The 1920s saw a major rise in consumerism. People used new media such as radio and movies to advertise products. New celebrities from movies and radio shows also helped to sell products. Sports heroes such as Babe Ruth also contributed to this advertising frenzy. In order to increase spending levels, industry encouraged people to buy goods on credit. This large pool of personal debt would be one of the factors that led to the Great Depression at the end of the decade. Mass production also made a wide variety of goods available to the public. This decade would see the rapid expansion of the automobile industry.
The 1920s were not known for racial harmony. The decade saw the rebirth of the Ku Klux Klan as a reactionary group against the rights of black people, Jews, and Catholics. There was also a spike in lynching during the decade. Segregation was still the law of the land in many places, and many African Americans remained sharecroppers. While the decade would see the rise of the Harlem Renaissance, its affects would not be fully appreciated by many Americans living during the 1920s.
The 1950s also saw a rise in consumerism as advertisers used the new medium of television to peddle their products. While people could buy on credit, many people had savings from war bonds purchased during WWII. While there was a slight postwar recession, the decade saw a rapid increase in jobs as American industry became the most dominant producer of goods in the world. Racially, the decade held more tense change than the 1920s; for example, Brown v. Board desegregated schools leading to such tense moments as the desegregation of a high school in Little Rock, Arkansas. The decade also saw Rosa Parks arrested for holding her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama. This would lead to the Montgomery bus boycott and the slow ending of segregation in the South. This decade also saw the rise of a young minister, Martin Luther King, Jr., to prominence in the civil rights movement. He would be instrumental throughout the 1950s and 1960s in the drive for equality.