AMERICA in the ’50s
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AMERICA in the ’50s. THE G.I. BILL. Provided college for returning World War II veterans (commonly referred to as GIs). Provided one year of unemployment compensation. Millions of GIs bought homes, attended college, started business venture, or found jobs. THE G.I. BILL.

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America in the 50s


Provided college for returning World War II veterans (commonly referred to as GIs)

Provided one year of unemployment compensation

Millions of GIs bought homes, attended college, started business venture, or found jobs

America in the 50s


VA Mortgages paid for nearly 5 million new homes, by making homes affordable with low interest rates and 30 year loans.

President Franklin Roosevelt signs the GI Bill in 1944

Between 1945 and 1954, the U.S. added 13 million new homes to its housing stock

America in the 50s


The American birthrate exploded after World War II.

From 1945 -61 more than 65 million children were born

This period became known as the Baby Boom

Contributing factors:

The end of wars led to more young couples getting married

G.I. Bill encouraged growth of families by offering generous benefits for home purchases

Pop culture glorified pregnancy, parenthood and large families

America in the 50s

The Taft-Hartley Act

The federal law that greatly restricting the activities and power of labor unions

  • Closed shops illegal (Businesses could hire non-union workers)

  • No more jurisdictional strikes and secondary boycotts.

America in the 50s

Truman and Civil Rights

One of the major acts Harry

Truman made as president was in when 1948 Truman made an executive order

to end segregation in

the armed forces

Truman also asked Congress to pass a civil rights bill that would make lynching a federal crime

America in the 50s

ELECTION of 1948

Truman angered many Southern Democrats by supporting segregation

Many people didn’t think he would be re-elected

Harry S Truman

Thomas Dewey

Strom Thurmond

People were so sure that Truman would lose that one headline even incorrectly said that Dewey had won

Historians view the Election of 1948 as the greatest election upset in American history

America in the 50s


  • Southern Democrats leave national party in response to Truman's support for Civil Rights

  • Strom Thurmond – South Carolina Senator, runs for president as a Dixicrat

  • Dixicrats were Southern Democrats who backed racial segregation and limiting the voting rights of African Americans. The party was also known as the States Rights Party.

  • Thomas Dewey, New York’s Governor, runs for the Republicans

  • Truman appeared to lose – but appeals directly tothe people, citing the “Do-nothing Republican Congress” and wins the Election

America in the 50s

Truman’s “Fair Deal”

Truman said that all Americans had the right to expect a “fair deal” from the government

“The buck stops here.”

-- Harry Truman

  • What did the Fair Deal do?

  • It increased the minimum wage

  • Expansion of Social Security benefits

  • National Housing Act was passed to provide funding to build low-income housing

Chapter 22 section 2

Chapter 22, Section 2

A Society on the Move

America in the 50s

Suburbs = The American Dream

  • Affordable single-family housing

  • Good schools

  • Friendly neighbors like themselves

  • New highways, affordable automobiles, low gasoline prices

  • A safe, healthy environment for children

The New York suburb of Levittown was the first modern suburb

America in the 50s

Interstate Highways Built

The Federal Highway Act was passed in 1956

This was the largest public works program in American history.

Law called for the building of 40,000 miles of interstate

Interstate roads in DFW are I-20, I-30, I-35 and I-45

America in the 50s

The Automobile Culture

America became a more homogeneous nation because of the automobile.

First McDonald’s (1955)

Drive-In Movies

Holiday Inn

Movement to the sunbelt
Movement to the Sunbelt

Americans were attracted to the Sunbelt (southern and western states) because they offered new defense industry jobs. The invention of air-conditioning also made living in these states easier.

However, population growth increased tensions between groups. There was also greater pollution in these areas.

Changes in the economy
Changes in the Economy

During the postwar era, many Americans found jobs in the service sector as opposed to manufacturing.

Industries that experienced growth: information, franchises. Many companies also became multinational– doing business around the world.

Chapter 22 section 3

Chapter 22, Section 3

Mass Culture and Family Life

Increased consumerism
Increased Consumerism

After the war, American incomes rose, leaving more money to be spent on the emerging conveniences of the time period– appliances and cars especially.

The new american family
The New American Family

Families focused on unity. Women were encouraged to stay at home and raise the children, while the husband was the primary breadwinner. There was also an increased emphasis on religion and morality.

America in the 50s

Birth of television

By 1957, there were about 40 million television sets in use and TV became an important source of information

Shows like I Love Lucy and The Honeymooners were the most popular TV shows of the ’50s

America in the 50s

Pop Culture of the 1950s

Father Knows Best1954-1958

The Ozzie and Harriet Show1952-1966

Leave it to Beaver1957-1963

America in the 50s

Birth of Rock ’n Roll

In the 1950s, many teenagers rebelled against the middle-class suburban values, particularly conformity and wanted to be unique.

  • It was during this period that many youths turned to new and unconventional styles of music.

  • Soon white artists began making music that was based on African American rhythm and blues.

  • This form of music became known as rock ‘n’ roll and it became wildly popular with the nation’s teenagers.

America in the 50s

Elvis Presley

The King of Rock ’n Roll

Presley’s extraordinary popularity established rock ’n’ roll as an unprecedented mass-market phenomenon

His reputation as a performer endured up to his death in 1977 at the age of 42.

Graceland, his home in Memphis, is now a public museum visited by upwards of 600,000 people annually.

Chapter 22 section 4

Chapter 22, Section 4

Dissent and Discontent

America in the 50s

The Generation Gap

  • Many parents viewed rock ’n’ roll as loud and dangerous.

  • The music was banned in some communities.

  • The music united teens in their own world and helped to create what became known as the generation gap.

  • The generation gap was the cultural separation between children and their parents.

America in the 50s

The Beat Generation

The Beat Generation was the cultural movement of the 1950s when young people – often writers – ditched society’s normal standards for new ways of thinking

The major works of Beat writing are Allen Ginsberg's Howl, William S. Burroughs's Naked Lunch and Jack Kerouac's On the Road

Members of the Beat Generation were referred to as “beatniks” and set the stage for the rise of the counter-culture and hippies during the 1960s

America in the 50s

The War on Poverty

In his book The Other America, Michael Harrington showed that many Americans lived in poverty in the U.S.

The book influenced the thinking of both John F. Kennedy and his successor, Lyndon B. Johnson, as they both made the elimination of poverty a major goal.

“America needs to build a ‘Great Society.’ I am declaring a war on poverty.”

-- Lyndon B. Johnson

University of Michigan, 1964

Problems faced by minorities
Problems Faced by Minorities

Minorities continued to face unemployment and discrimination. Mexican migrant farmers were exploited and lived in poor conditions.

The U.S. gov targeted Native Americans and cut off healthcare and other services.