Cold War Politics and Civil Rights - Essay Sample

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  7
Wordcount:  1791 Words
Date:  2022-12-08


'The cold war' refers to the period of open and yet restricted tension between the Soviet Union and its satellite states and the United States and their allies. This took place after the end of the cold war in 1945 (LaFeber, Walter & Robert, 84). The war was waged using political, economic and civil fronts but retrained on use of weapons. This war had various effects on the United States, the Soviet Union and their respective allies'. Each of the two sides was aimed at preventing the other from globalizing their ideologies.

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For the most part of the cold war, Franklin Roosevelt was the president of the United States. He had made a wartime alliance with Joseph Stalin, the premier of the Soviet Union which extended after the world war into the cold war. The cold war, which lasted for about 45 years, saw drastic changes in the American political field. The United States held elections in November 1942 that saw the Democratic incumbent president Roosevelt win his third term. In this election, the conservative Republicans garnered more seats in the Senate, as Democrats lost about 46 seats to Republicans in the Senate (LaFeber et al. 84).

The Congress, having a majority of conservatives, had noted the depression in the American economy was over. The depression was a time when people had money to purchase goods but there were no goods in the market. Therefore, the conservatives pushed for the abolishment of a number of initiatives enforced by the New Deal Government. These included farm security administration, public jobs among others. Public jobs were jobs that were offered to thousands of Americans to do public works like road construction and building of public buildings. Farm Security Administration (FSA) created by the American department of agriculture in 1937 to help poor farmers during the great depression. The conservationists also abolished The National Resources Planning Board (NRPB) that has existed between the years 1933-1943 (Cull & Nicholas John, 172). This board has previously held the responsibility of public, social and economic planning and was the only one of its kind in American history.

Roosevelt vied for a fourth term and worn against the conservationists with Harry S.Truman as his vice president. Truman was vice president for only 82 days since Roosevelt died leaving him to occupy the presidency. He had misunderstandings with the Soviets at first then made up with them. He then collided with them again during the era of the atomic bomb. This is because Truman used the atomic bomb to frighten them against their spread to Europe. In the first six months of his presidency, Truman dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and announced the surrender of Germany. He also signed the charter endorsing the United Nations agreement.

After the economic devastation of the war and the great depression, the government encouraged mass purchasing power instead of focusing on the equal distribution of resources (Bernanke & Ben, 556). This frustrated consumerism in that, after the war, there was always goods available but for most people, there was no money to purchase these goods. In the 1930s, people were simply working to keep their families running through the great depression. In the 1940s however, families were split with millions of American men being sent out to war. This left very many women being breadwinners and getting jobs to provide for their families, this gave way to what was known as the American way of life. This referred to the unique way of life that was expected of all Americans nationally. It involved freedom, liberty and futurism. It emphasized in family values, peace and hope. This is what later came to be known as The American Dream.

In 1930s America, women's roles were limited to the household. They were expected to marry in their early twenties, bear and raise children. It was their role to keep the household clean and take care of their spouses as well as educate the household on how to respond to emergencies. Roles however changed during the war and most men were sent to fight in the war (Romer & Christina, 620). Women took up casual and office jobs. This brought about a great change in the rights and roles of women during the post-war era. Feminist ideologies cropped up among women as they gained more financial and professional freedom. A book Written by Betty Friedan in the 1960s titled 'The Feminine Mystique' spearheaded feminist revolts in the following years. Following the formation of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s, women's rights became more outspoken. Women held peaceful demonstrations to oppose gender discrimination in various places like workplaces and leadership positions.

Civil Rights Movement encouraged more and more people to come out and demonstrate against discrimination. The women were joined by The Student Non-violent committee and the freedom riders in opposition to racial segregation. This was a time when racial segregation was at its peak in the United States with African-Americans experiencing discrimination in all areas of their lives (Hall & Jacquelyn Dowd, 241). There were different schools for the black students, hotels, restrooms and other amenities were clearly marked for them, different from those used by the whites. The student nonviolent coordinating committee (SNCC) was a civil rights activist group created in May 1960. It consisted of students from the Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina. The Freedom Riders, on the other hand, were also civil rights activists. They challenged the on enforcement of the Supreme Court ruling of 1961 that ruled against segregation in interstate public buses in some of the southern states. They rode these buses into the southern states of the U.S where segregation was rampant. This would spark violent receptions and the protesters would be attacked by mobs. Police would often conduct arrests on the basis of reasons like the trespass.

These demonstrations attracted attention from both the Americans and the rest of the world. This caused the then president J.F Kennedy to push for constitutional reforms that would end the discrimination. This was during a public address he made on June 6th 1963. President Kennedy's proposal was finally signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson in July 1964, a while after the assassination of JFK (Blumrosen & Ruth, 397). This act banned segregation in public places such as public restrooms, schools, hotels and public libraries. The act also promoted equal voting rights regardless of race, religion, the gender or nationality of origin.

The journey to the passing of the Civil Rights Act was not without its challenges. Only 60% of Democrats supported this bill. This was short of everyone's expectation that Democrats would be the majority in its support. This was so obvious since more than 80% of Republicans actually voted in its favor (Hall & Jacquelyn Dowd, 239). This bill was also opposed by the chairman of the House Rules Committee, Howard Smith who was a staunch segregationist. His efforts to shut down the bill however backfired. In the Senate, opposes of this bill attempted to get rid of this bill in a filibuster. The supporters, however, threatened to pass the bill without committee approval. The bill was finally passed with the help of the president Lyndon Johnson, Hubert Humphrey who has the senator to Minnesota who both urged the Republicans to vote in favor of the bill.

After passing of this bill, the segregationist community generally accepted to enforce it since it had become law. There was however isolated incidences opposition. An example of this is an incident happened in Americus city, Sumter County in Georgia where a group of mixed race people sought successfully sought services at a restaurant. As they were leaving, they were attacked by a white mob that was yelling racist and segregationist utterances. Resistance was also observed by business owners who preferred to change their modes of operation or close down their businesses to serving black people. Some hotels were converted to 'members only' service in most cases where white paid a small fee to become recognized as members.


The Second World War and the cold war is a time that marked aggressive changes in American history. Ranging from political, economic and civil changes, all these shaped America as it is known today. The great depression caused a great decline in the goods available for purchase in the American markets. During and briefly after the war, people did not have adequate purchase power. This and the fact that millions of American men have been shipped off to fight as soldiers overseas led to many women being employed. They worked both as manual labourers and held white collar jobs. This was opposed to the traditional role of women of being mothers and taking care of the household. Employment of women led to their financial freedom and later enabled them to rise up in feministic protests. These protested discrimination against women, especially in employment.

These feminist protests encouraged protests against racial segregation and discrimination, especially in the 1960s. Human rights activist groups were on the rise as they protested segregation in places of work, schools, hotels, public buses, voting rights among others. Examples of these activist groups are The Freedom Riders who challenged the lack of implementation of a Supreme Court ruling that prohibited racial segregation in public buses. Another example is The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) of North Carolina. This was a group of students from Shaw University in Raleigh that protested for things like participatory democracy through equal voting rights. They also fought as part of the Civil Rights Movement against racism and discrimination.

All these protests culminated in signing into law the Civil Rights Act by President Lyndon Johnson on July 2, 1964. This bill had been pushed forward by president J.F Kennedy who urged granting of equal rights to all Americans prior to his assassination in 1963. This law has since been modified and observed to date, with an aim of treating all American people equally despite their race, gender, religion, colour or nationality of origin.


Bernanke, Ben S. "Non-Monetary Effects of the Financial Crisis in the Propagation of the Great Depression." (2013). Retrieved From;

Blumrosen, Ruth G. "Wage Discrimination, Job Segregation, and the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964." U. Mich. JL Reform 12 (2014): 397.

Cull, Nicholas John. The Cold War and the United States Information Agency: American Propaganda and Public Diplomacy, 1945-1989. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018.

Hall, Jacquelyn Dowd. "The Long Civil Rights Movement and the Political Uses of the Past." The Best American History Essays 2017. Palgrave Macmillan, New York, 2007. 235-271.

LaFeber, Walter, and Robert A. Divine. America, Russia, and the Cold War, 1945-1980. New York: Knopf, 2013.

Romer, Christina D. "The Great Crash and the Onset of the Great Depression." The Quarterly Journal of Economics 105.3 (2010): 597-624.

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