• If you are citizen of an European Union member nation, you may not use this service unless you are at least 16 years old.

  • Social distancing? Try a better way to work remotely on your online files. Dokkio, a new product from PBworks, can help your team find, organize, and collaborate on your Drive, Gmail, Dropbox, Box, and Slack files. Sign up for free.


C28 The Affluent Society 1950s

Page history last edited by Cher McDonald 1 month ago

Chapter 28. The Affluent Society 1950s

America's affluence and the returning GI's led to a dramatic change in the American lifestyle.  The new middle class moved to the suburbs and just tried to fit in.  Not everyone participated in this affluence, African Americans were still fighting for equality, and some of the most important breakthroughs in the Civil Rights movement occurred during this decade.


The specific focus of this unit will be on:

A. Emergence of the modern civil rights movement

B. The affluent society and “the other America”

C. Consensus and conformity: suburbia and middle-class America

D. Social critics, nonconformists, and cultural rebels

E. Impact of changes in science, technology, and medicine 


Reading Assignments:

Schedule: The readings listed are to be done that evening for the next day’s class and discussion. 

Monday - 3/19 RA The Economic Miracle pp. 753-758

  • Chapter 27 Reading Quiz & Homework Due

Tuesday - 3/20 RA Explosion of Science & Tech pp. 758-762

  • 1950s

Wednesday - 3/21 RA People of Plenty pp. 762-770 

Thursday - 3/22 RA The “Other America” pp. 770-771 and Rise of Civil Rights pp. 772-774

  • 1950s

Friday - 3/23 RA Eisenhower and Republicanism pp. 774-775 and Eisenhower and the Cold War pp. 775-780

Monday - 3/26 

  • Chapter 28 Reading Quiz & Homework Due


Class Notes:

C28 1950s Class Notes.pdf 


Textbook Chapter:

Ch. 28 Brinkley 14.pdf



Documentary from class:



Homework Assignments:

Part 1 - Terms: All terms should be used in context, underlined, and identified in your textbook notes. 

The Economic Miracle pp. 753-758

1. "Baby Boom"

2. Keynesian Economics


Explosion of Science & Tech pp. 758-762 

4. Jonas Salk

5. DDT


7. H-Bomb

8. Sputnik

9. Apollo Program

People of Plenty pp. 762-770

10. Consumer crazes

11. Federal Highway Act, (1956) 

12. Levittown

13. Suburban Life

14. Echo Park

15. Impact of television

16. J. D. Salinger and The Catcher in the Rye

17. Beatniks 

18. Jack Kerouac and On the Road

The “Other America” pp. 770-771

19. The Other America

Rise of Civil Rights pp. 772-774 

20. Brown v. Board of Education

21. Little Rock

22. Montgomery Bus Boycott

23. King’s strategy

Eisenhower and Republicanism pp. 774-775

24. Eisenhower’s presidency

Eisenhower and the Cold War pp. 775-780

25. Suez Crisis 

26. Fidel Castro 


Part 2 - Long Essay Question: Historical Reasoning Skill- Periodization

Be sure to use at least three supporting ideas/details to support your argument in each body paragraph.

While the United States appeared to be dominated by consensus and conformity in the 1950’s, some Americans reacted against the status quo. Analyze the critiques of United States society made by TWO of the following:

  • Youth
  • Civil Rights Activists
  • Intellectuals (writers/artists/etc.)


Part 3 - Vocabulary: These words are from the chapter and will be used in context or need to be defined on the weekly chapter quiz. They should be defined on the bottom of the textbook notes.

















Would you like to practice some of the vocabulary from this week's textbook chapter? Here is a quick link: 

Brinkley Chapter 28 vocab




Excerpt from: Michael Harrington, The Other America (1962).

There is a familiar America. It is celebrated in speeches and advertised on television and in the magazines. It has the highest mass standard of living the world has ever known.

In the 1950s this America worried about itself, yet even its anxieties were products of abundance. The title of a brilliant book was widely misinterpreted, and the familiar America began to call itself the “affluent society.” There was introspection about Madison Avenue and tail fins; there was discussion of the emotional suffering taking place in the suburbs. In all this, there was an implicit assumption that the basic grinding economic problems had been solved in the United States. In this theory the nation’s problems were no longer a matter of basic human needs, of food, shelter, and clothing. Now they were seen as qualitative, a question of learning to live decently amid luxury.

While this discussion was carried on, there existed another America. In it dwelt somewhere between 40,000,000 and 50,000,000 citizens of this land. They were poor. They still are.

To be sure, the other America is not impoverished in the same sense as those poor nations where millions cling to hunger as a defense against starvation. This country has escaped such extremes. That does not change the fact that tens of millions of Americans are, at this very moment, maimed in body and spirit, existing at levels beneath those necessary for human decency. If these people are not starving, they are hungry, and sometimes fat with hunger, for that is what cheap foods do. They are without adequate housing and education and medical care.

The Government has documented what this means to the bodies of the poor ... But even more basic, this poverty twists and deforms the spirit. The American poor are pessimistic and defeated, and they are victimized by mental suffering to a degree unknown in Suburbia . . . The millions who are poor in the United States tend to become increasingly invisible. Here is a great mass of people, yet it takes an effort of the intellect and will even to see them …

There are perennial reasons that make the other America an invisible land … Poverty is off the beaten track. It always has been. The ordinary tourist never left the main highway, and today he rides interstate turnpikes … And even if he were to pass through such a place by accident, the tourist would not meet the unemployed men in the bar or the women coming home from a runaway sweatshop… The quaint inhabitants of those hills, are undereducated, underprivileged, lack medical care, and are in the process of being forced from the land into a life in the cities, where they are misfits.

If the middle class never did like ugliness and poverty, it was at least aware of them. Across the tracks was not a very long way to go. There were forays into the slums at Christmas time; there were charitable organizations that brought contact with the poor. Occasionally, almost everyone passed through the Negro ghetto or the blocks of the tenements, if only to get downtown to work or to entertainment… Now the American city has been transformed. The poor still inhabit the miserable housing in the central area, but they are increasingly isolated from contact with, or sight of, anybody else. Middle-class women coming in from Suburbia on a rare trip may catch the merest glimpse of other America on the way to an evening at the theater, but the children are segregated in suburban schools. The business or professional man may drive along the fringes of slums in a car or bus, but it is not an important experience to him. The failure, the unskilled, the disabled, the aged, and the minorities are right there, across the tracks, where they have always been. But hardly anyone else is.

In short, the very development of the American city has removed poverty from the living, emotional experience of millions upon millions of middle-class Americans. Living out in the suburbs, it is easy to assume that ours is, indeed, an affluent society. This new segregation of poverty is compounded by a well-meaning ignorance. A good many concerned and sympathetic Americans are aware that there is much discussion of urban renewal. Suddenly, driving through the city, they notice that a familiar slum has been torn down and that there are towering, modern buildings where once there had been tenements and hovels. There is a warm feeling of satisfaction, of pride in the ways thing are working out: the poor, it is obvious, are being taken care of.

The irony in this ... is that the truth is nearly the exact opposite to the impression. The total impact of the various housing programs in postwar America has been to squeeze more and more people into existing slums. For, during the past decade and a half, there has been more subsidization of middle- and upper-income housing than there has been for the poor.

Many of the poor are the wrong age to be seen. A good number of them (over 8,000,000) are sixty-five years of age or better; an even larger number are under eighteen. The aged members of the other America are often sick, and they cannot move. Another group of them live out their lives in loneliness and frustration: they sit in rented rooms, or else they stay close to a house in a neighborhood that has completely changed from the old days. Indeed, one of the worst aspects of poverty among the aged is that these people are out of sight and out of mind, and alone.

And finally, the poor are politically invisible. It is one of the cruelest ironies of social life in advanced countries that the dispossessed at the bottom of society are unable to speak for themselves. The people of the other America do not, by far and large, belong to unions, to fraternal organizations, or to political parties. They are without lobbies of their own; they put forward no legislative program. As a group, they are atomized. They have no face; they have no voice ... That the poor are invisible is one of the most important things about them. They are not simply neglected and forgotten as in the old rhetoric of reform; what is much worse, they are not seen.



Friday - 3/18 RA Brinkley pp. 752-758

Chapter 27 Reading Quiz & Chapter 29 Questions and Outline with Terms Due

Monday - 3/21 RA Brinkley pp. 759-769 


Tuesday - 3/22 RA Brinkley pp. 770-779

Wednesday - 3/23 Watch episode S1 E29 “I Love Lucy”, The Freezer See the class homepage for the link & video. 


Thursday - 3/24 RA Brinkley pp. 781-788; Kennedy’s Inaugural Address (available online with questions)

Chapter 28 Reading Quiz & Chapter 30 Questions and Outline with Terms Due 

Comments (0)

You don't have permission to comment on this page.