Historical Dictionary of the 1950s

Historical Dictionary of the 1950s

Historical Dictionary of the 1950s

Historical Dictionary of the 1950s

Synopsis

Today, Americans look back nostalgically at the 1950s, an era when television and rock and roll revolutionized popular culture, and Vietnam, race riots, drug abuse, and protest movements were still in the future. With homes in the suburbs, new automobiles, and the latest electrical gadgets, many Americans believed they were the most prosperous people on earth. Yet the era was tainted by the fear of thermonuclear war, deepening racial tensions, and discontent with rigid roles for women and the demands of corporate conformity. A sense of rebellion had begun to brew behind the facade. This book provides entries on the prominent people, issues, scandals, ideas, popular culture, and events of the decade.

Excerpt

It should come as no surprise that Americans in the 1990s look back nostalgically on the 1950s. The "baby boom" generation sat as children in front of new television sets watching The Mickey Mouse Club, I Love Lucy, Leave It to Beaver, Father Knows Best, Make Room for Daddy, and Gunsmoke, and today they can watch reruns of those old programs on cable. Television and rock-and- roll revolutionized pop culture in the 1950s, while Vietnam, race riots, widespread drug abuse, and protest movements were still in the future. Tens of millions of Americans headed for new homes in the suburbs and traveled on weekends in new automobiles. The lastest electrical appliances adorned their new homes, and they believed that they were the most prosperous and powerful people on earth.

But they were not necessarily the happiest people in the world. The possibility of global thermonuclear war with the Soviet Union troubled many, and deepening racial tensions gave rise to shrill debates over the meaning of freedom, democracy, and equality. Millions of women felt strait-jacketed by rigid role expectations, and millions of men chaffed under the demands of corporate conformity. Television programs and their advertisers, from news broadcasts to situation comedies, told Americans how to think and how to live, but a sense of rebellion began to brew behind the facade of contentment. It manifested itself in rock-and-roll, the budding civil rights movement, and the appearance of a youth culture, and it would eventually explode during the 1960s.

The Historical Dictionary of the 1950s includes hundreds of essays about the prominent people, issues, scandals, fads, events, ideas, films, radio and television programs, and court cases of the decade. All unsigned entries are my own. Asterisks in the text indicate a cross-reference to another entry.

I wish to express my appreciation to the professional librarians at the Newton Gresham Library of Sam Houston State University for their assistance, and to Cynthia Harris, my editor, at Greenwood Publishing Group.

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