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0-Competency #2 Notes - 2018

America in the 1950’s
Competency 2
Readjustment and Recovery
• Veterans settling down to rebuild their lives
• GI Bill of Rights –
– Paid part of Veteran’s tuition
– Year worth of unemployment while job hunting
– Low interest loans
• Housing Shortage – suburbs became popular
– Cookie cutter neighborhoods
• Divorce rates rose
– Confusion of women and men’s role in the home
– Women did not want to give up their new found independence
• The economy had its ups and downs
Defense workers were laid off
Unemployment rose (Veterans were jobless)
Consumer product prices rose 25%
Consumers had large savings and money to spend – Economy Boomed
1950’s known as the “affluent society”
Cold War contributes to economic growth
• Concern over Soviet expansion kept many defense jobs
• By helping nations in Western Europe recover from WWII the U.S. created strong relations
with foreign nations for its exports
• Suddenly became President when Roosevelt died in 1945
" I don't know whether you fellows ever had a load of hay fall on you,
but when they told me yesterday what had happened [Roosevelt's death],
I felt like the moon, the stars, and all the planets had fallen on me. "
—excerpt from a speech, April 13, 1945
• Faced two huge challenges
– Deal with the rising threat of communism
– Restoring the American economy
• Supported Civil Rights
• Many Americans blamed Truman for nation’s inflation and labor unrest
– Re-elected for President in 1948
– Won in a close election
• He came to be viewed as an honest, direct leader, who guided the nation
through an exceptionally treacherous period.
Republicans take the Middle Road
• In 1951, Truman’s approval rating
sank to 23%
• Why?
– Stalemate in Korea
– Rising tide of McCarthyism
• Cast doubt on federal employees
• Truman decided not to run for re-election
• Democrats nominated Stevenson and
Republicans – Dwight D. Eisenhower (Ike)
(Nixon was running as his VP)
• Eisenhower and Nixon went on to win the election of 1952 and
re-election in 1956
– Middle of the road president (Tried to avoid controversial issues.)
– Could not avoid two domestic issues
• Brown v. Board of Ed ruled that public schools must be racially integrated
• Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott
– Conservative with money, liberal with people
“The Organization”
• Jobs moved from Blue Collar to White Collar
• Franchises developed
– A company that offers similar products or services in many
– McDonalds started it all
• 14,000 locations worldwide
– Franchises standardized what we ate and the way we lived
• Some lost their individuality
• Businesses did not want creative thinkers, rebels or anyone who would rock
the corporate boat
• Workers questioned whether pursuing the
American Dream was worth losing their
The Baby Boom!
• Sheltered in new suburban homes, newly affluent
couples were launching an unstoppable BABY
• The Baby Boom was the first generation after
WWII (born between 1946 and about 1964).
• Are your parents part of the Baby Boom era?
Baby Boom Generation…Why?
• Reunion of husbands and
wives after WWII
• Decreasing marriage age
• Desirability of large families
• Confidence in continued
economic prosperity
• Advances in medicine
Suburban Lifestyle
• By the end of the 1950’s every large city in the U.S.
was surrounded by suburbs
• 85% of new homes built in 1950 were in the
• Homemakers roles were glorified on TV and in
– 1/5 of women felt isolated, bored and unfulfilled
– By 1960 almost 60% of mothers with children between
the ages of 6 and 17 held paying jobs
– Fields were limited
•Nursing, teaching, and clerical
Leisure Activities in the 1950’s
• More leisure time than ever before
• Time Savers: washing machines, lawn mowers, and
• Participated in sports: fishing, bowling, hunting,
boating, golfing, football, basketball and baseball –
watching sports on TV too
• Avid Readers
– Book sales doubled
– Thriving paperback market
– Circulation of popular magazines and comic books
Automobile Culture
• Easy credit and extensive advertising led to a large
number of auto sales
• Suburban living made owning a car a necessity
• Interstate Highway System
Linked major cities to suburbs
Pushed some suburbs further from big city
Decreased commercial use of railroads
# of Americans traveling further increased
• Downfalls
Noise and exhaust contributes to pollution
Accidents claim lives
Upper middle class left cities and so did jobs
Poor left in the cities w/o jobs
Gap between middle class and poor widens
The American dream
was born of innocence,
prosperity, and peace
following WWII.
Examples of “the dream”
included hula hoops,
poodle skirts, televisions,
saddle shoes, and the
growth of suburbia.
The Beat of Music
A young man from Memphis mesmerized
teenagers and forever changed the face of
popular music and culture with his
revolutionary, hip-shaking rock ‘n’ roll!
The Rise of Mass Media
• Mainstream Americans as well as the
nation’s subcultures embraced new forms
of entertainment during the 1950’s
• TV 1st became available in 1948
– 9% of homes in 1950 owned one
– 90% of homes in 1960 owned one
– Businesses expanded due to ads on television
*The Invention of the Television*
•The TV was a “selling machine”
in every American Home.
•The art of TV
advertising was
perfected and pushed
everything from
cigarettes to presidents.
Popular TV shows of the
1950’s included Lassie, The
Twilight Zone, I Love Lucy,
and others.
• Critics objected to
– Televisions negative effects on children
• High violence
– Stereotypical portrayal of women and
– Male TV characters outnumbered 3 to 1
– African Americans and Latinos rarely
– Portrayed the “Perfect American Family”
Radio and Movies
• Radio moved from drama and variety shows to news,
music, weather, and local community issues
– Radio advertising increased 35%
– # of radio stations increased by 50%
• Movie Theaters
– Moviegoers decreased by 50%
• Industry knew it would survive because movies were in color, tv
was not, the picture was larger and movie theaters offered surround
– Think about how far we have come
» Movie theaters are now being built in homes!
• When times were bad the industry tried novelty features
– Smell O Vision, Aroma Rama: Piped smells into theaters to coincide
with events shown on the screen
» Think about “A Bug’s Life” in Disney World!!!!
The Rise of Rock ‘n’ Roll
• The rise of rock ‘n’ roll helped forge the
youth culture that would explode in the
Rock ‘n’ Roll
• Electronic Instruments added to
traditional blues music
– Cleveland: 1st radio station to play Rock N
– Mostly African Americans playing
– Mostly whites listening
– Chuck Berry
– Elvis Presley
– Adults condemned Rock N Roll
• Music would lead to delinquency and immorality
• Concerts banned in some cities
“The American Family”
• American families seemed happy on the outside,
but, on the inside they felt something quite
different…do you know?
• Housewives and businessmen felt at odds with
their traditional roles in the home and at the office.
• Thus, there was a gap between the idealized
nuclear family of the 1950’s and how things really
The Other America
• Amidst the prosperity of the 1950’s, millions of Americans
lived in poverty
• 1962: 1 out of every 4 lived below the poverty level
– Elderly, single, women and their children, minorities, African
Americans, Latino’s and Native Americans
• “White Flight”
– Middle class white Americans left the inner cities for suburbs
taking jobs and valuable resources with them
• Big cities lost people, businesses income and property tax revenue
• City governments could no longer afford to properly
maintain or improve schools, public transportation, police
and fire departments
– Ultimately the urban poor suffered
The Racial Gap
• African Americans had inspired many
different forms of musical entertainment
but throughout the 1950’s African
American shows were mostly broadcasted
on separate stations and African
Americans were largely segregated from
the dominant culture.
• This ongoing segregation – and the racial
tensions it fed- would become a powerful
force for change in the turbulent 60s.
The “Cold War”
• Conflict between the United States and
the Soviet Union in which neither
nation directly confronted the other on
the battlefield
• 1945-1991
• Ended with the breakup of the Soviet
The U.S. vs. The Soviet Union
The United States
• All nations to have the
right of selfdetermination
• Access raw materials
for its own industries
• Rebuild European
governments to
ensure stability of U.S.
• Reunite Germany to
secure the rest of
The Soviet Union
• Communism
• Rebuild its economy
using Eastern
Europe’s materials
• Control Eastern
Europe to balance
influence U.S.
influences in Western
• Keep Germany
divided and weak so it
would not be a threat
The Cold War at Home
• During the late 1940’s and early 1950’s, fear
of communism spreading around the world
led to reckless charges against innocent
Fear of Communism
• Loyalty Review Board
– Board issued by Truman
– Investigated employees and dismissed those
who were found to be disloyal to the U.S.
– 3.2 Million Employees Investigated
– Many employees resigned (2,900)
• Most resigned because they felt the investigation
violated their constitutional rights
– 212 dismissed (Security risk)
Fear of Communism
• Hollywood
– Many believed communists were sneaking
propaganda into films
– The Hollywood Ten”
• Group of witnesses who did not agree to a
hearing because they thought it was
• They were sent to prison
• Hollywood executives blacklisted 500
actors, writers, directors and producers for
having a communist background
*The Invention of the Television*
•The TV was a “selling machine”
in every American Home.
•The art of TV
advertising was
perfected and pushed
everything from
cigarettes to presidents.
Popular TV shows of the
1950’s included Lassie, The
Twilight Zone, I Love Lucy,
and others.
Spy Cases Stun the Nation
• Alger Hiss
– Accused of spying for the Soviet Union
• The Rosenberg's
– Accused of giving the Soviet Union information
on the United State’s atomic bomb
• The Soviets had successfully created an atomic bomb
3-5 years earlier than expected
• Rosenberg's denied they were Communists and
denied the charges against them. They were found
guilty and sentenced to death.
• Rosenberg's believed they were being prosecuted for
being Jewish and having radical beliefs.
Joseph McCarthy
• Republican Senator known to
be ineffective
• Charged that Communists
were taking over (Needed
public support for election)
• Attacks (without proving
evidence) on suspected
Communists became known as
• Lost support when he made
accusations against the U.S.
• Senate condemned him
Two Nations Live on the Edge
• During the 1950’s, the United States and the Soviet
Union came to the brink of a nuclear war
• The Cold War would continue into the following
decades, affecting U.S. policies in Cuba, Central
America, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East.
• Republican Eisenhower would take over office after
Democrat Truman
The Fear of Nuclear Attack
• Bomb shelters were built just
in case of a potential nuclear
• Air Raid drills were common
in the 50’s and 60’s
• When the Atomic bomb was
developed scientists knew it
was possible to create an even
more destructive bomb –H
• 67 times more powerful than
the Atomic bomb dropped on
“The Fear of the Bomb”
• The invention of the Hydrogen Bomb
triggered a deadly Soviet-American Arms
Race that would last several decades.
• S.U. and the United States built their air
forces (they would ultimately deliver the
– The U.S. trimmed its Navy and Army
" At school we had air-raid drills. We
took the drills seriously; surely
Pittsburgh, which had the nation's steel,
coke, and aluminum, would be the
enemy's first target. . . . When the airraid siren sounded, our teachers stopped
talking and led us to the school
basement. There the gym teachers lined
us up against the cement walls and steel
lockers, and showed us how to lean in
and fold our arms over our heads. . . .
The teachers stood in the middle of the
room, not talking to each other. We
tucked against the walls and lockers. . . .
We folded our skinny arms over our
heads, and raised to the enemy a clatter
of gold scarab bracelets and gold bangle
bracelets. "
A dramatic civil defense poster shows
the fear of nuclear attack
How the Cold War Spread around the World
• Eisenhower depended on the CIA to gather
information abroad
• CIA – Central Intelligence Agency
– The CIA uses spies overseas to gather information
– Carries out covert (secret) operations to weaken or
overthrow governments unfriendly to the government
– Took actions in Europe to protect communism from
spreading (Middle East, Guatemala)
The Cold War takes to the skies
• Tensions b/w the S.U. and the U.S. thawed with the
death of Stalin in 1953
• Nikita Khrushchev took over in the S.U. when Stalin
– Favored communism but thought it could triumph
– Wanted the U.S. and the S.U. to coexist while competing
economically and scientifically
• Warsaw Pact
– The Soviet’s own military alliance
• Created when W. Germany was allowed to rearm and join NATO
– Linked the S.U. with seven Eastern European Countries
(E. Germany, Poland, Czech, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria)
• Race was on for international
• Sputnik was the World’s First
artificial satellite
• With the launch of Sputnik
America took a back seat to
the Soviet Union in the space
• Months later the U.S
launched its first satellite,
after one flopping attempt
– U.S. increased math and science
programs for teenagers
• After the Civil War African Americans tried escaping racism
by moving north
– Left farming jobs for industrial jobs
– Racial prejudice and segregation existed in the north too
• Only find homes in all black neighborhoods
• Whites fearful blacks would take their jobs
• AAs started to see social changes after WWII
– AAs had enjoyed expanded job opportunities in the defense
– Many fought in WWII
• Returned home determined to fight for their own freedoms
• 1896
Separate but Equal??
– Plessy v. Ferguson
• “Separate but equal” does not violate the 14th amendment
– 14th: Guarantees all Americans equal treatment
• Jim Crow Laws were created
– These laws mandated separate but equal
– Forbade marriage b/w blacks and whites
– Restriction on social and religious contact b/w the
• Separate streetcars, waiting rooms, railroad cars, elevators,
witness stands, and bathrooms
• African American facilities were usually inferior
Segregation in Schools
Brown v. Board of Ed
– The closest all black school was 21 blocks away
• The Supreme Court unanimously struck down
segregation in schooling as an unconstitutional
violation of the 14th Amendment
• Reaction
– Different everywhere, some embraced - some rejected
1st African American Supreme Court Justice, Thurgood Marshall
• 1954
• Father of 8 yr. old Linda Brown charged the Board
of Education of Topeka, Kansas with violating
Linda’s rights by denying her admission to an allwhite elementary school 4 blocks from her house
Little Rock
• Research Little Rock Nine
• Take Notes:
• Would you have been so brave?
Montgomery Bus Boycott
• 1955
• Rosa Parks took a seat in the front row of the “colored”
section of a Montgomery, Alabama bus
• The bus driver then demanded that Rosa Park’s move so a
white man could have her seat
• Rosa Parks refused and was arrested
• African American’s organized a 381 day bus boycott
– Martin Luther King, Jr was the boycott leader
There comes a time when people get tired of being trampled over by the iron feet of oppression. . . . I want it to be
known—that we're going to work with grim and bold determination—to gain justice on buses in this city. And we are
not wrong. . . . If we are wrong—the Supreme Court of this nation is wrong. If we are wrong—God Almighty is
wrong. . . . If we are wrong—justice is a lie. " —quoted in Parting the Waters: America in the King Years, 1954–63
• 1956 – Supreme Court outlawed bus segregation
• Bus boycott proved that the African American community
could unite and organize a successful, non-violent protest