Chapter 19 THE POSTWAR BOOM&Chapter 20THE NEW FRONTIER AND THE GREAT SOCIETY
After World War II, millions of returning veterans used the GI Bill of Rights to get an education and to buy homes. At first, there was a terrible housing shortage. Then developers such as William Levittbuilt thousands of inexpensive homes in the suburbs, small residential communities near the cities. Many veterans and their families moved in. The United States changed from a wartime to a peacetime economy.
President Harry S. Truman faced a number of problems immediately after the war. One was labor unrest. Truman was pro-labor. But he would not let strikes cripple the nation. He threatened to draft striking workers into the army and then order them back to work. The unions gave in. African-American veterans demanded their rights as citizens. They asked for a federal antilynching law, an end to the poll tax, and a commission to prevent discrimination in hiring. Congress would not pass any of his civil rights measures. Truman acted on his own. In 1948, he issued an executive order to desegregate the armed forces. He also ordered an end to discrimination in hiring government employees.
Truman was nominated for president in 1948. He insisted on a strong civil rights plank in the Democratic Party platform. This split the party. Many Southern Democrats left the Democratic Party. These Dixiecrats were against civil rights. They wanted to preserve the “Southern way of life.” Truman tried to pass economic and social reforms. He called his program the FairDeal. Congress passed an increase in the minimum wage, extension of Social Security, and financial aid for cities.
Truman did not run for reelection in 1952. The bigissues of that campaign were (1) the stalemate inthe Korean War, (2) anti-Communist hysteria andMcCarthyism, (3) the growing power of the federalgovernment, (4) strikes, and (5) inflation. Voters wanted a change. The Republicans nominated war hero General Dwight D. Eisenhower. He easily beat Democrat Adlai Stevenson. In 1954, the Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Board of Educationthat public schools could not be segregated. Eisenhower believed that the federal government should not be involved in desegregation. But he upheld the law. When the governor of Arkansas tried to keep African-American students out of a white high school, Eisenhower sent federal troops to integrate the school.
Many Americans enjoyed the benefits of the booming economy. Many worked in cities but lived in suburbs. They had the American dream of a single family home, good schools, and a safe neighborhood with people just like themselves. There was an increase in births called the baby boom. It was caused by the reuniting of families after the war and growing prosperity. Medical advances also wiped out childhood diseases. Dr. Jonas Salk developed a vaccine to prevent polio. Polio had killed or crippled 58,000 children a year.
By the mid-1950s, nearly 60 percent of Americanswere in the middle class. They had the money to buy more and more products. They measured success by their consumerism, or the amount of material goods they bought. They bought household appliances like washing machines, dryers, and dishwashers, and recreational items such as television sets, barbecue grills, and swimming pools. Manufacturers also tried a new marketing strategy called planned obsolescence. They purposely made products to become outdated or to wear out quickly. Americans began to throw away items in order to buy “new models.” Easy credit, including the introduction of credit cards, encouraged people to buy. Private debt grew. The 1950s were “the advertising age.” Ads were everywhere even on the new medium of television. They tried to persuade Americans to buy things they didn’t need.
Mass media - the means of communication that reach large audiences—include radio, television, newspapers, and magazines. Television became the most important means of communication in the 1950s. It both showed and influenced popular culture of the time. The number of homes with television jumped. It went from 9 percent of all homes in 1950 to 90 percent in 1960. At first, the number of television stations was limited by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The FCC is the government agency that regulates the communications industry.
Television showed the suburban way of life. But two subcultures presented other points of view. One was the beat movement in literature. These writers made fun of the conformity and materialism of mainstream American society. Their followers were called beatniks. They rebelled against consumerism and the suburban lifestyle. They did not hold steady jobs and lived inexpensively. They read their poetry in coffee houses. Their art and poetry had a free, open form.
Writers who made fun of the conformity and materialism of mainstream American society.
Some musicians also took a new direction. They added electronic instruments to the African-American music called rhythm and blues. Theresult was rock ‘n’ roll. The new music had a strong beat. Its lyrics focused on the interests of teenagers, including alienation and unhappiness in love. The biggest star of all—the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll—was Elvis Presley. He had 45 songs that sold more than one million copies.
Form of popular music, characterized by heavy rhythms and simple melodies, that developed from rhythm and blues in the 1950’s.
In 1962, one out of every four Americans was poor. Many of these poor people were members of minority groups. In the 1950s, millions of middle-class white people left the cities for the suburbs. This was called “white flight.” Cities lost the taxes these people and businesses had paid. City governments could no longer afford to keep up the quality of schools, public transportation, or other services. The urban poor suffered as their neighborhoods decayed. One way the government tried to solve the problem of the inner cities was called urban renewal. Minorities could not afford the new homes that had been built in the suburbs during the 1950s. Urban renewal was designed to tear down decaying neighborhoods and build new low-cost housing. However, sometimes highways and shopping centers were built instead. The people who had lived in the old slumsended up moving to otherslums—rather than into better housing.
During World War II, there was a shortage of laborers to harvest crops. The federal government allowed braceros, or hired hands, to enter the United States from Mexico. When the war ended, many braceros stayed illegally. Many other Mexicans entered the United States illegally to find jobs.Mexican Americans suffered prejudice and discrimination. Mexican-American children were placed in segregated classes. Native Americans also struggled for equal rights. Thegovernment had supported assimilation, or absorbing Native Americans into mainstream American culture. That forced Native Americans to give up their ownculture. In 1944, Native Americans formed an organization to work for their civil rights and for the right to keep their own customs. In 1953, the federal government decided to end its responsibility for Native American tribes. This termination policy stopped federal economic support. As part of the termination policy, the Bureau of Indian Affairs also moved thousands of NativeAmericans to the cities. It helped them find jobs and housing. This program was a failure. Native Americans did not have the skills to succeed in the cities.
Visual Reflection • Directions: On your sheet, write down your immediate thoughts on each image that you see on the screen. Ask yourself, who is involved, what are people doing, what might they be experiencing, what kind of emotion are they expressing.
Visual Reflection Ch. 19 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. Prediction Statement:
#1: What does this chart tell us about the birth rate in the U.S. AFTER WWII? It seems to me that every other young housewife I see is pregnant. -- British visitor to America, 1958
#2: What does this line graph tell us about consumer buying after WWII? All babies were potential consumers who spearheaded a brand-new market for food, clothing, and shelter. -- Life Magazine (May, 1958)
#3: How would you describe the images below?
#5: What do these TV show characters have in common? The Donna Reed Show1958-1966 Leave It to Beaver1957-1963 The Ozzie & Harriet Show1952-1966 Father Knows Best1954-1958
#6: What is the connection between the images to the left to those on the right?
#10: What kind of competition to we continue to see between the U.S. and Soviet Union?
In 1960, many Americans were worried about the future. The economy was in a recession. The Soviet Union was gaining strength. Some people wondered whether the United States was losing the Cold War. John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon faced off in the 1960 presidential election. Kennedy was a Democratic senator from Massachusetts. Nixon was Eisenhower’s vice-president. Kennedy won the election by a slim margin. Two main factors led him to victory. During a televised debate, Kennedy impressed viewers with his strong, forceful personality. Nixon appeared nervous and ill at ease. The second factor was Kennedy’s response to the arrest of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., in October 1960. Kennedy called King’s wife to express sympathy and persuaded the judge to release King from jail. His actions won him the support of African-American voters.