unionizing campaign, rebuilding the UMW’s declining membership from 150,000 to over 500,000 within a year.

Lewis was eager to get the AFL, where he was a member of the Execu- tive Council, to launch a similar drive in the mass production industries. But the AFL, with its historic focus on the skilled trade worker, was unwilling to do so. After a bitter internal feud, Lewis and a few others broke with the AFL to set up the Committee for Industrial Organization (CIO), later the Congress of Industrial Organizations. The passage of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) in 1935 and the friendly attitude of the National Labor Relations Board put the power and authority of the federal government behind the CIO.

Its first targets were the notoriously anti-union auto and steel industries. In late 1936 a series of sit-down strikes, orchestrated by the fledgling United Auto Workers union under Walter Reuther, erupted at General Motors plants in Cleveland, Ohio, and Flint, Michigan. Soon 135,000 workers were involved and GM production ground to a halt.

With the sympathetic governor of Michigan refusing to evict the strikers, a settlement was reached in early 1937. By September of that year, the United Auto Workers had contracts with 400 companies involved in the automobile industry, assuring workers a minimum wage of 75 cents per hour and a 40- hour work week.

In the first six months of its existence, the Steel Workers Organizing Committee (SWOC), headed by Lewis lieutenant Philip Murray, picked up 125,000 members. The major American steel company, U.S. Steel, realizing that times had changed, also came to terms in 1937. That same year the Su- preme Court upheld the constitutionality of the NLRA. Subsequently, smaller companies, traditionally even more anti-union than the large corporations, gave in. One by one, other industries — rubber, oil, electronics, and textiles — also followed suit.

The rise of big labor had two major long-term impacts. It became the organizational core of the national Democratic Party, and it gained material benefits for its members that all but erased the economic distinction between working-class and middle-class America. 



CHANGE For the United States, the 20th century was a period of extraordinary turmoil and change. In these decades, the nation endured the worst

economic depression in its history; emerged triumphant, with the Allies, in World War II; assumed a role of global leadership in the

century’s twilight conflict known as the Cold War; and underwent a remarkable social, economic, and political transition at home. Where

once the United States transformed itself over the slow march of centuries, it now seemed to reinvent itself almost by decades.


In the depths of the Great Depression, March 1933, anxious depositors line up outside of a New York bank. The new president, Franklin D. Roosevelt, had just temporarily closed the nation’s banks to end the drain on the

banks’ reserves. Only those banks that were still solvent were permitted to reopen after a four-day “bank holiday.”


Men and women strikers dance the time away on March 11, 1937, during a strike at the Chevrolet Fisher Body Plants in St. Louis, Missouri. Strikes such as these succeeded in winning union recognition for industrial workers throughout the country in the 1930s.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs perhaps the most far-reaching legislation of the New Deal: the Social Security Act of 1935. Today, Social Security, one of the largest government programs in the United States, provides retirement and disability income to millions of Americans.


World War II in the Pacific was characterized by large-scale naval and air battles. Here, a Japanese plane plunges in flames during an attack on a U.S. carrier fleet in the Mariana Islands, June 1944. U.S. Army and Marine forces’ “island hopping” campaign began at Guadalcanal in August 1942 and ended with the assault on Okinawa in April 1945.


Top, General Dwight Eisenhower, Supreme Commander in Europe, talks with paratroopers shortly before the Normandy invasion, June 6, 1944. Above, General Douglas MacArthur (center) had declared, “I shall return,” when he escaped from advancing Japanese forces in the Philippines in 1942. Two years later, he made good on his promise and waded ashore at Leyte as American forces began the liberation of the Philippines.


Japanese Americans await relocation to internment camps in the worst violation of human rights that occurred inside the United States during World War II.

Assembly line of P-38 Lightning fighter planes during World War II. With its massive output of war materiel, the United States became, in the words of President Roosevelt, “the arsenal of democracy.”


U.S. troops witness a nuclear test in the Nevada

desert in 1951. The threat of nuclear weapons remained

a constant and ominous fact of life throughout the

Cold War era.

Meeting of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, President Roosevelt, and Soviet leader Josef Stalin at Yalta in February 1945. Disagreements over the future of Europe anticipated the division of the European continent that remained a fixture of the Cold War.

U.S. infantry fire against North Korean forces invading South Korea in 1951, in a conflict that lasted three painful years.

In perhaps the most famous photograph in American political history, President Harry Truman holds aloft a newspaper wrongly announcing his defeat by Republican nominee Thomas Dewey in the 1948 presidential election. Truman’s come-from-behind victory surprised all political experts that day.


At a congressional hearing in 1954, Senator Joseph McCarthy points to a map purportedly showing Communist Party influence in the United States in 1950. His chief antagonist at the hearing, lawyer Joseph Welch, sits at left. Welch successfully discredited McCarthy at these hearings, which were among the first to be televised across the country.

Portrait of President Dwight Eisenhower, whose genial, reassuring personality dominated the decade of the 1950s.


Jackie Robinson, sliding home in a 1948 baseball game. Robinson broke the color barrier against black professional baseball players when he joined the Brooklyn Dodgers and became one of the stars of the game.


America’s first star of rock and roll, Elvis Presley, performing on television’s “Ed Sullivan Show,” September 9, 1956. Today, years after his death, he is still revered by legions of his fans as “The King.”


Lucille Ball (second from left) with her supporting cast, including husband Desi Arnaz (standing), on one of the most popular television comedy shows of the 1950s, I Love Lucy. The show established many of the techniques and conventions shared by hundreds of the televised “situation comedies” that followed.


Above, Rosa Parks sits in one of the front seats of a city bus following the successful boycott of the bus system in 1955-56 by African- American citizens of Montgomery, Alabama. The boycott was organized to protest the practice of segregation in which African Americans were forced to sit in the back of the bus. The Supreme Court agreed that this practice was a constitutional violation a year after the boycott began. The great leader of the civil rights movement in America, Martin Luther King Jr., gained national prominence through the Montgomery bus boycott.

Opposite page, right, Martin Luther King Jr. escorts children to a previously all-white public school in Grenada, Mississippi, in 1966. Although school segregation was outlawed in the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision of the Supreme Court in 1954, it took decades of protest, political pressure, and additional court decisions to enforce school desegregation across the country.



President John F. Kennedy addresses nearly a quarter of a million Germans in West Berlin in June 1963. Honoring the courage of those living in one of the flash points of the Cold War, he said, “All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin, and therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words, ‘Ich bin ein Berliner’ (I am a Berliner).”

Ratification document for the 1963 Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, one of the first arms control agreements between the West and the Soviet bloc, which ended atmospheric nuclear testing.


Thurgood Marshall, one of the champions of equal rights for all Americans. As a counsel for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People

(NAACP), Marshall successfully argued the landmark 1954 Brown v. Board of Education case before the Supreme Court, which outlawed segregation in public schools. He later served a distinguished career as a justice of the Supreme Court.


President Lyndon B. Johnson, born in Texas, was Senate majority leader in the Eisenhower years and vice president under John F. Kennedy before becoming president. One of the most powerful political personalities to serve in Washington, Johnson engineered the most ambitious domestic legislative agenda through Congress since Roosevelt’s New Deal. The Vietnam War ended his presidency, however, since it divided the nation.

A U.S. Army unit searches for snipers while on patrol in South Vietnam in 1965. From 60,000 troops in 1965, U.S. forces grew to more than 540,000 by 1969, in a conflict that divided the nation more bitterly than any other in the 20th century. The last U.S. combat forces left

Vietnam in 1973.



Antiwar demonstrators and police clash during violent protests at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, Illinois. Antiwar candidates at the convention lost the presidential nomination to Lyndon Johnson’s vice president, Hubert Humphrey.

Two of the leaders of the women’s movement in the 1960s: Kate Millett (left), author of a controversial book of the time, Sexual Politics, and journalist and activist Gloria Steinem.


The crest of the counterculture wave in the United States: the three-day 1969 outdoor rock concert and gathering known as Woodstock.


Mexican-American labor activist César Chávez (center) talking with grape pickers in the field in 1968. Head of the United Farm Workers Union in California, Chávez was a leading voice for the rights of migrant farm workers, focusing national attention on their terrible working conditions.


President Richard M. Nixon, with his wife Pat Nixon and Secretary of State William Rogers (far right), walks along a portion of the Great Wall of China. Nixon’s 1972 opening to the People’s Republic of China was a major diplomatic triumph at a time when U.S. forces were slowly withdrawing from South Vietnam.


Participant in a demonstration by Native Americans in Washington, D.C., in 1978. They also have sought to assert their rights and identity in recent decades.

Oil fires burn behind a destroyed Iraqi tank at the conclusion of the Gulf War in February 1991. The United

States led a coalition of more than 30 nations in an air and ground campaign called Desert Storm that ended Iraq’s

occupation of Kuwait.


Civil rights leader and political activist Jesse Jackson at a political rally in 1984. For more than four decades, Jackson has remained among the most prominent, politically active, and eloquent representatives of what he has termed a “Rainbow Coalition” of the poor, African Americans, and other minorities.


A launch of a space shuttle, the first reusable space vehicle. The versatile shuttle, which has been used to place satellites in orbit and conduct wide-ranging experiments, is indispensable in the assemblage (beginning June 1998) and running of the International Space Station.


President George H.W. Bush with Poland’s Lech Walesa (center) and First Lady Barbara Bush in Warsaw, July 1989. That remarkable year saw the end of the Cold War, as well as the end to the 40-year division of Europe into hostile East and West blocs.

President William (Bill) J. Clinton, delivering his inaugural address

to the nation, January 21, 1993. During his administration, the

United States enjoyed more peace and

economic well-being than at any time in its

history. He was the second U.S. president to be impeached and

found not guilty.

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