The Moments That Changed America

On the 50th anniversary of the assassination of JFK, TIME Magazine proclaimed that it was “the moment that changed America”. The editor of TIME, Nancy Gibbs, wrote that “there is little doubt that his death and its circumstances set loose the darker instincts of the American psyche.”

While the untimely death of one of America’s most beloved Presidents did change America in a major way, it is only one of the many events that either negatively or positively made a lasting effect on our nation. Here are a few more of the moments that changed our country forever.

The Great Migration of 1915

For many years, African Americans have been viewed as very urban individuals. They populate the big cities of Chicago, New York City and Philadelphia. But this is actually a very new phenomenon. For the majority of America’s history, African Americans have been primarily a part of rural and Southern culture. That all changed when the Great Migration occurred and a mass relocation of six million African Americans moved from the Southern United States to the North and West.

This leaderless revolution was in response to the oppression in the South. It was set into motion by the labor shortage in the North during WWI. Once the opportunity arose, a flood of people started heading North. Those who migrated became the advanced guard of the Civil Rights movement and helped to shape our nation’s culture.

Harry Hopkins Goes to Work

Just two months after President Roosevelt took office, he appointed Harry Hopkins as the head of an emergency program of aid to the unemployed. The very moment this former social worker started on his new position, on May 22, 1933, before he even had access to an office of his own, he dragged a desk into the hall of a building and immediately began sending out money to those in need.

Some people disapproved of his haste and mentioned that there should be a longer consideration time for this type of federal expenditure. Hopkins famously responded “People don’t eat in the long run; they eat every day.” In just two hours he had spent $5 million dollars, the equivalent to around $70 million dollars today, putting money in the hands of consumers.

The North Atlantic Treaty is Signed

The signing of the North Atlantic Treaty meant that, after intervening twice in the past 32 years to restore peace in Europe, the U.S. was now committed to an international alliance in peacetime, and they were focused on preventing war altogether. That act helped to shape our foreign policy, politics, military spending, military structure, doctrine, equipment and military ethos for many years to come. Today, it is our continuing commitment to NATO that helps prevent any further issues of conflict involving Russia or Ukraine. It has helped us to keep the peace in Europe for longer than any other time in previous centuries.

The Birth Control Pill is Approved

On May 9th, 1960 the birth control pill was finally approved. It was one of the most significant achievements of the 20th century for the medical industry as well as for women all throughout the country. Even though contraception wasn’t a new thing, the Pill made it much more effective. It transformed society and caused Americans to think differently about sex, contraception and the women’s right to control their own bodies as they participate as equal members of society. The freedom to choose when and if to become a mother and the ability for a woman to plan her life without the fear of an unwanted pregnancy helped to open the door for liberation of women in the United States.

The Americans with Disabilities Act is Signed

On July 26th 1990 the Americans with Disabilities act was signed. This act formally recognized the fact that people with disabilities, whether they were physical or mental, are part of our society. By the end of the 20th century. The US came face-to-face with the fact that disabled people could no longer be ignored. In the same way that racial desegregation was important, the Americans with Disabilits Act allows people with handicaps to be recognized as members of our society. It is a great progression toward recognized that all people of all categories are part of our great nation. And the idea that someone is different in how they look, act or behave, is something that we are now much more tolerant about. That is one of the greatest achievements of the 20th century here in the United States.