The Impact of the Cold War on American Society

Thursday, November 10, 2011
7:00–8:30 p.m. (EST) Enter Classroom Enter Forum
cold war


Michael Kazin
Professor of History, Georgetown University

About the Seminar

Between 1947 and 1991 the Cold War touched virtually every aspect of life in the United States. At the height of the conflict in the 1950s and 60s, our anxieties magnified the Soviet Union into an enemy so militarily powerful and diabolically sly that it seemed destined to conquer us through invasion or subversion. We established a military-industrial complex to shield us, built an interstate highway system to move troops, and dug fallout shelters to insure our survival. We projected our fears in nightmarish films about alien invaders and body snatchers. Abroad we practiced containment; at home we promoted conformity. All this while increasing affluence and a baby boom as well as sweeping political and cultural change transformed American society. How did the Cold War chill life in the United States, and how did it turn up the heat?

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Assigned Readings

  1. “Billy Graham, A New Kind of Evangelist,” Time, 1954
  2. “MIA Mass Meeting at Holt Street Baptist Church,”, Martin Luther King, 1955
  3. “Enemies from Within”, Senator Joseph R. McCarthy’s Accusations of Disloyalty, 1950
  4. “Can a Christian Be a Communist?” Sermon delivered at Ebenezer Baptist Church, Martin Luther King, 1962
  5. “You Are the Un-Americans, and You Ought to be Ashamed of Yourselves”, Paul Robeson Appears Before HUAC

Suggested Additional Resources

  1. America Divided: The Civil War of the 1960s, (excerpt), Maurice Isserman and Michael Kazin
  2. The Unfinished Nation, (excerpt), Alan Brinkley
  3. Billy Graham and the Rise of the Republican South, (excerpt), Steven P. Miller
  4. From Civil Rights to Human Rights: Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Struggle for Economic Justice, (excerpt), Thomas F. Jackson

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