A Divided Union? The USA 1945-1970

A break down of the context knowledge needed for the Edexcel History A option 3C exam: The USA 1945-70.

As based off the textbook and class notes.


McCarthyism and The Red Scare: The Cold War

Events from the Cold war that increased the fear of communism in the USA:

  • MAD Theory and the arms race: In 1949, the USSR shocked the world by testing atomic weapons, years before they were expected to develop their first bomb. Stalin was getting ready to fight them on a nuclear level.
  • Soviet Expansionism and the domino effect: Between 1945-49, the USSR systematically took over a lot of Eastern European countries. Truman wanted to contain communism, he and Churchill waere convinced that the Iron Cutrain was set to enclose all of Europe. This fear resulted in the Truman doctrine and Marshall plan.
  • Berlin Blockade: Stalin cut off all access to the western zones of Berlin, resulting in a airlift by USA and UK, and the formation of the military alliances NATO and the Warsaw Pact.
  • The Korean War and China: communism in the East began to thrive and, in 1950, communist North Korea invaded South Korea, confirming fears of communist world domination. The USA sent soldiers to help South Korea, and the countries were at war by proxy.
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McCarthyism and The Red Scare: HUAC and The H10

Events from within America that increased the fear of communism in the USA:

  • FELP: Federal Employment LoyatyProgramme, made to check security risks of people within government, resulting in 3,200 job losses.
  • J.Edgar Hoover: Anti communist leader of the FBI influence FELP and randomly investigated members of his own bureau.
  • HUAC: House Un-American Activities Commitee set up in 30s, had a right to investigate anyone suspected. Just appearing before this body could ruin a career, if suspects didnt name names, they themselves were suspected.
  • The Hollywood Ten: in 1947, Ten wirters and directors had to testify before HUAC. They all pleaded the fifth Amendment and were sacked & arrested because they were found to be in contempt of congress.
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McCarthyism and The Red Scare: Rosenberg & Hiss

Two Cases that allowed the Red Scare to gather momentum:

  • Alger Hiss: Was accused as a being a spy, despite his efforts for Peace. He was denounced by a Time magazine editor (who was a former communist) and Nixon. A microfilm was produced with government docuents from Hiss' typewriter. In 1950, he was sentenced to five years in jail for perjury due to these "Pumpkin papers" (they were found in a pumpkin).
  • Julius and Ethel Rosenberg: arrested on suspicion of spying in 1949, they had been members of the communist party but had no links at the time. Claims included their intent to give nuclear secrets to the USSR, both were found guilty and sentenced to death, was useful propaganda for explaining the advances in nuclear weaponry in USSR.
  • McCarran Internal Security Act: was passed at the height of these cases against Truman's wishes. All Communist organisations had to register with the government, no communists could carry a passport or work in defence, and in the event of war all members would be held in detention camps.
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McCarthyism and The Red Scare: Joseph MacCarthy

The Impact of McCarthyism on the Red Scare:

  • Winning Support: 1950,claimed to have the names of 205 communists working in the state department. A senate committee was set up to investigate the claims, but concluded that the claims were a hoax, so the chair of the committee was accused himself. Politicians were scared to speak out against him and he was made chairman of the government committee on Operations of the Senate. The hysteria he created helped the Republican party and Nixon. Books were even taken out of circulation due to their being "Un-American."
  • Fading Away: Eisenhower did not like him, and used different methods to stop the communist threat such as the Communist Control Act. When McCarthy began doubting the army on TV, the American people saw that he produced no hard evidence and was seen as aggressive. The army attorny was seen as calm and polite in comparison. Journalists began condemning him and, by 1954, he was publicly reprimanded for abuse, insults and contmpt, he lost the chairmanship and hied in 1957.
  • Effects of McCarthyism: Communists were seen as politcally unsound, a climate of fear and hysteria emerged, anyone who protested was seen as communist and this hatred never died. The Red Scare subsided a little by 1953, when Khrushchev replaced Stalin as leader of the USSR.
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The Civil Rights Movement, 1945-62: WWII

How WWII impacted civil rights in the USA:

  • Discrimination in the armed forces: black soldiers performed menial tasks and were not allowed into the elite forces, black nurses were only allowed to treat black soldiers, who were not permitted to be given "white" blood. Ironically, this was in a war against the racist Nazis.
  • Double V Campaign: set up 1944 due to a naval accident that killed 323 people, most of whom were black. supported by Eisenhower. gradual change arose including the training of 600 black pilots, mixed untis in the army, desegregation in the navy, and 58 black officers.
  • Roosevelt: issued Executive order 8802 to stop discrimination at work and allowed black employment numbers to rise dramatically. They stilled earnt less than white people and racial tensions brought about riots in 1943.
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The Civil Rights Movement, 1945-62: Education

The aims and actions of civil rights groups in education before 1962:

  • NAACP: (National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People) set up in 1909, by intellectuals. Main aim was to ensure equality of rights and eliminate racial hatred through legal means. Membership increased X9 between 1940-45.
  • CORE: (Congress of Racial Equality) set up in 1942 inspired by non-violent protestors.
  • SNCC: (Student Non-Violent Co-ordianting Committee) formed in 1960 due to the Dixiecrats (southern Democrats) rejecting civil rights & anti lynching bills.
  • Brown V Topeka: lawyers from NAACP fought to let a black girl go to a local white school in 1954, segregation was seen as unconstitutional but it did not stop 2.4 millio children being educated in Jim Crow schools and increased opposition.
  • Autherine Lucy: accepted to study in Alabama University in 1956 due to the work of the NAACP, but student riots caused her to removed from campus and forbidden to enter.
  • Little Rock: 9 black students enrolled in 1957, the governor ordered National Guardsmen to stop them. When they got in, they had to be removed  due to safety concerns. Eisenhower used the Nat Guard to protect them, but the school closed.
  • James Meredith: denied a place at Mississipi University in 1962, Kennedy sent 320 marshals to escort him to campus and 300 had to remain for three years due to riots.
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The Civil Rights Movement, 1945-62: The MBB & MIA

Causes, key features and impact of the Montgomery Bus Boycott

  • Background: segregation was harsh on buses in Montgomery and, in 1955, Rosa Parks, secretary for NAACP, refused to give up her seat for a white man & was arrested.
  • MIA: (Montgomery Improvement Association) set up after the Montgomery Women's Political Councilheld a one day boycott on the day of Parks' trial and the local NAACP became involved. MIA wanted equality on buses and decided to continue the boycott.
  • Features: after the taxi comapnies had to raise their fares, churches bought cars to take people to work. People were harrassed at the pick-up points and the police attempted to intimidate the drivers and arrested them for minor violations. 
  • Mongomery White Council: led opposition, increased membership uring this time and used violence against boycottters, firebombing houses. Many MIA leaders arrested.
  • Martin Luther King: led the MIA and the boycott, due to his oratorical skills and had not grown close to any local organisations. He was inspired by Ghandi and his charisma gained him many supportrs, even when his house was firebombed.
  • SCLC: (Southern Christian Leadership Conference) est. 1957 by King after the boycott was deemed a success. MIA leaders travelled on an intergrated bus inDecember 1956. There was extreme and severe white backlash by KKK, but this diminished very quickly.
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The Civil Rights Movement, 1945-62: Progress by 62

Progress made by 1962 for Civil rights:

  • Civil Rights Act 1957: supported by Eisenhower, stated that all people had the right to vote & serve on a jury, despite this, the SCLC marched as part of a "crusade for citizenship"
  • Greensboro Sit in: students protested in all shops with for segreagted lunch counters, in 1960, enduring attacks and arrests. This inspired many other student communities to replicate the protests and caused 810 towns and cities to desegregate public areas by 1961.
  • Freedom Riders: CORE wanted to test new integration policies by travelling on buses through southern states in 1961, one of the buses were firebombed in Alabama, assualted in Montgomery, attacked in Birmingham, and arrested in Jackson despite promises of protection from the senator to. KKK attackes increased as well as CORE membership.
  • Albany Movement: a series of protests in 1961-62, did little to help change laws.
  • Voter Education Project: SNCC showed eligible voters how to register and overcome barriers put in place. Some states had literacy tests for black voters and the project enabled thousands of new voters. However, there was severe backlash, voters lost their jobs and property.
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The Civil Rights Movement, 1963-70: Peace Marches

The Peace marches held in 1963:

  • Project C:(confrontation)started by SCLC to increase publicity. Demonstrations began in Birmingham began for desegregation, police tactics led by Chief Eugene "Bull" Connor were brutal and all public parks were closed. Many were arrested including Martin Luther King.
  • Letter from Birmingham Jailwritten by King during his arrest and became one of the most important documents of the movement. After his release, children were used in demonstrations but police still used dogs and hoses, this was all televised and King got the publicity he wanted. Kennedy got involved and setn Burke Marshall to create an agreement.
  • Washington: NAACP, CORE, SNCC &SCLS organised a massive march and Kennedy initially asked them to call it off. 250,000 protestors, including senators and congressment were seen ( as well as Bob Dylan). King delivered the I Have a Dream speech.
  • Effects of the March: Malcom X was one of the biggest critics of the demonstration, and it was seen to gve republicans an excuse to not pass the Civil Rights Bill. Racist attacks continued and the next month 6 black youths were killed.
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The Civil Rights Movement, 1963-70: Legislation

Causes and key features of the legal changes made in the 60s:

  • Kennedy: put forwards the idea of the New Frontier, to achieve equality. Appointed black judges and politicians, sent troops to protect protestors and introduced a bill in 63.
  • Freedom Summer: run by CORE, SNCC & NAACP to increase regiestered voters in Mississippi, they formed the MFDP. Black history was taught in schools and volunteers were tergeted by supremecists * three were murdered by a KKK member policeman. 
  • Civil Rights Act 1964: after Kennedy's death, his bill was finally pushed through banning segregation, ensuring no discrimination in buisness and setting up the EEOC.
  • Voting Rights Act 1965: following some of the bggest marches ever seen, Johnson introduced the act to end literacy tests and ensure the monitored registration of voters. Thousands more black Americans registered but not as many as white people.
  • King's Assassination 1968: After Martin Luther King was murdered in Memphis by a white racist, there was an outburst of rioting across the country injuring 3,000, 46 died.
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The Civil Rights Movement, 1963-70: Extremists

Other important civil rights groups and figures during the 1960s:

  • Malcom X: suported wuicker, more violent methods than King. member of the Nation of Islam who sought spearatism. He set up educational prgrammes in ghettoes and openly criticised mainsream civil rights activists, he called the march on washington a "farce on Washingon". After a pilgrimage in 1964, he changed his views and wished to spread Islam as a means to end racial inequality. He was assasinated by three black muslims in 1965.
  • Black Power: political slogan used during riots that came to cover a range of activities that aimed to increase black influence. Supported separatism and was sparked after racial riots in LA. At the 1968 Olympics, american athletes wore the power uniform and gave the salute at ceremonies.
  • Black Panthers: Militant group who sought economic and social equality for black people through a socialist revolution, prepared to form alliances with radical white groups to bring down capitalism. They wore uniforms and were trained wth weapons, constantly targeted by FBI. and shut down in 1982.
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Other Protest Movements: Student Movement Birth

Reasons and Aims of the Student Movement:

  • Swinging Sixties: A combination of cultural and legal changes during the sixties brought about an attitude of rebellion and protest against the older generations. Young people demanded greater freedom in everything that they did, including sexual behaviour.
  • Universities: Students wanted a greater say in the way Universities were run and societies were a hot-bed of sharing political beliefs and ideas. Most demonstrations took place in universities and a wave of strikes took place in 1964, affecting almost every uni.
  • Protest Singers: Youth culture & pop music emphasised songs about importnat topics and rebellion against the establishment. Artists like Bob Dylan & The Beatles.
  • Kennedy: His New Frontier policies sought to harness young people, his assassination in 1963 caused many to be disillusioned with change and made them protests.
  • Martin Luther King: Civil Rights were the first exampl of protest movements and MLKs methods and speeches provided inspiration and support for the student movement.
  • International Influences: Protests in Ireland and Paris by students came close to serious political change and inspired the American students. It was worldwide.
  • War in Vietnam: thousands of students opposed the war due to its corrupt and aggressive nature and the conscritption forced upon the students.
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Other Protest Movements: SDS & Anti-War Campaign

Methods of the Student Protests:

  • SDS: Students for a Democratis Society established in 1959 adopted a postion of anti-anti-Communism, they also wanted to help the poor and disadvantaged. Groups in over 150 schools formed by the end of the 1960s. It organised sit-ins, draft-card burnings, riots, harassents of CIA recruiters and destruction of draft card records in university buildings.
  • War in Vietnam: Communist North Vietnam fought the corrupt South Vietnam, which was supported by the USA. The use of guerilla warfare and terrain caused many american casualties. This lead to conscrition by the US army as well as the use of chemical warfare, which killed millions of innocent peoplpe and destroyed the countryside. It was all on colour TV, also, a disproportionate number of black students were called up to fight.
  • Anti-war Protests: Over 100 demonstrations against the war occured in 1968, leading to angry police clashes. In 1970, national guardsmen shot four people dead at a peaceful protest, horrifying US and international press and causing more strikes. 2 more died in a protest against the killings days later.
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Other Protest Movements: Hippies and Radicalism

Other features of the student movement:

  • Hippy Movement: Some young people dropped out of society and adopted alternative lifestyle of travelling in buses/vans, not working, wearing flowers, experimentation of recreational drugs (like LSD and marijuana). The highlight of the movement was in 1969 at the rock festival Woodstock. The movemtn faced opposition due to their frequent police clashes, lifestyle and the predominantly privileged and middle class backgrounds of the members.
  • Weathermen: name adopted by the radical student protest members. They bombed government buildings and promoted extremism and rioting. They undermined the work of the SDS and even caused the founder  to leave the movemtent in 1970.
  • Impact of the Movement: in general, the student movement affected youth culture (in temrs of sexual freedom and fashion), anti-war policy, the civil rights movement and for shaking the assumptions of the middle classes by older generations.
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Other Protest Movements: Women's Movement Birth

How the Women's movement emerged in the 1960s:

  • WWII: During WWII, women became of use in the workplace and female employment almost doubled. This brought about legal change in some states and the US population supported this. By the end of the war the majority of women returned to the home. They still earnt much less then men for doing the same thing and were excluded from top jobs.
  • The 1950s: During this time, the role of the housewife was beginning to get challenged, especially by women from educated, middle class backgrounds. The number of women in unviersity had doubled in this decade but all were expected to give up careers for family and home-making. But, there was an rise in female employment, as they were cheap.
  • The Swinging 60s: Legal changes such as the legalistion of abortion and the contraceptive pill liberated women and encouraged them to protest futher.
  • Eleanor Roosevelt: set up a commision to investigate the role of women in empolyment, actively campaigned for full political equality for women. Highlighted the vast inequality in the workplace.
  • Betty Friedan: In 1963, published a revolutionary and crucial book called The Feminine Mystique. Highlighted the problems with domestic life and promoted progress in emplyment opportunities. Established NOW in 1966.
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Other Protest Movements: Women's progress

Between 1960-1970, there were many key developments for Women in the USA:

  • Legal changes: the 63 Equal Pay Act, 64 Civil Rights Act, and proposed 70 Equal Rights Ammendment all demonstrted the increasing amount of political equality women were gaining in the USA, despite this, there were limitations with these laws as they were not taken seriously and did not tackle the root of the issues preventing employment.
  • NOW: set up in 1966, used legal methods and demonstrations to attack obvious examples of discrimination. However, it focused on minaly white, middle class women and used moderate, slow methods to secure little progress. It focused mainly on allowing women to gain financial independance and allowing mothers to get jobs.
  • Women's Liberation Movement: more radical than NOW, these feminitst made public displays and demonstrations at events like the Miss America beauty contest. They brought ridicule to the movement and made it difficult for feminists to be taken seriously as they distracted from the main issues of equal pay and better job opportunities.
  • Abortion: There were two main legal cases that challenged the laws against abortions. Estelle Grisworld challenged the restrictions these laws made that went against the 14th ammendment. Norma McCorvey (or Jane Roe) already had 3 children who were all in care and won the right to abort her fourth, leading to more available abortions nationwide.
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Other Protest Movements: Women's Opposition

There were many reasons why men and women opposed the women's movement:

  • NOW: was mainly white and middle class, so did not focus on black women or poorer women, who were arguably worst off in terms of discrimination as educated women were gaining white collar jobs whilst the blue collar industries remained almost completely male.
  • Women's Liberation Movement: Was see as too extreme and the methods, such as bra burning, undermined the efforts made by feminism.
  • Attitudes: A number of women genuinely believed in gender roles, whilst others were ardently anti-abortion due to religous or other beliefs.
  • Phyllis Schlafly: A lawyer and author, who even stood for congress, set up STOP ERA, a campaign to stop the Equal Rights Ammendment, it was highly successful in delaying it until 1982, when it was finally defeated by 3 votes. She opposed ERA because it would require women to fight in the army, she believed this would have a bad impact on family life.
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