The American Dream – United States of America Timeline 1915-1988

American Dream - United States of America History

This timeline details the main events in twentieth century United States of America History and is linked to the A-Level topic In Search of the American Dream: The USA c.1917 – 1996


1915 (during)
The United States of America was 126 years old. Its system of government was well established and its policies gave rise to the American Dream. The belief that in America people could realise their dreams. Before the First World War began in 1914, the majority of black people lived in the largely agricultural southern states. After the war began large numbers began to move north where they could find better paid jobs in factories.
1916 (during)
The island of Puerto Rico became a United States possession and the population of the island were given US citizenship. As a result large numbers moved to America, particularly New York.
1916 (5th June)
Alice Paul and Lucy Burns founded the National Women’s Party to campaign for equality for women. They modelled their protests on those of the British suffragettes.
1916 (November)
Democrat Woodrow Wilson was re-elected for a second term as United States President.
1917 (during)
Alice Paul and the National Women’s Party began a series of ‘Silent Sentinel’ vigil protests outside the White House.
1917 (during)
The Original Dixieland Jazz Band had become very popular. Spectator sport also began to become popular as people had more leisure time. The most popular sport was Baseball.
1917 (6th April)
First World War
The United States declared war on Germany entering the First World War. The entry of America into the war boosted morale and helped considerably to the defeat of Germany.
1917 (November)
Revolution led to the installation of a Communist regime in Russia. The notion of Communism, the creation of an American Communist movement and the explosion of bombs planted by Communists led to a ‘Red Scare’ and fear of revolution in the United States. As a result Socialists were expelled from Congress and 32 States passed a law making it illegal to be a member of a syndicalist organisation. Many people were arrested on suspicion of being communists and around 500 foreigners were deported.
1918 (11th November)
First World War
The war ended after the armistice was signed. The United States had lost around 100,000 troops.
1919 (around)
During World War One women had been employed to fill vacant positions resulting from men joining the forces. When the war ended the numbers of working women declined but was still greater than before the war. Additionally more women pursued leisure time activities and followed fashion.
1919 (16th January)
18th Amendment – Prohibition
This amendment brought in a ban on the sale or transport of alcoholic beverages. It would take effect in January 1920.
1919 (June)
Treaty of Versailles
President Wilson had drawn up a plan of Fourteen Points that he believed would prevent further conflict in Europe. His points included the establishment of a League of Nations to prevent acts of aggression by one country on another. However, France and Britain wanted more severe punishments for Germany and failed to adopt most of Wilson’s Points. The League of Nations was established.
1919 (Summer)
American soldiers returned home and wanted jobs. There was widespread resentment of blacks who had jobs and there were riots in many cities.
1919 (September)
President Woodrow Wilson suffered a stroke which left him incapacitated for some time. As a result little changed for the American people which led to dissatisfaction with Wilson’s administration.
1920 (around)
Going to the cinema became a popular choice of leisure entertainment. Silent movies with stars like Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton were popular. Hollywood was becoming known as the key movie centre.
1920 (around)
Jazz and dance music had become very popular and continued to be popular throughout the decade.
1920 (during)
The Census in America showed that more people now lived in towns and cities than in the countryside. Farming and working on the land was being abandoned and people moved to urban areas where there were better paid employment opportunities. However, black people, Mexican and Puerto-Rican immigrants were seriously discriminated against and generally paid very low wages. To combat racial discrimination they chose to live together which led to overcrowded accommodation and the development of ghettos.
1920 (during)
Boxing was legalised as a sport and became very popular, attracting large crowds. The American Professional Association was renamed the National Football League and began staging competitions. However, they found it difficult to compete with the rise in popularity for College Football.
1920 (January)
18th Amendment – Prohibition
This ban on alcohol now came into effect. However, the act merely drove the alcohol trade to the black market. Bootleggers smuggled alcohol from the Caribbean and Mexico while others manufactured alcohol in home-made stills. Speakeasies, illegal saloons and night clubs could be found in every town and city. Trade in illegal alcohol became a focus for gangs and crime rates increased.
1920 (during)
19th Amendment
This amendment giving women the vote was now ratified by the US government. However, it did not have the effect that the National Women’s Party hoped for as few women involved themselves in politics.
1920 (November)
Republican Warren Harding was elected President, defeating the Democrat candidate James Cox. Harding had run on a manifesto of returning America to normality opposed to Cox’s manifesto of joining the League of Nations. Harding decided not to join the League of Nations and instead adopted a policy of American isolationism.
1920 (2nd November)
The Westinghouse Corporation made the first public broadcast in the United States when KDKA radio began a weekly schedule of talk and music shows.
1921 (during)
Emergency Immigration Act
This act restricted immigration to America to 3 percent.
1921 (4th March)
Herbert Hoover was appointed Secretary of Commerce by Harding who was pro big business.
1922 (during)
The American economy entered a period of boom. During the 1920s industrial output doubled. Manufacture of plastics and synthetic materials and the electricity industry did particularly well. The boom continued until the bust of 1929.
1923 (during)
It was revealed that there was widespread corruption in Harding’s administration. Interior minister Albert Fall was imprisoned for fraud and bribery.
1923 (during)
Alice Paul and the Women’s Party tried to further equality for women by introducing an Equal Rights Amendment but it failed to pass Congress.
1923 (2nd August)
President Warren Harding unexpectedly died of a heart attack.
1923 (2nd August)
Popular Republican Vice President Calvin Coolidge took over as President.
1924 (during)
Immigration was reduced from the 1921 limit of 3 percent to 2 percent or 150,000 per year and Asian people were excluded altogether. Large numbers of Mexicans settled in the West and made up around 75 percent of farm labour.
1924 (November)
Republican Calvin Coolidge was elected President of the United States by a large margin over Democrat John Davis.
1924 (during)
President Coolidge maintained a pro big business stance of low taxation and low government expenditure.
1925 (during)
The white supremacist group the Ku Klux Klan which had been re-founded in 1915, became very popular and had around 5 million members.
1927 (6th October)
‘The Jazz Singer’ starring Al Jolson was the first film to feature music and speech.
1927 (November)
Marcus Garvey, founder of the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) and editor of ‘Negro World’ was deported back to Jamaica.
1928 (during)
Calvin Coolidge decided to stand down as President and not seek re-election. Herbert Hoover was nominated as the Republican candidate.
1928 (during)
College football had become increasingly popular. The major universities began constructing stadiums for spectators.
1928 (November)
Republican Herbert Hoover, a very successful businessman, was elected President of the United States, with 58% of the vote, over Democrat candidate Al Smith who was a Catholic and ran on a ticket of ending prohibition.
1929 (29th October)
Wall Street Crash
The value of stocks and shares fell dramatically ending the boom period and resulting in the Great Depression.
1930 (during)
President Hoover tried repeated measures to improve the economic situation in America. He tried to persuade businesses that the effects of the Wall Street Crash would pass and called for them to stop raising prices. Nevertheless people were laid off work with many employers feeling that men should be employed over women.
1930 (during)
There was no system of welfare payments and charities were finding it virtually impossible to support those suffering real hardship as a result of the Great Depression. There were increasing calls for the government to take measures to increase jobs and get people back to work.
1932 (22nd January)
Reconstruction Finance Corporation
Herbert Hoover established this body that lent money to banks, railroads and insurance companies.
1932 (27th February)
Glass-Steagall Act
This act was passed to try to stop deflation of the economy. It’s measures included a provision for loans to be made to banks.
1932 (Summer)
Herbert Hoover had decided to run for a second term in office. The Democrat candidate was Franklin D Roosevelt who promised a New Deal for the American people.
1932 (21st July)
Emergency Relief and Construction Act
Passed by the Hoover administration this was the forerunner of Roosevelt’s New Deal. It allowed for funds to be released for public works across the country. The idea was that this would provide jobs as well as make improvements to infrastructure and public buildings.
1932 (November)
Going into the election President Hoover’s popularity was at an all-time low. Around 12 million Americans were unemployed and people were facing real hardship. Despite the measures that he had put in place people felt that Hoover had not done anything to alleviate their situation and that most of the measures he had introduced relied on others to make them successful. For example farmers reducing production, employers maintaining wage levels and banks offering credit.
1932 (November)
Democrat Franklin D Roosevelt was elected President of the United States.
1932 (December)
In the three years since the Wall Street Crash, Industrial output had fallen by $7 billion to $3 billion and unemployment had risen from 1.5 million to more than 12 million.
1933 (during)
President Roosevelt appointed Frances Perkins as Labor Secretary of State. The appointment was approved of by the National Women’s Party.
1933 (4th March)
New Deal
Roosevelt promised the American people a New Deal, explaining that he would resolve the economic crisis and would get people back to work.
1933 (9th March)
New Deal – Emergency Banking Act
This Act reorganised the banking system and closed banks that were bankrupt. Americans were encouraged to put their savings in the bank.
1933 (12th March)
President Roosevelt made the first of his Fireside Chats. These were evening radio broadcasts to the nation and proved very popular.
1933 (May)
New Deal – Tennessee Valley Authority Act
This Act authorised dams to be built in the Tennessee valley to help prevent flooding and also to produce hydro-electric power.
1933 (May)
New Deal – Commodity Farmers
An act was passed that allowed for a subsidy to be paid to farmers that would leave their fields unplanted. The idea was to boost prices for agricultural products.
1933 (June)
New Deal – National Industrial Recovery Act
This act allowed workers to form unions and bargain with bosses for better wages and working conditions.
1934 (during)
Despite Roosevelt’s New Deal initiatives, the economy showed little sign of recovery.
1934 (26th June)
National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) founder, WEP Du Bois, resigned over disagreements on association strategy with Walter White, leader of the Association.
1935 (during)
Swing jazz had become the dominant form of music.
1935 (April)
Second New Deal – Works Progress Administration
This provided manual jobs for unemployed people building roads and public buildings.
1935 (11th May)
Second New Deal – Rural Electrification Administration
This brought electricity to rural areas.
1935 (July)
Second New Deal – National Labor Relations Act
This act meant that union elections had to be supervised to ensure it was fair. It also stated that workers should be treated fairly.
1935 (August)
Second New Deal – Social Security Act
This act set up a system of unemployment benefits to help the unemployed, dependent children and the disabled.
1935 (August)
First Neutrality Act
This Act prohibited the President from trading in arms with those involved in war and in the face of the rise of Nazi Germany maintained American isolationism.
1936 (February)
Second Neutrality Act
This Act extended the provisions of the First Neutrality Act by prohibited American loans to those involved in war.
1936 (Summer)
Roosevelt was re-nominated as Democrat candidate and ran on a ticket of more reform. His opponent was Republican Alfred Landon who advocated reducing public spending.
1936 (Summer)
Despite Roosevelt’s obvious commitment to reform, his New Deal initiatives did not challenge capitalism nor did they redistribute national income. Furthermore, his New Deal was not really new as it simply echoed measures advocated by Woodrow Wilson and Herbert Hoover. The New Deal did, however, help significant numbers of black Americans to find jobs and the black community tended to see Roosevelt as improving their situation in general.
1936 (November)
Franklin D Roosevelt was elected President of the United States for a second term.
1937 (5th February)
Roosevelt announced that he wanted to reform the Supreme Court by installing up to 15 judges. The Supreme Court had been critical of Roosevelt’s New Deal measures and it was felt that rather than reform the Court, Roosevelt’s real aim was to get it on-side with favourable judges.
1937 (July)
Roosevelt’s Supreme Court reorganisation bill was defeated.
1937 (Summer)
Many Democrat politicians had felt that Roosevelt’s Supreme Court reorganisation bid was a move towards establishing himself as a Dictator and he began to lose the support of his own party.
1937 (Summer)
The economy had begun to recover but as soon as Roosevelt attempted to cut government spending the economy worsened. This left the United States with a budget deficit.
1938 (during)
Roosevelt asked Congress to grant $3.75 billion for poor relief and public works. His request was granted and the economy began to slowly recover.
1939 (25th August)
The musical film ‘The Wizard of Oz’ starring Judy Garland was released. It was immensely popular with cinema goers and is considered one of the best films of all time.
1939 (1st September)
Second World War
War broke out in Europe after Germany invaded Poland.
1939 (15th December)
The historical romantic film ‘Gone with the Wind’ starring Clark Gable, Olivia de Havilland and Vivien Leigh was released. It was set in the American Civil War and beat ‘The Wizard of Oz’ to win best film Oscar.
1940 (22nd June)
Second World War
France surrendered to Germany. Many Americans were sympathetic to Britain now facing Germany alone.
1940 (November)
Roosevelt won the Presidential Election largely due to the fact that World War Two had begun and the country wanted an experienced leader. Roosevelt had promised Americans that they would not enter the war in Europe.
1941 (March)
Lend-Lease Act
Roosevelt repealed the neutrality acts and introduced this act which allowed the United States to sell or lend war materials to nations that the United States supported. An increase in the manufacture of weapons to send abroad, particularly to Britain, boosted the economy.
1941 (25th June)
Executive Order 8802
President Roosevelt signed this order which sought to end discrimination based on race or religion. However, in practice segregation and discrimination continued.
1941 (7th December)
The US fleet at Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service.
1941 (8th December)
Franklin Roosevelt spoke regarding Pearl Harbor declaring it ‘a day that will live in infamy’. At the end of his speech he declared war on the Empire of Japan.
1941 (11th December)
Japan’s ally, Germany, declared war on the United States involving America fully in the Second World War.
1942 (during)
Japanese Internment
Following the attack on Pearl Harbor by Japan, around 110,000 Japanese Americans were sent to ‘War Relocation Camps’. This was done amid a climate of fear that anyone of Japanese origin might be disloyal to the United States.
1942 (during)
Roosevelt approved finance for the Manhattan Project to develop nuclear weapons.
1942 (March)
The Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) was established by James Farmer to gain equality for black people. This was a more militant organisation than previously formed black power groups.
1943 (May)
Jack Spratt Coffee House Sit-In
Around 20 members of CORE went to the Jack Spratt Coffee House where they were refused service. When asked to leave they refused. Many of the coffee house’s customers sided with the protest. Although the police were called, they had been previously alerted of the protest and declined to intervene. The coffee house eventually desegregated and stopped discrimination.
1944 (3rd April)
Smith v Allwright
The NAACP won this case that prevented the state of Texas from setting rules that prevented black Americans from voting.
1944 (22nd June)
G I Bill
This law set up a number of benefits for servicemen returning from World War Two. Benefits included free education and training courses, low cost mortgages and low interest loans to fund new businesses. Many black ex-servicemen took advantage of the free education which in turn would enable them to get better jobs.
1944 (November)
Franklin D Roosevelt was elected President of the United States for a fourth term. However, his majority was drastically reduced.
1945 (during)
The war had helped the US economy to fully recover. Unemployment was less than a million, agriculture and business saw profits rise as output increased. This was due to production of weapons and ammunition for the war but also because American business were able to take advantage of markets traditionally fulfilled by European businesses. By the end of the war the United States was the richest country in the world.
1945 (February)
Yalta Conference
Franklin D Roosevelt attended this meeting with Churchill and Stalin to determine the fate of Germany at the end of the War. The decisions made at the conference, particularly the splitting of Germany into controlled zones marked the beginning of the Cold War.
1945 (12th April)
Franklin D Roosevelt died following a cerebral haemorrhage.
1945 (12th April)
Vice President Harry S Truman took over as President.
1945 (Summer)
Many black servicemen had been stationed in Britain during the war where they had experienced far less prejudice than in the United States. As they returned home they demanded a fairer, less prejudiced society. Membership of the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) rose to 450,000.
1945 (6th August)
President Truman took the decision to drop an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. He hoped the action would force the Japanese to surrender.
1945 (9th August)
As Japan had not surrendered following the dropping of the bomb on Hiroshima, Truman ordered a second bomb to be dropped on Nagasaki.
1945 (late August)
At the end of the Second World War the US economy was strong. It had benefited from increased production of goods including weapons, ships and military vehicles, during the war years. The USA did not have bomb damage to repair and there was little unemployment. The USA was the wealthiest and most dominant world power.
1946 (during)
Cinema audiences were at an all time high as the Office of War Information sought to use film as a means to maintain morale during the war.
1946 (5th December)
President’s Committee on Civil Rights – Executive Order 9808
Signed by President Truman this order set up a committee to investigate civil rights in the United States.
1947 (during)
The first Levitt homes were built when the Levitt brothers founded Levittown in Hempstead, Long Island. These were affordable homes intended for purchase by servicemen returning from the war. Levitt homes began to appear across the United States.
1947 (during)
President Truman set up the Loyalty Review Board to investigate all federal employees with regard to Communist sympathies.
1947 (during)
Jackie Robinson was signed to play baseball for the Brooklyn Dodgers. He was the first black player to be signed to a club.
1947 (12th March)
The Truman Doctrine
President Truman announced his belief that the United States should help countries to resist takeover by the Soviet Union and maintain their freedom by providing political and military assistance.
1947 (June)
Marshall Plan
General George Marshall made a visit to Europe to assess the situation there. He returned to the USA very concerned that due to the levels of poverty across all of Europe that the continent could become Communist. He advocated that the USA lend money to European countries to help them get back on their feet in return for a free trade agreement.
1947 (18th September)
The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was set up. Its prime objective was to counter Communism.
1947 (December)
President’s Committee on Civil Rights
The Committee reported that Civil Rights divisions should be set up in government departments to ensure equality and protect black citizens from lynching. Truman appointed several black Americans to his staff to set a precedent.
1948 (during)
After the war, television was beginning to become more popular and around 172,000 homes had television.
1948 (24th June)
Berlin Blockade
The USSR imposed a blockade on Berlin which meant that food and other supplies could not reach the people. Stalin had done in response to France, Britain and America amalgamating their sectors to form West Germany and introducing a new currency, the Deutschmark.
1948 (26th June)
Berlin Airlift
President Truman authorised the supply of food, medicine and other goods into Berlin. The British joined the airlift two days later.
1948 (November)
Democrat Harry S Truman won the US Presidential election. His victory was an indication that most people approved of his anti-Communist policies.
1949 (April)
The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) was formed to provide collective security against the Soviet Union. There were founding members: United States, United Kingdom, Canada, France, Belgium, Italy, Netherlands, Iceland, Denmark, Norway, Portugal and Luxembourg.
1949 (12th May)
Berlin Blockade
Stalin realised that he was not going to win the dispute and lifted the Berlin Blockade.
1950 (during)
The US economy continued to grow. There was a baby boom after the war which led to an improvement in the property market. The motor industry also saw considerable growth as car ownership increased.
1950 (during)
Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin claimed to have discovered evidence that more than 200 Communists had infiltrated the State Department. He began a period of attacking government agencies, intellectuals and the Democratic Party. McCarthy was seen by many as the champion of anti-Communism.
1950 (during)
The Mattachine Society was founded in Los Angeles by Harry Hay for the promotion of gay rights.
1950 (2nd June)
Sweatt v Painter
The NAACP won this case which decreed that Heman Sweatt could not be refused admission to the School of Law at the University of Texas based on his colour.
1950 (27th June)
Korean War
President Truman agreed to commit US troops to help South Korea, which had been invaded by North Korea backed by the USSR.
1952 (during)
Republican Vice Presidential candidate, Richard Nixon, used television to defend himself against accusations of corruption.
1952 (27th June)
McCarran-Walter Act
This act introduced new guidelines for immigration to America:
a small quota from Asia would be allowed
race would no longer be a barrier to becoming an American citizen
those wishing to become American citizens would have to show they were of good moral standing
immigrants that were guilty of moral turpitude (acting in a way that violates the standards of the country) could be deported. This included Communists
1952 (November)
Republican Dwight D Eisenhower, a veteran World War Two Commander was elected President of the United States with 55% of the vote over Democrat Adlai Stevenson. Despite his dislike of McCarthy, Eisenhower had recognised the popularity of anti-Communism and had used this as an election strategy.
1953 (January)
President Eisenhower’s inauguration was televised and watched by 29 million viewers.
1954 (during)
Joseph McCarthy fell from favour after a TV documentary espoused him as a malicious brute. Despite the fall of McCarthy anti-Communism would remain a feature of American life.
1954 (17th May)
Brown v Board of Education
The NAACP won this case which decreed that it was unconstitutional for states to establish separate schools for black and white students.
1955 (around)
Television had continued to become popular and around 32 million homes had television. Popular shows included the Lucille Ball Show, Gunsmoke and the Ed Sullivan Show. As more people spent more time watching television, critics argued that it hindered reading, encouraged violence and stopped conversation.
1955 (during)
The rise in commercial airlines meant that for the first time more people travelled across America by plane than by train.
1955 (17th July)
Walt Disney opened the first Disneyland theme park at Anaheim, California.
1955 (5th December)
Montgomery Bus Boycott
Sponsored by the NAACP and led by Martin Luther King, this protest began after Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat on a bus to a white person. The NAACP encouraged people to boycott the bus service until it stopped segregation on the buses. Black taxi drivers agreed to take people on journeys for the price of the bus fare. The boycott lasted for a year and caused economic hardship to the bus company which eventually agreed to desegregate the buses.
1957 (4th September)
Little Rock Arkansas
Following the ruling in Brown v Board of Education that schools must desegregate, the NAACP enrolled nine black students to Little Rock Central High School. The school governor Orval Faubus used the Arkansas National Guard to block the black students from entering the school. Faubus refused to back down and President Eisenhower had to send federal troops to escort the students into the school. The event was televised and viewers, shocked at the violent treatment of peaceful protesters, added their voices to the demand for civil rights.
1957 (9th September)
Civil Rights Act 1957
This act protected the rights of black people to vote by setting up a Commission that would investigate reports of discriminatory conditions.
1958 (during)
For the first time more people travelled to Europe by plane than by ship.
1960s (during)
Hippy Movement
This decade saw the rise of the Hippy Movement which was associated with liberal views. The hippies, who wore long flowing dresses and flared jeans and T-shirts and grew their hair, supported Civil Rights, ending US involvement in the Vietnam War and favoured a more relaxed lifestyle enjoying the new pop and rock music and experimentation with recreational drugs. Many also advocated an end to individualism and competitiveness preferring communal living, peace and harmony.
1960s (during)
Native Americans
The situation in America for Native Americans was at its worst. Most lived on reservations and their rate of unemployment was above the national figure. Native Americans felt that their voice should be heard.
1960 (during)
The American Football League was established. With an increase in television ownership, Football had become more popular than baseball.
1960 (during)
Presidential candidates, Richard Nixon and John Kennedy took part in televised debates. They were watched by around 60 million people.
1960 (1st February)
Greensboro Sit-Ins
These were a series of non-violent protests over five months. On the first day four black men visited Woolworth’s lunch counter every day and when they were refused service they refused to leave. Word spread and increasing numbers of people joined the daily sit-ins. Soon they spread to other states. Woolworths in Greensboro desegregated in July; other restaurants followed suit.
1960 (6th May)
Civil Rights Act 1960
This act furthered the 1957 act by setting up an inspector of voter registration polls and imposing penalties for obstruction a person from registering to vote.
1960 (November)
Democrat John Fitzgerald Kennedy was elected President after a closely run election against Republican Richard Nixon. Many young people associated themselves with Kennedy’s more liberal views especially with regard to Civil Rights.
1961 (during)
For the first time since the war, economic growth began to slow down.
1961 (4th May)
Freedom Rides
Direct action civil rights group CORE sponsored a peaceful protest known as freedom rides which continued for seven months. Activists took bus trips on segregated routes and tried to use ‘white-only’ rest rooms and lunch counters at bus terminals. They met severe opposition and violence but drew a lot of attention for the civil rights movement.
1961 (October)
Vietnam War
President Kennedy sent US military advisers to support the South Vietnamese Army.
1962 (20th September)
James Meredith and University of Mississippi
James Meredith had won a court case forcing the University of Mississippi to allow him to attend. However, state Governor Ross Barnett insisted that segregation would continue and refused to allow Meredith to enter.
1962 (30th September)
James Meredith and University of Mississippi
James Meredith was escorted into the university by U.S. Marshalls. White protesters were incited to riot by Governor Barnett. Kennedy sent in armed forces to break up the riots which left two people dead and hundreds injured.
1962 (October)
Cuban Missile Crisis
President Kennedy’s nerve and tactics avoided a nuclear war.
1963 (during)
The economy began to grow and there was an increase in consumerism.
1963 (during)
Betty Friedan published ‘The Feminine Mystique’ which claimed that advertisers had specifically portrayed women in domestic roles leading to a stereotypical image of women which had prevented them from achieving their potential in the job market.
1963 (28th August)
I Have a Dream Speech
Martin Luther King was one of the participants in the peaceful March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. The march ended at the Washington memorial where Martin Luther delivered his famous ‘I have a dream’ speech.
1963 (22nd November)
President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas by Lee Harvey Oswald.
1963 (22nd November)
Vice President Lyndon Baines Johnson took over as President of the United States.
1964 (during)
Great Society
President Johnson launched this set of measures designed to illuminate poverty and racial injustice. The measures, introduced over the next two years, included more spending on education, the establishment of medical care for all people (medicare), improved public transport and consumer protection acts.
1964 (2nd July)
Civil Rights Act
President Lyndon B Johnson used Kennedy’s death to get this act passed. The act made it illegal to discriminate or segregate people based on race or colour.
1964 (20th August)
Economic Opportunity Act
This act was introduced to provide relief to the poor.
1964 (November)
Democrat Lyndon Baines Johnson won the election over Republican Barry Goldwater taking 61 percent of the vote.
1965 (during)
Immigration and Nationality Act
This act abolished the discriminatory quotas set out in the 1952 McCarran-Walter Act. From 1968 290,000 immigrants would be allowed into the country per year. Of these no more than 120,000 should come from the West and no more than 20,000 from a single country.
1965 (during)
United Farm Workers
Cesar Chavez founded the United Farm Workers in California with an aim to gaining equal wages and conditions for migrant farm workers, especially those from Mexico.
1965 (21st February)
Malcolm X Assassination
Malcolm X was a former speaker for the black supremacist group, Nation of Islam. He left the group in 1964 and set up his own group, the Organisation of Afro-American Unity. Malcolm X was assassinated by members of the Nation of Islam in New York.
1965 (30th July)
Social Security Amendments
This legislation created Medicare and Medicaid to help the poor and elderly gain access to medical care.
1965 (8th March)
Despite his express election campaign promise not to enter the Vietnam war, President Johnson now sent US troops to support South Vietnam in the war against Communist North Vietnam.
1965 (6th August)
Voting Rights Act
This act made racial discrimination in voting illegal.
1965 (11th August)
Watts Riots
Riots broke out in the Watts region of Los Angeles after it was alleged that a pregnant woman had been hurt by a police officer after a black American motorist was stopped for reckless driving. The riots lasted for 5 days and saw 34 people killed and over 1,000 injured.
1966 (during)
National Organisation for Women (NOW)
Betty Friedan founded this organisation. The aims of the organisation were:
To end gender discrimination in the workplace
To legalise abortions
To gain government support for childcare centres.
1966 (during)
There were widespread protests against US involvement in Vietnam.
1966 (during)
The American Football League and the National Football League merged. The first Super Bowl competition took place the following year.
1966 (15th October)
Black Panther Party
Bobby Seale and Huey Newton founded the group to challenge police brutality in Oakland, California using violence if necessary.
1967 (during)
The economic situation began to change. There was a balance of payments deficit of $4 billion. Prices began to rise as the rate of inflation grew.
1967 (during)
National Right to Life Committee
This was established by the Catholic Church. Its members protested against abortion and was part of an increasing movement against the liberalism of the decade.
1967 (23rd July)
Detroit Riot of 1967
Riots broke out after police raided an unlicensed after hours bar. They continued for five days and saw 16 people killed and 193 injured.
1968 (during)
Great Society
It became increasingly clear that the United States could not afford Johnson’s ‘Great Society’ measures as well as participation in the Vietnam War.
1968 (around)
Activists championed women’s liberation by calling for an end to female sexualisation and the boycott of beauty pageants. Many women symbolically burnt their bras.
1968 (during)
Television coverage of the Vietnam War contributed to the growing anti-war campaign.
1968 (during)
President Johnson’s popularity had fallen so low that he decided not to stand for re-election.
1968 (4th April)
Martin Luther King Assassination
Martin Luther King was assassinated by James Earl Ray in Memphis, Tennessee. The assassination triggered riots throughout the nation which left 46 people dead, 2,000 injured. 21,000 people were arrested and over $67 million of damage was caused.
1968 (11th April)
Civil Rights Act 1968
This act it illegal to refuse to sell or rent a dwelling to any person based on their colour, religion or nationality.
1968 (5th June)
Democratic candidate Robert Kennedy was assassinated by Sirhan Sirhan at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles.
1968 (July)
American Indian Movement
This movement was founded in Minneapolis, Minnesota with a view to gaining more power and recognition for Native Americans.
1968 (November)
Republican Richard Nixon narrowly won the election over Democrat Hubert Humphrey. Nixon, who had formally adopted a divisive stance, causing hostility and disagreement, had changed his stance and run his election campaign on a ticket of peace and national harmony. Many people had been attracted by this notion after a decade of protests and riots against Vietnam and for Civil Rights. His tactic of courting the southern white vote by opposing bussing (the practice of bussing black students to white schools) and cutting public spending on moves to counter poverty meant he had very little support from black voters.
1969 (during)
Richard Nixon believed that the Vietnam War could not be won and took steps to bring troops home to the US.
1969 (during)
The economic booms of the 1950s and 1960s were over. Nixon inherited a faltering economy and rising inflation.
1969 (during)
Black Panther Party
The party put in place a number of community programmes including the Free Breakfast for Children programme but they continued to engage in confrontation and shoot-outs with the police.
1969 (27th June)
Gay rights activists refused to leave the Stonewall Inn Bar in New York after a police raid. Rioting folowed amid increased protests for homosexuality to be decriminalised.
1969 (August)
Hippy Movement – Woodstock
This open air rock festival, to which 400,000 people attended, was seen as the apex of the movement.
1969 (20th November)
Occupation of Alcatraz
Members of the Native Indian Movement occupied the former island prison of Alcatraz. The protesters, led by Richard Oakes, had been trying to get the government to redevelop Alcatraz island as an Indian cultural center and school since the prison closure in 1963.
1969 (December)
Occupation of Alcatraz
The protesters had gained the support of many celebrities who donated money and goods to help them survive.
1970s (during)
This decade saw a wave of protest against the liberalism of the 1960s. The Religious Right advocated opposition to feminism, divorce, sex before marriage, divorce and drug-taking.
1970 (January)
Occupation of Alcatraz
Richard Oakes, leader of the protest, left Alcatraz island after his daughter had fallen down a stairwell and died.
1970 (Spring)
Occupation of Alcatraz
The protest began to lack momentum following the departure of Richard Oakes, as many active protestors left the island to return to university. Many who joined the island saw it as an opportunity to live rent free and were not active protesters.
1970 (30th April)
Richard Nixon sent American troops to Cambodia. This action led to huge anti-war protests across America.
1971 (during)
The Nixon Shock
This was a series of economic measures introduced by Nixon to control the economy. Wages were frozen and the dollar devalued. However, they had little effect.
1971 (11th June)
Occupation of Alcatraz
The 19 month protest came to an end when federal marshals removed those that remained.
1972 (during)
The US Congress approved the Equal Rights Amendment first introduced by Alice Paul in 1923.
1972 (May)
Richard Nixon visited Leonid Brezhnev in the Soviet Union for nuclear disarmament talks.
1972 (October)
Members of the American Indian Movement organised a sit-in at the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Washington, demanding increased recognition for their culture and economic independence.
1972 (November)
Richard Nixon won a second term as President over Democrat George McGovern securing 61% of the vote. However, McGovern claimed that the election had not been fairly fought.
1973 (during)
In a bid to improve the economy Nixon devalued the dollar for the second time. When this had no effect he relaxed wage and price controls. This led to a rapid increase in prices.
1973 (during)
There were around 800 gay organisations across America. They campaigned for legal status and equality.
1973 (27th January)
Paris Peace Accords
American involvement in the Vietnam War ended with the agreement of this peace treaty.
1973 (October)
Oil Crisis
The United States imported around 30% of its oil from the Middle East. When the Yom Kippur war broke out between Israel and the Arab states, the latter placed an embargo on exports to countries perceived as supporting Israel. The United States was one of the countries to which the embargo applied. Although the war only lasted 19 days, the embargo continued into 1974. By the time it was lifted the price of oil had increased considerably. The rise in oil prices was a major setback to the airline industry. Prices increased while demand fell as people had less disposable income.
1974 (during)
Hispanics were elected governors to New Mexico and Arizona.
1974 (9th August)
It was revealed that Nixon and his staff had played a part in the 1972 break in at the Democrat Party Headquarters at the Watergate complex and later tried to cover up evidence. President Richard Nixon resigned rather than face impeachment.
1974 (9th August)
Vice President Gerald Ford took over as President following Nixon’s resignation.
1975 (during)
Rising oil prices together with an inability of the government to cut spending, led to rising inflation. Falling demand for goods together with increased mechanism and cheaper products from Japan, led to an increase in unemployment.
1975 (4th January)
Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance of 1975
This gave Native American leaders more control over the reservations but the standard of living for Native Americans remained poor in comparison with other Americans.
1975 (28th April)
The last US soldiers were evacuated from Saigon. Two days later South Vietnam fell to the North Vietnamese.
1976 (November)
Gerald Ford stood against Democrat Jimmy Carter. Neither candidate was popular and the turnout was only 54%. Carter won the election with 49.9% of the vote.
1976 (December)
Oil prices had continued to rise and the United States now saw a bitterly cold winter. Fuel shortages led to closures of schools and factories and long queues at petrol stations.
1978 (during)
Inflation remained high largely due to rising oil prices and government overspending.
1978 (24th October)
Airline Deregulation Act
This act privatised the airline industry resulting in a greater number of flights and routes as well as lower fares.
1979 (early)
Carter’s popularity fell as Russia seemed to have the upper hand in the Cold War. Vietnam had installed a pro-Soviet government and Afghanistan had become Communist.
1979 (18th June)
President Carter and Leonid Brezhniv signed this nuclear weapons limitation agreement.
1979 (4th November)
Iran Hostage Crisis
A group of Iranian students who supported the ongoing Iranian Revolution which sought to overthrow the monarchy and make Iran an Islamic Republic under Ayatollah Khomeini, stormed the US Embassy in Tehran and held 66 American diplomats hostage. President Carter stated that he would not give in to the Iranians but appealed for the release of hostages on humanitarian grounds.
1979 (19th November)
Iran Hostage Crisis
Thirteen hostages were released by the Iranian students.
1979 (February)
Iran Hostage Crisis
Negotiations for the release of the hostages broke down.
1980 (around)
Despite legislation for equality and the change in attitudes of people towards love, sex and marriage there was a growing conservative movement bemoaning the breakdown of the traditional
1980 (April)
Iran Hostage Crisis
A rescue attempt by the US government failed. Following this the hostages were moved to separate prisons making a rescue attempt very difficult.
1980 (11th July)
Iran Hostage Crisis
A hostage who had become ill was released by the Iranian students.
1980 (November)
Republican Ronald Reagan defeated Jimmy Carter in the Presidential elections securing 51% of the vote. Reagan was a former movie and television star and former governor of California.
1981 (during)
A strike by air traffic controllers brought the airline industry to a standstill. Many firms suffered major losses and some went bankrupt while others merged to cut costs. Reagan refused to give in to the strikers, instead he recommended that the strikers be sacked and more controllers be trained to fill their places.
1981 (during)
Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome was discovered. Those infected by the disease were predominantly gay men and so it was termed a ‘gay disease’. As such the government were reluctant to devote resources to finding a cure. Gay groups across America turned their attention to promoting ‘safe sex’ and trying to press the government to finding a cure.
1981 (during)
In a bid to balance the budget, Reagan stated that welfare benefits needed to be cut. Those that were unable to work due to disability or child care would still be provided for. In reality welfare spending remained at roughly the same level.
1981 (January)
Iran Hostage Crisis
Agreement with Iran was finally reached and the hostages were finally released.
1981 (30th March)
John Hinckley Jr shot Ronald Reagan in the chest in a failed assassination attempt. The seriously wounded Reagan was rushed to hospital where after undergoing surgery he eventually recovered. The event increased Reagan’s popularity with the people.
1981 (13th August)
Economic Recovery Tax Act
Reagan introduced this act which reduced taxes. The top rate of tax was reduced from 70% to 50% while the lower rate was reduced from 14% to 11%.
1982 (3rd September)
Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act
The budget deficit had risen to more than $110 billion. The Reagan administration introduced this act to try to lower the deficit. Some of the tax cuts of 1981 were reversed while taxes were increased on cigarettes and telephone services. The effect of this measure was that companies laid off staff in a bid to maintain profits.
1983 (during)
The measures introduced in 1982 together with a global fall in oil prices led to a small improvement in the economy. Unemployment also began to fall, in part due to Reagan’s massive increase in defence spending.
1984 (6th November)
Ronald Reagan was re-elected as President of the United States with 58.8% of the popular vote, defeating Democrat Walter Mondale.
1985 (during)
Cold War
This year saw a thawing in the relationship between the United States and the Soviet Union. Reagan and Gorbachev began negotiating.
1986 (during)
Reagan introduced a major reform of the tax system. He reduced the number of tax brackets from fourteen to two. The top level of tax was reduced from 50% to 28% and low income families were taken out of taxation completely.
1986 (November)
Iran-Contra Affair
It was revealed that Reagan had authorised a secret sale of arms to Iran and that the proceeds of the sale had been used to fund the Contras, a US backed rebel group, in Nicaragua. Reagan escaped impeachment largely due to his popularity.
1987 (8th December)
Cold War – Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty
Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev signed this treaty which agreed a disarmament of their intermediate range nuclear missiles.
1988 (during)
Inflation and unemployment had fallen and people were better off. Nevertheless, Reagan’s policies mainly saw the rich get richer and while the poor may not have got poorer their wealth did not increase. Under Reagan’s government the National Debt had increased significantly and now stood at $2 trillion. Reagan was also seen as a peacemaker for his role in bringing about the end to the Cold War.
1988 (8th November)
Reagan’s term as president came to an end as his Vice President, Republican George H W Bush defeated Democrat Michael Dukakis in the Presidential election.


Published Jun 24, 2020 @ 2:50 pm – Updated – [last-modified]

Harvard Reference for this page:

Heather Y Wheeler. (2020). The American Dream – United States of America 1915 – 1988. Last accessed [date]

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