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Affluence & Anxiety. 1950s Modern America & Civil Rights. The Postwar Boom. 1945-1960--rapid economic growth 1960--fear of another depression wanes. Postwar Prosperity. Stimuli to consumer goods industry Baby boom Population shift to suburbia ↑ defense spending

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Affluence & Anxiety


Modern America & Civil Rights

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The Postwar Boom

  • 1945-1960--rapid economic growth

  • 1960--fear of another depression wanes

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Postwar Prosperity

  • Stimuli to consumer goods industry

    • Baby boom

    • Population shift to suburbia

  • ↑ defense spending

  • ↑ in capital investments

  • Employment expands

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Lingering Problems

  • Agricultural overproduction, low prices

  • Older industrial areas decline

  • 1957-1958--recession slows decade’s economic growth

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Characteristics of the Suburbs

  • Dependence on the automobile

    • Father drove to work

    • Schools built

    • Mother drove to shopping centers

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Characteristics, 2

  • Family togetherness

    • Holidays spent together

    • Vacations spent together

    • Even TV watched together

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Suburbia Filled with..

  • Cookie cutter

    • Developments

    • Homes

    • Lives

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Suburbia, 2

  • Inhabited by middle class

  • They move “for the children”

  • Cities inhabited by under classes

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Suburbia, 3

  • Middle class restructured

  • Upper working class became members

  • Very few non-whites in suburbs

  • Segregation by physical space

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First Modern Suburb

  • Levittown

  • Several built in the Northeast

  • 1st in PA

  • Divisions had up to 2,000 homes each

  • Many more followed

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Lawn care – new concern

  • In the city there were no lawns or even trees

  • Now men tended to their lawns as part of the suburban lifestyle

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Patio Living

  • In the city everyone met on the front stoop

  • In the suburbs everyone went to the patio

  • To relax, eat, & party

  • New types of entertaining

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Cooking Out!

  • Hard to cook out in the city

  • Now nice backyards to spend hours in

  • Cook out & BBQ

  • Became one of the outdoor hobbies of men

    • Lawn care another

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New Services

For Suburb Living

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Theater Goes to the Suburbs

  • Drive-In Movies

  • Like today

  • Except there were also playgrounds for children

  • Even train rides

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Drive-In Food

  • Since the car had become such an important staple to American life

  • The Drive-In restaurant was born

  • No longer did Americans have to get out of the car to eat

  • Food was brought to your car

  • Eventually the drive-thru

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Busy lives – New food options

  • TV Dinners

  • Swanson bought too many turkeys one holiday season

  • What to do with all the leftover?

  • Design a frozen meal – easy to prep

  • 1st frozen dinner

    • Turkey, dressing, potatoes, peas

  • And they could be eaten in front of the TV

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After WWII

  • Women willingly went back home

  • Few wanted to continue to work or stay in the military

  • Most wanted:

    • A husband

    • A home

    • Children

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Women & Propaganda

  • Govt encouraged return to “traditional” lives

  • TV presented happy homemakers & happy families

  • Magazines addressed all types of “home” issues

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Traditional Feminism Discouraged

  • But not everyone agreed

  • Bombshell:

  • “The Feminine Mystique” published

  • By Betty Friedan

  • Discussed what women thought of their lives & what they really wanted

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More Women in Workplace

  • Stimulated New Feminism

  • Eventual belief a woman could do it all & have it all!

  • She can be Wonder Woman

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Hard Won Victories

  • Over time conditions better for women

  • Wage gap shrank

  • Increased visibility in sports

  • Flexibility for working parents

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Dissident Voices

  • Not everyone openly fought for women’s rights

  • The Total Woman by Marabel Morgan

    • Urged women to take care of their husbands

    • If he was happy, you would be happy

    • The inclusion of sexual ideas kept women reading

  • Millions of women read

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The Good Life?

  • On the surface life seemed ideal

  • But…

  • Consumerism the dominant social theme of the 1950s

  • Quality of life left Americans anxious and dissatisfied

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Church Membership

  • Membership in churches grew as families grew

  • Americans seemed to want & need a connection to the church & God

    • Reaction against rampant consumerism

    • “propaganda” of “Traditionalism”

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School Attendance

  • As the baby boom children came of school age

  • 1,000s of schools are built

  • In city, suburb, town, & country

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Television Watching

  • Favorite pastime

    • Network programs for groups

    • Families together

    • Mothers during the day

    • Children after school

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See the USA!

  • Families traveled across the country

  • On new highways

  • Staying in new “motels”

    • Holiday Inn

  • Visiting old & new attractions

    • Disneyland

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Critics of Consumer Society

  • Social critics of suburban culture

  • Jack Kerouac, writer

  • Traveled to report on

  • “Beat” artists who promoted counterculture

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Criticism – new forms

  • Writers & “Beat” artists

  • Not the only critics

  • Women

  • AAs

  • & music

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Birth of Rock & Roll – Elvis

  • Not your parents music!

  • The repression of the ’50s

  • Left baby boomers

  • Restless & frustrated

    • Especially by the social norms of the day

    • Perfectly dressed & no sex until marriage

  • Rock & roll exclaimed this

  • And helped to break down the barriers

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Remember Sputnik?

  • 1957

  • 1st satellite

  • Launched by

  • USSR

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Reaction to Sputnik

  • American response

    • National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

    • National Defense Education Act

      • upgrade science teaching

  • Sense of failure, declined by 1960

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Farewell to Reform

  • Spirit of reform wanes in postwar years

  • Reasons:

    • Growing affluence reduced sense of grievance

    • Americans eager to enjoy their new prosperity

    • Consumerism & Capitalism is Strong!

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Truman & the Fair Deal

  • Fair Deal attempted to expand New Deal

  • Limited achievement

    • Consolidated Roosevelt's reforms

    • Set the agenda for future attempts

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Eisenhower's Modern Republicanism

  • Eisenhower left New Deal intact

  • 1956--Highway Act created interstate highway system

    • stimulated the economy

    • shaped metropolitan growth patterns

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Civil Rights-The Struggle

  • Cold War prompted quest for American moral superiority

  • Legal discrimination against AAs challenged US self-image

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Civil Rights as Political Issue

  • Truman’s CRs legislation failed

  • But did integrated the armed forces

  • CR made part of the liberal Democratic agenda

  • Election of 1948

  • AA vote gave Truman margin of victory

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Finding an end to

Jim Crow

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  • Realizing the climate was changing

  • NAACP started court cases

  • Brown v Board of Education of Topeka, KS

  • Argued separate but equal was inherently unequal

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  • 1954

  • US Supreme Court handed down its’ decision

  • Brown v. Board of Education

    • Segregated schools unconstitutional

    • Desegregate "with all deliberate speed"

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  • Although the decision was specifically aimed at education

  • It was clear that

  • Segregation was on its way out

  • Just as Plessy v Ferguson had institutionalized Jim Crow laws

  • Brown v Board overturned Plessy

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Desegregating the Schools

  • Massive resistance in Deep South

  • 1957--Eisenhower acted

    • Federal troops sent to Little Rock, AR

    • Commission on Civil Rights estab

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The Beginnings of Black Activism

NAACP--press for CRs in courts as other groups work toward CRs

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Bus Boycott

  • 1955

  • Rosa Parks

  • MLK leads

    • And comes to the attention of the nation

  • Montgomery Bus Boycott

    • Ends after nearly a year & concessions from the bus company

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  • 1956

  • Southern Christian Leadership Conference

  • Southern ministers

    • Esp black ministers

  • Directs anti-segregation campaign

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Sit Ins

  • Sit-Ins

  • Attempts to desegregate lunch counters

  • Occur to bring attention to segregation

  • One more way to protest

  • Part of the resistance of college students

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  • Sit-Ins not always quiet

  • Often verbal abuse

  • Occasionally violent

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  • By the end of the decade…

  • 1960

  • Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee

  • Struggle for civil rights moves to the college campus

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  • American people more optimistic in 1960 than in 1950

  • Fear of economic depression wanes

  • Fear of Cold War continues

  • ↑ recognition that racial injustice incompatible w/Am ideals

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After the Show…

  • Go to:

  • Watch “We didn’t start the fire” music video

  • Then open the email I sent with the lyrics

  • Follow the directions included