The year of 1954 was driven by global and local hysteria that forever changed history. The overall theme at home and abroad stemmed from minority takeover; racially and politically. Even though World War II ended, the United States remained involved in the foreign affairs of Asia and Eastern Europe to conquer the spread of communism and encourage the development of democratic nations. While the nation was busy occupied in global affairs, the homeland was uneasy due to the spreading paranoia of communism in the US and racial tension rising from new mandates of the Supreme Court regarding integration throughout the nation.

This was the year that the Geneva Conference was held in Geneva, Switzerland to establish peace in Vietnam after years of unrest and communist takeover; however, the agreement ended in the division of Vietnam at the 17th parallel, submitting the northern half of the nation under communist rule, and developing the southern half into a democratic nation. This decision eventually added to the tension and development of the Vietnam War, which was considered a shameful defeat for America several years later.

In addition to the Geneva Conference, SEATO, or the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization developed with the hopes of decreasing the spread of communism in the Eastern Hemisphere. NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization was created years before after WWII, but it was during 1954 that Europe made amends with Germany for its horrendous war-crimes and allowed acceptance of Germany into NATO’s collaborative efforts to stop the spread of the Soviet Union and communism.

While overseas involvement seemed overwhelmingly occupied with preventing communist takeover, the fear even bled into American politics and caused mass hysteria. Across the nation, innocent people were being accused and publically slandered for involvement with the communist party. Joseph McCarthy led the outrage through appearances on radio and television shows where he loosely accused people of allegiance to communism. He had little to no evidence, but still its effects ran their course and caused great disruption in America.

While fear of communist takeover was probably the most pervasive theme during 1954, forced integration caused several political and social issues in the United States. After the Supreme Court hearing of Brown v. the Board of Education, public schools were forced to integrate their students. After generations of systemic and blatant racism, the nation ruled against legal separation in favor of an integrated school system. This groundbreaking ruling trumped the precedence of “separate but equal” from the previous case, Plessy v. Ferguson which legalized segregation. The Brown v. Board case was catalytic in the development of the Civil Rights Movement developing in the later 1950’s and extending into the 1960’s. Even though the ruling was met with great opposition and strife, the nation eventually began moving towards integration.

In essence, 1954 was a turbulent year stirred with fears of communism and legally mandated equality. It was a year of great change, and a turning point in the history of the nation and globe.

-Jessie