The Urge For Civil Rights Continues

High pressure hose used against protesters in Birmingham, AlabamaDuring the 1960’s, there was a firm desire for  gaining equal rights for African Americans. This desire was sparked by the movements made in the 1950’s where many civil rights activist were able to abolish many forms of segregation such as in public schools in the case of Brown V. The Board of Education and public transportationin the case of the The Montgomery bus boycott. Although progress was made on equal rights during the 1950s, not much has changed in society seeing as segregation still existed in bussiness and there were still only a handfull of Colored students enrolled in previously all-white schools.

 The forms of protest performed by activists were mainly passive. Even while facing the harsh riots of Birmingham, Alabama, Colored students marched in the streets while being assulted by the local athorities. The atrosities commited in the Birmingham incident were broadcasted and raised awareness of the brutal actions taken towards protesters. After the Birmingham incident became publicaly known, actions were taken to quell the riots and established desegregation in the local bussiness.


The Black Movement

Black riot in the 1960s

In the 1960s, the Civil Rights Movement concerning African Americans continued to grow. This is a battle that blacks in America had been fighting for years, and while there was some advancement through various legislation, there was still great unrest in the black community. Violent outbreaks began in black ghettos; these conflicts involved angry blacks and mostly white police. They first broke out in Harlem in 1964 and began happening in various ghettos such as Los Angeles and Detroit. This violence was so widespread that many citizens feared a racial civil war would come out of it. While government recognized the riots and outbreaks, there were no outright proposals for any kind of change.

Montgomery Bus Boycott

The unrest that caused this violence spurred from the rampant legal segregation that had existed. During the 1950s, many began to fight it, no longer able to deny its injustice. However, it was in the 1960s that opposition began to turn so violent and recurrent.


The Golden Age of television

Television was the first audio- visual media that let people watched live events while they were sitting in their living room. According to Foner, “By the end of the 1950s, nearly nine of ten  American families owned a TV set.” Beside the affordable price, tv was a simply entertaining media also. People could choose what they wanted to see by switching different channel. Television also became the most efficient way for advertising. Companies broadcasted their ads through the televisions.


On a Mission to Save the World!

In the 1950s, the Beat movement was led by a group of poets and writers who deviated from the behaviors and values of mainstream culture. In the 1960s, many movements were also started for the pursuit of a common cause. For instance, the environmental movement began as more and more people became aware of the growing dangers of water contamination, air pollution, and the threat of extinction of certain animal species. The movement received bipartisan support. During Nixon’s presidency, Congress enacted many legislations including the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts and the Endangered Species Act to ensure the quality of air and water and safety  of animals. In addition, on April 22, 1970, the first Earth Day was launched, which attracted many youths to come to the rallies, concerts, and teach-ins.

The Environmental movement had roots in the 1950s because the previous decade was a symbol of consumerism. People were obsessed with their individual desires and ignored the impact of their actions on the enviornment. People pursued the American dream vigorously by purchasing more cars just becaues they could. In the 1960s, people began to realize that there is a consequence for their actions. Therefore, the environmental movement was to undo the spoils of the 1950s.


A Woman’s Ideal Life

Although during the 1950s, women began working more outside of the home and began to expand their horizons regarding the roles of modern-day women, the suburban lifestyle movement dominated. In the ideal suburban family’s household, the male still held the most authority and was considered to be the representative of the household because he still made the most money. A suburban female was supposed to be a stay-at-home wife. Various media pushed and glorified the married life for females. Marriage was portrayed to be the top priority for women. Advertisements portrayed wives working at home and doing household chores as extremely happy in the stay-at-home role.


Golden “Car Ages”

In 1950s, cars became an very important part of American families’ live. Whenever you watch a movie about that time period they always have big, fast, and flashy cars. Car ownership more than doubled in the 1950’s. From 1950 to 1970, the U.S. automobile population grew four times faster than the human population. By 1960, 80% of American families owned at least one car, and 14% had two or more.




Now where in the history of America has consumerism became widespread as in the 1950s. Not only in its breadth but also in depth as the very notion of freedom(something that symbolizes America) became intertwined with it. The 50’s was an era called the Golden Age of Capitalism, a period of unprecedented economic growth that benefited both the capitalists and workers, as result of higher wages. Economic prosperity led to a growing middle class, which demanded appliances and products that would enable them enjoy more leisure time and spend less in the kitchen or cleaning up the house. Inventions such as the dishwasher, washing machine and vacuum cleaners became household items. Even a reporter for House Beautiful Magazine asserted that the most potent weapon in the Cold War was “the freedom offered by washing machines and dishwashers, vacuum cleaners, automobiles, and refrigerators.” The image above is an advertisement from the 1950’s and showed how unscrupulous the advertising was since Coke was advertised to kids, and also one of the selling points in the poster says “Boosts Personality!”


Barbies’ of the 1950s

In chapter 24, Foner discusses American people in  consumerism and freedom of consumer choice in the 1950s. After WWII Americans were desperate for anything, people had the eagerness to buy many things created an economic boom in the U.S. During this time period consumer values dominated the American economy and culture; mass productions of commercials were made to satisfy consumer’s wants and needs. Various commercials appealed people of all ages. Just like now a day advertisements of the 1950s evolved with just anything; automobiles, beverages, toys, the latest fashion trend, and other daily goods. The video footage above is an example of one TV commercial of barbies in the 1950s.


The 1950’s saw the television’s rise in popularity. “By the end of the 1950’s, nearly nine of ten American families owned a TV set.” This drastically changed American life. People started using the TV as a source of information. The job that once belonged to strictly the newspapers was moving on to other formats. America also began using TV as their number one leisure activity. They would watch shows like The Goldbergs, The Honeymooners, and Leave It To Beaver. However, the biggest impact that television had was through its advertisements.

Advertisements were now being seen on a mass scale, due to the amount of TV that was being watched across the country. Without Tivo most people would actually sit through the commercials, and some even found them entertaining. Jack Straus, the chairman of the board of Macy’s said, “The luxuries of today are the necessities of tomorrow.” What this means is that people are starting to think they need goods that were once considered luxuries. America started shifting into a consumer country. People were being “brainwashed” to buy all sorts of things. Items such as Levi’s or Coca-Cola were once items of the rich. Now, the entire population was buying everything they could. They were taking out loans, and buying on credit, both things that were not done before. The TV and advertisements really shifted the way Americans behaved. Above is a clip of a handful of television commercials from the 1950’s and 1960’s. I found them quite interesting. I hope you do as well.


Oh McCarthy!

Senator Joseph R. McCarthy was barely known outside of Wisconsin, the state he was elected for. In order to make up for that he claimed that he had a list of 205 communists working for the State Department. He did this in February 1950, during a speech at Wheeling, West Virginia. Although this was totally fabricated, he convinced the Senate subcommittee that he chaired to hold hearing against many people, as well as the Defense Department, The Voice of America, and many other government agencies. This was only happening because people believed what McCarthy was saying. However, this would not last for much longer.

In 1954 the Senate looked into something that McCarthy claimed was true. He said that the army had coddled communists. The army decided to hold publicly televised hearing with McCarthy, and those ultimately led America to finally see that McCarthy made all his accusations without any basis. McCarthy died only three years later.

Senator McCarthy changed the near and distant future in many ways. This most important thing he did was that he created this extreme fear of communism, for no reason. He made America believe that the communists were not only in our country, but within our own government. Many people were wary of the government during this time period, and it was only due to the fictitious accusations of McCarthy. I do not think that the anticommunist movement would have been so strong if McCarthy was not a part of it. His words were gobbled up by the public because he was working in Congress. He used his power to try and gain fame.

McCarthy also had an impact on today’s times. He affected the way we accept information as true. Nowadays we don’t just accept what anybody says. We investigate every detail, we ask for sources, and we challenge everything we can. Back in the 50’s McCarthy was able to get away with saying what he wanted, and not many people questioned him. However, we learned from our mistakes, and we saw the importance of challenging out superiors, and finding out if what they are saying is actually true.