DiscoverFrom Boomers to Millennials: A Modern US History Podcast
From Boomers to Millennials: A Modern US History Podcast
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From Boomers to Millennials: A Modern US History Podcast

Author: Logan Rogers

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A modern U.S. history podcast about the events that spanned the Baby Boomer generation’s lifespan & that are still relevant to people today, especially to Millennials. Unlike some history podcasts, this podcast follows the national story in a chronological manner, starting in 1946. Most episodes are around a half-hour to 45 minutes in length. Each episode covers one year, possibly going all the way up to the present.
22 Episodes
After a brief reflection on troubling recent events in the USA, this episode looks back at a seemingly simpler time - Dwight D. Eisenhower's second term as President. By the late 1950s, Cold War pressures led the US government to build major defense & infrastructure projects, to invest heavily in education & scientific research, & to undertake modest steps in the direction of greater racial equality.  The Interstate Highway Act of 1956 was a public works program that created jobs & democratized interstate travel, while displacing some unfortunate urban residents. The USSR's launch of the Sputnik satellites in 1957 led the US to invest in science via the National Defense Education Act (NDEA), & motivated the creation of the National Aeronautics & Space Administration (NASA). New defense spending spurred further southwestern migration, & this population shift enabled the Dodgers & Giants franchises of Major League Baseball to relocate to the West Coast. In 1957, a new civil rights act passed the United States Senate for the first time in nearly a century. However, the biggest racial justice milestone of the year occurred in Little Rock, Arkansas, where 9 black students courageously faced down jeering protesters & bullying classmates to integrate Central High School. Arkansas's segregationist governor, Orval Faubus, tried to prevent the Little Rock 9 from attending their classes, but when a reluctant President Eisenhower finally decided to send in federal troops to protect these African-American students, racist politicians & vigilantes backed off of their most blatant intimidation tactics.Support the show (
The key events of 1956 include a civil rights milestone, a presidential election, & an international crisis. The 1955 lynching of black teenager Emmett Till in Mississippi was just one manifestation of Southern resistance to the challenge to white supremacy posed by desegregation. More organized defenses of Jim Crow also formed, ranging from the plebeian (Ku Klux Klan) to the patrician (White Citizens' Councils; US Senate Southern Manifesto) social sphere. Nevertheless, during 1956, African-American activists including Rosa Parks & Martin Luther King Jr. defied the racist establishment with a successful boycott of the segregated bus system in Montgomery, Alabama. Meanwhile, Republican President Dwight Eisenhower cruised to an easy victory over Democratic retread candidate Adlai Stevenson in November '56. In Eastern Europe, new Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev ruthlessly crushed a popular rebellion against Communism in Hungary. Further south, Egypt's nationalist dictator Gamal Abdel Nasser was more successful in his revolt against the vestiges of British colonialism in '56. Nasser seized the Suez Canal, and was able to parry British, French, & Israeli efforts to recover it. Strangely, the Soviets & the Americans would find themselves on the same side in an effort to resolve this crisis in the Middle East.Support the show (
The year 1955 was chock-full of events of economic, social, medical, & cultural importance. Perhaps the year's biggest story was Dr. Jonas Salk's development of a successful vaccine to prevent the terrifying childhood disease known as polio. The economy remained strong, overcoming a scare from Pres. Eisenhower's heart attack. The AFL-CIO merger marked a landmark in labor history. Commercial enterprises like McDonald's debuted that took advantage of the growing car culture. The Baby Boom creating a new market for family entertainment, as evidenced by the success of a new Southern California theme park known as Disneyland. Further Soviet nuclear advances led schools to require Boomer children to hide under their desks in "duck-and-cover" drills. Rock & roll reached new heights of popularity as part of a growing youth culture. Adults became increasingly fearful of "juvenile delinquency," triggered by movies about street gangs, violent comic books, & rebellious film stars such as James Dean (who tragically died in '55). Westerns & quiz shows dominated the growing medium of television. Women's social roles & fashion choices remained highly limited amidst the gender conservatism of Fifties culture. Popular religious fervor encouraged some government officials to blur the lines between church & state. Some communities remained outside the growing prosperity, including poor whites in Appalachia, Latinos in the Southwest, & African-Americans in both the rural South & urban North. The brutal murder of black teenager Emmett Till sparked a new wave of civil rights activism, leading Rosa Parks & Martin Luther King to take leadership roles in the rising Montgomery Bus Boycott.Support the show (
To help listeners understand the origins of the social unrest of May & June 2020, we created this special supplemental episode that provides historical background & context for turbulent current events. The large turnout & enthusiasm for the current Black Lives Matter protests occurred because of social developments that have been festering for decades: growing police militarization, continuing racial inequities, failing US health care preparation for a pandemic, escalating economic inequality, & media-driven political polarization. In addition to discussing the long-term & short-term causes of the protest movement, this episode discusses conflicts between protesters, counter-protesters, & law enforcement, and examines the public perceptions of these demonstrations. The program concludes with informed speculations about the movement's likely impact on the future of American politics & society.Support the show (
This week’s episode considers the fate of social reform movements during the Cold War Era, giving an overview of long-term cultural trajectories. The Red Scare of the early Cold War years cast reformers who challenged existing institutions as potential subversives. After World War II, US society valued traditional gender roles; the “happy American housewife” was regarded as freer than the Soviet woman who was required to work. Southern politicians attacked black civil rights activists as Communistic agitators. However, reformers eventually found success by learning to work within an anti-Communist “liberal consensus.” Even conservative politicians like Nixon became persuaded that the US had to reduce racial discrimination in order to improve capitalism’s image among non-white nations during the Cold War. The social changes of the 1960s opened up new career & lifestyle choices for women. Federal “Great Society” programs attempted to reduce poverty during the 1960s, but in subsequent decades, advocates of progressive economic reform had little success. A New Left called for liberation of marginalized groups & cultural transformation, in contrast to the Old Left’s focus upon economic class struggle. By the late 1970s, social changes sparked conservative backlash & motivated New Right activists. During the last decade of the Cold War, major political changes came to an end, even as American culture evolved toward greater acceptance of diverse populations.Support the show (
This wide-ranging & globe-trotting episode begins with a brief look at the successful 1953 expedition to summit Mount Everest, then pivots to some less inspiring international intrigue, as Cold War fears led the USA to meddle in the internal politics of Iran, Guatemala, & Vietnam, among other nations. John Foster Dulles's leadership of the State Department & his brother Allen Dulles's direction of the Central Intelligence Agency pushed forward a newly aggressive approach in US foreign policy, tossing aside the relatively cautious "containment" doctrine of the Truman Administration. American efforts at winning international hearts & minds ranged from persuasion (in the case of Voice of America, Radio Free Europe, & the Congress for Cultural Freedom) to regime change (removing Iranian & Guatemalan leaders) & even outright mind control (in the case of Project MK-Ultra). In domestic politics, Senator Joe McCarthy (& his sidekick Roy Cohn) would finally fall from prominence after unsuccessfully targeting the US Army. President Dwight Eisenhower approved an expansion of existing New Deal economic assistance agencies in the mid-50s, but avoided creating new social programs. Finally, in the 1954 Congressional elections, Democrats regained control of the federal legislative branch, which surprisingly eased political headaches for Republican President Eisenhower, who'd been clashing with GOP conservatives over his moderate agenda.Support the show (
Throughout US history, many Americans have been reluctant to get involved in international affairs, hoping to avoid the wars & problems of the Old World. After the Pearl Harbor attacks brought the USA into World War II, the isolationist mentality quickly changed, & the Americans co-founded & joined the United Nations to preserve world peace after the war. But isolationist sentiments soon re-emerged in the form of suspicion of the UN, particularly among Midwestern politicians like Ohio Republican John Bricker. Senator Bricker proposed a constitutional amendment designed to limit the power of international treaties & reduce the president's power to make executive agreements. It looked like the proposed Bricker bill would easily pass until President Dwight Eisenhower came out against it. Instead, the fate of this anti-internationalist amendment would depend upon the single vote of an (allegedly) drunken US Senator during February 1954. This episode concludes with a discussion of the lasting legacy of the Bricker Amendment, which involves a pervasive American suspicion of UN human rights treaties & other international agreements.Support the show (
In '53, the new US President, Dwight D. Eisenhower, managed to reach his goal of resolving the Korean War, thanks in part to a leadership change in the Soviet Union. However, with both superpowers successfully testing massively destructive hydrogen bombs, the Cold War still presented serious dangers. Meanwhile, Ike's own Republican Party was soon creating headaches for him in Congress. Sen. Joseph McCarthy insisted on continuing his accusations against federal employees in the Eisenhower Administration, & Sen. John Bricker created an amendment that would reduce the president's power to make diplomatic agreements with foreign nations. The president defied this pressure from the Right, tacking to the Center by picking moderate Governor Earl Warren of California as the new Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. But Eisenhower was surprised when Warren took the court in a more liberal direction than he had expected. Warren engineered a unanimous decision by the US Supreme Court to declare racial segregation unconstitutional. The story of Brown v. Board of Education, one of the most famous court cases in US history, also features a crusading civil rights lawyer named Thurgood Marshall, a repentant ex-Klansman named Hugo Black, & a reluctant Justice Robert Jackson, who helped broker the compromise that decided the case. However, there was a nasty backlash by supporters of the Jim Crow system in the aftermath of the Brown decision. The mid-20th Century battle for integration & civil rights in the USA was far from over - it was actually just beginning.Support the show (
In March 1953, Soviet dictator Josef Stalin died of a stroke after several decades as the dominant figure in the USSR. American leaders, who had struggled to negotiate with the paranoid & merciless Stalin, responded by becoming hopeful but apprehensive, given the now-uncertain future of their chief Cold War opponent. Stalin's demise led rival high-ranking officials within the communist state to engage in a competition for leadership of the Soviet government. These figures included the bland Georgi Malenkov, the blunt Nikita Khrushchev, the disciplined Gen. Georgy Zhukov, & the predatory Laventry Beria. Eventually, dark horse Khrushchev would surprise the world by winning this power struggle, overcoming the diabolical Beria & his secret police. Khrushchev then broke with international Communist orthodoxy by publicly criticizing Stalin & his legacy of totalitarianism & terror. Nevertheless, the USSR would remain an autocratic & illiberal society, & Khrushchev's aggressive leadership would eventually cause major challenges for US foreign policy during the 1960s.Support the show (
President Harry Truman couldn't seem to catch a break during his final year in office. His attempts to bring an end to the Korean War were going nowhere, and his government was embarrassed by corruption scandals that hurt his administration's image. Truman didn't improve matters when he took drastic measures to break up a steel strike that threatened the war effort. He took the constitutionally dubious approach of having the federal government temporarily take over the steel factories. A couple months later, the US Supreme Court ruled that the president did not have the power to take such heavy-handed action without Congressional approval. Meanwhile, the Republican primary contest pitted veteran conservative Senator Robert Taft of Ohio against the relatively moderate General Dwight D. Eisenhower of Kansas. Eisenhower's popularity as a WWII hero helped him win the contest, but he had to choose the more right-wing Richard Nixon as a running-mate & make nice with Joe McCarthy in order to appease the party's conservative faction. Ike's moderate economic & foreign policy views nevertheless helped him prevail over erudite "egghead" Gov. Adlai Stevenson of Illinois in the general election. The episode concludes with a preview of the Eisenhower Administration's approach to maintaining the image of a placid & prosperous USA during the 1950s.Support the show (
In the late 1940s, a middle-aged Egyptian writer & civil servant named Sayyid Qutb went to study in the United States. He had recently established himself as a critic of the Egyptian government, & was traveling abroad in part to escape a potential crackdown on political dissidents by Egypt's monarchy. However, Qutb soon found that he loathed American society even more than he disliked the Egyptian status quo. He found New York, Washington DC, & California to be dens of iniquity. He even regarded a conservative small town in Colorado that he lived in for several months to be a hotbed of materialism, racism, sexual permissiveness, & spiritual emptiness. He also condemned US foreign policy as having a pro-Israel, anti-Muslim bias. Qutb returned to Egypt in 1950 with more radical views than ever, & he soon published a written account filled with his negative observations about American society. He then joined the Muslim Brotherhood movement that sought a revolution in Egypt. A revolution arrived, but it was led by the military leader Gamal Abdul Nasser, who soon established a regime that prioritized Arab-nationalist ideology & socialist economics over Qutb's preference for reviving a more fundamentalistic version of Islam. The Muslim Brothers tried to assassinate Nasser, but failed. As a result, Qutb became one of many Islamist radicals who were tortured & eventually executed by Nasser's regime. However, Qutb's writings from prison would live on after his death. They inspired Al-Qaeda leaders Osama Bin Laden & Ayman Al-Zawahiri to wage "holy war" against secular Middle Eastern governments, & would eventually help to inspire the 9/11 terrorist attacks against the United States.Support the show (
The Korean War reached a key turning point when President Harry Truman removed General Douglas MacArthur as the conflict's top strategic commander. MacArthur provoked the decision with his statements and actions that undermined the Truman Administration's military policies. Nevertheless, the American public was outraged that an unpopular small-town politician like Truman could end the career of a revered war hero like MacArthur. Congress considered impeachment for a time, but it backed down when top military & diplomatic officials consistently testified that the president's decision had been proper & well-justified. The legislative branch limited presidential power in 1951 by pushing through the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution, which limited chief executives to 2 elected terms. Accusations that new government programs were "socialistic" nixed political reforms. American society shifted in a more devout direction due to a growing revival of religious participation, and American culture increasingly reflected the public's fears during the Cold War. Artists faced tough decisions about whether they should criticize anti-Communist fervor or go along with it. The episode concludes with a preview of the political changes that will open up a new chapter of the Cold War during the 50s.Support the show (
This episode investigates the intergenerational argument over the phrase "OK Boomer" that has been spreading on social media during late 2019. Is it a well-justified Millennial pushback against bossy, out-of-touch Boomers? Or is it just an excuse for younger generations to be dismissive of older people? We examine the evidence & reach a nuanced verdict. Then, we map out a whirlwind overview of the period between 1946 & 1950, including such topics as: the rise of the imperial presidency; the strange unpopularity of Pres. Harry Truman; the decline of third-party movements during the 2nd half of the 20th Century; the ascendant Republican challenge to the Democrats' New Deal Coalition in Congress; the ways in which increased economic prosperity was transforming the daily lives of Americans; the racial divides of the era between blacks, whites, Hispanics, & Asian Americans; the rise & fall of women in the workplace from the 20s to the 50s; the stigmatization of outsiders during this conformist & socially conservative era; the impact of the Red Scare on the arts; and the cultural debate surrounding the proliferation of nuclear weapons among the superpowers. Enjoy this rich, flavorful stew of historical content!Support the show (
Cold War tensions finally boiled over into a heated military conflict during the Summer of 1950, when Soviet-allied North Korea invaded US-allied South Korea. In response, President Truman called General Douglas MacArthur away from his role administering the American occupation of Japan in order to fight the Communists on the Korean Peninsula. MacArthur's bold military strategies allowed the Americans to recapture South Korea for capitalism, but the general underestimated the danger of occupying North Korea in his attempts to totally defeat the Korean communist movement. Back on the homefront, labor leader Walter Reuther negotiated the "Treaty of Detroit" between the United Auto Workers union & the General Motors car company, which helped bring more Americans into the middle class. The Red Scare continued to loom large over domestic politics, as Senator Joe McCarthy accused many Americans of having Communist sympathies, & Senator Patrick McCarran attempted to limit the liberties of subversives. The year's wild finish included an assassination attempt, a dirty election campaign, a president sending threats to a music critic, & a Chinese intervention in Korea that created great suffering for US troops & South Korean civilians (and which created major headaches for American generals & politicians).Support the show (
This supplemental episode examines the post-World War II trials in Nuremberg, Germany, during 1946, where US Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson led the prosecution against prominent Nazi leaders such as Hermann Goering & Albert Speer. Some of the USA’s WWII allies had recommended executing or imprisoning these infamous figures without trial, but the Americans believed that it was important for them to get a fair trial that would publicly prove their guilt & expose their crimes. Dozens of high-ranking Nazi officials were charged with & convicted of waging aggressive war, violating laws of war, & engaging in atrocities against civilians (including the Holocaust). This podcast also gives an overview of the similar war crimes trials held in Tokyo that tried the Imperial Japanese military leaders. It concludes with a discussion of how the US federal government has given fewer legal rights to enemy suspects (such as suspected terrorists) during the 2000s than it did for Axis leaders during the 1940s.Support the show (
In 1949, a re-elected Pres. Harry Truman attempted to push through a Fair Deal of domestic reforms, but with little success. Instead, the US government’s attention fixated upon the “Red” threat after a Communist victory in the Chinese Civil War & the Soviet acquisition of the atomic bomb. As a charter member of the new NATO military alliance, the United States committed itself to counter these red gains by crushing Communist influences, both at home & abroad. This show profiles some of the individuals brought under suspicion in the search for “enemies within” that followed, including Alger Hiss, the Rosenbergs, Elizabeth Bentley, Kim Philby, & Klaus Fuchs. It also introduces a young & ruthless anti-Communist politician named Richard M. Nixon. The Red Scare ended up costing many innocent people their jobs based only upon them having previous left-wing political affiliations, & the Lavender Scare resulted in federal employment discrimination against gay & lesbian Americans based upon the dubious notion that they were all somehow “security risks.” The curse of the Cold War was the fear that gripped people throughout the USA, as they came to dread that their neighbor might be a Commie traitor, that their co-worker could get them fired by smearing them as a Red, & that a nuclearized World War III may be just around the corner.Support the show (
The late 1940s witnessed the birth of modern suburbia, as economic prosperity & declining inequality combined with newly-generous lending policies allowing millions of Americans to own their own homes for the first time in their lives. American families in an ascendant middle class could now afford cars, which began to transform the residential & commercial landscape of the nation. So-called "white ethnic" immigrant groups experienced more acceptance & assimilation in the suburbs, but suburban developers & residents drew the line at selling homes to African-Americans, & blacks were usually left behind in economically declining inner cities. Many suburban areas of the 40s & 50s began with a tight-knit community spirit (sometimes ridiculed as oppressive & conformist by critics), but over the decades that followed, longer work hours & changing cultural attitudes made the suburbs less neighborly & more individualistic. This episode also examines the recent revival of urban living. It concludes by considering why Millennials now are often giving up on the suburban dream, and it speculates on whether the suburbs are destined to stagnate & decline in the future.Support the show (
In this overview of the key events of 1948, we take a closer look at the unlikely presidency of Harry S Truman. Presidential challengers Republican Thomas Dewey, Progressive Henry Wallace, & Dixiecrat Strom Thurmond collectively wanted to know, "do we defeat Truman?" in the '48 presidential election. Meanwhile, Americans successfully faced down the most serious challenge of the Cold War so far, overcoming a Soviet blockade of Western forces with a massive airlift of supplies into West Berlin. Congress passes the Selective Service Act, requiring all American males to register for a potential military draft. The British departure from Palestine meant that the foundation of the nation of Israel would be a matter of long-term geopolitical importance & short-term electoral strategy for the US administration. President Truman issued an executive order desegregating the American military. Plus, ailing writer George Orwell completed his final dystopian masterpiece, Nineteen Eighty-Four, offering a lasting warning to the world about the dangers of totalitarian government.Support the show (
Tensions between the US & USSR had been building even during their awkward wartime alliance, but it was in 1947 that the Cold War became a staple feature of the post-WWII American political & diplomatic scene. This episode indulges in a very brief & oversimplified history of the Soviet Union, and then explores what caused the souring of US-Soviet relations and describes the governmental maneuvers that followed (including the founding of the CIA & NSC, passage of the Truman Doctrine's anti-Communist military aid, & the Marshall Plan to rebuild Western Europe). This week's program also discusses the international attempts to stabilize the postwar world via the founding of the United Nations, IMF, & World Bank, plus the US imposition of democracy upon the former Japanese Empire. Domestically, Truman actually goes to bat for Big Labor against the new GOP Congress, but to no avail; Jackie Robinson's stardom shatters the color barrier in professional sports; and pilot Chuck Yeager breaks the sound barrier in a high-tech aircraft (by 1940s standards). We conclude by exploring the moral paradoxes of America's new role of anti-Communist superpower, and the effect of the Cold War on future US political discourse & electoral outcomes.Support the show (
To understand the Baby Boomer generation, one first needs to understand the forces that shaped their parents & their childhoods. This episode examines the generation that experienced the Great Depression & World War II before giving birth to the Boomers. The program describes the impact of U.S. postwar prosperity, suburbanization, the G.I. Bill, and the departure of women from the wartime workforce. The year 1946 also contained often-forgotten tensions and conflicts, including clashes over labor relations and race relations. The 1946 episode concludes by looking at the unstable international situation, including a humanitarian crisis in Europe and ideological tensions that would lead the USA & the Soviet Union to their imminent face-off in the Cold War.Support the show (
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