Ken Burns Classroom


Postwar United States (1945-1970s)

Malcolm X at Queens Court in 1964
1964. Malcolm X at Queens Court / World Telegram & Sun photo by Herman Hiller. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA.

The end of World War II in 1945 would usher a period of economic growth and stability in the United States that led to the establishment of a vibrant middle class. Yet, inequalities for African Americans and people of color persisted and would come to a breaking point during the Civil Rights Era of the 1960s. Post-war tensions led to 20 years of Cold War foreign policies influencing presidential administrations from Truman to Nixon, and led to the U.S. involvement in Vietnam. By the late 1960s, American culture was in an upheaval after a decade of high-profile assassinations of charismatic political figures, U.S. involvement in an unwinnable war in Southeast Asia, tensions around the Civil Rights Movement, and a growing lack of trust in institutions and leaders.