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Most significant events 1940-1990 Essay

This paper will discuss issues that are relevant to each period in history beginning in the 1950’s and ending in the 1990’s. Exploring each period with due appreciation of what happened and what it accomplished in relation to the United States. It is written to awaken your thoughts of past history.

The Face of RaceThe Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) was formed in 1942 with the vision to end segregation. They believed in peaceful methods to protest for rights of African Americans. The group raised awareness within black communities about equality and racial issues. They believed in making a strong statement by standing together in unity.

African-American soldiers fought for equal rights during World War II. They were segregated from white soldiers and were denied certain privileges such as bearing arms. Though some black soldiers attained high military ranks and did heroic acts, not one was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. (HighBeam, 2007)There were many countless acts of courage as African Americans faced racism and the challenge of fighting in World War II. The Tuskegee Airmen were one such unit that faced the perils of War and racism with tenacious courage. Their actions along with the actions of other African Americans in the forties strengthened the movement in the fifties that helped start the face of change in America about race and equality.

More African Americans and Americans from other races began to see the need for integration and equality among races in the fifties. One famous woman named Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on December 1, 1955 to a white male passenger and started a surge of protests around the country.

After the arrest of Rosa Parks, black people of Montgomery and sympathizers of other races organized and promoted a boycott of the city bus line that lasted 381 days. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was appointed the spokesperson for the Bus Boycott and taught nonviolence to all participants. (Rosa parks, 2007)Although the civil rights movement was growing in the 1950’s it had many years before things changed through legislation and in the minds of many Americans around the country. Thanks to some courageous people, the civil rights movement was greatly moved forward with pressure the government could not ignore.

Decade of AssassinationsThe sixties came roaring in off the prosperity of post war forties and fifties. However, there were some major problems confronting America concerning racism. Civil rights movements growing around the country that made the government stand up and take notice. During the violent sixties two prominent political figures and civil rights leaders were assassinated with mystery surrounding some of them.

John F. Kennedy was the thirty-fifth president when he took office in 1961. He had a way about him that many people liked and many people did not. The sixties were turbulent times that had many issues for the president to deal with. His planned trip to Dallas was to raise support for his reelection bid coming up in the next year. Texas had many racial problems at the time and many people did not like Kennedy there because of his stance on civil rights and his political agenda.

November 22, 1963 President Kennedy was shot as his motorcade was making its way through the city. Harvey Lee Oswald was captured and arrested for his murder. He never made it to trial as Jack Ruby shot him in plain daylight. Ruby was a bar owner and it was said he had many ties to the Mafia. This led to many conspiracy theories about Kennedy’s death. No theories have ever been proven.

“Malcolm X was born Malcolm Little on May 19th, 1925 in Omaha, Nebraska.” (Estate of Malcolm X, N.D.) He father was killed when he was young and eventually he and his siblings went in foster homes. Although he wanted a good education, times were hard for blacks because of racial tension and lack of rights for blacks. Malcolm Little converted to Muslim and changed his name to Malcolm X. He became a voice for Islam and civil rights for blacks in America. He was gunned down February 21, 1965 in New York.

“Martin Luther King, Jr. was preeminent in the struggle for black civil rights in the U.S. and admired the world over for his fearless pursuit of brotherhood and justice.” (Horton, E. p. 18, 2001) He was a minister that became a civil rights activist and helped change the attitude of racism in the United States.

He stood for what he believed in and preached non-violence and peace with each other. He was an activist quiet like no other in his time. He led groups and protests in Alabama and was famous for promoting Rosa Parks stand on the city bus in Montgomery, Al. However, many civil rights activists at the time received life threats. The threat was made real on April 3rd, 1968 as Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot in Memphis, Tennessee.

Robert Kennedy was the little brother of President John F. Kennedy. He was following his brother’s lead as he campaigned for the democratic nomination for President in 1968. He wanted to finish what his brother started in the United States as the thirty-fifth President. On the campaign trail in California a man, named Sirhan Sirhan gunned him down at his hotel on June 5th, 1968.

The sixties were indeed a turbulent time for the leaders, activists, and African Americans in the United States. No other decade since has seen four prominent people of America murdered because of their beliefs and actions.

To End A WarThe seventies were filled with more violence as the sixties ended. As war protesters grew larger and London B. Johnson popularity declined, he decided not to run for reelection in 1968. Nixon became the next president and had to mop up the Vietnam War. The president and his national security advisor Henry Kissinger kept a shroud of secrecy around their foreign policies. Vietnam had been going on since the mid-sixties. Baby boomers over the age eighteen were increasing in large numbers. Their presence put much pressure on President Nixon to end the war.

Nixon did not want to be seen as losing the war during his presidency. He tried different tactics with North Vietnam that never really succeeded. “On January 27, 1973, a peace agreement almost identical to the one arranged in October was formally signed.” (McDonnell, p.1030, 2003) All troops were withdrawn in 1973 and the United States tried to get on with life.

Vietnam is still with us. It has created doubts about American judgment, about American credibility, about American power-not only at home, but throughout the world. It has poisoned our domestic debate. So we paid an exorbitant price for the decisions that were made in good faith and for good purpose. (McDonnell, p.1033, 2003)In essence, it left Americans, politicians, and Vietnam Vets at odds with each other. This led to many different opinions pulling in all directions with a bunch of void holes that needed filling. It is a lesson hopefully not to be learned ever again.

Lost in SpaceThe eighties brought hope and dreams as things seemed to be looking up. We ushered in a new dynamic president in Ronald Reagan. The economy was starting to take off, companies were growing, and technology was increasing. As with all decades the eighties was not without its problems as disaster loomed for the space program at NASA.

On January 28, 1986 the challenger space shuttle lifted off into space and exploded soon thereafter with people watching helplessly from the ground, on TV, and NASA as all members of the shuttle died including a civilian teacher, Christa McAuliffe. It was a tragic moment in history for the space program, the families involved, and Americans. The future of NASA was uncertain and being blamed at this point.

Twenty years ago, millions of television viewers were horrified to witness the live broadcast of the space shuttle Challenger exploding 73 seconds into flight, ending the lives of the seven astronauts on board. And they were equally horrified to learn in the aftermath of the disaster that the faulty design had been chosen by NASA to satisfy powerful politicians who had demanded the mission be launched, even under unsafe conditions.(MSNBC, 2007)This struck the nation in awe as they had never lost astronauts after a space shuttle launch before and had always believed in the extreme safety measures that NASA. President Reagan addressed the nation later that day and expressed his sympathy, and wished to strengthen the believe in the history of the space program. It took a couple years before NASA launched another space ship. This tragedy and healing process can be summed up with Ronald Reagan’s words.

For the families of the seven, we cannot bear, as you do, the full impact of this tragedy. But we feel the loss, and we’re thinking about you so very much. Your loved ones were daring and brave, and they had that special grace, that special spirit that says, “Give me a challenge and I’ll meet it with joy.” They had a hunger to explore the universe and discover its truths. They wished to serve, and they did. They served all of us. (Reagan Foundation N.D.)Shock of a CityThe nineties were a happening age with all the new technology being used and more coming out all the time. The internet was growing and Bill Gates entered on the scene with Windows 95 for computers. Economy was going good again and things were looking good for the most part. However, in 1995 tragedy struck the city of Oklahoma. A bomb tore apart the federal building in the early morning hours after workers had just recently arrived.

A stunned nation watched as the bodies of men, women, and children were pulled from the rubble for nearly two weeks. When the smoke cleared and the exhausted rescue workers packed up and left, 168 people were dead in the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil. (CNN, 1996)People could not believe what just happened and wondered who could have done such a monstrous act of violence against American citizens. Rumors began to spread about a terrorist attack awe struck Americans were not sure what to believe. Timothy McVeigh who was a veteran was arrested along with his friend Terry Nichols. They were tied to the truck rental. The courts had a lengthy trial for McVeigh and Nichols. Nichols was not charged with having a direct connection to the bombing. McVeigh was not so lucky. “In the end, jurors found the government’s arguments overwhelming and they chose to send McVeigh to death by lethal injection.” (CNN, 1997)


Each decade seems to bring some of the same problems and some new ones. It is a politically turbulent time around the world right now. It seems everywhere the world is split over power, riches, and religions. As the world grows and uses energy resources at extremely increasing rates more demand for energy and natural resources will have an effect on world power. The world will always be split on different religions and their interest in affecting society’s rules. In the next ten years, many things could happen around the world. Small wars and fighting will break out over religious factions and claim for power and resources. More threats of wars from nations that are seeking nuclear power and say it is only for energy. This has been building for years and will not be resolved with the current foreign policies by many countries around the world including the United States.


CNN. 1997. The McVeigh Trial. Retrieved October 5, 2008 fromhttp://www.cnn.com/US/9706/17/mcveigh.overviewCNN. 1996. Oklahoma City Tragedy. Retrieved O)ctober 5, 2008 fromhttp://www.cnn.com/US/OKC/bombing.htmlEstate of Malcolm X. Biography. Retrieved October 8, 2008 fromhttp://www.cmgww.com/historic/malcolm/about/bio.htmHighBeam. 2007. Blacks in World War II. Retrieved October 8, 2008 fromhttp://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G1-17362103.htmlHorton. E. 2001. U.S.A. Sixties. Vol. 4 p. 18. Brown Partworks LTD.

McDonnell J. 2003. America In The 20th Century. (pp.1030, 1033)Marshall Cavendish Corporation (Eds.)MSNBC. 2007. 7 myths about the Challenger shuttle disaster. Retrieved November 8, 2007 fromhttp://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/11031097Reagan Foundation. N.D. Challenger. Retrieved October 8, 2008 fromhttp://www.reaganfoundation.org/reagan/speeches/challenger.aspRosa parks. 2007. Rosa and Raymond Parks. Retrieved October 8 2008 fromhttp://www.rosaparks.org/bio.html

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