Revision Notes: A Divided Union USA 1945-70

Civil Rights Movement and what not

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  • Created on: 26-05-11 14:41
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The impact of the Cold War, 1945-50
The fear of communism in the USA grew because of the development of the Cold
War in the years after 1945 which worsened relations between the USA and the
The US President, Truman, and Soviet leader Stalin, first clashed at the peace
conference at Potsdam in July 1945 over the treatment of Germany and Soviet
ambitions in Eastern Europe.
The war ended in August 1945 and throughout the first months of peace, relations
between the two Superpowers worsened.
The USA genuinely feared Soviet expansion in Eastern and then possibly Western
In March 1946, Churchill talked of an `iron curtain' separating the West and East in
Europe ­ there seemed to be clear hostility between the former allies.
The British inability to stem communism in Greece led President Truman to issue
the Truman Doctrine.
However, the supreme effort to contain communism came with the Marshall Plan
which gave US economic aid to countries in Western Europe.
In 1948, the Soviet Union prevented the development of democracy in
Czechoslovakia and ensured the Czech Communist Party was able to take control
of the government.
The Berlin Blockade of 1948­49 indicated that Stalin was prepared to risk war in the
hope of removing the Allies from Berlin, when he stopped all land transport into the
The success of the Communist Party in China in 1949 indicated the `danger' of
communism as a truly worldwide threat.
The Western countries formed the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), which
stated that an attack on any NATO member was seen as an attack on the whole
The invasion of South Korea by communist controlled North Korea in 1950
convinced many in the USA that the fear of communism had spread to Asia and had
to be contained.

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The development of the Red Scare
Growing US involvement in Cold War politics after 1945 encouraged the view that
difficulties faced abroad resulted from treason and subversion at home.
After World War Two, increasing numbers of Democrats and Republicans took up
these anti-Communist views and many Americans became subject to loyalty oaths.
In 1945, a raid on the offices of a pro-Communist magazine revealed that classified
documents had been given to the periodical by two State Department employees
and a naval intelligence officer.…read more

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In 1950, Hiss was tried for perjury and sentenced to five years in jail. This further
increased the fear of communism in the USA as many Americans believed that
communism spies and sympathisers had infiltrated key positions in government
In September 1950, at the height of the Hiss Case and the beginning of the
Rosenberg Case, Congress passed the McCarran Internal Security Act.…read more

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HUAC still continued to seek out possible communists or communist sympathisers,
especially in the film industry. Many actors and writers were blacklisted and unable
to secure wok or several years.
In late 1952, McCarthy's researchers investigated libraries to see whether they
contained books written by communists. Many books were now banned.
Eisenhower disliked McCarthy intensely but was reluctant to confront him whereas
Richard Nixon, the vice-presidential candidate continued to use his ideas to portray
the Democrats as liberals and pro-Communist.…read more

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Black Americans (about 12% of all US citizens) are descended from the slaves
brought over from Africa to work the tobacco, cotton and sugar plantations. They
were theoretically freed in 1863, but still suffered from poverty, segregation and
discrimination of all kinds.
In the southern states in the USA blacks had their own separate, cafes, cinemas,
transport, and toilets.
`Jim Crow' Laws prevented blacks from voting and enforced separate, an d unequal,
schools.…read more

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By the end of the war some units in the army were desegregated. General
Eisenhower, the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe personally supported
integrated units.
At the beginning of the war there were only twelve black officers in the US Army and
black soldiers were often given routine tasks to perform.
By the end of the war much had changed.…read more

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Brown used the Supreme Court ruling to take the City of Topeka in Kansas to court
for forcing his daughter to attend a school a long way away, instead of being
allowed to go to the nearby whites only school.
The NAACP supported the case and Brown was represented by Thurgood Marshall,
who later became the first black member of the Supreme Court. Eventually Oliver
Brown won his case.…read more

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After a month they were replaced by National Guardsmen under the orders of the
President, they stayed at the school for a year
In 1957 Eisenhower introduced the first Civil Rights Act since 1875. It set up a
commission to prosecute anybody who tried to deny American citizens their rights.
The demonstrations were seen on television and in newspapers across the world.
Many US citizens saw, for the first time, the racial hatred that existed in the southern
states.…read more

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He followed the methods used by Gandhi when campaigning for independence for
India ­ non violent civil disobedience.
Martin Luther King and further progress and problems, 1958-62
Following the boycott King set up the Southern Christian Leadership Conference
(SCLC) and became its president in 1957.
The first was at Woolworth's in Greensboro North Carolina, where eighty-five
students demanded to be served at a whites only counter.
When they were refused they organised a sit-in.…read more

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Nevertheless, they had gained tremendous publicity. The Freedom Riders wanted to
put pressure on the Kennedy. They succeeded; later the same year all railway and
bus stations were desegregated by the Interstate Commerce Committee.
John F Kennedy and civil rights
It soon became clear that Kennedy intended to do more than pay lip service to the
cause of civil rights.
He began to appoint black Americans to important positions. His brother Robert,
who was Attorney General, prosecuted people who tried to prevent blacks from
voting.…read more


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