You are here:
Consensus America: US History, 1945-1960
In his best-selling book, Tom Brokaw has called them “The Greatest Generation”: Americans who had conquered the brutal, racist Nazi regime, and now set about conquering the world with their juggernaut economy and unflagging commitment to contain the Communist threat. We built the world’s premier economy while rebuilding war-torn Europe at the same time through unprecedented generosity. The journalist William Luce declared post-war times “The American Century.” But 1945-1960 was full of undeniable contradictions. While wholesome entertainment such as “Father Knows Best” and “Leave it to Beaver” prevailed on the airwaves, many Americans feared a dreadful national moral decay: from the emergence of Marilyn Monroe and Playboy magazine to the Kinsey report on sexual habits to the rising concerns over juvenile delinquency. While most Americans celebrated the massive growth of the suburbs and middle class life, others saw a crushing conformity imposed on themselves: from Beatniks to Rock and Roll artists. While we emerged from WWII as the undeniable dominant military power in the world, a sinking dread also prevailed that Communists were in our midst and at our heels. That fear led to one of the most controversial episodes in American history as Sen. Joe McCarthy and others emerged to root out Communism from within. We will also examine the apparently dramatic shift from the conformist, more conservative 1950s to the explosion of the liberal reform in the next decade.