Unit 8: 1945 - 1980

Unit 8 Key Concepts

  • 8.1 The United States responded to an uncertain and unstable postwar world by asserting and working to maintain a position of global leadership, with far-reaching domestic and international consequences. 
  • 8.2 New movements for Civil Rights and liberal efforts to expand the role of government generated a range of political and cultural responses.  
  • 8.3 Postwar economic and demographic changes had far-reaching consequences for American society, politics, and culture.    
Unit 8 covers a period called "post-war America" that spans from the end of World War II until the 1980s.  

The period is overshadowed by the Cold War, which was a far-ranging conflict between the capitalist United States and the communist Soviet Union fought through proxy wars, ideological campaigns, and diplomatic crises. While the two nations engaged in hostilities through indirect means, they never engaged in a “hot” war with direct military battles.

The United States was deeply concerned that communism would spread out of the Soviet Union to other nations, including the United States itself. To prevent the spread of communism to Western Europe, the United States funneled money and services to war torn nations after World War II under the Marshall Plan. Domestically, Senator Joseph McCarthy led a broad investigation of communists and alleged communist sympathizers in the 1950s. Americans were divided over Senator McCarthy’s methods.

Americans became increasingly concerned about the power of the president to commit the country to foreign military engagements, like the Vietnam War, as well as the power of the president to utilize the growing nuclear arsenal.

In the postwar period, civil rights leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. challenged racial discrimination through a potent combination of legal challenges, non-violent protests, and awareness campaigns. As a result of these protests, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in order to promote greater racial equality. The success of the African-American civil rights movement led other groups, such as feminists, LGBT communities, Latinos, American Indians, and Asian Americans, to also begin publicly agitating for more rights under the law.

Activists also narrowed in on economic inequality and urban poverty. Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society was a wide ranging attempt to end discrimination, eliminate poverty, and broadly right the injustices of U.S. society. Johnson’s Great Society, as well as Supreme Court decisions expanding civil liberties, was opposed by conservatives who felt that the country was in a period of moral and cultural decline.

Despite this backdrop of international conflict and domestic unease, the postwar period can generally be classified as a period of domestic growth. Mass culture, including television, helped to define cultural mores of the age. These tools were used by evangelical Christian churches and organizations as they began to play an increasingly powerful role in politics.

Unit 8 Review Resources

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Ms. Dickie's Review Video

Ms. Dickie discusses this unit in a thematic way which will help best with the written response questions. 

*Coming Soon*

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Heimler's History

If you would like to rewatch videos from this unit based on the key concepts, then view this playlist here: Unit 8 Playlist

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APUSH Review with Adam Norris

A review of this entire time period in a 10 minute video. These videos have notes on the screen which may be helpful when writing down key ideas. 

If you like these, here are some more from this time period focusing on specific topics: More Period 8 Videos 

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Khan Academy

This includes quick summaries of important topics in written and video form and short quizzes to test your understanding. Khan Academy is free to use and if you plan on using this often it might be helpful to create an account to keep track of your progress. View Unit 8 content here

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Gilder Lehrman

This video covers a challenging period of expansion, crisis, and rebuilding for America. These videos include a summary of key ideas as well as a description of some documents you might see on the exam. 

Period 8 Timeline: Includes documents and key events. 

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Crash Course

John Green has a series of videos for each unit that are not specifically APUSH related but cover important topics you will see on the exam. He talks very fast but if you like these videos there are several for each time period. View the topics from this unit below: 

The Cold War
The Cold War in Asia
Civil Rights
The Sixties

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Use the following to create your own flashcards: 

APUSH Review Flashcards PDF

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