The United States had appeared to be dominated by consensus and conformity in the 1950s. As the commotions of the first half of the century ended, people were relieved but faced oncoming internal issues. The Great Depression and the two Great Wars caused people to seek tranquility and harmony. The fifties were the decade of change led by president Eisenhower. During this time the nation was in an up rise in many ways. The economy was booming as the Gross National Product more than doubled from the past decade. Thus there was a rise in consumer spending which had a domino effect on the economy.
Though it was unexpected, many issues arrived such as the fear of communism and the suspicion of communists hiding in the government. At this period the youth were in the process of change as there was a great break in traditional values. In the midst of all the upheaval civil rights factions saw it as an ideal opportunity to correct the differences of society. Primarily, these groups’ goals were to desegregate the nation. The youth reacted to the status quo by changing their conventional ways. To start with, there was a new “baby boom” generation. Women throughout decided to marry more often and give birth to more children.
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To celebrate the female anatomy, the “cult of domesticity” became a custom. The newborns required certain products that created demand. Since there was more money available in the family and a greater need for products, consumption rapidly increased. These youths grew to be teenagers where they see an abrupt change. Change in their dress, where they eat, how they travel and what they watched. People started dressing in gray flannel suits, poodle skirts, shirt dresses, saddle shoes and others. Like no other times, teens drove cars and headed to fast food takeout place such as McDonalds.
The economy was the main cause for these controversial advances. Another medium to which people reacted was the Television. Shows such as Father Knows Best, Leave It to Beaver and Ozzie and Harriet gained instant popularity during this period. These shows portrayed the never ending hope of the American dream. For instance, nuclear families with the father having a well paid job and the mother and children relax in the house. These sitcoms were factors in turning the dream into a reality. Families living in a rent house were now able to afford to move to the suburbs.
New York’s Levittown which consisted of identical houses exemplified the new home of a middle class family. At this time, Levittown and other similar areas were still segregated. Additionally, people made a change in the music they listened to. Elvis Presley the pioneer of rock and roll changed entertainment forever. Elvis’s fleshy face, erotic physique and sexually suggestive gyrations attracted the baby boomer of the decade. Because of these features and his unique dance moves, he faces controversy in the face of the media and some common American people.
Parents did not want their children to adapt to the “King’s” ways. The new attitude followed on youths disobeying order. The same situation would follow on to the next decade and eventually on to the future. The fifties was a period of the emergence of civil rights groups. As with any issue of this time, their main goal was put an end to segregation. Many reasons caused this vision to launch. African Americans argued why the U. S. was fighting overseas but ignored its central issues at home. Higher education and the rise of the black middle class added to the start of the civil rights movement.
The laws during this time were unjust because everything was in the best interest of the whites. This was because of the population and cultural differences between the two groups. They segregated places from water fountains to buses to public schools. Chief of Justice Earl Warren was responsible for the eventual success of such civil rights groups. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People declared challenges to desegregate the education board. The NAACP believed it was unconstitutional not to do so. Warren’s risky decision in Brown v.
Board of Education of Topeka struck down segregated education. This decision contradicts the “separate but equal” decision declared by Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896. Even though it was not very effective, it was a great step forward in the civil rights movement. Later, one determined individual would change the way people reached a solution. Martin Luther King Jr. a minister from Alabama used the ancient form of civil disobedience. He believed violence only leads to more violence. This moral man demonstrated on the streets of Birmingham.
He would get arrested but his followers continued to demonstrate. They hoped doing this would send a message to the government to act. Another person to challenge the old and unjust laws was a companion of MLK Jr. , Rosa Park. With the same mindset of Dr. King, she bravely refused to give up her bus seat to a white man. She was later arrested. Raging African American communities immediately boycotted the bus service. As it was a great loss to the city, it desegregated the bus system within a year. Getting national support for the movement demonstrates Dr. King’s skillful and nonviolent approach.
This would follow on to Congress passing the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. These acts forever outlawed segregation and ultimately integrated blacks into the American society. In conclusion, the United States hoped for peace and prosperity in the 1950s after major unrest in the first half of the century. Instead it was dominated by consensus and conformity. Youths and civil rights activists reacted dramatically to the new status quo. Civil rights movement reshaping American history and youths changing tradition helped bring a change in the development of America and how people view it.