrificed in order that the remainder can be preserved. This cannot be successfully achieved or long maintained unless those who make the laws are answerable to the people and unless the people are willing and able to hold them answerable. We have jealously guarded the concept that ours is a government of laws, not of men. But we must always remember that the laws are written by men, interpreted by men, and changed by men. And those men are judged under the law by the other men.”[63] Three years earlier in what was known as “The speech,” (“A TIme for CHoosing”) Reagan referenced “law and order.” [64] He spoke frequently on law and order.[65] However, I cannot find anything that Reagan said about the prison riot. Maybe that’s a reflection of my research skills. Nevertheless, here is what Aashir Wasti found:

The New Mexico State prison riot is the most brutal and violent in the history of the U.S., lasting two days from (36 hours to be exact) from Feb 2-3 in 1980. The inmates of the prison took 12 officers hostage and beat them, killing 33 other inmates while injuring 200. It is said to have started from the disturbances between the inmates in the late 1970s as before that the prison was calm but had a few successful and unsuccessful escapes. The main reasons were security lapses, overcrowding, conspiracies, undesirable food and recreational services, and the “New Breed.” The administration very commonly left doors and grills open that making the spread of riots very easy. Food was always unsatisfactory, but recreation services like gym or yard became worse during the later years before the riot; Overcrowding of the prison was not uncommon in the early years as it was made to house 950 prisoners but it went up to 1,272 at a point for which the disorder fluctuated. Another reason was a conspiring administrative clique involved in corruption, brutality, arbitrary discipline, and cover-ups with the inmates which most greatly influenced disorder among the prison. Then there came a “New Breed” that was inmates that were violent and hard to control who started entering in 1975 and 1976 which was said to be the major reason for the riot.[66]

The increasing heat from the neglect inside the prison had been stacked up till that one night when some inmates feigned sleep in cell E2 and as three corrections officers made their way through to shut down an adjacent cell, they were struck by the inmates causing the start of the riot. They then dragged an officer with a belt choking them around the neck and taking them hostage while beating them up with brutality. Soon they broke into the observation window and entered the control center and gangs of felons started to break and burn what they could possibly find at the facility; sinks, filing cabinets, toilets, etc. After an hour of the start of the riot, they demanded a meeting with King and the deputy corrections secretary. The negotiation demanded by the inmates was to be separated from first-timers and violent lifers; to bring in federal officials so that no inmates would be retaliated against after the riot, and to be provided with better living conditions that included no harassments from the guards, better food, education, and recreational services as well as no overcrowding. However, the demands were not accepted by the authorities.[67]

Drugs were also becoming common as they were being smuggled inside the prison especially heroin in the later years before the riot. These drugs were controlled by groups of inmates that supplied them to other prisoners.  Some officers also claimed that some prisoners were drunk on the day of the riot as they had fermented stolen yeast and raisins from the kitchen that which would have made their behavior even more violent. They made this their alternative for alcohol consumption in addition to the other drugs available.  But this was also made possible by the corrupt officers and lack of organization in the facility that was raging war between the prisoners which finally burst on the second of February.[68]

Reagan was a “new right” Conservative, which included a focus on law and order (as he saw it).[69] One prime example of Reagan’s interest in reforming the criminal justice system was the 1984 Comprehensive Crime Control Act.

The Comprehensive Crime Control Act[70]

The Comprehensive Crime Control Act was enacted in 1984 after many years of unified efforts targeted towards reforms in criminal justice. The Act provided prosecutors and the courts of law with enough tools to find and convict criminals. Additionally, law enforcement agencies were incentivized since they were allowed to distribute up to 80% of the gain from seizing the assets of criminals amongst themselves. The result was an increased rate of criminal arrests, prosecutions, and convictions. However, the Crime Control Act had its demerits. I will show that the Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984 was an ineffective and unsustainable approach to reforms in the criminal justice process.

Before the 1984 Act was enacted, the government had to prove in court that a defendant acquired their assets illegally. Therefore, it required a lot of evidence, and the courts often failed. However, the Act required the defendant to prove that they did not acquire an asset illegally. The Act established the Department of Justice Assets Forfeiture Fund that retained proceeds from the seized property which would later be shared between marshals and other law enforcement agencies.[71] Consequently, marshals ended up seizing twice the number of assets they seized between 1984 and 1985, worth hundreds of millions of dollars.[72] Conclusively, the uninhibited forfeiture of assets made the government agencies wealthier through the criminal justice process.

The Crime Control Act also prohibited parole for prisoners who would be sentenced after November 1, 1987. Parole is one of the most significant transformations in criminal justice that facilitates reform. Paroles meant a well-behaved prisoner would be able to get a second chance at life earlier than expected. However, the restriction with the parole act prevented change and entrapped inmates in a social structure that is hardly fit for rehabilitation.[73] The parole system was designed to provide inmates with an opportunity and structure to transition into normalcy and productivity.[74] However, the 1984 Criminal Control Act withdrew the parole act as a deterrent to crime. As a result, many inmates could not reap the benefits of parole for years.

The changes in the crime control act led to mass incarceration and overpopulation in prisons. The enacted laws caused a 32% increase in the population of federal prisons. The rapid spike in population reflects the haste in prosecution caused by the allowance provided for prosecutors and law enforcement agencies. In addition, the spike in imprisonment affected an already overwhelmed prison system that handling an excess 42% capacity.[75] The remedy, which was building more prisons, showed a lack of interest in solving the problem of crime from its root cause. Additionally, overpopulation in the prisons made them unsuitable for rehabilitation. Overpopulation in the prisons caused misconduct, poor mental and physical health, and recidivism.[76] Notably, this state of affairs undermined the unsustainable and noble purpose of reforms in criminal justice.

The Comprehensive Crime Control Act undermined true and lasting reforms. It was more anti-crime instead of providing sustainable solutions and ensuring the criminal justice process was fairer and transformative to the community. The Act undermined reforms and proper rehabilitation by building more prisons and overpopulating criminals in other jails. Money and assets seized by marshals was used to upscale their abilities to target other criminals. The government did not invest in rehabilitation centers, education, or addressing social issues that could reduce crime and produce productive members in the community. Instead, it used the Act to instill fear and act as a deterrence to crime.


Ronald Reagan overshadowed the 1980s, only second to the Cold War. Culturally, Michael Jackson reigned supreme. But socially, AIDS was the devil in the city on the hill. Little federal support was forthcoming. Most Americans did not become aware of how widespread the disease was until the 1990s when such famous people started dying of AIDS-related conditions such as Robert Reed (who played Mike Brady on The Brady Bunch) the actor Rock Hudson, and lead singer for Queen Freddie Mercury.  We joked about AIDS when I was in the Army in the 1980s.






In the summer of 1981, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published its first reports describing a rare cancer, Kaposi sarcoma, found in homosexual men living in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York City. In 1982, the CDC began to refer to the disease as AIDS. Since the first AIDS cases were reported in the United States in June 1981, the number of cases and deaths among persons with AIDS increased rapidly during the 1980s followed by substantial declines in new cases and deaths in the late 1990s.[78]

In the early and mid-1980s rumors of a “gay disease” or “gay plague” spread, misrepresenting AIDS as a threat only to homosexual men. Although AIDS is most prevalent among men who have sex with men, HIV may be contracted through blood, semen, pre-ejaculate, vaginal fluids, and breast milk. The greatest impact of the epidemic is among men who have sex with men (MSM) and among racial/ethnic minorities, with increases in the number of cases among women and of cases attributed to heterosexual transmission.[79] Controlling the epidemic requires sustained prevention programs in all of these affected communities, particularly programs targeting MSM, women, and injection drug users.

In the 1980s, fear of HIV/AIDS spread, and discrimination against people living with AIDS was common. The nation was torn between sympathy for the afflicted and fear that the disease might spread in the general population. Gay activists, HIV-positive individuals, and their allies battled job, school, and housing discrimination.

Religious and political conservatives often spoke harshly about individuals with AIDs. Patrick Buchanan, a senior adviser to Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan and a conservative commentator, wrote in 1984 that homosexuals “have declared war upon nature, and now nature is exacting an awful retribution.”[80] In October 1987, during a march on Washington DC for gay rights, a giant AIDS quilt with panels celebrating the lives of people that the disease had claimed was displayed on The National Mall as a memorial to those who had died.

The first congressional hearings were convened on AIDS in 1982, and the next year Congress allocated $12 million for AIDS research and treatment. Within several years, in response to the efforts of gay activists and healthcare professionals, the federal government was committing hundreds of millions of dollars for research, education, care services and treatment.

Activists condemned President Ronald Reagan for his public silence on AIDS during his first term. Thanks to their advocacy, President Reagan issued an executive order in his second term establishing the President’s Commission on the HIV Epidemic and signed legislation that increased federal funding for research and education on HIV/AIDS to 500 million dollars. In 1987, the Food and Drug Administration approved the drug AZT, which inhibits HIV and delays the onset of AIDS. By 1989 Louis Sullivan, the Secretary of Health and Human Services could say: “Today we are witnessing a turning point in the battle to change AIDS from a fatal disease to a treatable one.”[81] More effective antiretroviral drug treatments were discovered in the mid-1990s.

AIDS is by no means history. In the United States alone, there have been 1,651,454 cases and 698,219 deaths from HIV/AIDS between 1980 and 2014. The CDC reports that there are about 50,000 new incidents of HIV infection each year in the United States today. In 2012 about 1.2 million people in the United States were living with HIV.[82] Worldwide it is estimated that 34 million people have died from HIV/AIDS, and the World Health Organization estimates that in 2014 36.9 million people worldwide were living with HIV/AIDS.[83]

The LGBT community responded to homophobia in the AIDS epidemic.[84] In San Francisco at the beginning of the 80’s just as the hippy age was ending the gay community (casual term used at the time) was starting to grow and flourish in the Castro district.[85] This occur because the city picked up the reputation of being more open than other cities, where sexuality was starting to be a more open subject and it became the place to be, especially for gay men.[86] This perception was established when in 1977, Harvey Milk the first openly gay man was elected to public office.[87] In addition, the fact that the gay flag was flown in the San Francisco Day Parade for the first time in LGBT history.[88]

The Castro district in San Francisco became the home of the gay community as every day it saw more and more gay men flooding the district. The district became the safeguard for the community where its gay men were finally free and could express themselves as they wanted. People at the time would even say that this man went to San Francisco to be gay.[89]  Even with the big acceptance it wasn’t easy to be gay in San Francisco. The LGBT community faced a lot of hate and the homophobia became clearer with the assassination of Harvey Milk, the city’s only gay representative in government.[90] Although the mayor, George Mascon was assassinated the motivation for the murder of Harvey Milk became associated with homophobia because the assassin, Dan White received a reduced prison sentence. There was a lot of speculation that homophobia influenced the jury and ultimately the verdict, leading to the White riots in 1979. This was the political and homophobic atmosphere that surrounded the gay community just as the 80’s were begging.

Then in 1981 at the start of the AIDS epidemic (it was an unknown sickness at the time with no name), the virus quickly became associated with the homosexual lifestyle as the virus affected mainly gay men. Without even a name for the cause of the sickness, the condition was referred to as gay cancer.[91] The perception was that if you were straight you had nothing to fear, as it mainly seemed to affect the gay community. The homophobia displayed towards the gay community was even noticeable from the government was seen by how little they cared about the “gay virus” by the low funding provided to study the virus. The cause for the sickness was unknown until 1983 and for a whole year, there was a lack of a test for AIDS. This lack of help brought on a positive response of unity from the whole LGBT community. Castro district had such a massive gay population that it made the unity of the whole LGBT happen fast and hard. Organizations started to pop up left and right that were willing to help in the AIDS fight. Visual AID, Under One Roof, People with AIDS Alliance, San Francisco AIDS Foundation, The AIDS project, PAWS, Project Open Hand, SF Black Coalition On AIDS, Project Inform, The Lesbian Caucus from the Harvey Milk Democratic Club, and the Shanty Project are some of the organization that emerged from San Francisco gay community to help the AIDS victims.[92] All these organizations did something different but all equally supported infected members of their communities but there is one action by a gay nurse in the center of the San Francisco pandemic that directly help treat the thousands of sick in the hospitals.

One of the biggest effects of this homophobia was the treatment of gay AIDS patients in hospitals. The distinction between homophobia and fear of the unknown sickness became blurred and it became hard to tell where the hatred was coming from.[93] The fear by medical professionals lead to infected homosexual men to be treated as pariahs.[94] Cliff Morrison a gay male nurse at the San Francisco General Hospital in 1981, noticed that critical care units were starting to fill up with patients with Pneumocystis carinii (PCP) due to HIV. By the end of 1982, about 85% of these patients would die a very painful and lonely death since the hospital staff would not attend to them properly.[95] The patients weren’t allowed outside the room, the staff would be too scared to enter the room, food would get cold because it would be left outside, and the rooms never cleaned. Technically the hospital was doing everything they could medically even though it wasn’t much as there was no way to treat HIV at the time, but a decent moral treatment of the patients was lacking. Morrison took notice of all this and him being a member of the LGBT community stood up for the sick patients that in his opinion were being treated horribly and in 1983, he pitched his idea forward 5A/5B to his superiors.

A unit dedicated to the intense care of these HIV/AIDS patients where all the staff was willing and ready to treat the patients with dignity and respect and even accompany them as they approach death. The idea would be carried out and it made this facility the first to provide an AIDS ward to treat these sick patients. The hospital would use what some would call at the time “touchy-feely stuff” with the help of Morrison.[96] When coming up with the ideas of the Ward 5B Morrison would ask these infected patients what they wanted as people first in the hospitals and the responses where very simple: “I want to feel like I’m being treated like a person. I want people who are not afraid of me.”[97] Morrison really did go above and beyond as a nurse to break the stigma of AIDS patients. This can be clearly seen in the actions that he would take to comfort sick patients. While most people would be terrified to even in the same room as these infected gay men, Morrison would even climb into bed and hold them to comfort them.[98] This commitment bleed over to the volunteers and it was seen every day as the job was very heavy with long hours and very little pay if any. Plenty of the volunteers were part of the gay community and united to help each other, there was even a significant number of lesbian nurses ready to help their fellow gay men. Inpatient care by their own gay community is where the positive response to homophobia was best seen. Instead of turning to hate, the gay community united and started to take care of each other the only way they could even if they were limited in what they could do. The medical help would be provided but with no cure and almost no research of the virus, most of the time the best these volunteers and Morrison could do is try to ease the pain and comfort them as they died.[99] All of this new way of treating patients were only possible because of the fear and anger surrounding the disease but ultimately the gay community, Morrison said it best, “They let me do it because they didn’t want to—and didn’t know what to do”. Their approach to treating patients ultimately became known as the “San Francisco Model” and began to be copied nationwide to help all patients regardless of their sexuality.

The response to homophobia within the gay community was massive and forced by the spread of AIDS and the hate that came with it. There aren’t many communities that had gone through what the gay community in San Francisco went through in a small amount of time. The anger and fear that was thrown to the gay community by the government and even doctors were taken and transformed into understanding and unity. Homophobia became the catalyst to bring different parts of the LGBTQ community together as one. That unity was used to help their own community fight back the anger by helping to take care of each other and fight for their rights as individuals regardless of sexual preference.

Economic Worries


The movie “Gung Ho” came out in 1986. It’s about a Japanese company that takes over a US automobile company and tries to completely change the culture. Japanese corporations were very active in the US in the 1980s. The movie is a comedy, but contains social commentary such as the clash of cultures.

Joshua Serrano looked at the Japanese-US automotive industries of the 1980s; the impact to the U.S. automobile industry of the rise of Japanese automobiles in the 1980s and the voluntary export restraint that tried to slow down their progress. During the 1970s, an oil crisis emerged caused by a failure of policy by the U.S. government in 1971 which was further intensified by the OAPEC embargo of 1973.[100] Demand for energy was more than produced in the U.S.[101] As a result, crude oil prices increased by five times their original price, $4.00 to $22.00, between 1970 and 1980.[102]

As a result of the oil crisis, Japanese automobiles began to gain massive popularity in the U.S. during the 1970s due to their better fuel economy compared to U.S. automobiles.[103] [104] By 1980 and 1981, the U.S. automotive industry profits were negative, and they were only able to sell a third of their cars, compared to the cars sold in 1977 to 1978.[105]

In response to the negative impact on the U.S. automotive industry, in May 1981, the U.S. government placed a voluntary export restraint (VER) on exported automobiles from Japan to the United States.[106] The Japanese government agreed to the VER and reduced the total amount of Japanese automobile exports to the U.S. to 1.68 million.[107] The trade policy was enforced by the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MITI). The MITI gave each Japanese automaker a sub-quota based on sales made in the U.S. prior to the VER. At first, the VER worked, and U.S. automobiles increased in sales; however, the VER quota did not account for Japanese cars made in the United States.

Toyota, Honda, and Nissan began building factories in the U.S. to reduce the impact of the VER. These new factories produced cheaper priced automobiles resulting from lower non-union labor and better-quality automobiles compared to more expensive U.S. automobiles.[108] With these new factories, there was less need for exporting cars from Japan, and from 1985 to 1990, the number of automobile exports from Japan to the U.S decreased from 2.6 million to 1.9 million.[109] The VER was failing to reduce the number of Japanese automobiles competing with the U.S. automotive industry.

Resulting from the Japanese competition, the U.S. automakers began to create partnerships with smaller Japanese automakers. One example of this was the Chrysler Corporation and Mitsubishi Motor Company’s joint venture in 1985 called the Diamond-Star Motor Corporation. Diamond-Star Motors built a factory in Illinois which was run by Mitsubishi and produced subcompact cars.[110] Chrysler sold these Japanese-designed Mitsubishi models under their brand name.

The VER attempted to reduce the number of Japanese automobile exports to the United States. Yet, throughout the 1980s, the Japanese gained a 12.1 percent share of the U.S. car market and by 1990, the Japanese shared 27.9 percent of the U.S. car market.[111] In the end, the VER had little impact on the Japanese automobile industry in the U.S. Throughout the 1980s, the perception of consumers was that U.S. automobiles were inferior to Japanese automobiles resulting in a negative impact on the U.S. automobile industry.


And finally . . . THE SATANIC PANIC!

The Satanic Panic of the 1980s has its roots in the rise of Satan, satanism, demons, and all sorts of things that go bump in the night in American pop culture of the 1970s. Hollywood put out Enter the Devil, The Exorcist and Exorcist II, Omen and its sequel, and the Brotherhood of Satan to name a few. The Exorcist and Omen were particularly powerful and successful. 12-year-old Regan was possessed in The Exorcist and in The Omen, Damien was five years old. He was watched over by a dark angel, a Satanic force.

“With its claims of being based on a true story, The Exorcist profoundly impacted America’s collective psyche regarding the existence of demons, and single-handedly transformed the popular Ouija board from a fun, harmless parlor game into a malevolent device capable of inducing spirit possession, demonic infestation, or other paranormal activity.”[112]


Satan-inspired books were also popular such as Satan Seller (1972) by Mike Warnke, The Devil’s Bride (1976) by Seabury Quinn and Isobel (1977) by Jane Parkhurst. According to Grady Hendrix, “Satan was the secret ingredient that made sales surge, spawning the likes of To the Devil a Daughter, Satan’s Holiday, Satan’s Gal, and Satan Sublets.”[113] Satan played a central role, but so too did attractive young women and sex.

And then in the early 1980s, tampered Halloween candy, the evils of heavy metal music, people started to allege mass, organized child abuse cases, and pass conspiracy theories about Satanic cults. The Devil which walked amongst us became known as the Satanic Panic. “’The evidence wasn’t there, but the allegations of satanic ritual abuse never really went away,’ said Ken Lanning, a former F.B.I. agent who worked on hundreds of abuse cases with the bureau’s behavioral science unit. ‘When people get emotionally involved in an issue, common sense and reason go out the window. People believe what they want and need to believe.’”[114]

“More women were going to work, by choice and necessity in the wake of the women’s rights movement and as the country struggled with a recession. Conservatism and the religious right were ascendant, and both emphasized the nuclear family. Good daycare was hard to find, and many parents felt guilt for relying on it . . . And after decades of denial, the public was starting to confront the problem of sexual abuse, especially involving children. You hook all of those things together magically and boom — you’ve got the proper fuel for a moral panic.”[115]

McMartin Preschool (1988)

Probably the most infamous of the child conspiracy/abuse scandals was the McMartin Preschool. In 1983, one mom reported that her child had been sexually abused. After years of investigations, in 1986 police charged seven school employees with hundreds of charges of abuse, with a bit of Satanism sprinkled in by local conspiracy theorists. Within days five of the seven had their charges dropped.

Satan walked amongst Americans throughout the country. Here is a map from an evening news program called 20/20 showing active Satanic groups:

Each red dot corresponds to reported Satanic activity.

“The program presented cult activity, if not the occult itself, in all but certain terms. “Today we have found Satan is alive and thriving, or at least plenty of people believe he is,” said the correspondent Tom Jarriel. “His followers are extremely secretive but found in all walks of life.” Only near the end of the report did he say that, until evidence was proved, “the link between crime and satanic cults will remain speculative.”[116]

“Three years later, NBC commissioned its own special, hosted by Geraldo Rivera, who described gruesome crimes, aired child testimony of abuse, and interviewed Ozzy Osbourne. Almost 20 million homes tuned in.”[117]

Even games could not escape the claims of being part of the occult, of turning naïve young Christians into worshipers of Satan. And that game is Dungeons and Dragons (D&D).

D&D was created by Gary Gygax in 1974. The game consists of a group of players (the “party”) each player controls the words and actions of a character, and all of the characters work independently and in concert with each other in order to achieve immediate and long-term goals. D&D is a fantasy role-playing game. You play in a world populated with humans, elves, dwarfs, dragons, goblins, ogres, and yes, demons and devils. Good and evil. Law and chaos. All jostle for control of the world.

I played D&D in high school. In fact, I started the school’s D&D club. We played every day. Here we are during my senior year. I’m center, rear. But D&D got a bad rap. In 1981 Rona Jaffee published Mazes and Monsters and the book was made into a TV movie in 1982. Mazes and Monsters was about a college student who played a D&D-like game, that eventually led to his death. Supposedly the movie and book were based on real events. A University of Michigan undergrad disappeared in the tunnels below the school and tried to commit suicide. The authorities pushed D&D as an attributing factor.[118]

In that year, one of our fellow D&D players from a Catholic family brought a manilla envelope to our game one afternoon that was mailed to his parents. Sent by an anonymous person(s). It was sent to his parents by an anonymous source. The envelope was full of anti-D&D propaganda. How D&D turns people into Satan worshipers, drug addicts, sex addicts, and engage in all sorts of anti-social behaviors spurred on by Satan. We had a good laugh. Here is some anti-D&D material from the 1980s:

Above is from the University of Southern California (USC) newspaper, The Daily Trojan, 10 Oct 1981. 

By the way, I’m still playing D&D. I am the dungeon master for a large group that meets every Saturday night at our local UU Church.



I would like to thank Zohya Iqbal, Aashir Wasti, Damaris Morris, Horatio Rodriguez, Ulises Ramirez, Connie Taurisano, Joshua Serrano, and Jan Robles.

As with the other chapters, I have no doubt that this chapter contains inaccuracies therefore, please point them out to me so that I may make this chapter better. Also, I am looking for contributors so if you are interested in adding anything at all, please contact me at james.rossnazzal@hccs.edu

  1. https://hcpss.instructure.com/courses/53860/pages/reaganomics
  2. https://culinarylore.com/food-history:did-reagon-really-say-ketchup-was-a-vegetable/
  3. https://hcpss.instructure.com/courses/53860/pages/reaganomics
  4. https://millercenter.org/president/reagan/domestic-affairs
  5. https://www.politico.com/story/2013/10/when-politics-worked-chris-matthews-colorful-memoir-097682
  6. https://www.politico.com/story/2013/10/when-politics-worked-chris-matthews-colorful-memoir-097682
  7. https://millercenter.org/president/reagan/domestic-affairs
  8. Mr. Morris was a student of mine in the Spring of 2020.
  9. “President Reagan got shot”, Accessed April 12, 2020, https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/president-reagan-shot
  10. Avlon, John P., CNN Contributor March 30, 2011, 12:40 p.m. “What changed after the Reagan shooting”  https://www.cnn.com/2011/POLITICS/03/30/hinckley.presidential.protection/index.html
  11. Ibid
  12. BEINART, PETER. "RONALD REAGAN." Foreign Policy, no. 180 (2010): 28-33. Accessed April 12, 2020.   https://www.jstor.org/stable/20753961
  13. https://education.wm.edu/centers/hope/specialtopics/mckinneyact/index.php
  14. https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2017/03/what-new-yorks-homelessness-crisis-looked-like-in-the-1980s.html
  15. https://www.newamerica.org/weekly/rise-and-reign-welfare-queen/
  16. https://www.nytimes.com/1976/02/15/archives/welfare-queen-becomes-issue-in-reagan-campaign-hitting-a-nerve-now.html
  17. https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/politics/1984/07/29/reagan-welfare-cuts-found-to-worsen-families-poverty/077278f9-a875-4791-9c34-d1cf3cd148b5/
  18. https://www.newamerica.org/weekly/rise-and-reign-welfare-queen/
  19. https://law.jrank.org/pages/11266/Welfare-BRIEF-HISTORY-WELFARE-REFORM.html
  20. https://www.aclu.org/other/cases-which-sandra-day-oconnor-cast-decisive-vote
  21. This section was written by Connie Taurisano.
  22. Bolce, Louis. “The Role of Gender in Recent Presidential Elections: Reagan and the Reverse Gender Gap.” Presidential Studies Quarterly 15, no. 2 (1985): 372–85. http://www.jstor.org/stable/27550213.
  23. Brockell, Gillian. “John W. Hinckley Jr.'s Freedom Is Unprecedented. Others Who Tried to Kill Presidents Faced Very Different Fates.” The Washington Post. WP Company, September 28, 2021. https://www.washingtonpost.com/history/2021/09/28/hinckley-presidential-assassins-executions/.
  24. HCC Eagle Online, and Harriet Beecher Stowe, About America: Women of influence, OER Textbooks and Ancillaries § (2006). ttps://eagleonline.hccs.edu/courses/168695/pages/oer-textbooks-and-ancillaries?module_item_id=9263327.
  25. Bodine, Laurence. “Sandra Day O’Connor.” American Bar Association Journal 69, no. 10 (1983): 1395. http://www.jstor.org/stable/20756478.
  26. Ibid., 1396
  27. Ibid.
  28. Ibid., 1397
  29. Bodine, Laurence. “Sandra Day O’Connor.” American Bar Association Journal 69, no. 10 (1983): 1397. http://www.jstor.org/stable/20756478.
  30. Ibid.
  31. Thomas, Evan. 2019. “First: Sandra Day O’Connor.” Random House. https://search-ebscohost-com.libaccess.hccs.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=cat07284a&AN=hclc.b2048320&site=eds-live&scope=site.  P.61
  32. Ibid.
  33. McFeatters, Ann. 2005. “Sandra Day O’Connor : Justice in the Balance.” Women’s Biography Series. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press. https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nlebk&AN=407056&site=eds-live&scope=site. P.1
  34. Ibid., p. 4.
  35. Ibid., p. 150.
  36. By Ana Dragin, a student of mine in the Spring of 2020.
  37. Rogers, Mary Beth. Barbara Jordan: American Hero. Bantam Books, New York, 1998.
  38. Ibid.
  39. Jordan, Barbara and Hearon, Shelby. Barbara Jordan: A Self-Portrait. Doubleday and Company, New York, 1979.
  40. Ibid., p. 10.
  41. Ibid.
  42. Ibid., p. 112.
  43. American Hero.
  44. Ibid.
  45. Ibid.
  46. Ibid pg. 112-113
  47. Ibid pg. 118
  48. Self-Portrait
  49. American Hero
  50. Self-Portrait
  51. American Hero
  52. American Hero
  53. Barbara Charline Jordan. (online, n.d.) History, Art and Archives, United States House of Representatives (online), accessed Feb. 24, 2019, at https://history.house.gov/people/detail/16031
  54. American Hero.
  55. Barbara C. Jordan https://www.history.com/topics/black-history/Barbara-c-jordan November 9, 2009
  56. Sherman, Max 2007 Democratic National Convention Keynote Address on July 12, 1976, pg. 36 University of Texas Press
  57. https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-news/david-bowie-rips-into-mtv-for-not-spotlighting-black-artists-62335/
  58. Elena Oliete, “Michael, Are You OK? You’Ve Been Hit by a Smooth Criminal: Racism, Controversy, and Parody in the Videos ‘Smooth Criminal’ and ‘You Rock My World.,’” Studies in Popular Culture, 2006, 58 https://www.jstor.org/stable/23418072
  59. Phil Hebblethwaite, “How Michael Jackson's Thriller Changed Music Videos for Ever,” The Guardian (Guardian News and Media, November 21, 2013), https://www.theguardian.com/music/2013/nov/21/michael-jackson-thriller-changed-music-videos
  60. Will Straw, “Music Video in Its Contexts: Popular Music and Post-Modernism in the 1980s,” Popular Music , 1988, 248 https://www.jstor.org/stable/853024
  61. HCC Central College, "American Perspectives: Readings in American History Vol. 2." (October 10, 2021), 550 https://reader2.yuzu.com/books/9781264322084
  62. Matthew Delmont, “Michael Jackson & Television before Thriller,” Journal of Pan African Studies (March 30, 2010), 77 https://search-ebscohost-com.libaccess.hccs.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=edsgao&AN=edsgcl.306596706&site=eds-live&scope=site
  63. https://www.reaganlibrary.gov/archives/speech/april-29-1967-speech-governor-ronald-reagan-university-southern-california-law-day
  64. https://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/ronaldreaganatimeforchoosing.htm
  65. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JM0O4pX_mD8
  66. Colvin, Mark. “The 1980 New Mexico Prison Riot.” Social Problems, vol. 29, no. 5, 1982, pp. 449–463. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/800395. Accessed 13 Apr. 2020.
  67. Haywood, Phaedra. “Devastating Penitentiary Riot of 1980 Changed New Mexico and Its Prisoners.” Santa Fe New Mexican, 1 Feb. 2020, www.santafenewmexican.com/news/local_news/devastating-penitentiary-riot-of-1980-changed-new-mexico-and-its-prisons/article_be64a016-31ae-11ea-a754-fb85e49fca77.html.
  68. Morris, Roger. The Devil's Butcher Shop. University of New Mexico Press, 1988.
  69. https://www.wpr.org/how-reagan-helped-usher-new-conservatism-american-politics
  70. by Jan Robles
  71. Stephen S. Trott. “Implementing Criminal Justice Reform.” Public Administration Review 45. (1985): 795-800. https://www.jstor.org/stable/3135038
  72. Ronald J. Ostrow. “1984 Crime Control Act Leads to 32% Rise in Prisoners.” Los Angeles Times, January 9, 1986. https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1986-01-09-mn-14186-story.html
  73. Trott 795
  74. John J Dilulio Jr. “Reinventing Parole and Probation: A lock-‘m-up hardline makes the case for probation.” Brookings. 1997. https://www.brookings.edu/articles/reinventing-parole-and-probation-a-lock-m-up-hardliner-makes-the-case-for-probation/
  75. Ostrow.
  76. Gerald G. Games. “The Effects of Overcrowding in Prison.” Crime and Justice 6. (1985). 95-146. https://www.jstor.org/stable/1147497
  77. by Horacio Rodriguez
  78. Erratum: Vol 50, No. 21. Department of Health and Human Services. November 30, 2001. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5047a10.htm. Accessed April 10, 2020.
  79. Ibid
  80. H.W. Brands, Reagan: A Life (New York: Doubleday, 2015), 655.
  81. Ibid
  82. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (1989) 'Guidelines for Prophylaxis Against Pneumocystis carinii Pneumonia for Persons Infected with Human Immunodeficiency Virus' MMWR Weekly 38(S-5):1-9. June 16, 1989. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/00001409.htm. Accessed April 12, 2020.
  83. World Health Organization (WHO) (1989) “HIV seropositivity and AIDS prevention and control”
  84. Ulises Ramirez, in the Spring 2020, wrote this part.
  85. “The Eighties: The fight against AIDS” Producers; Simon Brown, Christopher G. Cowen Episode 3 CNN [Documentary] June 9th, 2016
  86. “Sex Education in the '70s and '80s: Accomplishments, Obstacles, and Emerging Issues” Author(s): Peter Scales Source: Family Relations, Vol. 30, No. 4, Family Life Education (Oct. 1981), pp. 557-566 Published by: National Council on Family Relations Stable URL: https://www.jstor.org/stable/584345 Accessed: 06-04-2020 23:08 UTC
  87. “Back in the Day: rainbow flag becomes Gay Pride symbol” euro news[online] last updated: 25/06/2013; Located https://www.euronews.com/2013/06/25/back-in-the-day-the-rainbow-flag-becomes-the-symbol-of-the-gay-pride-movement (Last Accessed April 7th, 2020)
  88. “Pride in Pictures 1978: Harvey Milk makes coming out an international battle cry” Ron Johnson, LGBTQ NATION [online] May 27, 2018; Located https://www.lgbtqnation.com/2018/05/pride-pictures-1978-harvey-milk-makes-coming-international-battle-cry/ (Last Accessed April 7th, 2020)
  89. “We were here”, Director; David Weissman, Starring; Paul Boneberg, Guy Clark, Eileen Glutzer [Documentary] September 2011
  90. “San Francisco leaders George Moscone and Harvey Milk are Murdered” History[online]; Last updated November 21, 2019; Located https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/san-francisco-leaders-george-moscone-and-harvey-milk-are-murdered (Last Accessed April 7th, 2020)
  91. Remembering the Early Days of ‘Gay Cancer’” Joe Wright, Heard on “All Things Considered” NPR [online] May 8, 2006; Located https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5391495 (Last Accessed April 7th, 2020)
  92. “We were here”, Director; David Weissman, Starring; Paul Boneberg, Guy Clark, Eileen Glutzer [Documentary] September 2011
  93. “The Unbroken Chain: Three Decades of HIV/AIDS Nursing” Diana Austin, Science of caring (University of California San Francisco) [online] November 2014; Located https://scienceofcaring.ucsf.edu/patient-care/unbroken-chain-three-decades-hivaids-nursing (Last Accessed April 7th, 2020)
  94. “They Did Not Die Peacefully” Cliff Morrison, HRSA, The Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program, Living History; Located https://hab.hrsa.gov/livinghistory/voices/morrison.htm?x=3&y=-515 (Last Accessed April 7th, 2020)
  95. Ibid
  96. “Planning a New Hospital Ward: The San Francisco Model of AIDS Care” Guenter B. Risse, Conference Paper, Local School Of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine London, May 24, 2000 Located;https://www.researchgate.net/publication/264935259_Planning_a_New_Hospital_Ward_The_San_Francisco_Model_of_AIDS_Care (Last Accessed April 7th, 2020)
  97. ““They Needed to Feel Loved”: How One Nurse Revolutionized Patient Care During the AIDS Crisis” Cliff Morrison as told to Brooke Katz, June 07, 2019, Johnson N Johnson [online]; Located https://www.jnj.com/personal-stories/ward-5b-how-one-nurse-revolutionized-patient-care-during-the-aids-crisis (Last Accessed April 7th, 2020)
  98. Ibid
  99. “We were here”, Director; David Weissman, Starring; Paul Boneberg, Guy Clark, Eileen Glutzer [Documentary] September 2011
  100. Robert Lifset, A New Understanding of the American Energy Crisis of the 1970s (Mannheim: Historical Social Research / Historische Sozialforschung, 2014), 29-30.
  101. Houston Community College, American Perspectives: Readings in American History, Vol 2, 7th ed, McGraw-Hill Learning Solutions, n.d., 547
  102. Lifset, A New Understanding of the American Energy, 25.
  103. Rachel Dardis and Horacio Soberon-Ferrer, Consumer Preferences for Japanese Automobiles (Maryland: The Journal of Consumer Affairs, 1994), 107.
  104. 2020 EPA Automotive Trends Report (Washington D.C.: US Environmental Protection Agency, n.d.), n.p.
  105. Dardis and Soberon-Ferrer, Consumer Preferences, 107.
  106. Berry Steven, James Levinsohn, and Ariel Pakes, Voluntary Export Restraints on Automobiles: Evaluating a Trade Policy (Tennessee: The American Economic Review, 1999), 400.
  107. Steven, Levinsohn, and Pakes, Voluntary Export Restraints on Automobiles, 400.
  108. Doron P. Levin, Grim Outlook of Early 1980s Is Back for U.S. Auto Makers (New York: New York Times, 1989), A1.
  109. Steven, Levinsohn, and Pakes, Voluntary Export Restraints on Automobiles, 402.
  110. Harrison S. Campbell, Jr., State And Regional Economic Impact Of Diamond – Star Motors (Washington D.C.: Economic Development Review, 1989), 31.
  111. Dardis and Soberon-Ferrer, Consumer Preferences, 107.
  112. Aja Romano https://www.vox.com/culture/22358153/satanic-panic-ritual-abuse-history-conspiracy-theories-explained (last accessed 20 Jun 22)
  113. Ernest Hillbert https://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/books/the-shocking-novels-that-scared-the-hell-out-of-america/2017/10/20/3df3889e-af69-11e7-9e58-e6288544af98_story.html (Last accessed 20 Jun 22)
  114. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/03/31/us/satanic-panic.html (Last accessed 21 June 22)
  115. Ibid
  116. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/03/31/us/satanic-panic.html (Last accessed 21 Jun 22)
  117. Ibid
  118. https://www.saturdayeveningpost.com/2019/09/disappearances-dragons-the-james-dallas-egbert-iii-story/


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