1950s Discrimination Against Native Americans & Latinx Americans

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kevin Newton

Kevin has edited encyclopedias, taught history, and has an MA in Islamic law/finance. He has since founded his own financial advice firm, Newton Analytical.

Racial discrimination was reflected in the abuse of Native American and Latinx populations throughout the 1950s. Learn the manifestation of discrimination against these groups alongside the events leading up to the Civil Rights Movement. Updated: 11/07/2021

Minority Groups in 1950s America

All throughout American history, race and ethnicity have been complicated subjects. In the 1800s, Irish and Italian immigrants were treated harshly by communities of English and Germanic Americans who had been in the country for only a few decades more. Today, other groups are treated harshly. Many believe a key issue that is present today is the effect of Systemic Racism. This is when the system is set up in such a way, whether intentionally or not, to help one group along at the expense of others.

Many of us have a very romanticized idea of the 1950s, based in no small part on shows like Leave It to Beaver. In fact, Leave It to Beaver helped shape what the people of the 1950s thought of themselves. However, if you watch one of those old shows, you'll see that the actors were almost always white and other minority groups were rarely represented.

In other lessons of this chapter, I hope you'll have the time to explore what is perhaps the most famous divide in American history, the African American pursuit of equality. However, in this lesson we're going to focus primarily on the challenges of Native Americans and Latinx Americans at the time of the 1950s.

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Discrimination Against Native Americans

Just like the discrimination the Irish experienced in the 1850s, the idea of ''our country'' often comes up. Simply put, it's not a valid defense against Native American tribes because they were here long before most other people! However, Native Americans, despite their originality to the United States, were not featured on shows like Leave It to Beaver, and if they did make an appearance, they were often stereotyped to the point of offense.

Now let's look at some of the backstory prior to the 1950s. Native Americans had been placed on reservations at the end of the 19th century. This land was considered unneeded by the white settlers, but 60 years later that land now had prime timber, oil reserves, and even oceanfront real estate. As a result, the United States Government started what it called the Termination Policy, which sought to destroy the idea of the tribes that owned that land. Without the idea of a tribe, the land was up for gain. More than 2.5 million acres were put up for sale after the government seized the land.

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