Social Change in America 1950-2000


The 1950s- emergence of the teenager

  • had more money and free time than ever before 
  • wanted to rebel, especially agaisnt whatever their parents believed in 
  • Some wore distinctive clothes , formed gangs , cruised in cars, drank heavily and attacked propert; those who dropped out of conventinal society became known as beatniks 
  • beatniks were the anti conformist youths of the 1950's
  • many infulenced by the film of the 1950's such as rebel without a cause which made a cult hero out of James Dean, who played a young man who rebelled against his parents 
  • stars like Elvis Presly and little Richard became heroes to a new youth culture. Many parent's disliked Presely's energetic dancing and upfront sexuality
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The 1960’s Hippy movement

  •     Many rejected their parent’s lifestyle and values
  •    Some young people dropped out of society and became hippies (Hippy- an individual who rejects conventional social standards in favour of universal love and fellowship) they wore ethnic style clothes, grew their hair long, took drugs like marijuana and LSD recreationally, followed mystical religions and engaged in free love
  • Hippies opposed the Vietnam war, wore flowers in their hair as a symbol of peace, and the slogan “make love, not war” became common
  •  San Francisco became the hippy capital of America.
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student protest- influence of the swinging sixties

·        Students demanded greater freedom in everything they did – their music, their clothes, their social life 


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Student Protest- The SDS

The first student protest group- students for a democratic society was set up in 1959 and quickly increased in number, they campaigned for a greater say in how courses and universities should be run 

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Student Protest - anti war protests

  • Many students protested agasint the draft system which called upon people to fight in vietnam 
  • Reached a peak during 1968-70 in 1969 700'000 people marched in washington DC , with students burning their draft cards and the US flag
  • Protests at Kent state university in may 1970  resulted in national guardsmen shooting dead 4 protestors. 
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Student protest- campaign for civil rights

  • many students, black and white, took part in the freedom marches, freedom rides and sit in protests of the early 1960's
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Student Protest- Influence of Protest Singers

  • popular musicians such as Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix etc. Sang about sex, drugs and opposition to the war in vietnam
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The changing role of women- the impact of ww2

  •  Increased employment opportunities for women, 6 million women entered factories in traditional ‘male jobs’ as machinists and toolmakers, 300’000 joined the armed forces
  • After the war the majority of women gave up their wartime jobs and returned to their role as mothers and wives, or to their traditional female jobs in teaching, nursing and secretarial work
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The changing role of women- the 1950's

  •  Exerted influence in encouraging women to adopt their traditional family role
  • Boredom with the domestic routine and increased freedom due to labour-saving devices, encouraged some women to seek payed employment, although the choice in career was very limited
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feminist movement 1960's and 70's

  •  In 1950, women made up 29% of the workforce, by 1960 this had raised to 50%
  •  Government report published in 1963 revealed that women earned only 50-60% of the wages of men who did the same job, it showed that 95% of company managers were men and only 7% of doctors and 4% of lawyers were women
  •    In 1963, Betty Friedan published the Feminine mystique which ridiculed the common belief that women were only suited for low-paid jobs and called for progress in female employment opportunities. 
  • In 1966, she set up NOW (National Organisation for Women) which demanded equal rights for women and challenged discrimination in the courts. By the early 1970’s it had 40’000 members
  • More radical than NOW was the Women’s liberation movement which became more active in challenging discrimination; it attracted publicity through feminists burning their bras in public and in 1965 they picketed the Miss America Beauty contest
  • Changes in the law helped secure more equality-   The civil rights act 1964 banned discrimination due to gender and  In 1973 abortion was legalised, giving women more freedom of choice
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feminist movement 1980-2000

  • During the last two decades of the 20th century, women broke into traditionally male dominated careers
  • In 1981, Sandra Day O’Connor became the first women to be appointed to the US supreme court
  • In 1983, Dr Sally ride became the first American woman to enter space on the shuttle challenger
  •  By 1995, 70% of women of working age were in employment, compared with only 38% in 1955
  • However, many of these jobs were in traditional female occupations and by 1998 women’s earnings were 75% of those of men
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Music 1950's

  • Rock and roll music gave teenagers music of their own to listen to, instead of having to listen to their parent’s music
  • Elvis presley was the first rock and roll star influence the young in their attitude to authority and their appearance
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Music 1960's

  • The beatles , the rolling stoned and other british groups took the USA by storm ○ Protest songs, such as those by singer bob dylan, became common 
  • Rock music also became more influential with bands like the grateful dead and the doors
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Music 1970's and 80's

  • Donna Summer, Chick and the jacksons became popular. Disco was a reaction to the domination of rock music and was particularly popular with women 
  • Heavy metal also became popular. Bands such as Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple led the way, followed by iron maiden. This music was aggressive and mascuine 
  • Influential solo artists such as Bruce Springsteen became popular because their music focused on the struggles ordinary people 
  • Rap and hip hop music developed from the disco and became popular in the last 20 years of the century 
  • . This was a product of inner-city problem areas
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Cinema- Technology

  • Drive in cinema became popular in the 1950’s and 1960’s due to the increase in car ownership. Some people criticized drive ins as “passion pits”
  • The Multiplex cinema first opened in 1963 in Ward Parkway Center, Kansas City, and quickly spread across america
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Cinema- the content of films

  • The anti hero emerged in the 1950’s as young people looked to hollywood for examples of rebellious anti-heroes
  • Method actors became very popular during the 1980’s 
  • High paid movie stars who attracted a following became a common feature in the 1990’s 
  • Blockbuster films came to dominate the movie business from the 1970’s onwards ○
  • Technological developments with special effects and advanced digital imagry led to the attraction of films like ghostbusters
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the influence of technology

  • The number of TV’s increased from 7000 in 1946 to 50 million in 1960 and by 1970, 96% of the population had at least one TV 
  • TV personalities became household names 
  • During the 50’s and 60’s the western genre became very popular 
  • By the 1980’s soap operas had taken centre stage 
  • Chat shows came to attract large audiences
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Developments in information technology

  •  1975 Bill Gates set up his company microsoft and in 1985 he launched microsoft windows ● 1976 steve jobs set up apple and soon launched the Macintosh computer
  • Late 1990’s saw the growth of the internet 
  • Since the 1980’s the development of computer generated has had a significant impact on the younger generation
  • Recent developments such as emails, social media and text based discussion helped transform the US society
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Changes in literature

  • To kill a mockingbird by harper lee (1951)- racial inequality and ****
  • The Catcher in the Rye by J.D Salinger (1951)- appernet madness of the American teenagers
  • The Beat Generation were a group of novelists and poets who led the way in rebelling against conservitive values
  • Focuses on controversial topics such as hard drugs, traditional role of women in society and racial tension
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