American Decades Primary Sources: 1950-1959

  • Volume 6
  • Published By:
  • ISBN-10: 0787665932
  • ISBN-13: 9780787665937
  • DDC: 973.91
  • Shipping Weight: 4.90 lbs ( 2.22 kgs)
  • 736 Pages | Print | Hardcover
  • © 2004 | Published



The Red Scare, the Rosenbergs, and Rosa Parks all made their mark on the United States of the 1950s. Senator Joseph McCarthy waged a domestic war against communists with his hearings and had everyone looking suspiciously for communists in their communities. At the same time, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were tried and convicted of espionage, under evidence that they had passed secrets from the U.S. nuclear facility in Los Alamos to the Soviet Union; they were subsequently executed. Segregation was ruled by the Supreme Court to be illegal, and while African American children began integrating schools, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus to a white passenger. The civil rights movement had begun. Culturally, color television was introduced, Disneyland opened, and hula hoops hit it big.

The following documents are just a sampling of the offerings available in this volume:

  • Brown v. Board of Education landmark Supreme Court Decision
  • "Situations Wanted" employment classifieds from The New York Times
  • "Overtime at the Stadium," Arthur Daley's column covering December 12, 1958, game between the Baltimore Colts and the New York Giants
  • "Loving Your Enemies," sermon by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • Isamu Noguchi and his Akari light sculptures
  • "Why the Edsel Laid an Egg," journal article discussing Ford's "flop"
  • "She Walked Alone," memoir of the experience of one of the "Little Rock Nine"
  • Still of Marlon Brando from A Streetcar Named Desire
  • "The Kitchen Debate," between Richard Nixon and Nikita Khrushchev
  • Final letter from Julius and Ethel Rosenberg to their sons
  • Chesterfield cigarettes ad featuring Ronald Reagan
  • Peanuts comic strip with Lucy pulling the football away from Charlie Brown for the very first time
  • Autobiography of John Nash, the subject of the film A Beautiful Mind
  • Sexual Behavior in the Human Female, "part two" of the noted Kinsey Report



"This carefully crafted new offering from Gale is sure to be a worthy heir to the discontinued classic documentary American history reference source, The Annals of America (Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1968-1987),.. Gale's latest contribution to the field is intended to serve as a companion to their popular series, American Decades (Gale Group, 1994-2001) and would complement many of the publisher's other prominent reference works in American history, notably the two-volume stand-alone Gale Encyclopedia of Multicultural America: Primary Documents (see ARBA 2001, entry 271). This work will also make an ideal companion set for the many libraries that already own The Annals, as this new work offers limited coverage, its entries usually provide essays about and excerpts from primary sources rather than the full text of the sources themselves, it is more comprehensive, and despite some inevitable overlap, its selections are generally different...American Decades: Primary Sources is certain to become the centerpiece of many serious American history reference collections. This new work is so innovative and well done that it may become a classic itself, and at its advertised price of less than $100 for each sturdy, well-designed volume, well worth the investment." --ARBA (2004)


"Aimed at the high-school and undergraduate levels, but definitely accessible to middle-schoolers, this set is a treasure trove of more than 2,000 primary sources on U.S. history and culture represented by more than 75 types of sources, such as architectural drawings, graphs, letters, magazine articles, memoirs, reports, Supreme Court decisions, speeches, and literary works. This resource is excellent as a companion to the American Decades (Gale, 1996-2000) set or as a stand-alone. Even if a library had access to all of the books, periodicals, and other items used as sources, they would lack the surrounding context and the added features, not to mention the convenience. Secondary school libraries in states with curriculum standards that require access to primary resources should place this on their priority purchase lists if they can afford it. Undergraduate and public libraries supporting historical research should also consider purchase."--Booklist (April 2004)

— Booklist

"This set provides access to information that will be difficult to find in other places without a great deal of weeding. It can begin the student thinking critically about events in history. Your students need access to this set, especially if you have American Decades."--Reference for Students ( (May 2004)

— Online