Period 8: 1945-1980 (AP US History)

Period 8: 1945-1980

After World War II, the United States grappled with prosperity and unfamiliar international responsibilities while struggling to live up to its ideals. Topics may include

 

  • The Cold War and the Red Scare
  • America as a World Power
  • The Vietnam War
  • The Great Society
  • The African American Civil Rights Movement
  • Youth Culture of the 1960s

 

Image Source: Signs carried by many marchers, during the March on Washington, Washington DC, a photograph taken by Marion S. Trikosko, 1963. (Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division)

Black and white photograph showing the protest signs at the 1963 march on Washington, D.C.
  • 10-17% Exam Weighting

Key Concepts

8.1: The United States responded to an uncertain and unstable postwar world by asserting and working to maintain a position of global leadership, with far-reaching domestic and international consequences.

8.2: New movements for civil rights and liberal efforts to expand the role of government generated a range of political and cultural responses.

8.3: Postwar economic and demographic changes had far-reaching consequences for American society, politics, and culture.

The Cold War and the Red Scare

Anti-Communist Trading Cards

1951

Trading cards designed about the threat of Communism

  • Primary Source

Anti-Communism in the 1950s

by Wendy Wall

Learn about the Red Scare and anti-communist activities of HUAC and Joseph McCarthy.

  • Essay

Cold War, Warm Hearth

by Elaine Tyler May

Understand why postwar Americans turned to marriage and parenthood with enthusiasm and commitment.

  • Essay

The Fifties

by Alan Brinkley

Examine how the birth of the Cold War and the growth of affluence brought about powerful changes in American life.

  • Essay

The Korean War

by Allan R. Millett

Learn about the complexities of the Korean War.

  • Essay

President Ford’s statement on pardoning Richard Nixon

1974

Speech by President Ford explaining his decision to pardon Richard Nixon for his role in the Watergate scandal

  • Primary Source

America as a World Power

Postwar Politics and the Cold War

by Jeremi Suri

Learn about issues facing the US post WWII and President Truman's role in nation and international politics.

  • Essay

Iran and the United States in the Cold War

by Malcolm Byrne

Learn about US-Iranian relations and the hostage crisis.

  • Essay

Henry Kissinger and American Foreign Policy

by Jeremi Suri

Learn about Henry Kissinger's role as National Security Advisor and Secretary of State and his deployment of Realpolitik.

  • Essay

John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural Address

1961

Poster celebrating John F. Kennedy's first inaugural address

  • Primary Source

The United States and the Space Race

by James Spillar

Learn about the mission to put a man on the moon in the context of the Cold War.

  • Essay

The Seventies

by Judith Stein

Learn about key political, economic, and social turning points in this decade in American history.

  • Essay

President Ford’s remarks in Japan

1974

Ford's speech to the people of Japan inviting them to continue their close relationship and mutual cooperation with the US.

  • Primary Source

The Vietnam War

The Origins of the Vietnam War

by John Prados

Watch a discussion of the historical context of the Vietnam war.

  • Video

The end of the Vietnam War

1973

Edward Kennedy letter discussing the need to care for those who served in Vietnam and to forgive those who "refused induction"

  • Primary Source

Vietnam Veterans Memorial

by Maya Lin

Learn about Maya Lin's inspiration for the memorial in Washington DC.

  • Essay

J. Edgar Hoover on campus unrest

1970

J. Edgar Hoover addressing students over the increasing violence on college campuses

  • Primary Source

The Vietnam War and the My Lai Massacre

by George C. Herring

Learn about about the mass murder of unarmed civilians by the US Army.

  • Essay

The Consequences of Defeat in Vietnam

by Mark Atwood Lawrence

Learn about the foreign policy considerations US officials took into account as they debated prolonging the Vietnam war.

  • Essay

The Great Society

The Sixties and LBJ: The Great Society

by Michael Flamm

Watch a discussion of LBJ's political, economic, and social legacy.

  • Video

The Passage of the Civil Rights Act

by Clay Risen

Learn about the commitment of President Johnson to see the act made into law.

  • Essay

Evaluating Lyndon B. Johnson

by Arthur Brown

Interview with Roy Wilkins evaluating LBJ.

  • Primary Source

Civil Rights Leadership and the 1964 Civil Rights Act

by Clarence Taylor

Learn about the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

  • Essay

The Sixties

by Harvard Sitkoff

Examine how the 1960s began with dreams of a new society and ended with rejection of the liberal agenda.

  • Essay

Political and Social Legacies of the Sixties

by Michael Flamm

Listen to a discussion of the debates of the 1960s and how they still influence the US today.

  • Video

The African American Civil Rights Movement

The Civil Rights Movement

by Taylor Branch

Learn about how the civil rights movement and racial advocacy transformed political and social structures.

  • Essay

Civil rights posters

1968

Striking workers demanding recognition for their union; they carried signs recalling the abolitionist cause

  • Primary Source

Civil Rights

Jacquelyn Dowd Hall

Examine the legacy of the Civil Rights Movement.

  • Video

Don't Buy a Ford Ever Again

ca. 1960

Broadside attacking Ford Motor Company because they supported of integration

  • Primary Source

Until I am Free

by Keisha N. Blain

Watch a discussion of Fannie Lou Hamer's activism.

  • Video

Robert Kennedy on civil rights

1963

Letter from RFK to JFK accompanying the report on the Civil Rights enforcement activities of the Justice Department

  • Primary Source

George Wallace on segregation

1964

George Wallace letter rationalizing segregation, emphasizing that Alabamans were satisfied with society as it was

  • Primary Source

Youth Culture of the 1960s

The Sixties and Protest Music

by Kerry Candaele

Learn about the protest music of the 1960s.

  • Essay

“People Get Ready”

by Brian Ward

Examine how the songs of the Civil Rights era conveyed moral urgency in the freedom struggle and sustained its supporters.

  • Essay

The Fight for LGBT Rights after World War II

Timothy Stewart-Winter

Read about key turning points in the LGBT rights movement.

  • Essay

The assassination of John F. Kennedy

1963

Dow Jones News Service ticker tape reporting on the assassination of JFK

  • Primary Source

Dispatches from the Front

by Charles W. McKinney

Learn about the civil rights protests in North Carolina.

  • Essay

Everyone’s Backyard: The Love Canal Chemical Disaster

by Amy M. Hay

Examine how Love Canal spurred the environmental justice movement.

  • Essay

The Disability Rights Movement in America

Jaipreet Virdi

Read about key turning points in the disability rights movement.

  • Essay

American History Timeline: 1945-1980

Image Citations

Listed in order of appearance in the sections above

The Cold War and the Red Scare

The Cold War and the Red Scare

  • Bowman Gum Company. "27. Red Guerrillas in Greece." Fight the Red Menace: The Children's Crusade against Communism. 1951. The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, GLC09627.27.
  • Einstein, Albert. Letter to Rose Russell [in German], May 28, 1953. The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, GLC05322.
  • Unknown photographer. How to Build a Fallout Shelter. ca. 1957. Photograph. Record Group 311. Federal Emergency Management Agency. National Archives.
  • Leffler, Warren K. Nikita Khrushchev, Leader of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, at a Meeting of the United Nations General Assembly, New York. September 22, 1960. Photograph. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.
  • US Army. General Douglas MacArthur, Maj. Gen. Courtney Whitney, Lt. Gen. Matthew B. Ridgway, and Maj. Gen. William B. Kean at the front lines above Suwon, Korea. January 28, 1951. Photograph. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.
  • Ford, Gerald R. Statement before Subcomm. on Criminal Justice, October 17 1974. The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, GLC02109

America as a World Power

America as a World Power

  • Truman, Harry. "Statement by the President." November 15, 1945. The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, GLC01683
  • Trikosko, Marion S. Iran Hostage Crisis Student Demonstration, Washington, D.C. November 9, 1979. Photograph. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.
  • Gotfryd, Bernard. Henry Kissinger. 1982. Photograph. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.
  • Kennedy, John Fitzgerald. The Inaugural Address of John Fitzgerald Kennedy. 1961. Broadside. The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, GLC09528.
    Buzz Aldrin on the Moon, July 20, 1969 (NASA)
  • Leffler, Warren K, photographer. Gas ration stamps being printed, Bureau of Engraving & Printing / WKL. , 1974. Photograph. https://www.loc.gov/item/2003673995/.
  • Ford, Gerald R. Remarks in Japan, November 20, 1974. The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, GLC01474.

The Vietnam War

The Vietnam War

  • US Congress. Congressional Record. 89th Cong., 2nd sess, 1966. Vol. 112, no. 108. The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, GLC09787.03.
  • Kennedy, Edward M. Letter to Craig Thursby, April 25, 1973. The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, GLC09526.
  • Oles, Paul Stevenson, Artist. Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Washington, D.C. View from below grade. Washington DC. Maya Ying Lin, Architect. 1981. Drawing. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.
  • Hoover, John Edgar. An Open Letter to College Students, September 21, 1970. Nixon Library and Museum, Folder Campus Unrest [3 of 8]; Box 20; Subject File 1; WHCF: SMOF: Daniel Patrick Moynihan.
  • Brodie, Howard. [Lieutenant William L. Calley, Jr., saluting the president of the six-officer jury after the verdict was announced in his court martial trial at Ft. Benning, Georgia], March 31, 1971. Color crayon on white paper. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division (090.00.00).
  • Highsmith, Carol M, photographer. Memorial Day, Vietnam Memorial, Washington, D.C. United States Washington D.C. District of Columbia Washington D.C, 2006. Photograph. https://www.loc.gov/item/2010630875/.

The Great Society

The Great Society

  • Unknown photographer. President Lyndon B. Johnson signs Medicare Bill, July 30, 1965. Photograph. Harry S. Truman Library.
  • Stoughton, Cecil. President Lyndon B. Johnson Signing the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Washingon DC. July 2, 1964. LBJ Library.
  • "If I Were 21 I'd Vote for Johnson." 1964. Campaign button. The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, GLC09750.
  • O. J. Rapp. President Lyndon B. Johnson (1908–1973) speaks to the nation before signing the Civil Rights Act of 1964, July 2, 1964. Facsimile. Courtesy of the Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library and Museum, Austin, Texas (267.01.00)
  • United Press International. [New York]. Feb. 3, 1964. Photograph. The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, GLC09733.03.
  • Leffler, Warren K, photographer. Young "hippie" standing in front of a row of National Guard soldiers, across the street from the Hilton Hotel at Grant Park, at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. United States Illinois Chicago, 1968. [29 August] Photograph. https://www.loc.gov/item/2016652537/.

The African American Civil Rights Movement

The African American Civil Rights Movement

  • The Day They Changed Their Minds. New York: NAACP, March 1960. Pamphlet. Page 2. NAACP Records, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (107.00.00).
  • Honor King, End Racism. Memphis, TN: Allied Printing, April 1968. Broadside. The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, GLC06125.
  • Trikosko, Marion S. Malcolm X at a press conference given by Martin Luther King at the U.S. Capitol about the Senate debate on the Civil Rights Act of/ MST. Washington D.C, 1964. Photograph. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.
  • New Orleans Citizens Council. Don't Buy A Ford Ever Again. From the New Orleans Citizens Council: To All White Citizens. ca. 1960. Broadside. The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, GLC08259.
  • Leffler, Warren K. Fannie Lou Hamer, Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party delegate, at the Democratic National Convention, Atlantic City, New Jersey, August 22, 1964. Photograph. US News & World Report Magazine Photograph Collection, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.
  • Kennedy, Robert Francis. "Report to President John F. Kennedy Regarding Civil Rights." January 24, 1963. The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, GLC05630.
  • Wallace, George. Letter to Ms Martin, April 14, 1964. The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, GLC00295.

Youth Culture of the 1960s

Youth Culture of the 1960s

  • Leffler, Warren. Civil Rights March on Washington. Washington DC, 1963. Photograph. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. 
  • The Sing for Freedom Festival, Edwards, Mississippi. 1965. Photograph. From the Alan Lomax Collection (AFC 2004/004) at the Library of Congress. Used courtesy of the Association for Cultural Equity. Photographer unknown.
  • Come Out! [Volume 1, No. 2 (January 10, 1970)]
  • Dow Jones News Service. Ticker tape from the day John F. Kennedy was assassinated. November 22, 1963. The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, GLC05629.
  • Highsmith, Carol M, photographer. Lunch counter at the old Woolworth's "five and dime" store, a legendary site marking the American civil-rights movement and is now the International Civil Rights Center & Museum, and the place where "sit-in" became part of the American lexicon. United States North Carolina Guilford County Greensboro, 2017. -06-12. Photograph. https://www.loc.gov/item/2017880730/.
  • “Protest march by Love Canal families carrying effigies and signs with the message ""Dioxin kills',” Digital Collections - University at Buffalo Libraries, accessed January 25, 2024, https://digital.lib.buffalo.edu/items/show/16229.
  • Jenkins, R. Michael. Jesse Jackson Shaking Hands with Disability Advocate Justin Dart Jr., Who Is in a Wheelchair, during a Hearing of the House Committee on Education and Labor on a Bill Which Became the Americans with Disabilities Act. Washington D.C. July 17, 1989. Photograph. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division