The altered political ideology following the communist expansionism of the ‘Cold War’ had domestic repercussions in American society. The stage was set by F.D. Roosevelt, who conceded control over post-war Eastern Europe to the Soviet Union, granting “moral legitimization to what Stalin had acquired by sheer force” (Nisbet, qtd. in Maltsev and Simpson, 15). The subsequent race for nuclear supremacy, and the policy of ‘Mutually Assured Destruction,’ “inspired widespread fear of impending nuclear war” in Americans, who built bomb shelters in their backyards (Foner, 891). This let the “sweeping tide of anti-communism” (Pike, Global Security organization web site) engulf America. Any criticism of American society was construed to be ‘Un-American.’ Senator McCarthy’s witch-hunts made ‘McCarthyism,’ with its connotation of ‘unsubstantiated accusations of disloyalty’, a dominant theme of the 1950’s.
America of the 1950’s witnessed “the twentieth century’s greatest citizens’ movement – the black struggle for equality” (Foner, 899). The rigid racial boundaries of the previous decade persisted in post-war America. The new suburban landscape was racially segregated, and reinforced by methods, such as ‘block-busting’ (Foner, 863). Jim Crow laws flourished in the South. The American judiciary led the assault on racial discrimination. In 1944, the US Supreme Court ruled racial segregation unconstitutional in public schools. Rosa Parks’ defiance led to the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955 and Martin Luther King burst upon the scene with his charismatic leadership. Despite strong resistance, America’s march towards a truly equal, ethnically integrated society began in earnest.
Economically and culturally, the 1950’s gave a new definition to ‘the American way of life.’