Leadership - 1950s


By: Grace


Leaders in the 1950s included many Americans who, from today's views could be described as protagonists or antagonists in American history. Leaders appeared not only in government but in movements as well, such as the Civil Rights movement, as well as in religion, science, and more.


Harry S. Truman was president at the beginning of this decade (1945-1953), and Dwight D. Eisenhower was president for the remainder. The Truman Doctrine was passed in 1947, making the goal of the U. S. government to "prevent the spread of communism" (Brennan 40). This law said that America would support any country struggling against communism (Brennan 41). This set up American participation in the Cold War with the Soviet Union. Instead of fighting a "hot" war with the Soviet Union, a series of proxy wars were fought in other countries including Korea (1950-53) and Vietnam (1954-75). Douglas MacArthur was a leader during this time as "Supreme commander of occupational forces in Japan, 1945-51, and UN forces in Korea, 1950-51" (Hanes xxixi). A fear of communism was prominent in America during this time period and Senator Joe McCarthy rose in fame and political prestige because of this. He (part of the Senate) and the House Committee on Un-American activities (an arm of the House of Representatives (Giblin 64)) accused and investigated Americans thought to be communist or having communist-leanings. There was a fear in America that communist spies were at work in the government and throughout the land, undermining democracy and giving classified information to the Soviet Union.


President Dwight D. Eisenhower


McCarthy accused public officials and private citizens of supporting communism, many of the people he accused were Jewish (Rose 511). The Central Conference of American Rabbis took a stand against the "undemocratic methods used in the investigations conducted by McCarthy, Jenner and Velde, and their state and local imitators" (Rose quoting Resolutions Adopted by the Central Conference of American Rabbis on Religious and Social Freedoms  128, on page 514 of American Decades Primary Sources) in their "Resolutions Adopted by the Central Conference of American Rabbis on Religious and Social Freedoms". The Central Conference of American Rabbis believes "that the national security of our country is rooted in the individual freedom of its citizens" and that "We have no need for the restraints on freedom of speech contained in the Smith Act or the McCarran Internal Security Act" (Rose quoting Resolutions Adopted by the Central Conference of American Rabbis on Religious and Social Freedoms  127-8, on pages 513-4 of American Decades Primary Sources).  This leadership on the part of the Conference of American Rabbis as well as the American Civil Liberties Union and the U. S. Supreme Court contributed to the demise of these congressional investigations. In 1954 the Senate condemned McCarthy for "conduct unbecoming a senator" (Rose, 511). The House abolished the House Committee on Un-American Activities in 1975 (Rose 511).


The Civil Rights Movement was starting in the 1950s. Some leaders in that movement were Rosa Parks who was arrested on December 1, 1955 for not following racist laws in Montgomery, Alabama and not giving her seat on a public bus to a white person (Bussey 142). This led to the Montgomery Bus Boycott which, in turn, led to the Supreme Court declaring that "racial segregation on buses, was unconstitutional" (Bussey 142). Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was a leader in this movement who advocated nonviolent protests including sit-ins, marches, and boycotts. He used religious philosophy to support social reform, preaching sermons on loving one's neighbors, and played a large role in the success of the Civil Rights Movement.


Rosa Parks



Some leaders in science were Jonas Salk who developed the polio vaccine in 1952, and Francis Crick and James Watson who completed the Watson-Crick DNA model in 1953 (Bussey 177-8).


A3 1950s Rokicki or Rokicki 2010 or FrontPage