Martin Luther King
From the late 1940s through the 1950s, the United States experienced continued economic growth and low unemployment. Most of the nation participated in the prosperity and agreed about the beneficence of American capitalism. Only a few intellectuals questioned the rampant consumerism and the values of the growing corporate bureaucracies. The politics of the period, symbolized by President Eisenhower the cautious war hero, reelected the popular contentment. African Americans, inspired by the Brown school desegregation decision, began the protests that would bring the civil rights revolution of the 1960s. Locked into a policy of containment and a rigidly dualistic world view, the United States was less successful in its overseas undertakings. Despite a string of alliances, an awesome nuclear arsenal, and vigorous use of covert operations, the nation often found itself unable to shape world events to conform to American desires.
Brinkley, Alan (2007). American history: A survey. New York, New York: McGraw Hill.
Korea, Eisenhower, and Affluence: 1950-1956
1946 Dr. Spock's Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care published.
1948 Bell Telephone Labs develops the transistor. Levittown opens on Long Island.
1950 McCarthy's Wheeling, West Virginia, speech. Internal Security Act.
Diner?s Club introduces the credit card.
1950?53 The Korean War.
1951 Truman sacks MacArthur.
1952 First U.S. H-bomb test. McCarran-Walter Act. Publication of Ralph Ellison?s The Invisible Man.
1953?60 Dwight Eisenhower's presidency.
1953 Execution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. Stalin?s death.
CIA aids Iranian coup.
1954 Dulles announces Eisenhower's "New Look" strategy. The Suez Crisis.
French garrison at Dien Bien Phu surrenders. Geneva peace conference.
Congress adds "Under God" to Pledge of Allegiance. Supreme Court rules in Brown v. Board of Education. Army-McCarthy Hearings.
1955 United States begins U-2 surveillance flights. Khruschev rejects DDE?s "Open Skies" initiative. AFL and CIO merge. Emmett Till?s murder.
1955-56 Montgomery Bus Boycott.
1956 Eisenhower wins reelection. Hungarian uprising. Interstate Highway Act.
1957 Formation of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC).
1958 Test ban talks begin in Geneva.
Economic Transformation: The most notable characteristic of the 1950s was the economic boom fueled by the growing availability of consumer goods. Despite the sometimes conservative rhetoric of the Eisenhower administration, most governmental leaders came to accept the principle that the federal government had a responsibility to promote economic prosperity through its spending and taxation policies. The Cold War helped to fuel federal spending on science, technology, and transportation, all of which had a significant impact on the American economy and society.
Culture: The postwar period witnessed important changes in American culture, especially the growth of the middle class. The wide availability of consumer goods and new media such as television helped to create a society that valued economic prosperity and mass consumption. Popular images of the decade emphasize the widespread sense of conformity. As the decade progressed, however, many intellectuals came to see the society as sterile and unimaginative. Furthermore, a new youth culture emerged, demonstrating an increasing sense of alienation with America's middle-class culture and helping to lay the groundwork for the more widespread protests of the 1960s.
Demographic Change: Postwar prosperity helped to create a new generation of "baby boomers," as the end of the Great Depression and World War II made Americans more willing to start families. Inexpensive housing and dissatisfaction with urban life led to the proliferation of suburbs, while the American West grew significantly from government spending and internal migrations. Cities became increasingly populated by African Americans, Latinos, and other minority groups, who faced significant poverty even as the country as a whole prospered.
American Diversity: While white, middle-class virtues seemed to dominate the American landscape, African Americans and other groups began a struggle to achieve a greater voice in American society. The Supreme Court's decision to end segregation in schools brought civil rights into the forefront of the national consciousness, while African-American activists began a long battle against segregation with protests in Montgomery, Alabama, and elsewhere, efforts that made civil rights an issue that Americans found increasingly difficult to ignore by the end of the decade.
War and Diplomacy: The Eisenhower administration faced growing challenges outside of Europe, particularly in the Middle East and Southeast Asia. Although Eisenhower sought to limit American defense spending and its foreign commitments, the Cold War had spread to most corners of the globe by the time Eisenhower left office in 1960. The Cold War had unfortunate domestic ramifications, as senator Joseph McCarthy capitalized on popular fears in an effort to uncover communist influence in the government and other arenas of American life.
George, J. & Brown, J. (2007). AP achiever: Advanced placement american history exam preparation guide. McGraw Hill.
Postwar America 1950s
In 1945, the United States was a far different country than it subsequently became. Nearly a third of Americans lived in poverty. A third of the country's homes had no running water, two-fifths lacked flushing toilets, and three-fifths lacked central heating. More than half of the nation's farm dwellings had no electricity. Most African Americans still lived in the South, where racial segregation in schools and public accommodations were still the law. The number of immigrants was small as a result of immigration quotas enacted during the 1920s. Shopping malls had not yet been introduced.
Following World War II, the United States began an economic boom that brought unparalleled prosperity to a majority of its citizens and raised Americans expectations, breeding a belief that most economic and social problems could be solved. Among the crucial themes of this period were the struggle for equality among women and minorities, and the backlash that these struggles evoked; the growth of the suburbs, and the shift in power from the older industrial states and cities of the Northeast and upper Midwest to the South and West; and the belief that the U.S. had the economic and military power to maintain world peace and shape the behavior of other nations.
During the early 1970s, films like American Graffiti and television shows like Happy Days portrayed the 1950s as a carefree era--a decade of tail-finned Cadillacs, collegians stuffing themselves in phone booths, and innocent tranquility and static charm. In truth, the post-World War II period was an era of intense anxiety and dynamic, creative change. During the 1950s, African Americans quickened the pace of the struggle for equality by challenging segregation in court. A new youth culture emerged with its own form of music--rock ?n' roll. Maverick sociologists, social critics, poets, and writers--conservatives as well as liberals--authored influential critiques of American society.
Biography of America
The Fifties (series 23)
World War II is fought to its bitter end in the Pacific and the world lives with the legacy of its final moment: the atomic bomb. Professor Miller continues the story as veterans return from the war and create new lives for themselves in the '50s. The GI Bill, Levittown, civil rights, the Cold War, and rock 'n' roll are discussed.