Domestic Life in the 1950s

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Who didn't fit into the 1950s suburban ideal and what was the effect?

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Black Americans were one group that did not fit the 1950s suburban ideal. They were not depicted in popular family television shows of the time, set in suburban developments, such as Ozzie and Harriet and Leave It to Beaver. It was as if black people did not exist, as far as the suburbs were concerned. In fact, black families were most often barred from moving into these new suburban neighborhoods. Levittown, for example, a famous suburb in Long Island, New York, initially prevented black people from buying homes there.

The fact that black people were not sharing in the growing prosperity helped fuel the civil rights movement. Black Americans, lead by leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr., felt it was time that they finally be allowed to participate in the American Dream.

Gay men and lesbians also did not fit the suburban ideal, which was based on the idea of a white heterosexual couple with children moving into a single family house. At this time, gay men and lesbians were still considered deviant, and many formed their own communities in urban areas. However, with writers like Allen Ginsberg starting to write poetry about the gay experience, suburban America was beginning to become uncomfortably aware that its way was not the only way to live.

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