Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Top 100 Events in American History since 1945

I am creating my syllabus for my U.S. history course since 1945. Because the course is at least as much thematic as chronological, I am creating a 100 most important events list to include in the syllabus. Here's what I came up with. Comments? Anything egregious that I am missing? Anything dumb that I have included?

  1. August 6, 1945—U.S. drops atomic bomb on Japan; World War II ends 8 days later
  2. 1946—Winston Churchill gives “Iron Curtain” speech in Missouri, tensions rise between United States and Soviet Union
  3. 1946-63—Baby Boom—record amount of births in a period of economic growth and increased consumerism leads to the most dominant and self-conscious generation in American history.
  4. 1947—Unveiling of Truman Doctrine, announcing the U.S. would do everything in its power to contain communism
  5. 1947—Marshall Plan enacted, providing American aid in rebuilding western and southern Europe, advances the Cold War significantly
  6. 1948—Berlin Airlift shows American resolve against the spread of communism and Soviet aggression
  7. 1949—Creation of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)
  8. 1949—China becomes communist, Republicans use event to paint Democrats as “soft on communism”
  9. 1950—Senator Joseph McCarthy asserts he has list of communists in the State Department. Although he has no such list, McCarthy builds upon national fear of communism to make himself the nation’s most powerful individual. Eventually falls in 1954 after accusing the military of communist sympathies. Nonetheless, McCarthy defines the 1950s as a decade of suppression of left-leaning thought and action.
  10. 1950-53—Korean War
  11. 1951—U.S. tests hydrogen bomb
  12. 1951—Release of The Day the Earth Stood Still, beginning of science fiction films standing in for American fears about the Cold War
  13. 1952—First rock and roll concert in Cleveland
  14. 1953—Execution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg for treason
  15. 1953—Hugh Hefner launches Playboy magazine
  16. 1954—Supreme Court declares segregation unconstitutional in Brown v. Board of Education
  17. 1954—Television becomes increasingly common
  18. 1955—Montgomery Bus Boycott, led by a young Martin Luther King
  19. 1955—American Federation of Labor (AFL) and Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) merge, signaling an end to the great period of American labor organizing.
  20. 1956—Elvis Presley becomes international star, rock and roll becomes music of America’s youth
  21. 1956—President Eisenhower signs Interstate Highway Act, leading to massive government investment in road building and disinvestment in American downtowns and public transportation
  22. 1957—Federal court orders Little Rock to desegregate schools, violence results and forces federal government to intervene.
  23. 1957—USSR launches Sputnik, beginning of Space Race
  24. 1959—Cuban Revolution brings Fidel Castro to power
  25. 1960—4 North Carolina A&T students begin sit-in at Greensboro lunch counter, begins sit-in movement around South.
  26. 1960—Food and Drug Administration approves birth control pill for general use
  27. 1961—Freedom Rides test willingness of federal government to enforce desegregation decisions, violence results.
  28. 1961—Bob Dylan releases first album
  29. 1961—East Germans raise Berlin Wall
  30. 1962—Cuban Missile Crisis—U.S. and Soviet Union come dangerously close to nuclear war
  31. 1962—Rachel Carson publishes Silent Spring, exposing the terrible environmental damage of pesticides and the chemical industry, eventually leads to banning of DDT and other toxic pesticides.
  32. 1963—Birmingham campaign of civil rights movement, Martin Luther King leads March on Washington to pressure President Kennedy to support civil rights legislation
  33. 1963—Betty Friedan publishes The Feminine Mystique, frequently seen as beginning of modern women’s movement
  34. 1963—Assassination of John F. Kennedy
  35. 1964—Gulf of Tonkin resolution, giving tremendous power to make war to the presidency, significantly ramps up American involvement in Vietnam
  36. 1964—Freedom Summer in Mississippi—attempt to register African-Americans to vote, violence results throughout Mississippi
  37. 1964—Civil Rights Act of 1964
  38. 1964—Republican Party nominates Barry Goldwater as its presidential candidate, marking the rise of modern conservatism. Lyndon Johnson defeats Goldwater in landslide, but conservatives see marked gains in elections of 1966 and 1968.
  39. 1964—Lyndon Johnson signs Wilderness Act of 1964
  40. 1964-1968—President Johnson launches his Great Society, including establishment of Medicare, Medicaid, Food Stamps, and dozens of other programs intended to lift Americans out of poverty.
  41. 1965—Voting Rights Act of 1965
  42. 1965—Murder of Malcolm X in New York City
  43. 1965—Immigration Act of 1965 ends revokes restrictive and racist immigration legislation of 1920s, begins rise of Latin American and Asian migration to the U.S.
  44. 1965—César Chávez and United Farm Workers begin Delano grape strike, call for national grape boycott
  45. 1965—Ralph Nader publishes Unsafe at Any Speed, attacking unsafe General Motors cars. Nader becomes leader of consumer rights movement and one of America’s most influential figures through the late 1970s.
  46. 1965-70—rise of  Black Power movement, eventually crushed by FBI-led murders of leading Black Power advocates
  47. 1966—National Organization of Women (NOW) founded
  48. 1966—California becomes first state to make LSD illegal, nation soon follows, but far too late to stop spread of drug
  49. 1966—Martin Luther King takes civil rights movement to the North; violent protests against housing desegregation in Chicago.
  50. 1967—Summer of Love in San Francisco, hippie movement becomes increasingly prominent
  51. 1967—Bonnie and Clyde hits the theatres, destroying the restrictive code that guarded the morality of movies for 33 years and launching a new era of American film.
  52. 1967—Reies López Tijerina leads raid upon county courthouse in New Mexico in protest over lands stolen from native New Mexicans.
  53. 1968—Tet Offensive puts lie to President Johnson’s proclamations that the Vietnam War is almost won. Lyndon Johnson chooses not to run for reelection.
  54. 1968—Assassination of Martin Luther King in Memphis, Tennessee
  55. 1968—Assassination of Robert Kennedy by Palestinian nationalist Sirhan Sirhan.
  56. 1968—Brutal beatings of protestors at Democratic National Convention in Chicago, open warfare on the convention floor.
  57. 1968—Alabama Governor George Wallace runs for president on openly segregationist platform, wins significant support in North—rise of white backlash to civil rights movement.
  58. 1968—Richard Nixon wins presidency behind power of white backlash
  59. 1969—Americans land on moon
  60. 1969—Stonewall Rebellion in New York City marks first open resistance of gays to police repression, launches gay rights movement
  61. 1969—increasingly radical women’s movement protests at Miss America pageant in Atlantic City
  62. 1969—Cuyahoga River catches fire in Cleveland, drawing attention to massive environmental problems
  63. 1969—Woodstock music festival in New York
  64. 1970—Environmentalism becomes prominent; first Earth Day protests, creation of Environmental Protection Agency to enforce increasing number of environmental laws and regulatory agencies.
  65. 1970—President Nixon invades Cambodia, leading to massive protests, including killing of students at Kent State University and Jackson State University
  66. 1971—MASH begins its run as the most popular television show in American history
  67. 1972—Equal Rights Amendment passes Congress, but rise of conservatism dooms it in state legislatures.
  68. 1972—Richard Nixon and Leonid Brezhnev conclude talks on Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty, the most important treaty controlling the nuclear arms race
  69. 1972—Passage of Title IX, greatly expanding women’s access to college sports
  70. 1973—U.S. pulls out of South Vietnam, Vietnam united under North Vietnamese leadership in 1975
  71. 1973—American Indian Movement seizes Wounded Knee, South Dakota, leading to violent standoff with FBI
  72. 1973—passage of Endangered Species Act, leads to revival of threatened species such as the bald eagle, wolf, and grizzly bear.
  73. 1973—First large-scale economic crisis since Great Depression, leads to high unemployment and long-term economic uncertainty that lasts through remainder of 1970s.
  74. 1973—Roe v. Wade legalizes abortion
  75. 1974—Watergate scandal comes to light, resignation of President Richard Nixon
  76. 1977—Apple introduces Apple II, the first prominent personal computer
  77. 1978—California passes Proposition 13, drastically cutting property taxes
  78. 1979—Iranian radicals take over American embassy, hold dozens of Americans hostage until 1981.
  79. 1979—Three Mile Island incident—near nuclear meltdown ends period of nuclear power growth in U.S.
  80. 1980—election of Ronald Reagan to the presidency
  81. 1980s—President Reagan launches “War on Drugs,” results lead to imprisonment of 20% of young black men on nonviolent drug charges.
  82. 1981—AIDS first recognized, Reagan administration ignores it as gay disease until 1985, setting back research and dooming thousands to early deaths.
  83. 1981-87—Reagan administration supports right-wing movements in Central America, leading to civil wars and the deaths of tens of thousands.
  84. 1986—Iran-Contra scandal comes to light, embarrassing Reagan administration
  85. 1986—Challenger Space Shuttle explodes, event watched by nearly all schoolchildren because first teacher to enter space was onboard; national interest in space program declines
  86. 1987—Supreme Court recognizes legality of Indian gaming
  87. 1989—Fall of Berlin Wall heralds end of Cold War, breakup of USSR in 1991 ensures its end.
  88. 1991—First Gulf War begins period of long-term American military involvement in the Middle East.
  89. 1992—creation of North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), expands both globalization and outsourcing of American manufacturing jobs abroad.
  90. 1993—Internet becomes prominent
  91. 1994—Republicans win massive gains in Congress, Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich issues “Contract with America”
  92. 1994—California voters pass Proposition 187, designed to deny undocumented migrants all state services, leads to backlash against Republican Party and makes California a Democratic stronghold based upon Latino votes.
  93. 2000—Disputed presidential election, Supreme Court gives election to George W. Bush, voting on a strictly partisan basis
  94. September 11, 2001—terrorists attack the United States, over 2000 dead, begins “War on Terror,” invasion of Afghanistan, etc.
  95. 2003—President George W. Bush orders invasion of Iraq
  96. 2003—Latinos pass African-Americans as nation’s largest minority group
  97. 2007—Global recession begins, no end in sight as of fall 2010
  98. 2008—election of Barack Obama to the presidency
  99. 2010—Arizona passes restrictive anti-immigration legislation, resurgence of racism and nativism throughout U.S.
  100. 2010—summer of 2010 sees record high temperatures around nation, flooding around the world, global climate change reaches critical tipping point.

Note: Already I noticed that I didn't include anything on the oil embargo.