Post-War New YorkEdit
Post- war New York was a time that experienced many ups and downs. The economy was booming due to the increasing importance of New York State's ports. Suburbabnization was a new phenomenon in this period that provided families with quality housing and areas to raise children. There were also the hippies who, while quite controversial, expressed themes of freedom, love and unity. There was also an increase in entertainment industries such as music and sport. It was also in this time period that New York City became a city of international presitge. However, New York also experienced hard times during this period, especially with the events of the Civil Rights reform and the increasing amount of "ghettos" that appeared throughout the state.
Post World War II Economic BoomEdit
The economic state of New York prior to World War II was disastrous. With the depression in full swing, the economy was ravished with unemployment in New York soaring above twenty percent. The War itself however brought great change to the United States of America, specifically New York, lifting the state out of the depression and ushering in a “period of unparalleled prosperity”. After World War II, the state of New York’s economic engine began to turn like never before, especially due to the fact that they were the world's largest port.
World War II created an explosion of economic activity within the state of New York. The state and New York City in particular became the world’s largest manufacturing center. By the late 1940’s over forty thousand factories had been created employing over one million workers. A main reason for the explosion in manufacturing and economic activity is the fact that New York City was the home to the worlds largest port handling over 40% of the nation’s waterborne freight, equating to about 150 million tons a year. Having a water based route for trade was a great benefit to the state as it allows them to trade with virtually every country in the world.
New York was also the world’s financial capital with one hundred and thirty-five of the nation’s five hundred industrial corporations calling the state home. Along with the economic boom came the importance of women within the industrial business. In 1947 women made up 38% of the state’s industrial production, compared to 26% nationally. However discrimination was very present with men earning around 67 dollars weekly and women earning only 42 dollars.
New York City grew to one of the largest cities in the world greatly due to the flourishing economy after World War II. The size of the City’s Metropolitan area was so vast that over one in twelve American citizens lived in this area alone. Supplying the demands just for the city was big business. Four of the state’s largest manufacturing establishments were for newspaper companies. In addition, 22 thousand businesses sold baked goods mainly for local consumption. Due to New York’s economic dominance in relation to others among the world, The United Nations chose New York City as the new, permanent headquarters. E.B white stated that "New York is not a state capital or a national capital, but it is by way of becoming the capital of the world." This statement was very much true as New York had broken trade barriers across the world that no state, let alone country, had ever done before.
Economic Impact on segregationEdit
The economic boom that occurred in New York State had an impact on segregation. This can be seen with the GI Bill, which benefited many returning soldiers. The GI bill was an economic stimulus mainly used to by veterans to buy homes. In 1947, William J Levitt developed single family, tract housing for World War II veterans. However, some of these housing units were built primarily for white citizens only. Thus, even economic stimulus plans showed racist attitudes as many retuning African American soldiers were unable to benefit from them.
New York after World War II experienced an economic boom like never seen before. Ports grew along the coast allowing industries to grow rapidly. Because of this rapid economic growth, businesses flourished and people enjoyed the benefits. The vastly growing economy not only benefit individuals but entire movements in the art world as well. The economic boom that occurred in New York during the late 1940's arguably shaped the state into what it is today.
The New York SchoolsEdit
The economic prosperity being experienced by New York in the late 1940's created much more leisure time, which in turn allowed specific fields to develop. One of these fields that experienced change in the late 1940’s was art. Art at the time experienced a massive transformation with the introduction of abstract expressionism. For years the center of the art world had been Paris, however due to recent conflict in Europe, the art world shifted to New York, specifically Manhattan. The recent conflict as well as the rise of Fascism in Europe brought many influential artists to New York, artists who would later establish the “New York School of Abstract Expressionist Painters".
The New York School refers to groups of artists and composers who worked in and around Manhattan from the 1940's to the 1950's. There was no specific style to the Schools though its American radical approach had a major international influence that made New York the center of the postwar art world. New York City became the cultural center where the artists and composers in this group helped to further develop various types of art. The groups worked internally with each other in loose, personal relationships but also interacted with the other groups and drew inspiration from the different styles of art that were emerging in New York. By the early 1960's, these groups had achieved a leadership position in the art world.
The group of artists included people such as Mark Rothko, Willem de Kooning, Robert Rauschenberg, Jackson Pollock and Philip Guston. These were abstract expressionists, impressionists and actions painters that rejected past traditions and aimed for individual expression. They received global recognition and in the early 1950's were considered a main source for creative ideas in the art world. While there was no specific style of art in the New York School, abstract expressionism was a major draw for artists at the time due to its expressive power and sense of freshness. One of their goals was to create a clear slate for a new kind of painting. They also strove to achieve abstraction and physicality in their art.
William de Kooning (1904-1997) was an innovator for abstract expressionism as well as a very influential artist at the time. He was one of the founders of the Eighth Street Artists Club which allowed artists to come together to exchange ideas. He sought to paint something that could not be predicted and refused to fall into a habitual style. His Woman series was a stimulus for figurative art and the first of these canvases was massively reproduced during the ‘50s. De Kooning was a great inspiration for the artists in the New York School.
Another art form that was rapidly taking hold and gaining inspiration as well as fame was music. The group of composers in the New York School consisted of Christian Wolff, David Tudor, Morton Feldman, Earle Brown and John Cage who mainly worked with each other during the 1950's. This group became the first American composers to have a major international impact. One of the core principles linking them was enacting new and different kinds of sonic ‘continuities’. Like the visual artists, they began to break away from the past traditions of composing music for more innovative and personal expression. They came together through a chance meeting by Cage and Feldman and they introduced them to the others who would help form the group. They began to redefine the relationship between notation and performance.
Morton Feldman (1926-1987) was a New York-born composer who helped start the New York School with John Cage. He held that art needed to be grounded in the subjectivity of its creator and his music in the early 1950's controlled the experience. Feldman started to write music with a graphic notation at the beginning of the 1950's. He started on a series of works called Projections which helped launch a vast repertory of experimental music. The framework in which it was written was actually hindered his ability to specify details in a piece but it showed a step away from the more conventional notation. Morton wanted to create music that was not tied to the past, something he shared with John Cage and they brought to the New York School. Morton’s Projections also helped spur Cage to adopt the I Ching as a tool for composition. The graphic notation was meant to allow the composer to direct the experience of the listener; it meant that the terms under which it did were different from the conventional notation.
The postwar period saw the peak of the exchange between musicians and artists. Both groups took inspiration from the other for their works. The New York School highlighted this exchange of inspiration as seen with John Cage’s 4’33” which took some from Rauschenberg’s all-white and all-black canvasses. Painters of the New York School were drawn to composers such as Edgar Varèse for inspiration in their artistic freedom. Varèse himself took part in the theories and practices of the New York School and through them began an interest in improvisation and jazz.
Before the war, Paris had been the center of the art world and with the New York School bringing together artists of many different disciplines, the focus was shifted towards New York City.
Hippies and WoodstockEdit
Hippie Ideals and DressEdit
America has long been a culture focused on materialism, however the hippies challenged this ideal. Being a generation that grew up after the war, they were lucky enough to avoid the economic struggles of the previous generation. Those who did not pursue careers that, as Janet Spence (1985) saw, were expressions of idealism, became part of a large self expression movement. This movement rejected materialistic goals and the formal ways of previous decades. Hippies also embraced a more promiscuous sense of sexuality in their personal habits. Christopher Lasch, according to Geczy, in 2013 called the hippies the “culture of narcissism” because of their individualistic ideals, which many other critics place judgment upon as well.
A distinct element of hippie culture stemmed from their clothing choices. With the quick onset in popularity of the hippie mentality, their style of dress was also a common criticism. When it came to fashion, everything to do with the 1950’s and 1960’s was out of the question. Their Bohemian style of clothing reflected their ideals of peace, love and freedom, as well as showing no tie to class hierarchies or the class system. The hippie clothing style reflected a different way of living that went against the middle class, capitalist system and many people were not fond of this rebellion. Adam Geczy stated that Gandhi’s non-violent influences on India gaining independence in the 1930’s acted as an inspiration for the hippies in America, though he was not the only foreign influence for this subculture. A lot of the clothing choices were inspired by the dress in other countries and other cultures. There is a notion of the Apache society in the beige suede jackets with hanging tassels that were prominent among the people of the hippie culture. There is also an Asian influence in the baggy and loose cotton pyjama pants that hippies wore; the first time these pants were worn in public. With the clothing choices that were made by this subculture, it is evident that flowing fabric like the pajama pants resembled their free thoughts and ideas. Geczy argued that the pajama pants were lacking pockets to reflect the hippie mentality that “property is theft” and that this period should not be known as prominent in inventions of fashions but as a widespread mass adoption of these fashions from around the world. Overall, the hippie style of clothing shows their general ideals and outlooks as well as their rejection of the ways and appearances of the 1950’s and 1960’s.
Hippie Music and Music FestivalsEdit
Many of the musicians of the time period were seen as hippie leaders and role models. Although the music of bands such as The Beatles and The Rolling Stones were extremely influential in hippie culture and music, they themselves were not accepted into the hippie culture because they lived in large mansions in England and played at large expensive venues. Bands like Jefferson Airplane, Big Brother, the Holding Company, and the Grateful Dead on the other hand, actually immersed themselves into the counter-culture by living with the hippies communally, taking drugs and playing music with them, as well as adapting their hair and clothing styles to the appearance of this new group.
It is no surprise then, that when hippie culture and outdoor music festivals became popular in the late 1960's, these were the bands that performed at them. These outdoor music festivals were seen as an extension of hippie culture and it showed how their communal living practices began to centre around rock music. Music festivals started in San Francisco at the free-admission Monterey Pop Festival. At these events, hippies would congregate and camp out in large fields to take part in spiritual freedom, sex, drugs and of course, to dance and listen to the musical acts and entertainment. Festivals were gatherings where the hippies could express themselves with like-minded people and feel a sense of unity in their love for peace, music and non-conformity. The largest of these festivals was the widely known and famous Woodstock Music and Arts Fair.
The First WoodstockEdit
The very first Woodstock Music and Art Fair was scheduled to take place August fifteenth to August seventeenth in 1969, however it was extended an additional day. The festival has become known simply as ‘Woodstock’, a term which has formed to define the general culture of hippies. It was also coined as the festival of “three days of peace and music”. Potter shows in 2007 that at its highest peak the event contained close to 500 000 spectators. The event was held on the 600 acre dairy farm of Max Yasgur just out of the boundaries of Bethel, New York. Considering the large number of people that attended, the festival was generally considered as occurring peacefully. The event was shadowed by terrible weather conditions and almost constant rain. This led to significant mud that was up to one’s ankle at some places within the crowd. Potter in 2007 concludes that due to the weather prior to the event, the planned fencing was not completed in time. This resulted in, as estimated by the events promoters, about only one tenth of the entire crowd actually paying the entry fee of seven dollars. As many as 18 000 of these pre sales were given refunds because they were unable to make it to the show to due the record breaking traffic jams backing up freeways for more than 8 hours in all directions of the festival. The New York Times reported that spectators of the festival, upon the heavy rainfall, started to bang on metal cans and join in a dance and chant of “Sun’s Comin’” while looking up to the sky. Even with the downpours and deep mud, the members of the Woodstock crowd and hippie culture proved to bond strongly together. Regardless of the obstacles, the peaceful, free as, loving mentality and ideals that the people of the hippie subculture sternly believed in connected them together. It was a three‐day journey that almost a half a million people took, with last minute preparations and a massive debt following it. Despite all the tribulations leading up to the event it somehow came off as one of the most memorable and largest gatherings in music history.
The festival's musician lineup included all the main psychedelic and hippie acts such as Joni Mitchell, Joan Baez, The Grateful Dead, Bob Dylan, The Band, Big Brother and the Holding Company, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Crosby Stills and Nash, The Who, Paul Simon, Steppenwolf , The Rascals, Jefferson Airplane and Jimi Hendrix. The music played by these groups at Woodstock reflected the key values of the hippies which was peace, love and freedom. That is why many of the songs played were political protests and commentaries on the Vietnam War, such as Creedence Clearwater’s “Fortunate Son”, Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth”, and Jimi Hendrix's "Purple Haze". Hendrix's performance also included his infamous version of "The Star Spangled Banner" which incorporated innovative amplifier feedback and sustain that ultimately influenced the playing of future guitarists.
Contrary to its name, the festival did not in fact take place in Woodstock New York. As mentioned above, it was held in the small village of Bethel in the Catskills of New York state an hour North of New York City. This was not the original selection of the venue, it had originally been planned to happen in Mills Industrial Park located in the town of Wallkill, New York. However, due to insistent protesting by town residents event co-oridnators Michael Lang and John Roberts were forced to find a new venue at the last minute.The promoters of the festival chose to name it after Woodstock because it was well-known by rock-music fans as the town where Bob Dylan and the Band bought a house called "The Big Pink" and lived there while recording their collaborative album “The Basement Tapes”. This house was also what The Band’s very successful 1968 debut album “Music From Big Pink” was named after since they had written all of the album’s songs there.
Aftermath of WoodstockEdit
Initially the event was a financial disaster due to the minuscule ticket sales resulting in no revenue and leaving Woodstock Ventures over a million and a half in debt after until the release of documentaries on festival and live concert CD's were released. On June 18th, 1970 the movie “Woodstock”, a documentary about the festival, premiered in the village it was named after. In the weeks leading up to the premier, the residents of Woodstock feared that thousands of hippies would arrive to see the film and bombard the little town. They were worried that there would not be enough room in their tiny movie theatre, or even in their small village, to fit all of them. However, only 30 people were turned away from the premier.
This was only the first of many incidents in which the town feared a hippie take-over. Because Woodstock was a symbol of peace, love and the greater mood of the festival, it was natural that in the years following the festival, many hitch-hiking hippies would congregate there. The town was not prepared for these large amounts of drifters trespassing and setting up camps on their properties. The Woodstock Town Board had to have several meetings regarding this issue. At one point they even had to close all the public swimming pools for fear of the hippies swimming naked in them. But what the hippies were trying to express throughout their music and clothing, was the opposite of what was occurring for African Americans, who were struggling to gain a sense of equality.
Woodstock was a turning point for youth culture, by the end of the festival the older generations had come to realize that the festival had not been primarily about political rallies or defying the established order. Instead it was more about connecting with similar minded individuals, sharing ideas, and enjoying a sense of peace and freedom during troubled times.
The Music and Fashion IndustriesEdit
Post-war America was a time of economic growth that saw Americans spending vast amounts of money on consumer goods and services including fashion. Because the American economy was doing so well, consumers didn’t mind spending extra money on more expensive clothing, especially in New York City, which had already been defined as the fashion capital of the United States. By 1950, New York’s fashion industry was already making clothing for most men, women and children in America. During this time New York was also a hub for major fabric companies that were beginning to incorporate new materials, designs and fabrics into everyday fashion. This was also an era of change as many stereotypes in fashion where changing. Due to the war, women in factories were not necessarily looking “prim and proper”. Post-war fashion brought about the idea of everybody, including women, wearing everyday pants and ‘workout’ clothes. Like today, fashion was always evolving and Americans during this time were trying to discover their own style. This however did not stop them from being influenced by some major European designers.Christian Dior boomed after the war; Dior wanted his designs in America, knowing that they would be popular there and started influencing New York City fashion. People were just emerging from a time of neutral coloured uniforms that lack originality and personal flare. Dior wanted the complete opposite of the uniform and focused on colours and body shape. Because of the huge industry in New York, many trends that came over from Europe started in New York and made their way westward. In New York during this time, one would see women wearing clothes that emphasized their waist, shoulders and bust. Dior wanted to embrace the woman’s body and compared it to a flower. New York was a place of fashion during the postwar era that influenced many designers and manufacturers in Europe to produce the “ready to wear” look on an affordable budget. This was a direction that New York fashion houses had already taken, to get away from the neutral and shapeless uniforms that men and women had to wear during the war. Men and women of all ages embraced the new trends for their style, colour and comfort.
Music during this time related back to political and social issues that were going on in the United States. Many songs were inspired by the civil rights movement at the time and actually sparked greater interest in the matter once notable performers began speaking about the issues. New York played a key role in promoting aspiring artist such as Bob Dylan, who travelled there when he was first starting out. Although American acts at the time had to compete with the British invasion (most notably The Beatles and The Rolling Stones) they were still well respected in the music industry. New York is famous for housing performers in their notorious Greenwich Village. Greenwich village was a place for all music types to come together and create something new. It is known that in “the Village” country, blues, folk and rock and roll artists would all come together to support each other’s music.
Musical Theatre had been a staple in New York long before the post-war era. The Economist stated that musical theatre in New York hit it big during the war, when they used music and screenplay to send out war related messages. Hits like “Oklahoma!” were shown during these years, and are still influential to the music and musical theatre industry today. Not only was New York a place of music and musical theatre, but it was also a business capital. People wanting to make a living by performing knew that New York was the place to be.The high pace and glamorous life style of New Yorkers has always had an appeal to the public. New York has created many pop culture moguls that have influence the entire world.
The Ed Sullivan ShowEdit
The Ed Sullivan Show, filmed in New York City, was the quintessential television program in the 1960s for singers, rock bands, and other rising stars of the day. Every Sunday night Americans all over the country would gather with friends and family to watch the musical performances at the end of Ed Sullivan's variety show. It was the best way for one to see their favourite artists perform live right in the comfort of one's own living room. The artists of the British invasion had their first performances in America on Sullivan's stage, playing their biggest hits. The Beatles were the first of these groups, who came in 1964 and played on Ed Sullivan's program to the screaming teenage fans all over the country. Following The Beatles was The Rolling Stones with their hit "Satisfaction`, The Turtles with "Happy Together", Herman's Hermit's "Mrs Brown" and later, in the psychedelic period of the sixties, Tommy James and the Shondells debuted their biggest hit of the day, "Crimson and Clover". Those who played on Ed Sullivan's stage were seen as the best and most popular acts of the time. It is no surprise that all artists from The Mamas and the Papas to The Beach Boys to the Doors had their most memorable and career-making performances on this variety show. This was all possible due to the rising popularity and affordability of the television set. By 1954, 55.7% of Americans owned a television and that number sky rocketed by 1962, when over 90% of american households owned a television.
Other Notable television programs to be filmed in the city of New York include I Love Lucy(1951), The Dick Van Dyke Show(1961), The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Carson(1962) and Bewitched(1964).
Sport and SocietyEdit
Post- war New York found entertainment in sports, from the time the Second World War ended up to the 1970s. New York added many professional sports teams to their state including the Mets (Baseball), the Knicks and the Nets (Basketball) and the Jets (Football). The addition of these professional sports teams meant more entertainment for New Yorkers and more pride in their teams, especially since there was multiple teams for each sport.
Baseball, in particular had 16 teams starting in 1901 and the additions of new teams was very important to the league. The addition of the New York Mets along with others came in 1961-62 and brought about new excitement for the entire city to watch. The Mets sold out game after game yet lost many games and earned themselves the title of the “Loveable Losers”. However, they had big names in order to sell seats despite losing. They used profits to fund their minor league teams in order to make their future Mets team better. Having developed a large fan base when unsuccessful, allowed the team to give back to their fans in the years to follow. The Mets won a championship which put real faith in the expansion of Major League Baseball as well as giving a confidence boost for New York sports fans. Along with the expansion of the league, came an expansion of players.
The league needed players to fill the spots on these new teams and then to fill the spots of the minors to which these players came from. When new players started to come up from the minors to the major league, African American players got their chance to play in the minor leagues. Often unwelcome, the African American and Latino players were often unable to stay in certain hotels and eat at restaurants with the rest of the team. On April 15, 1947 baseball, and sports entertainment in general, saw a change when the Brooklyn Dodgers played first baseman Jackie Robinson, the first African American to play in major league sports. Jackie Robison served in the Second World War from 1942-44, and upon returning to America played in Negro baseball leagues. After successful seasons in the lower leagues he was called up to the minors and continued to amaze people with his talent. The Brooklyn Dodgers gave him the chance he deserved. Jackie won rookie of the year in 1947, MVP in 1949 and was inducted into the hall of fame in 1962. Robinson's success in the major league was a huge breakthrough for African Americans in Baseball. It gave the opportunity for many African Americans to follow his path and play in Major League Baseball.
Baseball in Post-War New York was nothing short of exciting. With the end of WWII and the beginning of a new age, baseball was at the peak of many people’s interests. However, the excitement did not come without headache for those in charge and changing demographics and an unknown political landscape provided challenges for Major League Baseball. There were also threats of a third league being introduced in New York state called the Continental League, this came in response to the loss of the New York Giants and the Brooklyn Dodgers to the state of California in the late 1950’s.
Politics of New York State were dysfunctional after the war and with changes demography, many attractions became unpopular. The beginning of the franchise move for the Dodgers and the Mets came as a result of the dip in attendance of baseball games. The fault lies specifically with suburbanization and Western expansion as the majority of New Yorkers at the time held low-paying and low-skilled jobs whilst living in poor housing. Government subsidized housing was only just beginning at this crucial stage of growth for the United States and it could not of came sooner. Without government housing, all the low-paid workers looked to the west for much cheaper land and higher wages. Moreover, 1.2 million new immigrants arrived to the states every year, bringing with them a sense of goals and ideals that landed them in the suburbs, away from the industrialized state of New York. As a result of all these demographic changes, attendance in baseball dropped by 6 million from 1949-1952.
With cheaper land becoming available in the West, many people moved from New York to the Western United States. This caused a rift in professional baseball as New York held three teams before the demographic shift to the West. The automobile revolution also played a significant role in the shift as car sales increased 133 percent after the war. Citizens could now travel more than ever before and hunted for cheaper land and better paying-work. These demographic changes caused the owners of the New York Giants and the Brooklyn Dodgers to figure out a plan to move their clubs to the West. Once their plan took form and the clubs were moved, the state of New York responded with drafting a plan to create a new league with interests all over the East Coast, including Toronto. The threat caused Major League Baseball to make important decisions to save the league.
Talks of the move of franchise to the West coast did not come until Walter O’Malley, the owner of the Dodgers, was refused any attempts and getting a new stadium for the team. He proceeded to get the Giants to also move as a result. Doing so would create a west coast rivalry and hopefully spark interest in baseball and up the attendance. Not only did the move create new fan bases on the West Coast, but it also shook the relations between the government of New York and its professional sports franchises. Not only was O’Malley a factor but the stadium that the dodgers played in also was a large contributor to the move. The dodgers stadium called Ebbet’s Field was far from any highway and, with automobiles becoming increasingly popular, did not provide adequate means for fans to arrive at the stadium. Therefore O’Malley had to focus on his business nature and not let the dodgers wilt away at Ebbet’s Field.
The MLB drafted up new documents allowing clubs to move based upon a serious of rules basically ensuring that the moving club would do so only after all factors were considered and their negotiations were done at the discretion of the affiliated parties. Once these moves took place, more shifts occurred in the relationship that the state had with their sports teams. The threat to create the CL came with much financial backing from the government of New York State willing to create taxpayer-funded stadiums. The promise to build new stadiums marked the start of a changing relationship between professional team sports and post-Second World War US cities. Part of the cause being the slump in attendance of the MLB which came as a result of a growing population and newer attractions that citizens could now reach with their automobiles.
Franchise relocation was unpopular amongst almost everybody as cities lost their favoured teams. However, the Continental League was created in response to this unhappiness and although it did not field a single team, the threat to form it did prove instrumental in facilitating the expansion process.
In a Post- war society, sports had a major impact not only for entertainment purposes but also for culture. Joe Namath played for the New York Jets in the third Super Bowl. Namath, a troubled white youth, who many Americans disliked, often received hateful letters calling him a “Draft Dodger”, claiming he used a exaggerated knee injury to avoid going to war. Namath’s reputation was to have fun, party and rebel, although many did not like his attitude towards the game. Just before Super Bowl three, Namath told the media "we’re going to win Sunday. I guarantee it”. This did not do well for his image as many saw this as boasting. Although his prediction was ignored due to the statistics that showed the Jets should have lost, Namath carried his team to victory. He changed the game of football from a typically conservative sport, into one which could find a balance between work and leisure. Thus, the culture of football and sport began to change into "America's Game".
The sport of Hockey from 1942-1967 was a period of dynasties. The original six teams, consisting of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Boston Bruins, Montreal Canadiens, Chicago Black Hawks, Detroit Red Wings, and the New York Rangers who played out of historic Madison Square Gardens. The New York rangers became the first American hockey team to win the Stanley Cup in 1927, and would proceed to win the championship three more times. The Rangers struggled during the era of the original six, making the playoffs only twice from 1943 to 1955. The New York Rangers had many notable players that played during this era such as the likes of Buddy O'Connor who became the first Ranger to win the Hart Trophy as NHL MVP and rookie goaltender Chuck Rayner who won it again in 1950. New York Rangers games were very popular to attend during the 1950's, attracting many people including sports figures, Broadway entertainers, politicians, and the wealthy business class.
Civil Rights ReformEdit
The African-American Civil Rights movement was a social uprising that exploited racial segregation and discrimination against African-Americans. The roots of the African-American Civil Rights movement trace back to the 19th Century with the Emancipation Proclamation, which proclaimed the freedom of slaves. Although slavery was abolished, African-Americans were still being segregated, oppressed and subjected to discrimination one hundred years later. This lack of full-citizenship rights for African-Americans gave rise to the many prominent leaders of the Civil Rights era. The movement was ultimately carried out by civil resistance and non-violent protest, which became the driving force for change. The ultimate means of the movement was to put an end to segregation, discrimination and the minor indifferences between Blacks and Whites. By the end of the movement, African-Americans had gained voting rights under the American Constitution and were provided better educational, social and economic opportunities.
Beginning around late 1940’s and early 1950’s, the civil rights reform began to reach a tipping point. The American South received much attention for their civil rights activism, but there was a lot going on in the Northern parts of the United States as well, especially in New York, which had the largest black population in the country, which did not gain much attention.
After World War II, New York still had many social issues to deal with, especially with regards to the ongoing civil rights movement. In New York, like many other states, African Americans were denied basic social rights, of which include; using the same washrooms as whites, riding anywhere they please on the bus and even going to un-segregated schools. The first big break through for equal rights for African Americans occurred in 1947 when Jackie Robinson broke Major League Baseball’s colour barrier by playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers. This gave African Americans some hope that one day they will all be looked at as equals. This also brought New York to the forefront of the civil rights movement in the north, and for the next twenty years, New York was the home of northern civil rights activism. Throughout the 1950’s, African Americans continued to fight for their civil rights in New York with the help of some very important figures such as New Jersey born singer and actor Paul Robeson and Nation Of Islam activist Malcolm X. African Americans were persistent in desegregating New York, as they pushed opened the doors of public hotels, restaurants, swimming pools and nightclubs in Brooklyn and Manhattan.
Activism and ResistanceEdit
While the 1950’s brought notice to civil rights reform in New York, the 1960’s offered the most radical form of activism of the movement. On February 3rd of 1964, the largest civil rights boycott of the era took place in New York City when 465,000 children stayed home from school to protest the racial segregation. Bayard Rustin, who was a civil rights, peace and gay activist, was the main organizer of the school boycott. Rustin and his partners organized the biggest boycott of the time and fuelled an offensive rising for the rest of the northern states, leading to a much more tense situation in New York.
After the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the attention turned from the need for civil rights to accommodating the issues of inequality and economic opportunity. These issues led to the growth of Black Nationalism and the formation of the Nation of Islam where leaders such as Malcolm X would promote violence against whites. This prompted many riots and rebellions in the later half of the 1960s.
This tension exploded in July of the same year when a riot broke out in Harlem, the riot was caused by the killing of a young black male named James Powell by police officer Thomas Gilligan, who claimed that Powell attacked him with a knife. The incident enraged fellow students and led to riots in Harlem two days later, following three days of rioting in Manhattan and Brooklyn, one person was dead, 141 were injured and 519 were arrested. After these riots, the movement began to turn away from a non- violent approach and African Americans were no longer going to turn the other cheek, as many felt the reforms were insufficient in results and that liberation must be taken not gained.
Malcolm X was a major leader and inspiration for many African Americans across the United States and was one of the main activists of this violent approach to the civil rights movement. While Malcolm X’s activism ranged all across America, his unfortunate assassination occurred in New York. Malcolm X was murdered on February 21st, 1965 while giving a speech for the Organization of African American Unity at Manhattan’s Audubon Ballroom. He ironically was murdered by the very group he belonged too, the Nation of Islam. Three of its members shot Malcolm X twenty one times, and he died later that afternoon. America mourned his death, and inside the Audubon Ballroom there is a museum commemorating the day he was assassinated and his vast contributions to the civil rights movement.
The civil rights reform began to slow down in the 1970’s, as the Cold War began to reach a high priority level for the government. But those twenty years in New York following World War II had many important people and events that contributed to the Civil Rights Reform. This Civil Rights Reform can also account for the state of the African American population and their relation with "ghettos" throughout New York. Although the movement solved many of the civil rights issues, racial discrimination and personal social relations and behavior remained largely the same in American society.
Post-War Demobilization and "Ghettos": The State of the African-American population of New York City 1945-1968Edit
City of OpportunityEdit
New York City was one of many “Rust Belt” cities throughout the United States which featured high volumes of manufacturing, for example steel and automobiles. New York’s role in this industrial culture made it a desirable city to seek work in. The various ethnic demographics of New York City set the stage for large social divisions, particularly between that of the Whites and the African-Americans. The diversification came through an expansion of the African-American population to that of the largest in the United States. White citizens of various regions of New York would displace themselves from neighbourhoods that were taking on more and more African American migrants in order to take part in the increasing amount of sub-urbanization that was taking place concurrently to the Urban Crisis in question. This movement by the white population would be known as the “white flight”. The social division was apparent in part due to the presence of segregated neighbourhoods that appeared as the white flight took effect, also known as “ghettos”. These areas were scenes of poverty and this led to greater volumes of crime as well as incarceration within predominantly African American populations.
Though African Americans flocked towards New York City seeking employment, the demobilization of industry due to periods of peace took away many of the jobs that they coveted. Factories relocating to outside of the city center also hurt job prospects for African Americans, as they had settled in poor neighbourhoods that had little in the way of transportation infrastructure (subways, buses, expressways). As the volume of migrants continued to increase and the places of their origins began to diversify (there were not only migrants from southern states, but also countries in the West Indies), different regions were designated to be the home for the diversifying African-American population. Harlem would become the most prominent African-American community in New York after the war. Even before the Second World War, let alone the post-war years, the African population tripled from 1920 to 1930, resulting in a population of nearly two hundred and forty thousand people in Harlem alone. Growth was also steady after the war in different regions such as Queens, Bronx, and Manhattan.
The State of GhettosEdit
Throughout various ghettos, the standard of living was often the same, with sanitation, fire and health standards being very low. Racial discrimination was present in the fact that higher rent was charged to tenants of these ghettos simply because of the colour of their skin. Post-war, federal programs were introduced to provide social relief in the form of better housing for African-Americans, but the population of various slums were often just consolidated, with few exceptions. African Americans found employment during the Second World War and they were added onto the present wartime workforce to augment the war effort. But when war production stopped, lack of production as well as discrimination led to thousands of African-American workers being subjected to the trending notion of ‘last hired, first fired’. African-Americans who managed to keep their positions in the blue collar work place still found themselves excluded in other aspects, such as skilled crafts in the expanding public works sector, training programs and even unions. As these trends continued, by the 1960's the median family income was lower than the national median that was $5,600 per year.
Crime became part of the urban crisis as segregation and poverty remained constant throughout the overcrowded ghetto society of the African Americans. A factor in this is the building of more correctional facilities, forcing prosecutors and judges to meet quotas in order to fill these institutions. The notion of the ‘American Dream’ became more prominent in the Post-war era, but this idea of material and financial wealth was not easily attained by African-American citizens in New York due to the disadvantages previously discussed. In their own bid to attain such wealth, African-American new Yorker's would frequently find themselves turning to crime and delinquency. This trend can account for a rise in crime in New York City of 23.8 percent from 1958 to 1962.
Post World War II brought many changes to the state of New York. One of which was the move to the suburbs. New York City had always been one of the most densely populated cities in the United States but in the period of 1946-1968, the city’s population began to expand outwards in a phenomenon referred to as 'suburbanization'. Suburbs of the city of New York began as commuter neighbourhoods as far back as the 1800s. The idea was to live outside the city and travel into it via a short commute by train or car. It was not until the early 1950s, when families were once again expanding after periods of war and depression, that suburbanization exploded.
A variety of factors influenced the suburbanization of New York State in this the postwar period. Some of these factors fall into the category of social factors. For the average man or family living in New York City in the late 1940s, privacy, spacious homes or even land was an unrealistic dream. Professionals who wanted family homes in clean and healthy neighbourhoods moved outside of the city to counties like Westchester and Nassau. In these counties, land was plenty, homes were abundant and there was a community feeling much unlike anything available in New York City. Another social factor leading to suburbanization was the influx of returning war veterans. The federal government, as well as many others in society, felt that returning veterans should own their own home. These ideas led to many suburban developments including Levittown, New York, one of the first. In addition to the growing idea of suburbs, the advancement of the automobile played a large part in suburbanization. Vehicles allowed people to live farther from their work and thus helped the movement into the suburbs.
While the need and desire for suburbs was clear by the late 1940s, making it happen financially was also vital. Suburbanization in New York State in the early 1950s was possible due to the federal government partnering with private real estate developers as well as the GI bill. The GI Bill of 1944 greatly benefit returning soldiers because it allowed them to purchase goods such as houses and cars using cheap loans provided to them by the government. The benefits of the GI Bill was that it allowed veterans to purchase housing throughout Long Island, New York as well as Buffalo. Suburban home prices were cheap and down payments were rarely required making it appealing to middle class families in addition to young veterans. The federal government provided many New York State real estate developers with funding for sewage in these new suburbs as well as such things as police services. In addition, the federal government underwrote home ownership through mortgage insurance. Loans for new homes were also much easier to obtain than loans for home renovations. Other factors included property tax deductions in the suburbs and lower interest rates on suburban home mortgages.
A Closer Look: LevittownEdit
Located in Nassau County, on Long Island, Levittown is 25 miles east of Manhattan. With the heavy infrastructure development in the decades earlier, it was an ideal location for a commuter town of middle class families. Though not the first suburban community built in the United States, Levittown, New York is unanimously considered to be the most well-known and first planned suburban community. Levittown was not just a grouping of homes, it was a revolution in living for American families; it was a community with access to education, recreation and employment. Levittown, similar to other suburban communities of the period, allowed the American dream to be an affordable reality. While there is no doubt Levittown was a success — 17,000 homes were sold in only 4 years — there was a lot of doubt in its early stages. Many feared it would turn into a slum and/or its residents would lack individuality. There was also a fear by the upper class Long Island residents that suburbia would lower Long Island’s prestige. However, by 1957, not only were these predictions incorrect, the opposite was true: the suburb continued to grow, home prices continued to rise and suburbia was an essential part of the American dream.
While suburbanization in New York State, specifically focused around New York City, began as a response to social desires, it had an impact on culture and American society as a whole. Many cultural norms of today stem from this period and suburbanization is a significant factor. For example, the stereotype of white, middle class suburbia has a direct link to the post WWII time period as the early residents of Levittown were very homogeneous.