APUSH – Chapter 37 (The Eisenhower Era)

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Army-McCarthy Hearings (1954)

Congressional hearings called by Senator Joseph McCarthy’s to accuse members of the army of communist ties. In this widely televised spectacle, McCarthy finally went too far for public approval. The hearings exposed the Senator’s extremism and led to his eventual disgrace. (951)

Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas (1954)

Landmark Supreme Court decision that overturned Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) and abolished racial segregation in public schools. The Court reasoned that "separate" was inherently "unequal," rejecting the foundation of the Jim Crow system of racial segregation in the South. This decision was the first major step toward the legal end of racial discrimination and a major accomplishment for the Civil Rights Movement. (953)

Checkers Speech (1952)

Nationally televised address by vice-presidential candidate Richard Nixon. Using the new mass medium of television shortly before the 1952 election, the vice presidential candidate saved his place on the ticket by defending himself against accusations of corruption. (948)

Dien Bien Phu, Battle of (1954)

Military engagement in French colonial Vietnam in which French forces were defeated by Viet Minh nationalists loyal to Ho Chi Minh. With this loss, the French ended their colonial involvement in Indochina, paving the way for America’s entry. (960)

Federal Highway Act of 1956

Federal legislation signed by Dwight D. Eisenhower to construct thousands of miles of modern highways in the name of national defense. Officially called the National Interstate and Defense Highways Act, this bill dramatically increased the move to the suburbs, as white middle-class people could more easily commute to urban jobs. (958)

Hungarian uprising (1956)

Series of demonstrations in Hungary against the Soviet Union. Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev violently suppressed this pro-Western uprising, highlighting the limitations of America’s power in Eastern Europe. (959)

Jim Crow

System of racial segregation in the American South from the end of Reconstruction until the mid-twentieth century. Based on the concept of "separate but equal" facilities for blacks and whites, the Jim Crow system sought to prevent racial mixing in public, including restaurants, movie theaters, and public transportation. An informal system, it was generally perpetuated by custom, violence, and intimidation. (547)

kitchen debate (1959)

Televised exchange in 1959 between Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev and American Vice President Richard Nixon. Meeting at the American National Exhibition in Moscow, the two leaders sparred over the relative merits of capitalist consumer culture versus Soviet state planning. Nixon won applause for his staunch defense of American capitalism, helping lead him to the Republican nomination for president in 1960. (964)


A brand of vitriolic, fear-mongering anti-communism associated with the career of Senator Joseph McCarthy. In the early 1950s, Senator McCarthy used his position in Congress to baselessly accuse high-ranking government officials and other Americans of conspiracy with communism. The term named after him refers to the dangerous forces of unfairness and fear wrought by anticommunist paranoia. (950)

Montgomery bus boycott (1955)

Protest, sparked by Rosa Parks’s defiant refusal to move to the back of the bus, by black Alabamians against segregated seating on city buses. The bus boycott lasted from December 1, 1955, until December 26, 1956, and became one of the foundational moments of the Civil Rights Movements. It led to the rise of Martin Luther King, Jr., and ultimately to a Supreme Court decision opposing segregated busing. (953)

Operation Wetback (1954)

A government program to roundup and deport as many as one million illegal Mexican migrant workers in the United States. The program was promoted in part by the Mexican government and reflected burgeoning concerns about non-European immigration to America. (957)

Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC)

Cartel comprising Middle Eastern states and Venezuela first organized in 1960. OPEC aimed to control access to and prices of oil, wresting power from Western oil companies and investors. In the process, it gradually strengthened the hand of non-Western powers on the world stage. (961)

policy of boldness (1954)

Foreign policy objective of Dwight Eisenhower’s Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, who believed in changing the containment strategy to one that more directly engaged the Soviet Union and attempted to roll back communist influence around the world. This policy led to a build-up of America’s nuclear arsenal to threaten "massive retaliation" against communist enemies, launching the Cold War’s arms race. (959)

rock ‘n’ roll

"Crossover" musical style that rose to dominance in the 1950s, merging black rhythm and blues with white bluegrass and country. Featuring a heavy beat and driving rhythm, rock ‘n’ roll music became a defining feature of the 1950s youth culture. (947)

Sputnik (1957)

Soviet satellite first launched into Earth orbit on October 4, 1957. This scientific achievement marked the first time human beings had put a man-made object into orbit and pushed the USSR noticeably ahead of the United States in the Space Race. A month later, the Soviet Union sent a larger satellite, Sputnik II, into space, prompting the United States to redouble its space exploration efforts and raising American fears Soviet superiority. (962)

Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC)

Youth organization founded by southern black students in 1960 to promote civil rights. Drawing on its members youthful energies, SNCC in its early years coordinated demonstrations, sit-ins, and voter registration drives. (957)

Suez crisis (1956)

International crisis launched when Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser nationalized the Suez Canal, which had been owned mostly by French and British stockholders. The crisis led to a British and French attack on Egypt, which failed without aid from the United States. The Suez Crisis marked an important turning point in the post-colonial Middle East and highlighted the rising importance of oil in world affairs. (960)

The Feminine Mystique (1963)

Best-selling book by feminist thinker Betty Friedan. This work challenged women to move beyond the drudgery of suburban housewifery and helped launch what would become second-wave feminism. (945)

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