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The Postwar United States
Arts and Entertainment, 1945-1968
Overview Documents

James Baldwin, 1955.
Van Vechten Collection

Arts and entertainment in the two decades following World War II showed both continuity and change. Radio remained popular, but a new technology--television--also became vastly successful. Indeed, television would make significant changes in many aspects of life in the United States.

As professional athletes returned from serving in the armed forces, Americans went out in record numbers to watch them perform. Yet professional sports would soon be changed forever with the integration of African-American and white athletes into the same competitions.

The musical theater continued to thrive, with several eminent classical musicians crossing over into popular music to compose musicals. Other musicians were creating a new form of music that became popular among young people--rock and roll. Despite the emergence of this new form of music in the 1950s, many people viewed that decade as a relatively uncreative one.

As the 1960s progressed, changes in society were reflected in changes in art and entertainment. Black authors wrote prolifically, often writing about the challenges of being African-American in a society dominated by white racism. Feminist writers called for equality between the sexes. Other writers, musicians, and artists examined the effects of the "establishment" on society and protested the war in Vietnam.

As you examine the documents that follow, look for evidence of both continuity and change in American arts and entertainment following World War II--and from this era until the present.
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