The 1960s, like all decades, was the product of the one that preceded it. In later years, the 1950s came to be regarded as an orderly, peaceful, almost languid decade--innocent, even boring. Scenes of the 1950s, mostly captured on black and white film, show neatly dressed men, women, and children enjoying the booming prosperity that followed World War II. Families grew happily and confidently. Prices and inflation remained relatively stable and jobs were plentiful. Persons in authority enjoyed respect, and hierarchical structures were largely free of challenge.
Appearances, however, are misleading. Having been drawn deeply into international affairs by World War II, the United States found itself in the Korean War in the decade's early years. In the middle years national leaders resisted the temptation to intervene in the struggle by the French to retain dominance in Indochina and a crisis surrounding the control of the Suez Canal. Throughout the decade the American people worried about the growing power of the Soviet Union, and fear of communism was a prevailing theme.
Nor was everything as tranquil as it might have seemed at home. Relations between races provide a glimpse of turmoil in the making. The Supreme Court ruled in the 1954 landmark case of Brown v. Board of Education that schools designed to be "separate but equal" were inherently unequal and therefore unconstitutional. The next year the Court said that segregated schools must be eliminated "with all deliberate speed." The South responded with massive resistance, and elsewhere in the country foot dragging on matters of racial justice was common.