Exam preparation materials

Contemporary America, 1945-Present

Things to Know

1. Domestic politics, 1945-1968: programs and legislation associated with the Fair Deal, Modern Republicanism, New Frontier, Great Society, New Federalism; Cold War at home — House Un-American Activities Committee and McCarthyism; counterculture of the 1950s and 1960s — Beat Generation and New Left.

2. Domestic politics, 1968-present: new national issues — environment, energy policy, abortion, AIDS; domestic response to war in Vietnam; Watergate; economic policy — recession, inflation, supply-side economics, deficit, international trade.

3. Civil rights movement: African-Americans — legislation, Supreme Court decisions, leaders and tactics; affirmative action vs. reverse discrimination; issues of gender and race — feminism, Hispanics (immigration policy), Native Americans.

Key Terms and Concepts

GI Bill of Rights

Taft-Hartley Act

McCarran Act


Alger Hiss case


Youngstown Sheet and Tube v. Sawyer

Adlai Stevenson

Senator Joseph McCarthy

Brown v. Board of Education


Gideon v. Wainwright

Office of Economic Opportunity

War on Poverty


Immigration Act of 1965

Jack Kerouac

Students for a Democratic Society (SDS)


Environmental Protection Agency

revenue sharing

energy crisis


Kent State


Chicago Democratic Convention



Rosa Parks

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Civil Rights Act of 1964

Voting Rights Act of 1965

black power

Black Muslims — Malcolm X

Board of Regents v. Bakke

National Organization for Women

Betty Friedan


Roe v. Wade

Cesar Chavez — UFW

American Indian movement

Important Definitions

baby boom: The significant increase in the birth rate from 1946 through 1957; the rise in population contributed to the growth of the suburbs, consumer culture, and the sharp increase in college enrollments in the 1960s.

Dixiecrats: Southern Democrats who bolted the party following the adoption of a civil rights plank at the 1948 convention; ran Strom Thurmond as their candidate in 1948 as the States’ Rights party.

Fair Deal: President Truman’s domestic policy (1948) that included civil rights and an extension and enlargement of the New

Deal — health insurance, federal aid to education, public housing, and repeal of the Taft-Hartley Act.

Great Society: President Johnson’s domestic program that included Medicare, civil rights legislation, the War on Poverty; funding for the programs suffered because of the costs of the Vietnam War.

Modern Republicanism: Represented by President Eisenhower, it combined acceptance of the basic features of the New Deal with a conservative economic policy, particularly controlling government spending.

New Federalism: President Nixon’s program to return power and tax dollars to the states and cities; the key aspect was revenue sharing, which distributed $30 billion in revenues to the states.

stagflation: High inflation combined with high unemployment and a declining gross national product; used to describe economic condition of the country in the mid-1970s.

supply-side economics: President Reagan’s economic policy; reduction in taxes would give people more spendable income and in turn lead to business expansion and more jobs. The policy did increase the federal deficit.

Warren Court: Under Chief Justice Earl Warren (1953-1969), an activist Supreme Court became an important instrument of social and political change, particularly in the areas of civil rights and civil liberties.

Readings on Contemporary America, 1945-Present

Acuntildea, Rodolfo. Occupied America: A History of the Chicanos (1988 ).

Berry, Mary Frances. Why ERA Failed: Politics, Women's Rights, and the Amending Process of the Constitution (1986).

Branch, Taylor. Parting the Waters: America in the King Years, 1954-1968 (1988).

Dallek, Robert. Ronald Reagan (1984).

Goldman, Eric. The Crucial Decade and After: America, 1945-1960 (1961).

O'Neill, William L. Coming Apart: An Informal History of America in the 1960s (1971). Schlesinger, Arthur M. The Imperial Presidency (1973).

White, Theodore. The Making of the President, 1960 (also see volumes for 1964, 1968, and 1972).

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