When most people are taught about U. S. history, we think of mostly the bad times like the wars, the civil rights movements, President Kennedy’s and M. L. King Jr’s associations, just to name a few. In this paper I will discuss those and more going into the start of the 21st century. The previous five decades consisting of the 1950s into the millennium happened during the U. S. History equally turbulent, but exciting. There also were numerous transformations within social, governmental, plus technological sections, but the WWII era currently seems rather prehistoric.
Since the 1950s America has experienced major cultural transformations, starting with four main military disagreements, accelerated technological advancements, new but dangerous diseases, also one president resigns from office instead of facing impeachment or prison, then collapse to the Soviet Union, also numerous economic challenges. The United States was winning the WWII war, also some ensuing economic growth and political circumstances forced the United States in the spotlight.
America had money and predictably assisted other countries, while developing their own troubles on the home front, increasing troubles socially plus economically.
Numerous big trends happened throughout the 1950’s, ranging from the Cold War amidst America and the Soviet Union grew, and then the Korean War brought America to a new global war, although tensions intensified in “Egypt with the Suez Canal disaster,” and the Cuban Revolution between Castro and the people, then the United States went through some confused moments with the Anti-Communist viewpoints, and the Senator J. McCarthy’s allegations. (Halberstam, 1994). The Civil Rights Movement, in the 1950s, did have some rather impressive improvements.
These improvements occurred not because of an individual person or single group, but of a movement that seemed to unite and solidify even through adversity. Possibly it was the best time cause, ”Blacks had served in World War II, exposing some White Americans to race issues for the first time; the country was centered on anti-communism, so race may have taken a back seat. It is also important to remember that it was not only brave African Americans who led the fight for justice, but college students and religious leaders of many races.
In fact, these activities often employed legal challenges, civil protests, and other initiatives to bring the issue of racism into the living rooms of middle-class Americans. Not every African Americans agreed with the manner in which the struggle should be made: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr was a primary advocate of peaceful change” reasonable dialog, and taking the arguments of Thoreau and Gandhi to heart. King believed if enough people purposely broke, albeit peacefully, unjust laws and actions, those laws would fail. (Morris,1986, 30-44, 58-89).
In contrast, though, as millions of African Americans migrated from the rural South to the North and West seeking new and better jobs, they demanded higher pay and a more democratic systems. This, combined with more mechanization of agriculture in the South, moved the African American into wider dispersion throughout the country. It is also interesting to note that most Americans and politicians supported the decolonization of the African nations and equal government and rights for those populations but then in their own backyard had differing views.
Legal challenges were plentiful with the largely recognized was the 1954 verdict on Brown versus Board of Education, and the U. S. Supreme Court administered “segregated schools unconstitutional. ” In refusing anyone the right to an education, the Court said, many institutions in the South were refusing basic Constitutional rights guaranteed by the 14th Amendment. (See: http://brownvboard. org/summary). Although, the ruling was a major victory, when, in 1957 the Little Rock Arkansas School District was commanded to desegregate; and its Governor Fabus refused, arguing that the States had the right to administer their schools.
In the Fall of 1957, Fabus called out the National Guard to prevent African Americans from entering Little Rock High School ” and media coverage in its infancy, and Americans were not surprised to seeing white adults in crowds attacking Black children. As the world’s eyes are observing the United States and President Eisenhower desperate to regain control over the U. S. , and Federal Troops were called in to protect African Americans, and Governor Fabus closed the schools in 1958 and 1959. Still, the Movement accentuated the idea of peaceful coexistence and the establishment of legal authority for members of all races.
What maybe made the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s so significant is not essentially what battles were won but what training had been done as the decade drew to a close. (Jackson, 2006). If the 1950s were traditional politically, and filled with media images of the perfect family, despite the turmoil of the Civil Rights Movement, the 1960s were anything but peaceful. The 1960s were especially unique in that so many children had been born in the years after WWII that now, in the 60s, they were becoming of age, thus ” the 60s are also known as the Age of Youth.
Several general trends characterize the era: a vast counterculture and social revolution, typically youth rebelling like never before; increased attention to civil rights, feminism, the Vietnam War and the anti-war movement at home; more prevalence of illegal drugs; increasing tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union and China; new experiments in music, dance, and the arts; and several international and national assassinations that changed the course of political history.
This was also the era of vast social and political upheavals, riots, demonstrations, sit-ins, opt outs, and a clear counter culture that turned away from mainstream materialism and into a new sexual revolution questioning authority, societies, government, and demanding more freedoms and rights for women, minorities, sexual minorities, and above all, the end of the Vietnam War. (Gitlin,1993). As the world’s eyes are observing the United States and President Eisenhower who was desperate to regain control over the States, Federal Troops were chosen in to protect African Americans, and Governor Fabus closed the schools in 1958 and 1959.
Still, the Movement accentuated the idea of peaceful coexistence and the establishment of legal authority for members of all races. What possibly made the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s so important is not necessarily what battles were won but what preparations were made as the decade drew to a close. (Jackson, 2006). If the 1950s were conservative politically, and filled with media images of the perfect family, despite the turmoil of the Civil Rights Movement, the 1960s were anything but peaceful. The 1960s were especially unique in that so many children had been born in the years after WWII that now, in the 60s, they ere becoming of age, thus ” the 60s are also known as the Age of Youth. Several general trends characterize the era: a vast counterculture and social revolution, typically youth rebelling like never before; increased attention to civil rights, feminism, the new left, and the Latino and Chicano movement; the Vietnam War and the anti-war movement at home; more prevalence of illegal drugs; increasing tensions between the West and the Soviet Bloc and China; new experiments in music, dance, and the arts; and several international and national assassinations that changed the course of political history.
This was also the era of vast social and political upheavals, riots, demonstrations, sit-ins, opt outs, and a clear counter culture that turned away from mainstream materialism and into a new sexual revolution questioning authority, societies, government, and demanding more freedoms and rights for women, minorities, sexual minorities, and above all, the end of the Vietnam War (Gitlin,1993). Though for numerous people, it was the Vietnam War, roughly 1959-1975 that characterized the 1960s.
The history of the war is complex, but essentially the conflict was fought between South Vietnam, and North Vietnam. The war was essentially a guerilla war fought between pro and anti-communist forces. The problem was ” who could tell who was communist and who was not. The United States and its allies entered the war under the pretence of preventing the takeover of South Vietnam as part of a wider strategy to contain communism. Some planners at the time used the analogy the domino effect to describe what they believed would happen if one country after another fell to community rule.
An instance of what was forecasted was complicated by President Eisenhower as early in 1954; “Finally, you have broader considerations that might follow what you would call the “falling domino” principle. You have a row of dominoes set up, you knock over the first one, and what will happen to the last one is the certainty that it will go over very quickly. So you could have a beginning of a disintegration that would have the most profound influences. ” (Domino theory, news conference,1954) As the war had accelerated throughout the early part of presidency of John F. Kennedy, possibly was appropriate to his view that unless a strong ine was drawn, the Soviet Union would continue to exert its authority and power. Though, the quality of the South Vietnamese military was poor, and unlike the North Vietnamese military, had corruption, poor leadership, and an incompetent government made it all but impossible to fight a modern war with any hope of winning (McNamara, 1996, 3-20). After the assignation of President Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson was more disturbed with issues at home, his Great Society than the war in Asia. Of course, though, the war intensified, demanding increasingly extra American troops and dollars to be sent to the area and escalation throughout the decade.
In November 1967 General Westmoreland focused his efforts on a public relations tour to bolster support for the War, but found the public apathetic at best ” no one could really understand the reason for a war in Southeast Asia, let alone understand a war that seemed as if American was not really trying to win. (McNamara,1996,45-90). Culturally, still the effects on the U. S. social framework were great deals. The Army became almost demoralized, some generals saying, we never knew our friends or our enemies. Tactics became a political basketball, and the success rate was low even at the best of times.
Veterans returning to the U. S. after duty were rarely celebrated, and believed they had been alienated from their country and confused regarding why they had even been in Vietnam. Again, even Henry Kissinger noted that the U. S. military was not really suited to this kind of war. Similarly, the financial burden of the War called political judgment into question; doubts were rife about the tactics, and ever decision was analyzed on the nightly news, with most Americans believing that we simply did not belong there, (Davidson, 1991).
More than anything, the Vietnam War emphasized what was wrong on the home front and that a superpower was not always a superpower ” tremendous might would not always prevail. From the turbulent 60s we move into the confusing 1970s ” a decade of change, healing, economic downturns, dishonesty at the highest stages of government, greater dependence on foreign steel and oil, but a more mature focus on political and social equality. Japans economy boomed but much of the West, heavily dependent upon Arab oil, suffered an economic recession.
Vietnam was finally ended; with a peace accord that left little doubt America did not win the war. The U. S. became entangled in the conflicts in the Middle East but could not really get its own house in order. Environmentalism, Feminism, and even more focus on Civil Rights were part of this decade, with many positive steps in integrating women and minorities into previously closed aspects of society. The counterculture was aging, and there was still a great deal of discontent, both America and Europe were moving to the Right politically and culturally (Burns, 2005).
The Presidential Crisis of Richard Nixon, which seemed to shape the way the world viewed America in the 1970s. The so-called Watergate Affair encompassed a number of secret, and illegal, activities sanctioned by President Nixon or his aids. In brief, Nixon hired some underlings to break into the Democratic Party Headquarters on June 17, 1972. They were tasked to gather secret information to be used against the Democrats in the upcoming election. Watergate despite, became a figure of the numerous scandals that were uncovered by reporters from “The Washing Post” and numerous newspapers.
Nixon, of course, downplayed the scandal, but when tapes of conversations were found, it became clear that Nixon himself had accepted illegal campaign contributions, and had harassed opponents with Presidential powers, and abused his position in office as well as his duty toward the Constitution. (Stans, 1978). Nixon continued to deny his involvement, stating to the nation in November, 1973: “People have got to know whether or not their President is a crook. Well, I’m not a crook. I’ve earned everything I’ve got. ”( Kilpatrick,1973-11-18). “Nixon Tells Editors, ‘I’m Not a Crook. ” (The Washington Post, 1973) Nevertheless, in May 1974, the Congressional House Judiciary Committee opened public impeachment hearing against President Nixon. Practical to the end, Nixon realized he had lost political and public support, and that it was certain he would be impeached and likely convicted and imprisoned. Instead, he resigned the Presidency on August 9, 2974, after making an impassionate television address to the public. Nixon never admitted to any wrongdoing, but later said he might have had errors in judgment. (Kutler, 1992: 167-72).
As a result of Watergate, Nixon was disbarred by the State of New York, and because he would admit no wrongdoing, he resigned all his law licenses. On September 8, 1974, however, he was pardoned unconditionally by his successor, President Gerald Ford, thus ending any possibility of a future indictment. The pardon was, of course, quite controversial and many claimed it was part of a secret deal made in payment for Nixon’s resignation. The 1980s are now known as the Age of Reagan Conservatism, after the two terms in office of Ronald Reagan, former Hollywood actor and Governor of California.
Globally, economies boomed, both production and Western culture moved to the 2nd and 3rd worlds, while the Western democracies saw a huge revival of conservatism with Margaret Thatcher in Britain, Reagan in the United States, Helmut Kohl in German, and Brian Mulroney in Canada. Yes, there was war in the Middle East, and the Arab-Israeli conflict continued. In China, reformers protested in Tiananmen Square, in the USSR a new policy of openness was popularized by Gorbachev, and in Eastern Europe a succession of dictatorial regimes toppled due to lack of financial support from the USSR.
In fact, may social historians believe that one of the legacies of the Reagan years was his insistence upon military spending to literally bankrupt the Russian economy (White, 1999). But it was not just Reagan’s foreign policy that characterized this era. Instead, a now popular term called Reaganomics’ has come to be the epitome of the U. S. economy in the 1980s. There are four major pillars of this plan, which was designed to cut back on domestic spending and increase military funding. ) Reduce any non-military governmental spending, 2) Reduce tax rates on income from labor and capital, 3) Reduce governmental regulation on the economy, and 4) Control the money supply and reduce inflation. (Wilentz, 2008: 174). The legacy of the Reagan years showed that when he became president the country was experiencing a high rate of inflation and unemployment ” by the time he left office, the economy was stimulated, unemployment down, inflation down ” but, the national debt tripled, leaving also a legacy of debt (Greenspan,2007).
Transitioning from the legacy of Reagan, one of the seminal events of the 1990s was the Fall of the Soviet Union, the Eastern Communists, and the end of the Cold War. America made huge leaps technologically, free-market capitalism was now common in more developing countries; racial and gender prejudice became the exception, and, after 165 of British Colonial Rule, Hong Kong was transferred to the jurisdiction of the People’s Republic of China. United States was involved in the 1991 Gulf War, as well as the North American Free Trade Agreement of 1994 creating a free trade zone encompassing Canada, the United States, and Mexico.
The dominant political figure of the 1990s in America was Bill Clinton, and his attempts to broker peace in the Middle East, in the former Yugoslavia, and a focus on globalization left America in a world-leadership role once again. (Kallen,1998). It was, though, the end of the Cold War that finally cemented the move toward greater globalization, peace and prosperity, and less of a focus on militarization and the climate of fear. In brief, by the time Mikhail Gorbachev became General Secretary of the Communist Party in 1985, the Soviet economy was stagnant, if not in shambles.
He realized he needed to do deep structural changes, but also knew that he needed to move towards peace with the U. S. , and a lessened burden on the Soviet GNP for spending on the military. Through a series of summit talks, the arms race was scaled back, and by 1989 the Soviet alliance system had collapsed, Poland became free, and the era of communism was officially over when the USSR was officially dissolved on Christmas Day 1991 (Gaddis,1994). The legacy of the Cold War, however, remains with us even today.
Countless billions of dollars and millions of lives were shed in the name of protecting the Communism, Socialism, Capitalism. Without a doubt, the politics of post-World War II helped define America’s policeman role in world politics, and even in 1989 had military alliances with over 50 countries and 1. 5 million troops posted in 117 countries (Gaddis, 1994). While there has been a new era of economic growth and partnership with the West in some former communist countries, the Russian Republic continues to face challenges with its ethnic minorities, its criminal element, and deciding its place in the world.
The question now people are asking is if the world will make it through the year of 2010 and then into year 2012. Some futurologists predicting the future say that if we live past 2012 and beyond are very uncertain. Certainly, the rapidity of technological change will continue to have a major impact both in America and abroad. The conflicts in the Middle East have depended, and seem to have stagnated with no end in sight. It will be imperative that the United States divest itself from dependence on foreign oil, and thus the need to be constantly involved in the affairs of he Middle East. Cyclically, it appears that America is headed for a recessionary period ” huge amounts of credit card and bad-real estate debt have crippled the economy, as well as placed resources in very precarious positions. That said, however, we are on the brink of possibly electing the first African American President, we have a female Speaker of the House, and numerous racial, sexual, and ethnic minorities in high positions in the military, government, and private sector.
As we have seen, the one constant is change, and change we will ” perhaps not in the direction futurists describe but clearly, in a rapid direction of egalitarianism and a philosophy of global cooperation. References: www. brownvboard. org “The Future of American Power” http://www. foreignaffairs. org/20080501facomment87303/fareed-zakaria/the-future-of-american- power. html “What is the economic future of the United States? ” http://www. kuro5hin. org/story/2005/5/21/54452/0829 http://www. historyplace. om/speeches/ford. htm www. watson. org Burns, Bree, (2005), America In The 1970s, Facts on File. Davidson, Philip, (1991), Vietnam At War: The history: 1946-1975, Oxford University Press. Gaddis, John Lewis, (1994), The U. S. and the End of the Cold War, Oxford University Press. Gitlin, Todd (1993), The Sixties: Years of Hope, Days of Rage, Bantam. Halberstam, David, (1994), The Fifties, Ballantine. Jackson, Thomas F. (2006), From Civil Rights to Human Rights: Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Struggle For Economic Justice, University of Pennsylvania Press.
Kallen, Stuart. (1998), A Cultural History of the United States: The 1990s, Lucent Books. Kutler, Stanley (1992), Wars of Watergate: The Last Crisis of Richard Nixon, WW Norton. McNamara, Robert, (1996), In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam, Vintage Press. Morris, Aldon, (1986), Origins of the Civil Rights Movement. Free Press. Stans, Maurice H. (1978) The Terrors of Justice: The Untold Side of Watergate, W. Clement Stone. Kilpatrick, Carroll (1973-11-18). “Nixon Tells Editors, ‘I’m Not a Crook'”. The Washington Post.
White, Anne, (1999), Democratization in Russia Under Gorbachev, 1985-91, Palgave McMillan. Wilentz, Sean. (2008), The Age of Reagan: A History, Harper. Greenspan, Alan, (2007) The Age of Turbulence, Penguin Press. (First add your own TITLE Page to this paper. Also a little tip: Make the conclusion a stronger one and shorten the information of the paragraphs, and you should have a great paper. These References are not in the complete order of “APA” style. ) I received a grade point of 240 for this paper for the course of “HIS/135. ” Complete course description: “The American Experience Since 1945 (AXIA). ”
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