Cynique Posted June 16, 2010 Report Share Posted June 16, 2010 I was asked to give a little insight into the 50s decade and to offer an opinion as to whether things were better then than they are now. Sorting out my sentiments about those times was an exercise in mixed feelings, but I’ve tried, and this one’s for you, Troy. The 1950s have often been referred to as a time of innocence, and we who made up its younger population were tagged the “silent generation”. Born in the 1930s during the Depression, coming of age during the 1940s when World War I I raged, - the silent generation eventually became a group who rather than rocking the boat, rocked cradles as the 1950s ushered in a time of us marrying and giving birth to those who would come to be known as “baby boomers”. To set the tone, I’m including the following paragraph which is from a novel I wrote entitled: “Along The Way”. This excerpt provides a snapshot of “the way we were“. “It was the decade of the 1950s, the bland Eisenhower era that was typified by an “Ozzie and Harriet” wholesomeness. It was the period of television’s golden age, and Russia’s iron curtain, a time of hoola hoops and flying saucers. It was the day of Beatniks and Mouseketeers, Marilyn Monroe and Rosa Parks. It was when Emmett Till was murdered and James Dean killed, when Pat Boone crooned and Elvis Presley gyrated, when “doo-wop” schmoozed and “be-bop” squalled. It was also a time when a growing resentment of racial bigotry was elevating the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. to a position of leadership in an evolving civil rights movement.” Its hard to characterize the black experience during the 1950s because it differed from region to region, but for me, living in a suburb of Chicago, this was time when black people didn’t challenge the status quo. We stayed in our place, and doing this was no big deal because our place was a comfort zone, and we didn’t really care about mixing with white people, possibly stirring up their latent prejudices. Up north, segregation was not the law of the land, and mine was an interracial landscape rather than an integrated one, which is to say we co-existed with white folks while doing our own thing, enjoying our own music, establishing our own styles, becoming carbon copies of average white Americans. And, because we were good Negroes, white people tolerated us, very often rewarding those who were exceptionally good Negroes. Although in Korea, thousands of young men were again dying on the battle field, within our communities the crime rate was low. You could leave your doors and cars unlocked and nobody stole anything left unattended. You could walk the streets and ride the trains at night without fear of being mugged. The idea of a village raising a child was a reality. We looked out for each other. Getting pregnant before you got married was considered disgraceful, and a hasty wedding would often rectify this. There was no shackin up during those days, either. The one vice we all seemed to have was smoking cigarettes, This was considered cool and glamorous and just about every body did it. Only musicians used drugs. Blacks who worked hard and got ahead owned their own cars and bought homes in all- black neighborhoods, and those who got college degrees could get jobs in private industry where "glass ceilings" would remind them of their status. Working for the County or the State or the Federal government also launched many blacks into the ranks of the middle class. Of course, everybody wasn’t a professional or gainfully employed and many folks just scraped along, poor but proud, doing the best they could. Anyway, as time marched on, and an obsession with Communism swept the country, Negroes began to stir from their complacency, realizing that second-class citizenship was unacceptable in a democracy. While a core of activists took to the streets to protest racism, others lent moral and financial support, and participated in economic boycotts. Martin Luther King was the man of the hour. Non-violence was the tactic and we had our eyes on the prize. Then, - the 60s exploded on the scene as The Movement took on the militancy of revolution! Malcolm X stepped forward, making room for Bobby Seale and Huey Newton. Negroes became black, all hell broke loose and assassination became the weapon of choice. And, as they say, the rest was history. Social upheaval was an idea whose time had to come and the 1950s turned out to be the lull before the storm. But who is to say that "still waters didn’t run deep"? The "silent generation" just needed somebody to turn the tide. When I look back on those days, I realize that ignorance was bliss. But I can’t help but appreciate how stress-free that bliss was. Which was a better time? All I know is that I’m old now and today’s world is so gripped by technology, so addicted to instant gratification, so wounded by violence that returning to a simpler time doesn’t sound so bad. Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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