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Civil Rights Essay

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Civil Rights Essay

The 1950s are generally painted as an idyllic time period full of economic development and patriotic uniformity. Underneath the picturesque facade lied civil unrest which gave way to the turmoil and anger that defined the 60s. Therefore, while the 1950s were economically prosperous for the majority of Americans, worsening social and political conditions for minorities sparked the resistance of the status quo during the 1960s.

Contrary to the fears that America would return to the conditions of the Great Depression now that we were out of World War 2, the economy instead flourished. This was due, largely in part, to the total warfare system that America adopted for the entirety of the war. The total warfare mindset “helped bring about the business recovery that had eluded the New Deal” (Way We Won: America’s Economic Breakthrough During World War 2). Once the war ended however, manufacturers had to switch from munitions and armaments, to civilian products. Due to the switch, luxury items that once belonged solely to the elite class (such as refrigerators and televisions) became staples for the newly emerged middle class. Another effect of the end of World War 2 was the development of suburbs. The cheap houses were perfect for returning veterans thanks to the G.I. Bill of Rights. Soon entire families were emigrating out of cities and moving into the suburbs, as commuting to work became easier with the mainstreaming of the automobile. This mass movement of people became known as “white flight”, as most of the families that left the inner cities were in fact white. By and large, the 1950s achieved economic improvement and stability for many American citizens.

While the 1950s may have been economically stable, there was a lot of civil unrest throughout the country. It was very apparent that “minorities seemed to be shut out from the emerging American Dream” (, 53f.). Once again, women were being forced out of their jobs when the men came back. When Black, Hispanic, and Native American soldiers returned they found a country that still did not grant them full rights. Jim Crow laws were still in effect, keeping African Americans economically inferior and politically powerless. But a movement for the expansion of civil rights had been born. It started with boycotts of segregated buses and sit-ins at restaurants that refused to serve colored people. Then it moved on to freedom rides and supreme court cases like that of Brown v. Board of Education. Public schools were legally supposed to integrate but the law did not matter. One hundred southern congressmen signed the Southern Manifesto, pledging to do whatever it takes to defend segregation (only through lawful actions of course). People were so prejudiced that the national guard and U.S. troops had to be deployed in order to protect the colored kids that were being integrated with the white



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