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1950s As A Decade Of Prosperity, Conformity, Consensus, And The 1950s

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Historians tend to portray the 1950s as a decade of prosperity, conformity, and consensus, and the 1960s as a decade of turbulence, protest, and disillusionment. These stereotypes are largely true, though, as with everything in life, there are exceptions to this perspective. Therefore, the historians’ portrayal of the 1950s and 1960s is accurate for the majority of Americans, though some groups were clearly exceptions. The 1950s were characterized as a prosperous and conformist decade for many reasons. The first and most widespread of these reasons was the development of the suburbs. As masses of Southern blacks migrated northward to the big cities, more rich and middle-class families left to live in the suburbs to escape the crime, redlining, and blockbusting of the cities. This mass migration later became known as the “white flight” (Document A). The white families that moved into the suburbs were the perfect picture of conformity—living in row upon row of identical “Levittown” houses, with little individuality or distinction. Furthermore, American families of the time often took the form of the “nuclear family” with two parents, two children, and often a pet like a dog or cat. This new “middle class” earned between $3,000 and $10,000 a year and included 60 percent of the American people by the mid-1950s. Fortune magazine described Americans as “a great mass…buy[ing] the same things—the same staples, the same appliances, the same cars, the same furniture, and much the
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