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What groups did not share in the general prosperity of Americans during the 1950s?

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isabella0927 | Student, Undergraduate | Honors

Posted September 21, 2010 at 11:36 PM via web

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What groups did not share in the general prosperity of Americans during the 1950s?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted September 21, 2010 at 11:40 PM (Answer #1)

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I would say that the group that most obviously missed out on the general prosperity of the 1950s was African Americans (at that time the largest minority group).  African Americans remained much poorer than whites as a group (as they do to this day).

I think that the main reason for this was the continuing impact of racial discrimination.  At that point, racial segregation still continued to be legal in the South.  In the North, blacks also tended to be relegated to lower status jobs and had fewer educational opportunities.

The legacy of this sort of unequal treatment meant that many blacks who were of the age to be making money had had a very poor education and could not take advantage of the good jobs that were available.

In the 1950s, blacks were not even equal in the eyes of the law so it is not surprising that they did not have as good a chance as whites to participate in the prosperity of the era.

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brettd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted September 22, 2010 at 2:15 AM (Answer #2)

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Absolutely agree with the above post, although the 1950s did have at least a recognizable black middle class, and this in part helped spur the effectiveness of economic boycotts during the Civil Rights Movement.

In addition, Native Americans still largely lived in abject poverty on reservations, ignored by the government and the population at large.  The best land and resources had been taken decades earlier, and the move towards tribal gambling that has lately led to an economic revival in some areas was yet to take place.  Unemployment on many reservations hovered near 70 and 80 percent.

Farmers did better in the 1950s than in past decades, but still struggled.  Subsidies put in place in the 1930s helped, but large farming operations started to put a squeeze on small family farms, a process that would continue throughout the 1980s and 90s.

Women had little protections from the law against pay and hiring discrimination, and were still socially locked out of many professions where men found prosperity in the 1950s.  It would take decades more of struggle for them to achieve something like parity in the workplace.

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted September 22, 2010 at 7:49 PM (Answer #3)

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I think a case can be made for the "marginalized" in American soceity as being the primary targets of the social order's silence in the 1950s.  In this, I mean that the traditionally silenced narratives did not find themselves a part of the post World War II prosperity of America.  For example, those who were gay or lesbian found themselves having to live inside the closet and "play the role" of a straight person.  The narrative of what it means to be gay and how one comes out was silenced and totally discredited in the time period.  Women, in general, were still seen as tools of objectification and the flickers and embers of a sexual revolution faced stiff inertia within the time period.  Few women worked.  Those who did had to take jobs where they were subservient to men.  The idea of "His Girl Friday" was a pleasant way of revealing the truth that women in the workplace were second fiddles to men.  People of color, as previously discussed, were outside of the realm of prosperity.  Immigrants were seen as second class citizens and those who were of the Jewish persuasion faced outward discrimination through attitudes and language.  These groups were not able to share in the general prosperity of the 1950s, what some would term "the good old days."

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