Common Dreams, Common Enemies, Bubbling Conflict
America in the 1950s


The Cold War and the Development of the Hydrogen Bomb

January 31, 1950: President Harry S. Truman announced that he was ordering the Atomic Energy Commission to pursue the development of additional nuclear weapons, including a thermonuclear hydrogen bomb.

Above: President Harry S. Truman, Democrat; Logo for the Atomic Energy Commission of the United States

"I have directed the Atomic Energy Commission to continue its work on all forms of atomic weapons, including the so-called hydrogen or superbomb."---President Harry S. Truman

Truman's decision to develop an H-Bomb

The Cold War, Culture War and the Rise of McCarthyism

February 9, 1950: In an infamous speech in Wheeling, West Virginia, Republican Senator Joe McCarthy made a sensational accusation that he had a list of communists in the United States State Department. After the Wheeling speech, McCarthy continued in this style, a style that, in time, became known as McCarthyism.

Joe McCarthy did not invent anti-communism. Nor was he the first to make accusations of communist subversion in the executive branch of the federal government. The Alger Hiss Case broke well before McCarthy made his bomb-throwing accusations in Wheeling, West Virginia. It is noteworthy that McCarthy gained fame a little more than five months after the Soviet Union successfully tested an atomic bomb. Moreover, Mao Zedong's communist takeover of China had also come to fruition only four months prior. As such, what was different about McCarthyism was his style of making highly dramatic, irresponsible, and unsubstantiated accusations. In the universe of McCarthyism, traitors, spies, and subversives were everywhere.

The American public, in a sense, was ripe for the type of fear mongering that Joe McCarthy offered. McCarthyism also was a political tactic for the Republican Party to attack the Truman Administration. Since March 4, 1933, the Democratic Party had controlled the Presidency, and thus the executive branch of the federal government. Accusations of communist subversion within the federal government, hence, were ways that McCarthy and his allies could attack American Liberals--particularly Liberals in the Democratic Party---as being unpatriotic and soft on communism.

Above: Senator Joe McCarthy, Republican of Wisconsin

The U.S. Census of 1950

April 1, 1950: The U.S. Census Bureau conducted the 1950 Census. Per the Census, the population of the United States of America was 151,325,798 in 1950, a population increase of 14.5% since 1940.

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Communist North Korea Invades South Korea

June 25, 1950: The Korean War began.



The Cold War and the American Policy of Containment

September 30, 1950: President Harry S. Truman signed the National Security Council plan, NSC-68, thus approving an aggressive policy of containment against the Soviet Union and its allies. The initial report was delivered to President Truman on April 14, 1950, but he did not approve it until September 30th.

Above: Paul Nitze was the principal author of NSC-68, a report that remained secret until declassified in 1975. Nitze would go on to serve in the Kenned and Johnson administrations. During the Reagan presidency, Nitze served as a chief U.S. negotiator in crafting an intermediate nuclear missile treaty with the Soviet Union. In 1985 he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Ronald Reagan. Nitze died in 2004 at the age of 97.

The NSC-68 Report claimed:

  • The U.S. was facing a different world in the aftermath of WWII
  • The U.S. and the Soviet Union were the two major world superpowers
  • The Soviet Union was seeking world domination

The NSC-68 Report advocated:

  • A policy of "containing" the expansion of Soviet power
  • A build-up of U.S. armed forces, both in conventional and nuclear forces
  • The creation of a nuclear fusion "Hydrogen" bomb
  • The increase of military assistance to U.S. Allies

For a more detailed description of the above information, see the link below:

NSC-68, A Basic Overview

The 1950 World Series:

October 7, 1950:


Baseball Almanac: The 1950 World Series

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1950 Midterm Elections: The Democrats Hold Maintain Control of the Congress

November 1950:

The People's Republic of China Enters the Korean War

November 26, 1950:


Time's 1950 Man of the Year: The American Soldier



Truman and the Firing of General Douglas MacArthur

April 11, 1951: President Harry S. Truman essentially fired (relieved) General Douglas MacArthur of his command of American forces in Korea.

Truman did so in the wake of comments by MacArthur that seemed to contradict official U.S. policy. Truman's action was very controversial, and MacArthur enjoyed great popularity with much of the American public. But Truman also demonstrated that the U.S. military remained subordinate to the President of the United States, a principle that might have been compromised if MacArthur had been allowed to remain at his post.

Above: Time cover featuring President Harry S. Truman, April 23, 1951 issue

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Above: Front page of the New York Times, April 11, 1951

General Douglas MacArthur Gave his Farewell Speech Before the U.S. Congress

April 19, 1951:

Above: Time cover featuring General Douglas MacArthur, April 30, 1951 issue

The Catcher in the Rye is published

July 16, 1951: The Catcher in the Rye, a novel by J.D. Salinger, was published.

Above: The cover of The Catcher in the Rye and the author, J.D. Salinger

The 1951 World Series: The New York Yankees Defeated the New York Giants

October 10, 1951:

Above: 1951 World Series Program

Baseball Almanac: The 1951 World Series

The Premiere of I Love Lucy

October 15, 1951: I Love Lucy, a television situation comedy starring Lucille Ball and Desi Arnez, debuted.

Above: Scenes from I Love Lucy


Above: An advertisement for an early 1950s television set


Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain Began her Reign

February 6, 1952:

Queen Elizabeth II, Reign: February 6, 1952 - Present; Queen Elizabeth on the cover of Time in 1952

The Democratization of American Travel: The Opening of the First Holiday Inn

August 1, 1952:

Richard Nixon and a little dog named Checkers

September 23, 1952: Senator Richard Nixon, Dwight Eisenhower's vice presidential running mate, delivered his famousCheckers Speech, a television address that likely saved his political career.

Above: Richard Nixon

The Cold War and Nuclear Weapons

October 3, 1952: Great Britain joined the Nuclear Club when it exploded its first Nuclear Weapon in Operation Hurricane.

Above: Mushroom cloud above the blast site near the coast of western Australia.

The 1952 World Series: The New York Yankees Defeated the Brooklyn Dodgers

October 7, 1952:


Baseball Almanac: The 1952 World Series

The Cold War and American Nuclear Weaponry

November 1, 1952: The United States successfully exploded (in a test codenamed Ivy Mike ) the world's first fusion nuclear bomb, otherwise known as the Hydrogen Bomb or H-Bomb.

Above: Mushroom cloud resulting from a nuclear explosion; President Harry S. Truman

The successful American test of a nuclear fusion hydrogen bomb occurred just a few days prior to the election of Republican Dwight Eisenhower as President of the United States. On January 20, 1953, "Ike" took office, thus ending nearly twenty years of Democratic control of the presidency (March 4, 1933 to January 20, 1953).

During the nearly twenty years of Democratic occupancy of the White House (Roosevelt and Truman), the United States emerged as a military superpower, possessing weaponry and military reach that was only imagined when FDR took office on March 4, 1933. For nearly forty more years, the United States would continue to compete with the Soviet Union for military supremacy and advantage. In short, in the early 1950s, the Cold War had only begun, but much of the national security governmental architecture and strategy that would guide the U.S. prosecution of the Cold War for almost forty years was well in place.

From 1953 to 1991, Republican and Democratic presidents alike would largely follow the Truman Containment Strategy with only minor deviations. While the Cold War certainly had a series of smaller "hot" wars, the United States and the Soviet Union never fought a head-to-head war with one another, and never used nuclear weapons against the other. In the end, the U.S. Containment Strategy prevailed. In 1991, in the face of economic collapse, the Soviet Union dissolved itself without American and Western intervention.

1952 Presidential Election: America Likes Ike

November 4, 1952: Dwight D. Eisenhower (Republican) won the Presidential Election of 1952.

Above: At left, Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower and at right, Democrat Adlai Stevenson;The 1952 presidential electoral map

Above: Time coverage of the victory of the Eisenhower-Nixon Republican ticket in the 1952 Presidential Election

The Opening of the Sands Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada

December 15, 1952:
Above: Las Vegas Sun photo of The Sands Hotel and Casino, circa 1950s Article from December 15, 1952 The Sands Hotel

"When the Sands opened at a cost of $5 million on December 15, 1952, news reporters from throughout the country attended the party. The hotel's Copa Room debuted with singer Danny Thomas. The Garden Room restaurant provided a large, windowed view of the hotel's pool and landscaped grounds. The hotel was a series of low-rise buildings, suites and bungalows, fronted by a stylish neon sign that proclaimed the Sands as 'A Place in the Sun.'

The Sands' entertainment director, Jack Entratter, formerly of the famous Copacabana nightclub in New York, would use his close ties to major entertainers to book name acts at the Sands' showroom, the Copa Room, in the 1950s and the 1960s. The well-known Entratter would also arrange for wealthy gamblers from the Northeast to patronize the Sands.

In 1955, when most Las Vegas businesses honored segregation rules that kept white and black Americans separated, the Sands became the first Strip hotel to permit a headliner who was black, singer Nat King Cole, to stay as a guest while performing.

By the late 1950s, many inside and outside of Las Vegas considered the Sands the Strip's most fashionable and well-known hotel, primarily from its association with members of the Rat Pack—also called 'The Clan'—who often performed together in the Copa Room.

The ensemble featured recording artists and film actors Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, who each owned shares of the Sands. Then and since, some of the evidence has suggested that they were front men for mobsters who state officials never would have licensed. Singer and dancer Sammy Davis, Jr., actor Peter Lawford, and comedian Joey Bishop rounded out the troupe. Prior to performances, the group was known to meet inside the Sands' steam room, the first one ever installed in Las Vegas, built at Sinatra's request. The popular 1960 film Oceans 11, starring Sinatra and the other Rat Pack members, was filmed at the Sands.

Led by Sinatra and Martin, the Rat Pack combined irreverent and suggestive humor, ease and sophistication to bring international recognition to Las Vegas. The co-starring role of Davis, who was African American, at Sinatra's insistence furthered efforts to break the local color barrier that excluded blacks from patronizing Las Vegas casinos and hotels until 1960."


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Republicans Take Control of the United States Congress: Joe Martin Becomes Speaker of the House Again

January 3, 1953:

Above: Speaker of the House Joseph W. Martin

Lyndon B. Johnson Became U.S. Senate Minority Leader

January 3, 1953:

Above: Time cover featuring U.S. Senate Minority Leader Lyndon B. Johnson in June 1953

The Presidency of Dwight D. Eisenhower

January 20, 1953: Republican Dwight Eisenhower became President of the United States

Dwight D. Eisenhower (Republican), 34th American President.
Years in Office: 1953-1961

Above: President Dwight D. Eisenhower, Republican

1952: Former U.S. Army General Dwight D. Eisenhower (Republican) was elected President of the United States. He was re-elected in 1956. He served as president from January 1953 to January 1961.

Josef Stalin: 1879-1953

March 5, 1953: After years of ruling the Soviet Union as a tyrant, Josef Stalin died, thus creating a power vacuum in the Soviet government.

Above: Time coverage of the death of Stalin; The body of Josef Stalin, ruler of the Soviet Union since the mid-1920s


James Watson and Francis Crick Announce the Discovery of DNA

April 25, 1953:

The Coronation of Great Britain's Queen Elizabeth II

June 2, 1953:

Above: Commemorative postage stamp for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II

Above: Coronation ceremony for Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain, Westminster Abbey, London, England, June 2, 1953

Queen Elizabeth II, Reign: February 6, 1952 - Present

Fidel and Raul Castro, brothers and revolutionaries

July 26, 1953: Fidel Castro, a Cuban lawyer and revolutionary, led an ill-fated attempt to assault the Moncada Cuban military barracks in an attempt to overthrow the Batista regime. His attack failed. Fidel and his younger brother, Raul Castro, were arrested and imprisoned.

Above: Fidel Castro under Arrest and the Moncada military barracks after the attacks;The attack on the barracks were considered audacious, however. And from this came the "Julio de 26" Movement. Insignia for the July 26th Movement

The Korean War

July 27, 1953: Cease-fire agreement (Armistice) basically ends the Korean War


Coup d'Etat in Iran

August 19, 1953:

The Rise of Nikita Khrushchev

September 14, 1953: Nikita Khrushchev was named First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, the position that made him essentially the head of state of the Soviet Union. He would remain in power until October 14, 1964.

Nikita Khrushchev, leader of the Soviet Union, 1953-1964

Chief Justice Earl Warren and a Liberal Revolution on the U.S. Supreme Court, 1953-1969

October 5, 1953: Appointed by President Dwight Eisenhower in a recess appointment, recent California Governor Earl Warren (Republican) became Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court. In March 1954, the Senate (Republican-controlled) confirmed him to a permanent term.

In 1948 Warren had been the Republican vice presidential nominee and the running mate of Republican presidential nominee Thomas Dewey, a race they lost to President Harry S. Truman.

During his years on the U.S. Supreme Court, Chief Justice Warren presided over a host of proceedings that rendered decisions that moved American constitutional law in decidedly liberal directions, especially in areas of civil rights and civil liberties.

Among many conservatives, and among many Southern segregationists, Earl Warren became a hated man.

Above: Chief Justice Earl Warren

Earl Warren served as Chief Justice from 1953 to 1969.

The 1953 World Series: The New York Yankees Defeated the Brooklyn Dodgers

October 5, 1953:

Baseball Almanac: The 1953 World Series


Hank Aaron Hit His First Major League Home Run

April 23, 1954: April 23, 1954, Hank Aaron of the Milwaukee Braves Hits His First MLB Home Run

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The Vietnam War

May 7, 1954: The Battle of Dien Bien Phu. the Viet Minh under Vietnamese Communist and Nationalist Ho Chi Minh force the military surrender of French forces.


U.S. State Department: Dien Bien Phu


Brown v. Board of Education and the American Civil Rights Movement

May 17, 1954: In a 9 to 0 decision, the United States Supreme Court, in its Brown v. Board of Education decision, struck down racial segregation in public schools. In doing so, the high court accelerated a civil rights revolution for African Americans.


In this decision, the United States Supreme Court, in a 9-0 decision, overturned so-callled separate but equal racial segregation in public schools. The decision was a landmark decision of the court. Led by liberal Republican Chief Justice Earl Warren (of California), the court began a process of overturning the legal underpinnings of Jim Crow segregation. Racial segregation in the South, however, did not end overnight, or even within a few years.

To the contrary, within months, much of the white South mobilized for Massive Resistance to compliance with Supreme Court orders, or to any other forms of racial desegregation and integration. Massive resistance by many Southern whites would continue will into the 1960s. Massive Resistance was particularly strong in Alabama and other Deep South States like Mississippi, Georgia, and South Carolina.

The map below shows the pervasiveness of racial segregation in public schools prior to Brown v. Board of Education, particularly in the South. The states marked in red were the states in which racial segregation was required by law.


"One, Two, Three O'Clock, Four O'Clock Rock"...The Rise of Rock n' Roll

May 20, 1954: Rock Around the Clock (an early rock and roll song) was released

Iconic early Rock and Roll song, Rock Around the Clock by Bill Haley and His Comets was released. Pictured below is a 45 speed vinyl record with a recording of Rock Around the Clock. Below right is a picture of the Bill Haley and HIs Comets.


American Television Culture

May 27, 1954: Father Know's Best, an iconic 1950s series, debuts on television.

Above: The cast of Father Knows Best

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CIA-Engineered Coup in Guatemala

June 27, 1954:


Above: Time cover with portrait of Jacobo Arbenz, President of Guatemala who was ousted in a CIA-engineered coup d'etat

The Civil Rights Movement and Massive Resistance

July 1954: The Birth of the White Citizens' Council and the rise of Southern Massive Resistance to the Civil Rights Movement


The so-called Citizens' Councils were a collection of white supremacist organizations formed in the wake of Brown v. Board of Education devoted to maintaining racial segregation in the South. The Citizens' Council phenomenon began in Mississippi during the summer of 1954, but spread quickly to other Southern states, particularly Deep South states such as Alabama, Georgia, and Louisiana.

For the next ten years or so, the Citizens' Councils stood at the vanguard of defending the traditional Southern way of life, that is, white supremacy and racial segregation. For much of its history, the Citizens' Councils voiced their opposition to the Civil Rights Movement in the context of states' rights and anti-communism.

The logo of the Citizens' Councils is pictured above-left. The image above-right is the front page of a 1956 Citizens' Council newspaper. During the height of its influence during the 1950s-60s, the Citizens' Councils produced a variety of segregationist literature.

The Geneva Accords: The Creation of North Vietnam and South Vietnam

July 21, 1954: The Paris Accords of 1954

1954 World Series: In Game 1, Willie Mays of the New York Giants Makes "The Catch"

September 29, 1954:

Above: Time cover in the summer of 1954 featuring Willie Mays of the New York Giants; Willie Mays of the New York Giants making "The Catch" against the Cleveland Indians at the Polo Grounds in New York in the top of the 8th inning of Game 1 of the 1954 World Series, a series ultimately won by the New York Giants in a four game sweep

Baseball Almanac: The 1954 World Series

1954 World Series: The New York Giants Swept the Cleveland Indians in Four Games

October 2, 1954:

Above: 1951 World Series Program for the New York Giant; 1951 World Series Program for the Cleveland Indians

Baseball Almanac: The 1954 World Series

1954 Congressional Elections: Triumph of the Democratic Party

November 2, 1954: Congressional Mid-Term elections. A Democratic Congressional Dynasty Emerged.

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Above: Speaker of the House Sam Rayburn; Senate Majority Leader Lyndon B. Johnson of Texas

In 1954, the Democrats won majorities in both chambers, i.e. the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. In the House of Representatives, Sam Rayburn of Texas became Speaker of the House. Likewise, in the Senate, Senator Lyndon Baines Johnson of Texas became Senate Majority Leader.

The Democrats would control the House of Representatives for 40 interrupted years, from January 1955 to January 1995. Democratic reign in the Senate was a bit shorter, but they did hold it from January 1955 until January 1981, a 26 year run.

First elected to the U.S. Senate in 1948 (a highly razor-thin controversial Democratic Primary victory which earned him the ironic nickname "Landslide Lyndon"), Senator Lyndon Baines Johnson became "Master of the Senate" six years later.

In 1960 he reluctantly accepted Senator John F. Kennedy's invitation to be the vice presidential nominee of the Democratic Party. The Kennedy-Johnson ticket won a razor-thin victory over Vice President Richard M. Nixon's Republican ticket, and on January 20, 1961, LBJ became Vice President of the United States.

On November 22, 1963, LBJ became President of the United States when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald in Dallas, Texas. In November 1964, LBJ was elected to the presidency in a true landslide. He would continue to serve as president until the end of his term in January 1969.

The Fall of Joe McCarthy and Much of McCarthyism

December 2, 1954: The U.S. Senate censured Republican Senator Joe McCarthy

In the waning days of Republican control of the U.S. Congress, the Senate censured Republican Senator Joe McCarthy for improper conduct. The censure effectively ended McCarthy's influence in American politics and government. In a 67 to 22 vote for censure, the U.S. Senate "condemned" McCarthy for conduct that brought "dishonor and disrepute" to the Senate. A severe alcoholic, McCarthy died in 1957.

Above: Newspaper front page headlines covering the censure of Republican Senator Joe McCarthy


The Age of Lyndon Baines Johnson, 1955-1969

January 3, 1955: Democratic Senator Lyndon B. Johnson of Texas became Majority Leader in the United States Senate.

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Above: Lyndon B. Johnson

Johnson's career as an elected public official began on April 10, 1937 after he won a special election to the United States House of Representatives. LBJ was sworn in as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, representing the Texas 10th Congressional, on May 13, 1937.

He remained in the House until January 3, 1949, the moving to the U.S. Senate after winning election in 1948.

LBJ's 1948 senatorial victory was (and remains) saturated with controversy due to events surrounding his extremely narrow victory over Coke Stevenson in the 1948 Democratic Primary, a win that earned LBJ the moniker "Landslide Lyndon."

Controversies aside, LBJ won the 1948 general election, and on January 3, 1949, became a U.S. Senator. Three years later, he was Senate Minority Leader. Two years after that, in 1955, he was Senate Majority Leader and something of a political force of nature.

In doing so, LBJ arose to be arguably the dominant force in American politics and government for much of the next 14 years. One can reasonably argue that, during these years, Johnson's accomplishments made him the most significant figure in American government in the second half of the 20th century.

From January 3, 1955 to January 3, 1961, Johnson served as Majority Leader of the Democratic-controlled U.S. Senate.

During those 6 years, LBJ developed into the Master of the Senate, a term used by Robert Caro as the title of his multi-volume biography of Lyndon Johnson. For 6 years, LBJ worked closely with Republican President Dwight Eisenhower in passing significant legislation, including the creation of the Interstate Highway System, the Civil Rights Act of 1957, and the creation of NASA.

In 1960, LBJ failed to win the Democratic nomination for the presidency, losing to Senator John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts. Johnson did, however, accept JFK's offer for the vice presidential nomination. In November 1960, the Democratic Kennedy-Johnson Ticket narrowly defeated the Republican Nixon-Lodge Ticket. LBJ, in turn, resigned his Senate seat, effective January 3, 1961.

On January 20, 1961, Lyndon Johnson became Vice President of the United States, a position he served in until November 22, 1963 when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas.

Upon the death of Kennedy, LBJ became President of the United States on Friday afternoon, November 22, 1963. He served out the remainder of JFK's presidential term, a term which ended on January 20, 1965.

In November 1964, LBJ won a full 4-year presidential term when he defeated Republican candidate Barry Goldwater in a landslide victory. Johnson began his full term on January 20, 1965. His full term, along with his presidency, ended on January 20, 1969.

During his presidency (November 22, 1963 to January 20, 1969), LBJ drew on his Capitol Hill experience to shepherd through numerous bills through the Democratic-controlled Congress. As such, President Johnson signed numerous landmark congressionally-passed bills into law, among those being The Clean Air Act of 1963, The Civil Rights Act of 1964, The Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, The Medicare Act of 1965, The Voting Rights Act of 1965, The Immigration Act of 1965, The Higher Education Act of 1965, and The Fair Housing Act of 1968.

A mainstream Cold Warrior, LBJ also directed the escalation of American involvement in the conflict between Communist North Vietnam and Non-Communist South Vietnam. LBJ's military intervention on behalf of South Vietnam--and the subsequent military morass--eventually sparked a domestic social and political backlash in the United States that proved to be the political undoing of Johnson's presidency. He declined to seek re-election in 1968. He left office on January 20, 1969. The presidential burden of the Vietnam War then fell to newly-elected President Richard M. Nixon.

Johnson's retirement from elected office lasted four years and two days, much of it being spent on his beloved ranch in Stonewall, Texas. On January 22, 1973, Lyndon Baines Johnson died in his bedroom in the main house of his ranch, a spot only a few hundred yards from the site of his birth. Three days later, LBJ was laid to rest in a family cemetery on the LBJ Ranch. Lyndon Baines Johnson had lived for 64 years.

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Above: A 2013 Photo of the main house at the LBJ Ranch in Stonewall, Texas; a 2013 photo of grazing cattle at the LBJ Ranch.

Congressional Biography of Lyndon B. Johnson

U.S. Senate Biography of LBJ

A Major Victory in the War Against Polio

April 12, 1955: Polio vaccine announced

Dr. Jonas Salk's polio vaccine is declared to be effective. Prior to Salk's safe and effective vaccine, polio disabled and killed thousands. Former President Franklin D. Roosevelt (d. April 12, 1945) suffered paralysis due to polio. Oddly enough, the results of the effectiveness of Salk's vaccine were made public on the 10th anniversary of FDR's death.


The Death of Albert Einstein

April 18, 1955:

Richard J. Daley Became Mayor of Chicago, an Office Daley Held Until He Died in Office in December 1976

April 20, 1955:

Above: Chicago Tribune photo of Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley the day after he took office

Above: Mayoral candidate Richard J. Daley and family in 1955

Biography of Mayor Richard J. Daley

The Formation of the Warsaw Pact

May 14, 1955:


Senate Majority Leader Lyndon B. Johnson Suffered a Nearly Fatal Heart Attack

July 2, 1955:

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Above: U.S. Senator Lyndon B. Johnson

The Opening of Disneyland in Anaheim, California

July 17, 1955:

Disneyland-Press-Pass-Sunday-17JULY1955.jpg Disneyland Opened, July 17, 1955

The Jim Crow South: Emmett Till, a 14 Year Old From Chicago, Murdered in Mississippi

August 28, 1955: Emmett Till, a 14 year old boy from Chicago on a visit to Mississippi, was murdered by white men due to Till's perceived violation of Jim Crow segregation norms.

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Above: Emmett Till of Chicago, Illinois, murdered in rural Mississippi; Emmett Till's body in an open casket

The Murder of Emmett Till

1955 World Series: The Brooklyn Dodgers Defeated the New York Yankees in Game 7 to Win the Series

October 4, 1955:

Above: 1955 World Series Program featuring the Brooklyn Dodgers versus the New York Yankees; Time cover featuring New York Yankees manager Casey Stengel

Baseball Almanac: The 1955 World Series

Diem Defeats Bao Dai in a National Referendum, Thereby Taking Power in South Vietnam

October 26, 1955:

Diem vs. Bao Dai in South Vietnam

Rebel Without a Cause

October 27, 1955: Rebel Without a Cause, starring James Dean, debuted in movie theaters.

Above: Theatrical release poster for Rebel Without a Cause

Rosa Parks, The Montgomery Bus Boycott, and the Rise of Martin Luther King, Jr.

December 1, 1955: Rosa Parks, an African-American woman in Montgomery, Alabama, was arrested when she refused to give up her seat on a bus to a white passenger. Under Montgomery law, Black passengers were required to move to the back of a bus to provide seats for white passengers.

Rosa Parks' refusal to give up her seat provided the spark that led to the Montgomery Bus Boycott, a nearly year-long event in which African-Americans refused en masse to patronize the segregated municipal bus system in Montgomery, Alabama. Ultimately, the United States Supreme Court declared the seating policies on Montgomery buses to be unconstitutional.

The Montgomery Bus Boycott also became the occasion that led to the rise of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., as a prominentcivil rights leader. King had only recently arrived in Montgomery as the pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, an African-American church in the shadow of the Alabama State Capitol Building.

The period of the Rosa Parks Arrest and the Montgomery Bus Boycott ran from December 1,1955 to December 20, 1956.

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Above: Rosa Parks, Booking photo; The bus on which Rosa Parks was arrested

The 2004 Mugshot Discovery

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Above: Rosa Parks and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Rosa Parks: Key Events

The Montgomery Bus Boycott

December 5, 1955: African-Americans began a boycott of the Montgomery city bus system in response to the Rosa Parks arrest. The boycott began as a one-day event, but continued until December 20, 1956.

Montgomery Bus Boycott, walkers, .jpg

Above: African-American boycotters during the Montgomery Bus Boycott, 1955-1956

Iconic Photo of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, 1955-1956


American Rock N' Roll and the Rise of Elvis Presley

January 28, 1956: Rock and Roll singer, Elvis Presley first appears on National television.

The photo below captures Elvis singing in Jailhouse Rock, a 1957 film.


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Autherine Lucy: The Abbreviated Desegregation of the University of Alabama

February 3, 1956: Autherine Lucy became the first African-American student to enroll at the University of Alabama. Lucy's enrollment led to riots near campus. Lucy was later expelled by the University of Alabama on the grounds that she had mad unacceptable comments. Her expulsion was overthrown by the university decades later.


The Montgomery Bus Boycott

February 22, 1956: Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., a leader in the Montgomery Bus Boycott, was arrested for violating an obscure law banning the organization of an economic boycott.

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Above: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., mugshot in the wake of his February 1956 arrest

The MLK 1956 Mugshot

Martin Luther King Mugshot, Morbid Additions.jpgDerrick Cunningham 2004 Mugshot discoverer.jpg
Above: The 1956 mugshot of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. shown with morbid annotations about his subsequent assassination on April 4, 1968; The 2004 discoverer of the Rosa Parks and King mugshots, Montgomery County Deputy Sheriff Derrick Cunningham

The 2004 Mugshot Discovery A Congressman's Reflection on King's Arrest

The above mugshot was found in 2004. It is unknown as to who or when the "Dead 4-4-68...Dead" additions were made, nor is it known the motivations behind the annotations.

Nikita Khrushchev denounced Josef Stalin

February 25, 1956: In a speech before the 20th Party Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Nikita Khrushchev denounced Josef Stalin. This speech launched a period of Soviet history known as De-Stalinization.

Massive Resistance Against Civil Rights and Racial Integration: The Southern Manifesto

March 12, 1956:

Above: Time cover featuring U.S. Senator James Eastland, Democrat from Mississippi and a staunch White Supremacist Segregationist

Time article from March 1956 on Senator James Eastland of Mississippi The Southern Manifesto, March 12, 1956

PBS: The Southern Manifesto, March 12, 1956 NPR: The Southern Manifesto, March 12, 1956

Tunisia Became Independent from France

March 20, 1956:

Liberalism in the Eisenhower Era: The Birth of the U.S. Interstate System

June 29, 1956: President Dwight Eisenhower signed the Federal Aid Highway Act into law, a law that created the interstate highway system of today.

Above: President Dwight D. Eisenhower; Photo honoring an initial construction under the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956; Emblem celebrating the 50th anniversary of the creation of the Interstate Highway System in the United States

The Suez Crisis: Egypt's Nasser Nationalizes the Suez Canal

July 26, 1956:

U.S. State Department: The Suez Crisis

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Liberalism in the Eisenhower Era: The Social Security Act of 1956

August 1, 1956:

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Above: U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, Republican; U.S.Senate Majority Leader Lyndon B. Johnson, Democrat from Texas

The Social Security Amendments of 1956

The 1956 World Series: The New York Yankees Defeated the Brooklyn Dodgers

October 10, 1956:


Baseball Almanac: The 1956 World Series

An Eisenhower Appointee Joined the Supreme Court

October 15, 1956: Appointed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, William J. Brennan became an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court. He continued to serve until 1990, and became a notable liberal voice on the high court.

Above: Supreme Court Justice William Brennan

The Start of the Hungarian Uprising

October 23, 1956:

BBC: The Hungarian Uprising of 1956

Soviet Troops Invade and Take Over Hungary

November 4, 1956:

1956 Presidential Election: America Likes Ike…Again

November 6, 1956: Eisenhower won re-election to the presidency in a landslide.

In a re-match of the 1952 presidential election, Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower ran agains Democrat Adlai Stevenson. As in 1952, Eisenhower won by a sweeping margin. "Ike" would continue as president until January 20, 1961, the end of his second term. As in 1952, Richard M. Nixon was his running mate. Nixon would continue to serve as Vice President until the end of his second term on January 20, 1961.

Above: The 1956 winning ticket, Eisenhower-Nixon

The Montgomery Bus Boycott: The U.S. Supreme Court, in affirming a lower federal court in Browder v. Gayle, declared Alabama racial segregation on buses to be unconstitutional

November 13, 1956

Rosa Parks Bus #2857.jpg

Browder v. Gayle

Judge Frank M. Johnson

Above: Federal Judge Frank M. Johnson, 1967 cover of Time

The Beginnings of the Cuban Revolution

December 2, 1956: Arriving in eastern Cuba aboard a small yacht called the Granma, Fidel and Raul Castro and eighty other men landed and began an armed insurgency against the regime of Fulgencio Batista. For the next two years Fidel Castro's guerrilla force would grow and battle against Batista's forces.

Above Left: The Route of the Granma
Above Right: Castro's guerrillas departing the Granma
Below: A Commemoration of the Granma
One of the 82 men aboard the Granma was an Argentine physician named Ernesto "Che" Guevara, a fiery intrepid Marxist who would find his true calling as a revolutionary guerrilla.

Montgomery Bus Boycott: The Boycott Ends after 381 days as Montgomery Received Orders to Desegregate the City Buses

December 20, 1956

Rosa Parks Bus #2857.jpg

Time's 1956 Man of the Year: The Hungarian Freedom Fighter



The Rise of the SCLC (Southern Christian Leadership Conference)

January 10-11, 1957: In Atlanta, Georgia, Martin Luther King, Jr., Rev. Ralph Abernathy, Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, Rev. Joseph Lowery, and other civil rights leaders met at Ebenezer Baptist Church to create an organization to coordinate efforts against segregation.

It's worth noting that, of the four civil rights leaders mentioned above, all were pastors of African-American churches in Alabama at some point in their respective careers.

In February, the group met in New Orleans, Louisiana and elected Martin Luther King, Jr. as its president. The newly-formed organization later adopted the name, Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC).

MLK served as President of the SCLC from 1956 until his assassination on April 4, 1968.

Ralph Abernathy served as the SCLC's President from 1968 to 1977.

Joseph Lowery was President of the SCLC from 1977 to 1997.

The SCLC became one of the preeminent civil rights organization to fight Jim Crow segregation.

Above: SCLC button; Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., first president of the SCLC (undated photo)

Above: Rev. Ralph D. Abernathy (undated photo); Fred Shuttlesworth (pointing finger), Abernathy, and King in Birmingham in 1963

Above: Rev. Joseph Lowery in 1980

Third Anniversary of the Pivotal Brown Decision: MLK's First Speech at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.

May 17, 1957

Above: Martin Luther King, Jr. on the cover of Time ( February 18, 1957 issue)

May 17, 1957: Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom

Senator Strom Thurmond's Filibuster of the 1957 Civil Rights Bill

August 28-29, 1957: Beginning on the evening of August 28th, staunch conservative segregationist Senator Strom Thurmond of South Carolina took to the floor of the United States Senate Chamber and began a filibuster (i.e. non-stop talking) designed to stall a vote on the Civil Rights Bill of 1957.

Strom Thurmond spoke for over 24 hours without ever giving up the floor. But on the evening of August 29, 1957, Senator Thurmond ended his filibuster, and the U.S. Senate went on to pass the civil rights bill, the first successfully passed civil rights bill since the Reconstruction Era, a period which followed the Civil War.

Strom Thurmond--white supremacist, social conservative, and the 1948 Dixiecrat (States' Rights Democratic Party) candidate for President--left the Democratic Party in September 1964 and became a Republican. He remained a Republican for the rest of his Senate career, a tenure that ended in the early 21st century.

The Civil Rights Movement: The Desegregation of Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas

September 4, 1957: In response to a court order, nine African-American high school age teenagers attempted to enroll in heretofore all-white Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. The prospective students were turned away from the high school by Arkansas National Guard soldiers acting under the orders of Democratic Governor Orval Faubus, who claimed that the students were turned away in order to preserve law and order.

Little Rock Crisis Timeline

Above: Elizabeth Eckford, one of the Little Rock Nine seeking to desegregate Central High in Little Rock, Arkansas, being harrassed by a mob of whites who opposed allowing African-American integration of the all-white high school

The Little Rock Nine:

Above: Minnijean Brown; Elizabeth Eckford; Terrence Roberts

Above: Carlotta Walls LaNier; Ernest Green; Gloria Cecilia Ray

Above: Thelma Mothershed Wair; Melba Patillo Beals; Jefferson Thomas

Biographies of the Little Rock Nine

The Rise of the Beatniks

September 5, 1957: Jack Kerouac's groundbreaking novel, On the Road, was published.

Above: Copy of On the Road by Jack Kerouac; Author Jack Kerouac, 1922-1969

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President Dwight D. Eisenhower Signed the Civil Rights Act of 1957 into Law

September 9, 1957: Civil Rights Photos of the Eisenhower Era

The Civil Rights Movement: The Little Rock Crisis

September 23, 1957:

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The Civil Rights Movement: The Little Rock Crisis

September 24, 1957:

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The Civil Rights Movement: The Little Rock Crisis

September 25, 1957:


Space Exploration and the Cold War

October 4, 1957: The Soviet Union sent Sputnik into space

Sputnik, the World's first man-made satellite The Soviet Union successfully launched an artificial satellite, Sputnik, into orbit around the earth.

Above: An illustration depicting Sputnik as a symbol of Soviet power along with The New York Times announcing the launching of Sputnik.

The Cold War space race between the Soviets and the Americans had begun. The USA and USSR were already in an arms race. In 1949, the Soviets became the world's second nuclear power by successfully exploding their own nuclear bomb.

A Call for Radical Capitalism

October 10, 1957: Ayn Rand's novel, Atlas Shrugged, was published.

Above: Author Ayn Rand and the cover of her 1957 novel, Atlas Shrugged "One Nation Under Galt"

The Space Race: Soviets Launch Sputnik 2

November 3, 1957:

Above: Laika and Sputnik 2 November 3, 1957 Sputnik 2 New York Times: AP Article about Sputnik 2

Auburn Wins the AP Football National Championship

November 30, 1957: Auburn completed a 10-win season and won a national title

Auburn completed an undefeated season (10 wins, 0 losses) and won the AP Poll National Championship. Coach Ralph "Shug" Jordan led Auburn to the national title. He would remain at Auburn through the 1975 season. In his 25 years (1951-1975) at Auburn, Shug Jordan won a total of 175 games. In 1958, Auburn would earn a second straight unbeaten season, but did suffer one tie to go 9-0-1.

Above: Team photo of the 1957 Auburn football team; Celebration for Auburn's national title football team

Time's 1957 Man of the Year: Nikita Khrushchev of the Soviet Union



The United States Put a Satellite in Orbit: Explorer 1

January 31, 1958:

Above: Explorer I, the first U.S. satellite successfully launched into orbit around the earth

Explorer 1 Explorer I

The Graduation of Ernest Green from Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas

May 27, 1958: Ernest Green, an African-American high school senior at Little Rock's Central High School, became the first Black student to graduate from the previously all-white high school.

Above: Ernest Green, Little Rock Central High School Class of 1958

Biography of Ernest Green, member of the Little Rock Nine

Revolution in Iraq: The Overthrow of the Monarchy

July 14, 1958:

The Birth of NASA

July 29, 1958: The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) was created by federal legislation and signed into law by President Dwight D. Eisenhower. In many respects, the creation of NASA was a major part of the American response to the Soviet Union's Sputnik achievement the prior autumn.

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Above: President Dwight D. Eisenhower; Senate Majority Leader Lyndon B. Johnson, Democrat from Texas

The Fifth Republic of France

October 4, 1958: The Birth of the Fifth Republic of France


An Eisenhower Appointee on the U.S. Supreme Court

October 14, 1958: Potter Stewart, an appointee of President Dwight Eisenhower, became an Associate Justice on the United States Supreme Court.

Above: Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart

Pope John XXIII Began his Reign as the Head of the Catholic Church

October 28, 1958:


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1958 Midterm Elections: Democratic Triumph in Congressional Elections

November 4, 1958:

Above: March 1958 cover of Time featuring Senate Majority Leader Lyndon B. Johnson, Democrat from Texas; October 1959 cover of Time featuring 1958 Republican New York gubernatorial candidate Nelson Rockefeller, the ultimate victor in the 1958 election

Rightwing Backlash and the Rise of the John Birch Society

December 9, 1958: Robert Welch, a former candy maker in Belmont, Massachusetts, founded the John Birch Society, a conservative (rightwing) anticommunist organization. Robert Welch and the John Birch Society saw communist infiltration and conspiracy everywhere.

Above: Robert Welch, Founder of the John Birch Society

Most mainstream conservatives ultimately came to distance themselves from the organization. But the John Birch Society did resonate with some grassroots conservatives, and the organization's writings and other materials were distributed widely in the late 1950s and into the 1960s.

The Fall of the Batista Regime and the Triumph of Fidel Castro

December 31, 1958: The Batista government in Cuba fell. President Fulgencio Batista and his family fled the country. Castro's forces began their triumphant march to Havana.

Time's 1958 Man of the Year: Charles de Gaulle of France



The Cold War and Cuba

January 1, 1959: The insurgent revolutionary guerrillas under Fidel Castro took control of Havana, the capital city of Cuba.

Above: Fidel Castro, the architect of the Cuban Revolution on the cover of Time

Alaska Becomes the 49th State

January 3, 1959: Alaska became the 49th State admitted to the Union.

Above: Alaska state flag

The Day the Music Died

February 3, 1959:

Above: Buddy Holly; Ritchie Valens; The Big Bopper

Above: Newspaper clipping featuring the death of Buddy Holley, J.P. Richardson, and Ritchie Valens

Hawaii Becomes the 50th State

August 21, 1959: Having been a U.S. Territory since June 14, 1900, Hawaii became the 50th State admitted to the Union.

Above: Chester Kahapea, age 12, sells newspapers in March 1959 announcing impending statehood for Hawaii

Chester Kahapea

The Twilight Zone Premiered on CBS

October 2, 1959:

Above: Title card for The Twilight Zone, a television series on CBS that debuted on October 2, 1959

IMDb: The Twilight Zone, 1959

The Death of Cuban Revolution Guerrilla Leader Camilo Cienfuegos

October 28, 1959:

Above: Camilo Cienfuegos (1932-1959), guerrilla leader in the Cuban Revolution; Camilo Cienfuegos (holding gun) and Cuban Revolution leader Fidel Castro; Fidel Castro and Camilo Cienfuegos wearing Barbudos (Bearded Ones) baseball uniforms in 1959


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Time's 1959 Man of the Year: President Dwight D. Eisenhower


Chronicle of the Years 1960-1969