The US and Containment


American Studies


Period 3-5


April 20, 2001


In the 1950’s, containment in the United States was a war of two fronts: preventing the spread of communism abroad, and promoting tradition and conformity at home. Not long after China fell to communism, communist North Korea invaded democratic South Korea. Fearing the domino effect, the US army joined 16 other countries to fight in the Korean War and prevent communism from spreading. At home, domestic containment promoted conformity, and attacked people believed to be communist. This caused a “Red Scare”. Americans believed that the US communist party was how Stalin wished to take over the United States. Because of this, Truman established the Federal Employee Loyalty Program, and congress initiated HUAC, the House Un-American Activities committee. These programs led to the investigation of Alger Hiss and J. Robert Oppenhimer and to the death of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. Even without strong evidence against them, once they were accused of being communist, it was nearly impossible for them to clear their names. Americans in the 1950’s enjoyed economic security and a wide variety of new inventions that made life easier and faster. With more leisure time they could watch more TV shows, such as “I Love Lucy” and “Leave it to Beaver”. These TV shows, and other forms of media promoted domestic containment with an emphasis on tradition and conformity. They portrayed the “happy house wives” and prosperous, suburban white families having “typical” American experiences. They proved that women were expected to remain at home in the 50’s, even though they were nearly forced to work during WWII. Minorities had a similar experience. Although they fought alongside white men during the war, they came home to a world of segregation. They fought containment with the Montgomery bus boycott, the desegregation of sports, and music. The youth culture also tried to break away from containment by listening to the African American “race” music. The dominant culture saw this and made “Rock and Roll” a part of containment by covering up black artists with white singers. Containment, domestic and foreign was a major part of life in the 1950’s.