American History / Social, Economic Or Political Events Of The 1950s

Social, Economic Or Political Events Of The 1950s

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Autor:  anton  21 December 2010
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Social, Economic or Political Events of the 1950s to the 1990s

Kelly Postl

AXIA College-University of Phoenix

The American Experience Since 1945 - HIS135

Jill Le Gare

February 24, 2008

Social, Economic or Political Events of the 1950s to the 1990s

The 1950s – Racial Challenges

Challenging racial prejudice in the United States in the 1950s was a daunting undertaking. While African-Americans, in the main, again bore the brunt of the backlash, no single person, group, or institution put civil rights on the national agenda, and no one person, group, or institution saw to it that it stayed on the national agenda. Stay it did. The changes in attitude and law that did occur came about as the result of a shared commitment from many, many people to take risks, highlight injustice, and press the cause for change. That commitment was not an easy one to make. It is easy to forget, in today's era of more cautious and covert discrimination, that the choice to add one's voice to the chorus for change was a choice that could—and not infrequently did—result in death. But those were the stakes between the years 1954 and 1968 in the United States of America.

Tens of thousands of people of all races risked not just their standing in the community, but also their lives, in the hope of building a coalition for racial equality that could not possibly be ignored. They succeeded in building that coalition—even if the highest ideals of the cause they promoted remain, in some cases, unfulfilled. During this time, African-Americans were subject to racial segregation despite the belief put forward in The Declaration of Independence 1776 that, 'all men are created equal and that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.' However, the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s was brewing. Key figures like Martin Luther Kin, Malcom X and Rosa Parks highlighted and challenged those who were against African-American rights and freedom. The Little Rock Nine integrated Central High School ending segregation in schools.

In the early 1950's, racial segregation in public schools was the norm across America. Although all the schools in a given district were supposed to be equal, most black schools were far inferior to their white counterparts. Brown and the NAACP appealed to the Supreme Court on October 1, 1951 and their case was combined with other cases that challenged school segregation in South Carolina, Virginia, and Delaware. The Supreme Court's Brown v. Board of Education decision did not abolish segregation in other public areas, such as restaurants and restrooms, nor did it require desegregation of public schools by a specific time. It did, however, declare the permissive or mandatory segregation that existed in 21 states unconstitutional. It was a giant step towards complete desegregation of public schools. Even partial desegregation of these schools, however, was still very far away, as would soon become apparent.

1960s – New Economics

The beginning of the Kennedy presidency in 1961 was widely perceived to bring to Washington a New Economics. John F. Kennedy, as senator and presidential candidate, had sought the advice of academic economists. But what was truly new about the New Economics was that it became a strong intellectual force in government. As president, he appeared to be more interested in economic analysis and in the ideas of economists and their policy implications than had been his predecessor, Dwight Eisenhower. Their work was at the forefront of current research, and their views were informed by Keynesian ideas, as modified and integrated with traditional theory after World War II. This interest was reflected in the appointment to his administration of a number of academic economists.

Some observers today credit the New Economics and its influence on the policies of the Kennedy-Johnson years for the sustained prosperity of the 1960s, and thus regard them as an example worth emulating. The natural rate of unemployment, rational expectations, the new classical economics, and real business cycle theory offered powerful theoretical arguments against the economics of the 1960s, which charged with over stimulating demand under the mistaken expectation that lower unemployment could be sustained at an acceptable increase in inflation. Others see the legacy of those policies in the 6 percent inflation rate at the end of the decade, when unemployment fell to 3.5 percent - too low for stability. In the economics profession, the idea that activist discretionary policies could produce and preserve stability came under attack.

The attempt to stabilize the economy at high levels of employment was not the only hallmark of 1960s economics. Thus while stabilization issues most clearly defined the decade for economists and are the subject of some papers in this volume, other papers examine developments in these other spheres -- international, fiscal, and social as viewed through the lens of economics. Policymakers had to contend with the dollar’s evolving role in the world and its eventual overvaluation, which marked the beginning of the end of the Bretton Woods system of international financial arrangements. Tax changes were aimed at encouraging investment for long-run economic growth. And significant initiatives were taken to strengthen the nation’s social safety net, including the introduction of Medicare.

1970s – Women’s Rights

During the 1970's the United States underwent some profound changes. First a Vice President and then a President resigned under threat of impeachment. The Vietnam War continued to divide the country even after the Paris Peace Accords in January 1973 put an end to U.S. military participation in the war. Roe v. Wade legalized abortion. Crime increased despite Nixon’s pledge to make law and order a top priority of his presidency. Increased immigration followed passage of the Immigration Act of 1965, which reformed an earlier policy that favored western Europeans. People from Third World countries came to this country in search of economic betterment or to escape political repression. Women, minorities, and gay increasingly demanded full legal equality and privileges in society. Women expanded their involvement in politics. The proportion of women in state legislatures tripled. Women surpassed men in college enrollment in 1979. However, the rising divorce rate left an increasing number of women as sole breadwinners and forced more and more of them into poverty.

Throughout most of history women generally have had fewer legal rights and career opportunities than men. Wifehood and motherhood were regarded as women's most significant professions. In the 20th century, however, women in most nations won the right to vote and increased their educational and job opportunities. Perhaps most important, they fought for and to a large degree accomplished a reevaluation of traditional views of their role in society. Since early times women have been uniquely viewed as a creative source of human life. Historically, however, they have been considered not only intellectually inferior to men but also a major source of temptation and evil. In Greek mythology, for example, it was a woman, Pandora, who opened the forbidden box and brought plagues and unhappiness to mankind. Early Roman law described women as children, forever inferior to men. The Women's Rights Movement of the 1970s was fundamental to all those changes that came later. And the women’s rights leaders were trailblazers in their own right.

1980s – AIDS and HIV

Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) are pandemic and pose one of the greatest challenges to global public health. As a blood borne and sexually transmitted infection, HIV has variable patterns of transmission and impact among world regions and has disproportionately affected disadvantaged or marginalized persons such as commercial sex workers, injection drug users, men who have sex with men, and persons living in poverty. HIV infection has caused approximately 20 million deaths; an estimated 36 million persons are infected. In Western Europe and the United States, deaths attributed to HIV have declined substantially since the introduction of highly active antiretroviral therapies. However, reported increases in STDs and other indicators of increased risk-taking behavior may be leading to an increase in HIV transmission.

Despite these challenges, even countries with modest resources have demonstrated that the epidemic can be stabilized or reversed. In these countries, successful programs have included strong, high-level political leadership for HIV prevention, a national program plan, adequate funding, and strong community involvement. Effective and feasible interventions for HIV prevention and control are available. Quality testing and guidelines for blood use can promote a safer blood supply. Widespread condom promotion can reduce HIV in high-risk populations, and education programs for young persons can result in decreased risk-taking behavior. The increase in HIV infection and AIDS deaths has led to increases in aid from governments and national and international organizations and foundations. Since 1999, the U.S. government increased its financial support to HIV/AIDS prevention and care programs in affected countries. For fiscal year 2001, this totaled $457.5 million. Participating agencies include the U.S. Agency for International Development, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Defense, the Department of Labor, and the Department of Commerce.

1990s – Labor Law Reform

Labor law reform at the federal level remains a vital objective, are valuable and appropriate. In the 1990s the issue of labor law reform again reached the halls of Congress only to, yet again, die. The discussion continued and the result was the same. Now, in 2006, the issue is once again before us with reform advocates generally conceding that labor law reform has little potential to become reality and that a shift in the composition of the Congress as well as the White House is a necessary first step to achieve change. The National Labor Relations Act is based on the principle of exclusive representation. Once a union wins a certification election, it represents all workers on the job. No other union may represent any of the workers, even if some workers want it to do so.

Labor reform served simultaneously to consolidate political democracy and slow down the momentum of social democratization. It was a tool for signaling policy change to legitimate the democratic regime, but at the same time leaving the liberal economy intact. It then investigates the political process of labor reform. Ongoing legal debates through the 1990s show the extent of path dependence set in motion by the timid nature of the first social reforms. The reforms of the 1990s has done little to improve the overall labor market and it seems that most jobs are still not able to survive in the U.S.


Political struggles are always about the control of resources1. The division of the world between one group of countries that use their power and privilege to command the resources and productive capacities of another group of countries by exercising control over political, cultural and social structures used to be called colonialism. Today it is called globalization. The globalization of the economic, political, social and cultural structures is not new; what is new is the pace and extent of this process of integration. Facilitated by rapid advances in information technology and biotechnology, the world has become a single marketplace where the gains go to those who have the means to take advantages of the opportunities presented for unprecedented wealth and privilege. This process has been going on for a number of years, resulting in an increasing gap between the rich and the poor, within countries as well as between countries, but in a sense it was accelerated in the Decade of the 1980s, the decade termed by Latin Americans The Lost Decade. This decade saw the reversal of many of the gains made in the 1960s and 1970s as countries adopted the policy framework of Structural Adjustment, the conditions under which they received assistance from the International Monetary Fund as they struggled to repay their international debts


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