The standard of living in the U.S. was quite good in the 1950s as incomes rose, and the poverty level fell to its lowest point. The average person got a higher education level than the previous generation (Hitchcock, 2018). The year 1950 was a turning point in the U.S. economy since the gross national product rose to $286 billion, compared to $224 billion in 1939. Other signs of prosperity by 1950 included five percent of all households having a television set, and there were 10.2 million sets in use. Additionally, 3.8 million telephones were used in 1950, which became 12.5 million by 1959 (Hitchcock, 2018). In 1950, the average annual wage was $3,445, while in 1960, it rose to $5,345.
Besides, cars, air-conditioned homes, and suburban lifestyles were not the only “American dream” of the 1950s. The American standard of living was also very high; hence the average worker was paid very well, earned five weeks’ vacation, and enjoyed one of the highest life expectancies in the world (Hitchcock, 2018). The average American had a large, comfortable car with plenty of room to carry friends and family around town. They lived in a spacious air-conditioned home with a yard and a garden.
How the Civil Rights Movement Gained Momentum in the 1960s
The Civil Rights Movement gained momentum in the 1960s under influential leaders, including Martin Luther King Jr., Stokely Carmichael, James Baldwin, and Malcolm X. Specifically, Martin Luther King Jr. used his authority and power to speak for the poor disenfranchised (Goldfield, 2015). The movement got support from the government, especially from President Eisenhower. Due to his efforts, the Civil Rights Bill of 1957 was passed by Congress to protect the civil rights of African Americans and other minorities. Secondly, the protests were precipitated by several seminal events, including the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision and the Montgomery Bus Boycott (Alfred, 2021). That way, the Civil Rights Movement advanced.
Moreover, the Civil Rights Movement had media coverage that publicized the protests. Mass communication was used to create media violence, with newspapers, magazines, TV, and newsreels being used to print and show pictures of the violence and injustices of the day (Goldfield, 2015). Many Americans could not believe that such abuse and discrimination took place in the U.S. The brutal murder of Emmett Till by white men additionally gave the social movement momentum. They killed him for offending them by whistling at a white woman (Goldfield, 2015). It was not just his murder that resulted in the civil rights movement, but the white men were acquitted of their crimes (Goldfield, 2015). Those are classic factors behind the Civil Rights Movement’s advancement in the 1960s.
How Social Movements in the 1960s Affected Change in America
Social movements are an essential and powerful vehicle for creating change in American society. Martin Luther King’s social demonstration for civil rights and equality for African Americans, the fight for women’s liberation, and freedom from sexual repression were as diverse as were the people who participated in them. The social movements of the 1960s were part of the peace and love generation and saw in those concepts the solutions to all of society’s problems (Fein & Phillips, 2019). That generation almost destroyed America, not because they didn’t have good ideas, but because they had no common sense (Fein & Phillips, 2019). Seemingly, it was a redefining moment for America as social movements arose, challenging the norm and driving reforms.
Additionally, the Women’s Liberation Movement demanded equal rights for women, the Civil Rights Movement encouraged racial equality, and the Anti-War Movement protested the Vietnam War. The ’60s also saw the emergence of rock ‘n’ roll as one of the most popular forms of music in American culture (Fein & Phillips, 2019). There was a shift in cultural and political norms, anti-establishment rebellion, and the counterculture’s rise (Fein & Phillips, 2019). These movements helped change social norms, especially the belief that young people had a right to speak their minds and challenge the political establishment.
Alfred, M. V. (2021). Race and the politics of exclusion: The socio‐historical contexts of black brutality and the emergence of the black lives matter movement. New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, 2021(170), 9–19. Web.
Fein, O., & Phillips, C. S. (2019). Undefined. Social Injustice and Public Health, 575-588. Web.
Goldfield, D. (2015). How the civil rights movement defined and defied the 1960s. HumaNetten, (8). Web.
Hitchcock, W. I. (2018). The age of Eisenhower: American and the world in the 1950s.