The accent of the era was on convenience and speed--a time when abundant steps were taken to free the housewife from the dreary grind of daily chores. The Fifties saw the mass production of laborsaving home appliances and convenience foods to provide women with more leisure time. This period also brought improvements in many other aspects of everyday life.
The Fifty's were the time when all girls seemed to look so feminine and appealing with their ponytails, flared skirts, and petticoats. Men donned clean-cut hair styles and freshly shaven faces. Dancing girls, doing their twirls and spins with enough force to send layers of petticoats waist high displaying shapely legs, and stocking-tops, frequently filled hamburger joints and school gymnasiums. Comedians of the 50's never used filthy jokes or foul language, and television portrayed an unreal innocence about the era.
When looking back, the 1950's appear to have been trouble-free peaceful years. The American Flag was a symbol we saluted with respect. Prayer was allowed in schools, as well as in most public places. "In God We Trust" was not simply words printed on our currency, but a term that held meaning to most of the society. Yet at the same time that the media was sending out this variety of wholesome white middleclass images, the outrage about the absence of basic human rights in many parts of the country was beginning to bring pictures of protests to the evening news. And this, in contrast, produced in the public a shocking awareness of a society churning with the alarm of brutal change and turmoil.
Deeply rooted in the African American experience, the origins of the Civil Rights Movement date back much further than the 1954 Supreme Court ruling on Brown v. Board of Education which said, "separate but equal" schools violated the Constitution. From the earliest slave revolts in this country over 400 years ago, African Americans strove to gain full participation in every aspect of political, economic and social life in the United States. Slavery in the United States ended in 1865, but the practice of segregation, an attempt mostly by white Southerners to separate the races in every sphere of life, continued.
Although blacks were free, they still had to live with the continuing prejudice attitudes prevalent in the south. In 1896 the Supreme Court upheld segregation, but declared that whites and blacks should have separate but equal living standards. In reality blacks had to make due with cast off school supplies, and literally nowhere were black accommodations anywhere near that of what the white population enjoyed. From 1955 to 1965, boycotts, sit-ins, demonstrations, marches, and neighborhood-organized protests drew the colored community together and raised their expectations for the future.
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