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The Dust Bowl-
- By the mid-1930s, the nation was suffering from the century’s most severe drought. Already a rather dry region, mechanization of agriculture had eliminated the topsoil and killed any native plants that stopped erosion. Wind blew much of the soil away, creating the Dust Bowl, as the areas of Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas, and Colorado were called. The drought displaced more than 1 million farmers. John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath is based on the
- flight of one family from Oklahoma to California, escaping the Dust Bowl and trying desperately to find work. A giant dust storm engulfs a town in western Kansas on April 14, 1935, known as Black Sunday in the American West. The dust and drought caused respiratory illness (“dust pneumonia”), death of livestock. Millions of acres of top soil vanished.
Works Progress Administration-
created in 1935. Arguably the largest and most successful of all New Deal programs. Hired 3 million Americans from a variety of backgrounds and occupations each year until it ended in 1943. Constructed thousands of public buildings, bridges, 500,000 miles of roads, 600 airports. Built stadiums, swimming pools, and sewage treatment plants. Employed many out-of-work white collar workers and professionals—even doctors and dentists. Put hundreds of artists to work decorating public buildings with murals. It hired writers to produce local histories and guidebooks to the 48 states and to record the memories of ordinary Americans, including hundreds of former slaves. Federal Theater project put on plays, including an all-black production of Macbeth. Federal Music Project established orchestras and choral groups. Federal Dance Project sponsored ballet and modern dance
National Recovery Administration-
Part of National Industrial Recovery Act. Established to work with groups of business leaders to establish industry codes that set standards for output, prices, and working conditions. The NRA was headed by Hugh Johnson, who launched a publicity campaign to promote the NRA and its Blue Eagle symbol. Stores and factories that abided by the codes of the NRA displayed this symbol. Further legislation under the National Industrial Recovery Act—Roosevelt’s primary plan for combating the Depression--set a 40 hour week for clerical workers, a 36 hour week for industrial workers, a minimum wage of 40 cents an hour, abolished child labor and a guaranteed the right that trade unions could organize and exercise the right of collective bargaining.
FDR’s Four Freedoms-
- In his State of the Union Address, delivered before Congress on January 6, 1941, FDR spoke about a future world order founded on the “essential human freedoms”: freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear. They embodied, so he declared on a radio address in 1942, the “rights of men of every creed and every race, wherever they live,” and made clear the “crucial difference between ourselves and the enemies we face today.”The Four Freedoms provided a crucial language of national unity that sometimes obscured divisions in American society that the war began to intensify—race and gender relations, for example.
- Freedom from fear—meant not only a longing for peace, but a more general desire for security in a world that appeared to be out of control.
- Freedom of speech and religion were reaffirmed during the war.
- In 1943, the Supreme Court upheld the right of Jehovah’s Witnesses to refuse to salute the American flag in public schools—this is in direct contrast to the coercive patriotism of WWI.
- Freedom from want—protecting the future “standard of living of the American worker and farmer” by guaranteeing the Depression would not resume after the war.
- For those outside the social mainstream—migrant workers, cannery laborers, African American victims of segregation, this meant having enough to eat, sending their children to school, and being able to share in the “promise and fruits of American life.”
the policy or doctrine of isolating one’s country from the affairs of other nations by declining to enter into alliances, foreign economic commitments, international agreements, etc., seeking to devote the entire efforts of one’s country to its own advancement and remain at peace by avoiding foreign entanglements and responsibilities.
- The attack on Pearl Harbor (called Hawaii Operation or Operation AI by the Japanese Imperial General Headquarters (Operation Z in planning) and the Battle of Pearl Harbor) was a surprise military strike conducted by the Imperial Japanese Navy against the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on the morning of December 7, 1941 (December 8 in Japan). The attack was intended as a preventive action in order to keep the U.S. Pacific Fleet from interfering with military actions the Empire of Japan was planning in Southeast Asia against overseas territories of the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and the United States.
- The base was attacked by 353 Japanese fighters, bombers and torpedo planes in two waves, launched from six aircraft carriers. All eight U.S. Navy battleships were damaged, with four being sunk. Of the eight damaged, six were raised, repaired and returned to service later in the war. The Japanese also sank or damaged three cruisers, three destroyers, an anti-aircraft training ship, and one minelayer. 188 U.S. aircraft were destroyed; 2,402 Americans were killed and 1,282 wounded. The power station, shipyard, maintenance, and fuel and torpedo storage facilities, as well as the submarine piers and headquarters building (also home of the intelligence section) were not attacked. Japanese losses were light: 29 aircraft and five midget submarines lost, and 65 servicemen killed or wounded. One Japanese sailor was captured.
- The attack came as a profound shock to the American people and led directly to the American entry into World War II in both the Pacific and European theaters. The following day (December 8), the United States declared war on Japan. Domestic support for isolationism, which had been strong, disappeared. Clandestine support of Britain (for example the Neutrality Patrol) was replaced by active alliance. Subsequent operations by the U.S. prompted Germany and Italy to declare war on the U.S. on December 11, which was reciprocated by the U.S. the same day.
- There were numerous historical precedents for unannounced military action by Japan. However, the lack of any formal warning, particularly while negotiations were still apparently ongoing, led President Franklin D. Roosevelt to proclaim December 7, 1941, "a date which will live in infamy".
American Internment-Inspired by exaggerated fears of a Japanese invasion on the West Coast, and pressured by whites who saw an opportunity to gain possession of Japanese-American property, the military persuaded FDR to issue Executive Order 9066, which ordered the expulsion of all persons of Japanese descent from the West Coast. During the Spring and Summer of 1942, 110,000 men women and children—nearly 2/3 of whom were American citizens—were removed to internment camps far from their homes. In 1988, Congress apologized for the internment and provided 20,000 in compensation to each surviving victim.
- Truman learns of the secret Manhattan Project, which began in 1943. J. Robert Oppenheimer: Father of the Atomic Bomb”-One of the leaders of the Manhattan Project. Upon the successful first test of the bomb near Los Alamos, New Mexico, Oppenheimer reflected: “…There floated through my mind a line from the Bhagavad-Gita in which Krishna is trying to persuade the Prince that he should do his duty: “‘I am become death: the destroyer of worlds.’”
- The wartime effort to design and build the first nuclear weapons (atomic bombs). With the discovery of fission in 1939, it became clear to scientists that certain radioactive materials could be used to make a bomb of unprecented power. U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt responded by creating the Uranium Committee to investigate this possibility. Progress was slow until Aug., 1942, when the project was placed under U.S. Army control and totally reorganized. The Manhattan Engineer District (MED) was the official name of the project. The MED's commanding officer, Gen. Leslie R. Groves, was given almost unlimited powers to call upon the military, industrial, and scientific resources of the nation.
- A $2-billion effort was required to obtain sufficient amounts of the two necessary isotopes, uranium-235 and plutonium-239. At Oak Ridge, Tenn., the desired uranium-235 was separated from the much more abundant uranium-238 by a laborious process called gaseous diffusion. At the Hanford installation (Wash.), huge nuclear reactors were built to transmute nonfissionable uranium-238 into plutonium-239. This method was based on the principle of the self-sustaining nuclear reaction (nuclear pile) that had first been achieved under the leadership of Enrico Fermi at the metallurgical laboratory of the Univ. of Chicago. At the radiation laboratory of the Univ. of California at Berkeley costly efforts were made to separate the two uranium isotopes using cyclotrons, but only about a gram of pure uranium-235 was obtained. The actual design and building of the plutonium and uranium bombs took place at Los Alamos, N.Mex., under the leadership of J. Robert Oppenheimer. Gathered at this desert laboratory was an extraordinary group of American and European-refugee scientists.
- The only nuclear test explosion, code-named Trinity, was of a plutonium device; it took place on July 16, 1945, near Alamogordo, N.Mex. The first uranium bomb ( "Little Boy" ) was delivered untested to the army and was dropped on Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945, killing at least 70,000 inhabitants. On Aug. 9, 1945, a plutonium bomb virtually identical to the Trinity device was dropped on Nagasaki, killing at least 35,000 inhabitants.
The United Nations-
Early in the war, the Allies agreed to establish a successor to the League of Nations—in a 1944 conference at Dumbarton Oaks, near Washington D.C., they developed the structure of the United Nations (UN). There would be a General Assembly—essentially a forum for discussion where each member enjoyed an equal voice. And a Security Council that would be responsible for maintaining world peace. President Truman urged Americans to recognize that “no matter how great our strength, we must deny ourselves the license to do always as we please. This is the price which each nation will have to pay for world peace...And what a reasonable price that is.”
Doctrine of “containment”: U.S. must contain communism in Europe, and elsewhere. U.S. must support any nation or “free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures.” Potential problem with Truman Doctrine? Problem: We will support any government (however corrupt) as long as it’s anticommunist. Marshall Plan (1947) Proposed by Secretary of State George C. Marshall. Complements Truman Doctrine. The U.S. aids war-torn Europe with food, money, etc. U.S. uses economic policy to restore capitalism, contain communism.
North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)-
In 1949, the U.S., Canada, and ten western European nations establish the North Atlantic Treaty Organization—pledging mutual defense against any future Soviet attack. West Germany joins NATO. This was the first long-term military alliance between the U.S. and Europe since the American Revolution. The Soviets formed their own eastern European alliance—the Warsaw pact—in 1955.
States’ Rights Democratic Party-
Dixiecrats, as they were commonly called—They nominated Strom Thurmond of South Carolina for governor. His platform called for the “complete segregation of races” and his campaign drew its support from those fearful of Truman’s civil rights initiatives, but Thurmond denied any charges of racism. The real issue of the election was freedom—the States’ Rights Democratic Party—stood for “individual liberty and freedom, the right of people to govern themselves.”
House Un-American Activities Committee-
- HUAC conducts trials on suspected Communists or Communist sympathizers. Target: Hollywood actors, writers, and directors. Women’s colleges, homosexuals, abstract artists. Many actors and writers lose their jobs, or are intimidated into “naming names.”
- Anticommunism-McCarthyism entered the political vocabulary as shorthand for character assassination, guilt by association, and abuse of power in the name of anticommunism. There probably were Soviet spies in the U.S., but the tiny Communist Party posed no real threat to American security. Those deprived of their livelihoods during the McCarthy era were guilty of nothing more than holding unpopular beliefs and engaging in lawful political activities.
Housing Act of 1949****-
Authorized construction of over 80,000 units of public housing in order to provide a “decent home for every American family.” But the law set an extremely low ceiling on the income of residents—a rule demanded by private contractors seeking to avoid competition from the government in building homes for the middle class. This regulation restricted housing projects to the very poor. Since white urban and suburban neighborhoods successfully opposed the construction of public housing, it was increasingly confined to segregated neighborhoods in inner cities, reinforcing the concentration of poverty in urban non-white neighborhoods.
The Third World-
The term “Third World” was invented to describe developing countries aligned with neither of the two Cold War powers and instead interested in their own model of development between Soviet centralized economic planning and free market capitalism. None of these countries could avoid being strongly affected by the political, military, and economic contest of the Cold War. Decolonization—which happened as European empires elsewhere challenged control of their colonizers—contributed to the emergence of the “third world.” Americans and Soviets were equally interested in what was to become of these countries—as India and Pakistan achieved independence in 1947, Ghana became independent in 1957, and other new nations—Indonesia, Malaysia, Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania soon followed.
Brown v. Board of Education-
In December 1952, the United States Supreme Court had on its docket cases from Kansas, Delaware, the District of Columbia, South Carolina, and Virginia, all of which challenged the constitutionality of racial segregation in public schools. The Court had consolidated these five cases under one name, Oliver Brown et al. v. the Board of Education of Topeka. Initiated by members of the local NAACP chapter in Topeka, Kansas. Thirteen parents volunteered to participate. In the summer of 1950, they took their children to schools in their neighborhoods and attempted to enroll them for the upcoming school year. All were refused admission. The children were forced to attend one of the four schools in the city for African Americans. For most, this involved traveling some distance from their homes. These parents filed suit against the Topeka Board of Education on behalf of their twenty children. Oliver Brown, a minister, was the first parent listed in the suit, so the case came to be named after him. Case was filed in February 1951. The U.S. District Court ruled against the plaintiffs, but placed in the record its acceptance of the psychological evidence that African American children were adversely affected by segregation. These findings later were quoted by the U.S. Supreme Court in its 1954 opinion.The Brown decision was a landmark decision for the United States Supreme Court because it declared state laws establishing separate public schools for black and white students unconstitutional. The decision overturned the Plessy v. Ferguson decision of 1896 which allowed state-sponsored segregation. The Brown decision was handed down on May 17, 1954, the Court's unanimous (9–0) decision stated that "separate educational facilities are inherently unequal." As a result, de jure racial segregation was ruled a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. This ruling paved the way for desegregation and the civil rights movement.
Montgomery Bus Boycott / Rosa Parks-
On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks, a black tailor’s assistant who had just completed her days work in Montgomery Alabama, refused to surrender her seat on a city bus to a white rider, as required by local law. Parks was arrested. Her arrest sparked a year-long boycott on Montgomery busses, beginning of the mass phase of the civil rights movement in the South. For 381 days, despite legal harassment and occasional violence, black maids, janitors, teachers, and students walked or rode an informal network of taxis rather than use city busses. Finally in November 1956, the Supreme Court ruled segregation in public transportation unconstitutional.
The white South refused to accept the Brown decision, which reinforced the conviction that black citizens could not gain constitutional rights without federal intervention, which was not immediately forthcoming. The Supreme Court finally decided in 1955 that desegregation should proceed with “all deliberate speed,” which was vague enough to encourage a campaign of “massive resistance” that paralyzed civil rights progress in the South. In 1956, 82 of 106 southern congressmen signed a “southern manifesto” denouncing the Brown decision and calling for resistance to “forced integration” by any lawful means. State after state passed laws to block desegregation. Some made it illegal for the NAACP to operate within their borders. Virginia pioneered the strategy of closing public schools that were ordered to desegregate and offered funds to enable white students to attend private schools. One VA county, Prince Edward County, shut its schools in 1959 rather than comply. They were not opened again until 1964 when the Supreme Court forced them open.
Student Non-Violent Coordinating-Committee (SNCC)-
In April 1960, Ella Baker, a longtime civil rights organizer, called a meeting of young activists in Raleigh, NC. About 200 black students and a few whites attended. This gathering formed the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), dedicated to replacing the culture of segregation with racial justice and empowering ordinary African Americans to take control of the decisions that affected their lives.
1963 March on Washington****-
On August 28, 1963, two weeks before the Birmingham church bombing, 250,000 black and white Americans converged on the nation’s capital for the March on Washington, often considered the high point in the non-violent civil rights movement. Called for the passage of a civil rights bill as well as a public-works program to reduce unemployment, an increase in the minimum wage, and a law barring discrimination in employment. These demands reveal how the movement had formed, for the moment at least, a coalition with white liberal groups. This is where MLK delivered his most famous speech, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial—“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’”
Civil Rights Act of 1964****-
Just 5 days after Kennedy was shot, however, Johnson called on Congress to enact the civil rights bill as a memorial to Kennedy. In 1964, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act—which prohibited racial discrimination in employment, institutions like hospitals and schools, and privately own public accommodations such as restaurants, hotels, and theaters. It also banned discrimination on the grounds of sex, a provision added by opponents of civil rights in an effort to derail the entire bill, but embraced by liberal and female members of Congress.
“Redlining”-This map of Charlotte, NC was prepared by the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation. It illustrates the practice of “redlining” neighborhoods containing blue-collar and black residents. Wealthy areas, coded green, were given the best credit ratings. White collar districts, in blue, the second best. Residents of red districts found it almost impossible to obtain government housing loans.
Woman at War-•In 1944, women made up over 1/3 of the civilian labor force, and 350,000 served in auxiliary military units.
•The government, employers, and unions depicted work as a temporary necessity, not an expansion of women’s freedom. Advertisements assured women working in factories that they, too, were “fighting for freedom.” But their language spoke of sacrifice and military victory, not rights, independence or self-determination.
•When the war ended, most female war workers, especially those in higher paying industrial jobs, lost their positions after the war.
Montgomery Bus Boycott / Rosa Parks-On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks, a black tailor’s assistant who had just completed her days work in Montgomery Alabama, refused to surrender her seat on a city bus to a white rider, as required by local law. Parks was arrested. Her arrest sparked a year-long boycott on Montgomery busses, beginning of the mass phase of the civil rights movement in the South. For 381 days, despite legal harassment and occasional violence, black maids, janitors, teachers, and students walked or rode an informal network of taxis rather than use city busses. Finally in November 1956, the Supreme Court ruled segregation in public transportation unconstitutional.
In October 1967, 100,000 antiwar protestors marched on Washington. Many marched across the Potomac to the Pentagon, where photographers captured them placing flowers in the rifle barrels of soldiers guarding the nerve center of the American military. Bernie Boston captured this photo on October 22, 1967, naming it “Flower Power.”