Unit 4: Cold War, Consumers, and Civil Rights


When WWII ended, the United States took the role of the world’s most powerful nation.  Japan and German were defeated.  And the world had learned what truly human and technological horror was–in the Holocaust and the A-Bomb.  We had one remaining enemy–Communism. Our belief that communism was the greatest remaining threat in the world, would occupy our minds for decades–to 1991, when the U.S.S. R. collapsed and died. This unit has three main sections:

1.  What the U.S. did during the postwar years to help rebuild Europe and insure world safety. The main concern in this chapter is Europe: for example, the division of Germany, the Marshall Plan, the Korean War.

2.  How the Cold War (the non-fighting war we carried on against the USSR and communism) helped shape American life.  The high/ or low… point of this was, of course, the McCarthy hearings.  However, our determination to live a better, more comfortable, more democratic life made American life the “proof” that communism would fail.  Keep in mind that Americans had just finished 16 years of trial and deprivation–a Great Depression and WWII.  We were ready–and now able–to pursue that American dream.  This included cars, suburban houses, and television sets–and a much expanded middle class.

3.  However, all was not so rosy.  This third section is about growing concern about what America and Americans were becoming.  Were we too money driven, too conformist, too concerned with the Joneses?  Beatniks, social critics, and eventually the new generation of youth–would attempt to reestablish American idealism.  This is the section where we will look at, especially, the beginnings of the Civil Rights movement

For the quiz:

Reading guide can be found here: 4.0.Guide.16

NOTE:  If you find references to TAY or The American Yawp, please simply subsitute the appropriate pages in OUTLINE using the table of contents.


Lecture: Fears and Realities in Postwar America

Part 4.1: The Soviet Threat

Part 4.2:  1950s in Ads

Part 4.3: An Emerging Critique


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