The OAH Magazine of History

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The 1950s

October 2012
Volume 26, No. 4

from the editor

One Nation “Under God,” by Carl R. Weinberg

You know its concluding line by heart: “One nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” You may also know that the phrase “under God” was added to the Pledge of Allegiance during the 1950s. This historical fact drew public attention in 2002 when Michael Newdow, the parent of a California elementary school student, convinced the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals to declare the pledge unconstitutional, as a violation of the establishment clause of the First Amendment. Ruling in Newdow v. U.S. Congress, which was later overturned, the court noted that “under God” was added in 1954, “at a time when the government was publicly inveighing against atheistic communism.” Read online >


Rethinking Politics and Culture in a Dynamic Decade,
by Penny Von Eschen
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Teaching the Many Americas of the 1950s,
by Karen Dunak

The L.A. Scene: Teaching Race and Popular Music in the 1950s,
by Luis Alvarez
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Unruly Adults: Social Change and Mass Culture in the 1950s,
by John Bodnar
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“The World Was On Fire”: Black Women Entertainers and Transnational Activism in the 1950s,
by Ruth Feldstein
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Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner: American Missionaries, Racism, and Decolonization in the Congo,
by Melani McAlister
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Nuclear Families: (Re)producing 1950s Suburban America in the Marshall Islands,
by Lauren Hirshberg

on the cover

Rhythm and Blues saxophonist Big Jay McNeely thrills a multiracial audience at the Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles, California, in 1951. In an era marked by demands for cultural conformity, rigid anticommunism, and segregation, the L.A. music scene stood out as a place where African Americans, Asian Americans, Mexican Americans, and white Americans danced together while musicians fused jazz and rock ’n’ roll with the Latin rhythms of mambo, bomba, and cumbia. Popular music in 1950s Los Angeles transcended racial and national boundaries and, in doing so, helped set the stage for the interracial coalitions that would challenge segregation and the logic of Cold War containment in the 1960s. (Courtesy of Getty Images; ©Getty Images)