Length: 2002 words (5.7 double-spaced pages)
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The 1950's were quite radical in fact, this is the decade that began rock n' roll, the civil rights movement, better family living, advances in technology, Fashion, medical research, other wonderful things this country was not used to seeing or hearing. The 1950's were looked at more as a state of mind or a way of living rather than just another decade or time era in American history. Everything was peaceful now, which looking back on the two world wars and the great depression this country was not used to at all. Nobody worried about war, nobody worried about how they were going to feed their children and keep a roof over their heads because everyone had jobs and the economy was doing great. (Edey, Maitlanded.57) Teenagers were having more fun than ever too. Rock n' roll was introduced to them and they all seemed at the time to know what they wanted out of life, to go to school, graduate, get a job, get married, and have children all in that order just as their parents had. (Clayton, Andrew.24) The 1950's were the most influential decade in American history because the civil rights act began, fashion was completely new and trendy, there were much advancement in entertainment and medicine, and suburban life was much more "functional" than any other decade in American history.
One reason the 1950's were the most influential decade in American history is because rock and roll was introduced to the country and it let people forget about their morals for a while and just let loose to have fun. (Pareles, John.3) Elvis Presley was quite the king of rock and roll, with songs like hound dog, don't be cruel, and love me tender and ready teddy Elvis lit up the stage. ("Elvis Presley-Biographical Timeline-The Fifties") Elvis was born on January 8th 1935. He purchased his first guitar in 1946 for $12.95 at the local hardware store. In 1954 Sam Phillips teams Elvis up with local musicians Scotty Moore (guitar) and Bill Black (bass). By November of 1955 Elvis had signed his first record contract with RCA His contract was for $40,000, and a $5,000 signing bonus for Elvis. In April of 1956Elvis signed a seven-year movie contract with Hal Wallace and Paramount Pictures. The most famous film Elvis came out with ; Jailhouse Rock came out in May of 1957. This is the film that really helped Elvis launch his career.
Elvis was so well known because of the new style he brought to rock and roll. Elvis once said,"Some people tap their feet, some people snap their fingers, and some people sway back and fourth. I just sorta do 'em all together, I guess."(Elvis P. Interview, "Elvis Presley-Biographical Timeline-The Fifties) Elvis knew he had created something new in music something wonderful that would last for quite sometime. Rock and roll was more than just music to listen to, some people believe it was music to live by. (Mcleese, Don.5) The music was just the beginning of the fun and well being people endured in the 1950's.
The second reason the 1950's are considered to be the most influential decade in American history is because this is the decade that began the civil rights act. The major event that led to the beginning of the civil rights movement included Rosa Parks. Rosa Parks was an African American woman who after a hard day at work refused to give up her seat up front to a white man. By simply refusing to give up her seat, Rosa Parks single handedly began the civil rights movement and ultimately ensured that today all
African Americans must be given equal treatment with whites under the law. This event with Rosa Parks eventually led to the Montgomery Bus Boycott. The Montgomery Bus Boycott officially started on December 1, 1955 and was a day that all blacks all over Alabama decided that they would boycott all of the buses until they could sit anywhere they wanted. On November 13th 1956 the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the federal court's ruling, declaring segregation unconstitutional. (Freise, Kai.12) Even though the Montgomery Bus Boycott did not have much size compared to the gains the blacks would later win, this was an extremely important event because if you look at what Roberta Wright wrote, "It helped to launch a 10-year national struggle for freedom and justice, the Civil Rights Movement, that stimulated others to do the same at home and abroad." (Rosa Parks: The Movement Organizes) It explains what an impact Rosa Parks had on America, by simply standing up for herself and breaking the silence for blacks everywhere. Soon after the Rosa Parks incident Martin Luther King Jr. reamed up with Rosa Parks and ruled that if he could get a 60% cooperation rate from blacks all over Alabama that the bud boycott would have been a success. The morning a bus just rolled past Martin Luther King JR's house without even stopping to pick him up he concluded that a miracle had taken place and would later write," The once dormant and quiescent Negro Community was now fully awake."(Freise, Kai. 21) Meaning that he knew more changes would take place for the good of the black community all over the country. The beginning of the Civil Rights Movement wasn't the only great thing that influenced people all over
America in the 1950's but was definitely the most important thing that began because equal opportunity is what America is all about.
The 1950's were a great time and one main reason was because most people were happy with their lives because everything was "perfect." In the 1950's most men had their wives, their kids, and their cars. That was pretty much all they needed to survive. The reason everyone had jobs is because the economy was doing so great. The economy was doing so great because after WWII European industry had virtually stopped militarily and economically because of the damage done during the war. This is when America stepped up with the fact that suburbanites were now wanted and could now afford consumer goods. In the 50's American's were able to enjoy a much higher standard of living because of higher paying jobs. (Clayton, Andrew. 34) With the U.S. producing half of all the worlds goods, 60% of Americans were now part of the middle class. Which meant there were less poor people than there were rich or middle class people. Between 1949 and 1959 the number of mergers rose by 300% because most small businesses were being taken over by large corporations, many feared that this would cause much chaos because these corporations had so much power. In reality this was why the U.S. was doing so good and 60% of the country was now part of the middle class, this was due to the fact that 605 of America was being paid the same amount of money. America was now in a time of peace and prosperity due to the economy's well being and no one wanted that to end. (Halberstam, David.9)
Many of the technological advancements in entertainment helped people live a much happier and exciting life. One major thing that had come around to average people in the 1950's was the television. (Edey, Maitlanded.32) The television was wanted by pretty much every average American family in the fifties and overwhelmed millions of baby-boomer children who's relationship with TV has forever influenced this country's culture and politics. Television forced many newspapers and radio corporations to work harder in keeping business up due with the new fad called Television. The television in the fifties only had programs available to watch in early afternoons and evenings, it was also black and white not colored. Some of the well known television shows were westerns, I love Lucy, The Honeymooners, The Twilight Zone, Superman, Private Eyes. Who could forget about the news? There were also quiz shows which are still very popular today in the year 2002, variety shows, and American Bandstand would also be available soon. (Halberstam, David.12)
Medicine also played a very important role in happier living. One of the major advancements in medicine occurred in 1952 when there was a breakout of a disease called polio. This disease was killing many young men and women all over the country. As a medical student at The University of Michigan John Stalk studied viruses and soon came to the conclusion that there was no cure for the virus called polio but there was a way to prevent it. He discovered a way to vaccinate people so that if they did catch the disease the body's immune system would know how to fight it off. Almost everyone around the nation had heard of this new discovery and went to their doctors to receive the immunization. This discovery led to further study of medicine and more vaccines were made the same way. (Salk Produces Polio Vaccine)
The 1950's were a very distinct time for fashion due to the ending of WWII. During the war America did not have contact with Paris who back then was the fashion capitol of the world. Therefore America was forced to come up with it's own styles of clothing. Some influence for clothing came from the war. (Edey, Maitland.56) Many men's coats were modeled in the style of fighter pilots jackets, also pedal pushers, and known, as the Capri or pirate pants became popular just like in Italy. Soon Bermuda shorts and Hawaii shirts appeared because Hawaii had recently become a state. The look for women changed quite a bit in the 1950's while in the kitchen they wore a full skirt, frilly apron, nipped waist, and a slim bodice all on top of tall stiletto heals. (Batterberry, Michael andAriane Batterberry.32) The youth in the 1950's dressed similar to those older than them. Girls wearing pedal pushers, jeans, they also wore full skirts with stiff petticoats or pencil skirts and sweaters. There were also other groups of kids who dressed differently. One being the beatniks who were usually young people that were poets, musicians, and other artists. They wore black turtleneck sweaters or crumpled T-shirts, with unpressed jeans. Another group that dressed alternatively was called the greasers. Greasers wore Jeans T-shirts, and leather jackets, they usually greased their hair back aswell. Fashion during the 1950's represented the nation in many different ways, The way someone dressed was a symbol of who they were. (Baker Patricia. 23)
The 1950's were an extremely influential time era in American history because of Rock and Roll, the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement, new fashions, the television, advancements in medicine, and suburban life was much more functional than any other decade in American history. Rock and Roll led to many other types of music we have now like Heavy Metal, Alternative, new age rock, classical rock, and many more that have branched off this type of music. Next the Civil Rights Movement began which ultimately ensured the fact that all blacks must be given equal treatment with whites under the law. Segregation would soon be wiped out completely. America's economy created a way of peaceful life for everyone in a sense that every man had his house, his wife, his kids, and his car. No one seemed to be better than anyone waseveryone just got along well with each other. The television was brought to almost every average American home which has forever influenced this country's culture and politics which is part of the reason America is so strong today. When the polio vaccine came when a man named John Stalk stepped up and introduced to this country a new way of preventing viruses from attacking the nation. The 1950's better help one understand how there are always good times in a nation's history but also bad times as well. What seems ironic is that a person's life is like that too. The 1950's were an example of what a perfect nation needs to succeed in the world.