Suburbia in the 1950s and the Discrimination against African American Housing Devolopments

Suburbia in the 1950s and the Discrimination against African American Housing Devolopments


Blue: 2017 Chevrolet Ad

Maroon: New Development Signage and New Housing Lot

Yellow: Women Working Switchboard at the U.S Capitol

Purple: MLK Memorial

Brown: Levittown Suburbs

Black: Traffic Jam

Orange: Chevrolet Ad 1952

Red: HOLC Redlining

Teal: Washer Ad

Salmon: Men working at the U.S Stock Exchange

Grey: Paycheck

Green: White Neighbors riot sign

Blue #2: I4 Traffic

      In the postwar 1950s, the American economy was booming, having reached a level of economic prosperity never before seen in U.S history. With more citizens now in the workforce, many were able to live a life they never imagined. The economy surplus of manufacturing consumer’s goods and production of housing throughout the U.S. created a consumer-run economy. The American people were working harder and longer, and ultimately spending more.

     With the return of soldiers back home, their newly formed families were in need of housing. The 50s marked a time in which single-family housing was the norm. Thus, came the world of suburbia. The modern American suburb was invented by real-estate developer, William Levitt. The source of his success was that of Levittown, Pennsylvania, a planned community of homes to almost twenty thousand Americans. Levittown was highly regarded because of the low prices of housing and the accommodations offered to buyers. These suburbs were set apart for others because of the idea of creating a community, filled with shopping complexes, educational centers, and recreational areas. These close-knit communities gave Americans the opportunity to live on their own, commute to work, and return home to their families. With the booming economy in place, citizens were able to strive for the life they couldn’t previously attain.

     While these new suburban communities expanded the housing market drastically throughout the United States. The fifties also marked a time of great struggle for the African American Communities. Not only was it a time of civil struggles but also housing struggles. Many of the newly form suburban communities were not as excepting as they were to white Americans. Thus, communities began to be formed dedicated to the housing of African Americans. These communities provided affordable housing, similar to that of the rural suburban housing popping up throughout the U.S.


With all genders having a place in the workforce, the America people were able to gain financial success and freedom for the poverty-stricken war year.


With Americans now earning more money, due to having higher paying jobs, they were able to obtain items that were once unobtainable.


The financial market gave Americans the ability to delve into more risky financial opportunities, such as the stock market.


Not only did the 1950s introduce many new innovations in the automobile industry. Americans were now able to afford luxury vehicles.


The commercial culture in the U.S in the 1950s subdued the new American ideal for the biggest and best technology out there. Advertisements drew the consumers in to purchase more, even if they didn’t need it.


Very similar to today, companies entice consumers with flashy advertisements for the newest technology. Americans fall for the trap continuously, spending over eight thousand dollars for unnecessary products.


With the housing market expanding because of the influx of soldier returning home, housing communities began to pop up throughout the U.S.


These communities gave the residents a chance to live away from the hustle of the industrial cities, live on their own and build a family.


It provides a close-knit community of thousands of exactly the same houses. Areas, such as Levittown provided residents with a community along with nearby shopping complex’s and recreational areas.


With the establishment of communities outside of the city center, Americans were now involved in the rat race.


Commuting since the 1950s has become the norm. On average citizens commute up to an hour daily to and from work and school.


While communities were prosperous in much of the U.S this was not the cause for the African American population. Many were segregated to industrial parts of cities.


Much of the new suburban communities were not accepting for blacks in the 1950s, forcing citizens to live in dilapidated housing complexes with no amenities.


With the advancement of the civil right movement throughout the 50s, communities dedicated to improving the living situations for blacks began to pop up throughout the U.S. Washington Shores, a community in Central Florida, gave affordable housing to the black population, while, still adhering to the close-knitted life of American suburbia.

While the 1950s were a prosperous time in American history, due to rising employment rates and economic prosperity, they did provide their struggles. 

With the majority of the white population moving to rural suburbs, much of the African American population remained in the industrial city centers. Providing insufficient housing accommodations for those working continuously to maintain their lives. The 1950s is always depicted as a flourishing time in American history, and while that is true to some extent, many were struggling just as much as they were during the war.


  • Trikosko, Marion. “Women working at the U.S. Capitol switchboard, Washington, D.C.” Jan. 27, 1959. Library of Congress.
  • Caldwell, Douglas. “Paycheck 1968.” April, 14, 2012. Flickr.
  • Kubrick, Stanley. “Three unidentified men making notes while working the floor at the Chicago Board of Trade.” 1949. Library of Congress.
  • Chevrolet. “1952 Illustrated, 2-page Car Ad, Chevrolet Bel-Air,” March 24, 1952. Quick News Weekly Magazine. Flickr.
  • Thor Corporation “1953 Ad, Thor Spinner Washers” March 1953. Woman’s Day Magazine. Flickr.
  • Fairbanks, Kyndall. “2017 Chevrolet Malibu Advertisement” November 28, 2016. People Magazine. Print.
  • “Aerial view of Levittown, Pennsylvania,” 1959. Wikipedia.
  • Fairbanks, Kyndall. “New Development Signage.” November 20, 2016.
  • Fairbanks, Kyndall. “New House Lot” November 20, 2016.
  • Chicago Transit Authority. “Traffic jam on the Congress Expressway, Chicago, June 24, 1959, 6:55 p.m.” America On the Move. National Museum of American History, Washington, D.C
  • Fairbanks, Kyndall. “I4 Traffic.” November 18, 2016
  • United States Federal Government. “HOLC Redlining.” 1937. National Archives.
  • Siegel, Arthur. “Detroit, Michigan. Riot at the Sojourner Truth homes, a new U.S federal housing project, caused by white neighbors’ attempt to prevent Negro tenants from moving in. Sign with American flag.” February 1942. Library of Congress.
  • Fairbanks, Kyndall. “MLK Memorial, Washington D.C” May 12, 2016.


Halberstam, David. “The Fifties” New York: Fawcett Columbine, 1993.

Wyatt, Donald. “Better Homes for Negro Families in the South,” Social Forces 28, No. 3 (Mar. 1950): 297-303.