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Chapter 29: America at Midcentury, 1945-1960
Transcript of Chapter 29: America at Midcentury, 1945-1960
The Creation of the Middle Class
The Civil Rights Struggle
The Cold War and Anticommunism
Black Political Power
President Truman supported Civil Rights (especially because of the influence of blacks on politics)
1. December 1946 Truman signed executive order to establish President’s Committee on Civil Rights which called for anti lynching, anti segregation, and equal voting and employment for African- Americans
2. Issued two executive orders declaring end to racial discrimination in the federal govt: Fair employment (Employment Board of the Civil Service Commission) and desegregation in armed forces
The Cold War helped shape the African-American struggle for social justice
- United States could not pose as the leader of the free world when they were restricting the rights of people (African- Americans).
- To win support of other nations the United States had to live up to their ideals
Post- WWII and Cold War African Americans
Many African- Americans postwar (WWII) believed that they could have a better life because of the sacrifices they made (enforcement of certain veteran benefits did not apply to many AA because of Federal ineptitude that led to State control of the Bureau that handled veteran policies)
- A new black middle class was emerging (war veterans, college activists, etc.)
- White awareness of social injustice inspired by different authors
- Blacks and whites were working together in CIO unions and service organizations
An American Dilemma (1944)
A study of race relations in the U.S funded by The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and written by Nobel-Laureate economist, Gunnar Myrdal chosen because as a Swede he could be more objective about the "Negro Problem". He believed "White prejudice and discrimination keep the Negro low in standards of living, health, education, manners and morals. This, in its turn, gives support to white prejudice. White prejudice and Negro standards thus mutually 'cause' each other."
Native Son (1940) and Black Boy(1945)
Both by Richard Wright, an african french american, the latter is an autobiography in which he wrote: “Our too-young and too-new America, lusty because it is lonely, aggressive because it is afraid, insists upon seeing the world in terms of good and bad, the holy and the evil, the high and the low, the white and the black; our America is frightened of fact, of history, of processes, of necessity. It hugs the easy way of damning those whom it cannot understand, of excluding those who look different, and it salves its conscience with a self-draped cloak of righteousness” . In the former he suggested a solution: “Violence is a personal necessity for the oppressed...It is not a strategy consciously devised. It is the deep, instinctive expression of a human being denied individuality.” And addressed 'reverse racism' :“They hate because they fear, and they fear because they feel that the deepest feelings of their lives are being assaulted and outraged. And they do not know why; they are powerless pawns in a blind play of social forces.”
Gender and Sexuality
Modern Woman: The Lost Sex
Written by american and nazi sympathizer, Ferdinand Lundberg , it personified public opinion in stating that feminists and ambitious women suffered from "Penis Envy" perpetuating both the discrimination that they already faced in the work place. Despite it, twice as many females were employed in 1960 than in 1940 as maids, secretaries, teachers and nurses. 39% of whom had children between ages six and seventeen. These jobs were usually taken to temporarily suplement family income and only added to their domestic duties as wives and mothers (cooking, cleaning, childcare, and volunteer work at churches and schools).
The Organization Man
Written by William H. Whyte it perpetuated the "The Crisis of Masculinity" the probllematic argument that though men were expected to fufil their roles as husbands and fathers by providing for their families, white collar work and suburban life stifled a man's "natural instincts for adventure" an example of both the negative effects the patriarchy has on men and the blame of women for it as this was attributed to their "need" of stability.
Sexual Behavior in the Human Male
Dr. Alfred Kinsey, director of the Institute for Sex Research atIndiana University reported the antithesis of midcentury american values: 40% of Women had premarital sex and 37% of men had at least one homosexual experience. This at a time in which homosexuality was grounds for termination of employment, expulsion from school, and even jail.
Critics of Conformity
by Allen Ginsberg which was put on trial for obscenity and is therefore too inappropriate to quote, but was one of The Beat Generation's best and famous works. Other members of the movement (characterized by rejection of received standards, cultural normalities experimentation with drugs and alternative sexualities) included Jack Kerouac who wrote
out of "weariness all forms of the industrial state".
Criticism also circled in Academia and in the home as well. The Ladies home Journal and Reader's Digest questioned homogeneity. As did David Mailer in his popular novel
The Naked and the Dead
stating “It takes all kinds to make a world.” David Riesman condemed consumerisim in his 1950 book,
The Lonely Crowd
, asking "...isn't it possible that advertising as a whole is a fantastic fraud, presenting an image of America taken seriously by no one, least of all the advertising men who create it? ”
Supreme Court Victories and School Desegregation
AA were successful in challenging racial discrimination through the local court system. Northern legislatures were passing many measures prohibiting different types of discrimination. National success came through the Supreme Court system.
America was happy to have its 15 million servicemen come back from war, but was also anxious about the effects of demobilization on the veterans and U.S. economy.
Thurgood Marshall was the head of NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund
Smith vs. Allwright
(1944) - outlawed whites-only primaries held by the Democratic Party
Veterans came back, but had a hard time adjusting back to their old lives, but...
National Mental Health Act (1946) : realization of mental health issues and psychological toll of the war; called for establishment of National Advisory Mental Health Council.
Morgan vs. Virginia (1946) - dismissal of segregation on bus transportation
Shelley vs. Kramer
(1948) – racially restrictive covenants could not legally be enforced
Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka
(1954) – labeled “separate but equal” as to having no place
Economic Impact of Demobilization
GI Bill (Servicemen's Readjustment Act) : law that provided various economic benefits for returning soldiers.
Tuition payment, unemployment compensation,
gratitude and compensation from the country
Actually, unemployment compensation attempted to prevent demobilized veterans from flooding the economy.
ppl are more educated --> fuels economy --> national middle class culture
Montgomery Bus Boycott
Rosa Parks (longtime NAACP activist) = beginning of bus boycott movement
Martin Luther King Jr = nonviolent protest/ believed in ignoring unjust laws
Bus corporations with declining sales and bankruptcy
Supreme court declared no more segregation
White violence against AA increased
- Emmett Till Case – 14 year old murdered because he flirted with a white women
- White Citizens Councils – resisting school desegregation
- Plan proposed, from Harry F. Byrd Sr. ideology of "massive resistance", that helped with the provision of private school tuition for white children who wanted to leave integrated schools
- Chicago and other northern cities very segregated (prevention of moving into white neighborhoods
The first year of peacetime economy did not pan out, but economy recovered as consumer spending rose.
U.S. Co. gained global authority as many factories in the world were in ruins after the war.
Farming revolutionized : machines, fertilizers, pesticides were invented. Productivity increased.
Postwar American Demographics
Harry F. Byrd Sr.
White Citizens' Council Notice
Federal Authority and States' Rights
Baby Boom: Economic disaster during the Great Depression, people delayed marriage and birth rate went down. But as economy prospered after the war, marriage and birth rate rose
Baby Boom allowed developments of housing, schools, Social Security etc.
moved out to suburbs due to various reasons but most simply wanted their own affordable home.
Federal Policies supporting Subruban Development
Federal Housing Administration (FHA) : low-interest GI mortgages and loans to home owners
Highway Act : Congress's authorizing construction of higways
- President Eisenhower did not take much action on civil rights
- “The Southern Manifesto” – Brown decision was an “unwarranted exercise of power by the court”, therefor violating states' rights
- “Little Rock Nine” – In Little Rock, Arkansas nine AA attempted to enter their high school and were greeted with white resistance. 1,000 Arkansas National Guard sent by Eisenhower escorted them for a year
- Civil Rights Act (1957) – creating the United States Commission on Civil Rights (to help investigate discrimination), not very effective, but still
- Civil Rights Movement (still continuing) mostly considered a success
Inequality in Benefits
Selective Service Act: Veterans were guaranteed employment, and many women lost their jobs at a rate 75% higher than men to make room for veterans
People of foreign races (African American, Native American, Mexican American, Asian American) were the first to be removed from jobs due to Selective Service Act
Racially mixed neighborhoods were "redlined"
in the Cold War Era
Harry Truman and Postwar Liberalism
FDR's death in 1945 --> Vice President Truman becomes President
His presidency lasted from the end of WWII to the Cold War, so he focused much on foreign relations
Domestic Policy : tried to preserve the New Deal
Postwar Strikes and
the Taft-Hartley Act
Beginning of peacetime economy: wartime price control caused inflation --> people lost jobs, unions shut down, strikes occurred.
Truman was determined to bring armed forces to quell strikes
allowed states to outlaw "closed shops"
80 day cooling off period (no strikes for 80 days)
--> restricted Union expansion.
Immediately after the war, Truman was faced with inflation, shortages of consumer goods, strikes, and congressional oposition, which barred him from major legislative accomplishment.
Truman's approval rate : 87% --> 32%
Republican nominee : Thomas Dewey
Progressives nominee: Henry A. Wallace-->
support friendly Soviet relations.
States' Rights Democratic Party (Dixiecrats) form, nominee: Strom Thurmond-->segregationist
In the end, Truman got reelected, seeked support from African Americans; He became the first presidential candidate to campaign in Harlem.
Truman's Fair Deal
Gov't should provide economic security for the poor and old, thereby giving everybody a "fair deal".
ex) Truman supported African American civil rights, national health insurance program and federal aid.
fails to be a successful legislative agenda.
- U.S. was becoming more inclusive
- Divisions based on class, religion, ethnicity, etc. became less important (though it still was)
- The middle class became a large part of economy and lifestyle
- Middle-class Americans mostly looked toward the media for ‘instructions’ on how to be Middle class
- More fads
Eisenhower's Presidency and Dynamic Conservatism
Prosperity for More Americans
1950s had strong economic growth because of consumer spending. Government Spending ( for Cold War protection), also played a part
Cold War military spending helped the professional middle class grow because of the need of educated scientists and engineers. Billions of dollars went toward universities to fund military research
World War II general --> 34th President
Dynamic Conservatism : Conservative with $, Liberal for Human
For Liberal : raised Social Security benefits, added 7.5 million workers
more funding for education
National Defense Education Act (NDEA): funded school programs in mathematics, foreign languages, sciences, and etc
Cold War Fears and Anticommunism
Anti Communism was not a new concept during the Cold War Era. Red Scare swept the nation after the Bolshevik Revolution (1917)
Politics of Anticommunism
anticommunist emotions grow
suspicion of Soviet spies in the gov't
Truman orders investigations on government employees.
House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) : investigated "subversive and un-American propaganda".
suspected Hollywood employees for communist affiliations
McCarthyism and "Witch Hunt"
More HUAC accusations
Professors also became the targets of HUAC, calling out that the textbooks contain communist content.
United Auto Workers and General Motors: provided workers with health insurance, pension plans, and guaranteed cost-of-living adjustments or COLAs, which helped protect wages from inflation
“The Treaty of Detroit”: gave GM workers a five-year contract with regular wage increases tied to corporate productivity
Sunbelt and Economic Growth
- government policies helped bring poor into economic mainstream
- defense spending brought economic development to the South and Southwest (the Sunbelt)
- agribusiness, oil industry, real- estate, and recreation were all a large part of the Sunbelt economy
- Right-to-work laws: outlawed closed shops
- air- conditioning!
- population increase
A New Middle-Class Culture
- more white-collar than blue-collar workers
- the strength of unions eventually meant the decline of the working class
- standard of living mattered more than type of work in order to gain that status
- people of color did not equally share in the post-war prosperity but some did
Whiteness and National Culture
- America’s population was more homogeneous
- 88 percent of Americans were of European ancestry in 1950
- more and more European-Americans describing themselves as white
- new suburbs more diverse
- mass media taught Americans how to be middle-class
- Television ownership became 90 percent by 1960
- homogeneous, white, middle-class emphasis in mass- media
- TV shows like
Father Knows Best
Leave it to Beaver
showed how white, middle-class Americans, were supposed to act
- recipes like Campbell's Cream of Mushroom soup, showed what an "American" dish was
- Advertisement and racism: corporations that bought advertisements who did not want to offend potential consumers did not include African- Americans in their TV shows
- ABC, CBS, NBC were popular networks
Nat King Cole Show
was canceled within a year of its showing because of the racism involved in the media business
- new abundance of consumer goods
- use of consumer choices for personal identity and display of status
- rise of consumer debt from 5.7 billion to 58 billion dollars!
- membership in Christian churches doubled
- uncertainties in nuclear age= resurgence in religion
- religious teachings on television (Billy Graham who created national congregations through television)
Most suburbs in both the North and the South were racially segregated
Most white- Americans did not see a non-white person because of segregation and the small amount of non-whites
One-fifth of the poor were people of color, including almost half of the African- American population and more than half of the Native-Americans
Economics and the Environment
Consumer culture encouraged waste. Customers replaced products because they were "out of date". Corporations no longer needed to rely on "planned obsolescence " they revamped new models every year with they knowledge they would be purchased. But none of these products were produced with biodegradable materials. Nonrenewable resources polluted the air and water, as well as poisoned the soil. The worst was nuclear radiation from explosive testing. Another example was DDT, a chemical insecticide, which not only killed lice and mosquitoes as it did in the Pacific Islands during WWII, but also mammals, birds and fish afterward in the U.S.
Youth culture contained a series of subsets, those of white suburbanites (at whom consumer culture was targeted; their large numbers made them lucrative audience for toys and television), working class whites, and urban blacks. Elvis is evidence of the former two's social dominance . The icon and rock n' roll itself culturally appropriated the rhythm and blues of blacks. The man's fame and music's popularity worried parents who claimed, citing the "gyrating" dance trend, influenced delinquency. Indeed rates of criminality did rise, but only in status crimes such as underage drinking, curfew violation and sexual experimentation. Young people
began "going steady" entering serious romantic relationships at a
young age, Men were typically married by their nineteenth
birthday, a their wives only a year younger. They had an
average of four children. Diaphragms and
condoms were used for family planning.
Poverty in an age of abundance
Poverty in the 1950's was largely a reflection of racial inequality. Though poverty abound in the southern Appalachians, whites were able to achieve a higher standard of living once they migrated to cities due to low unemployment and a strong economy. Blacks, hispanics and asians faced discrimination. In 1947 the Community Organization Act was founded for Mexican American civil rights. Federal programs that aimed to aid the middle class indirectly worsened the condition of the poor. The National Housing Act of 1949 was passed to provide "a decent home for every American family", but in reality, the redevelopment meant slum clearance and many lost their houses. Native Americans had it hardest; their average annual income was hardly half of the poverty level. Things were made worse by the Termination policy implemented by the Eisenhower administration. The revision of the Indian Reorganization Act effectively reversed it.Tribes could remove their reservation lands from federal protection that prohibited their sale. The tribes were immensely pressured to do so. when their when their property was rich in natural resources.
is the practice of making public accusations of disloyalty, subversion, or treason to those suspected of practicing communism.
Joseph R. McCarthy
Claimed that there were communists in the U.S. state department.
Anticommunism in Congress
Internal Security Act (McCarran Act, 1950)
: required communist organizations to register with the government to be investigated persons suspected of subversive activities.
Communist Control Act (1954)
: membership in communist party is illegal.
Waning of the Red Scare
discredited on public events.
drunk on a hearing, accused an innocent lawyer
eventually got the Senate to "condemn" McCarthy
died in 1957, age of 48
refers to the monetary relationship between legislators, national armed forces, and the military industrial base
by 1959, half of total federal expenditures went to support the military of 3.5 million men and develop
The 50's evokes the popular image of a nuclear family: the housewife and family bread winner. This perception is not necessarily wrong, however women often felt repressed in the domestic sphere. While it was perfectly possible to live a modest middle class life on one male salary this was fulfilling for many. Women were prevented many women from pursuing careers as did the lack of decent child care. Many mothers felt obligated to stay at home. Some men struggled in the their post WWII positions. White and blue collar work was thought to be emasculating when compared with combat.
The 50's evokes the popular image of a nuclear family: the housewife and family bread winner. This perception is not necessarily wrong, however women often felt repressed in the domestic sphere. While it was perfectly possible to live a modest middle class life on one male salary this was fulfilling for many. Women were prevented many women from pursuing careers as did the lack of decent child care. Many mothers felt obligated to stay at home. S