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From Boomers to Millennials: A Modern US History Podcast

History Podcasts

A modern U.S. history podcast about the events that spanned the Baby Boomer generation’s lifespan & that are still relevant to people today, especially to Millennials. Unlike some history podcasts, this podcast follows the national story in a chronological manner, starting in 1946. Most episodes are around a half-hour to 45 minutes in length. Each episode covers one year, possibly going all the way up to the present. You can e-mail the show here, we would love your feedback!: boomertomillennial @t


United States


A modern U.S. history podcast about the events that spanned the Baby Boomer generation’s lifespan & that are still relevant to people today, especially to Millennials. Unlike some history podcasts, this podcast follows the national story in a chronological manner, starting in 1946. Most episodes are around a half-hour to 45 minutes in length. Each episode covers one year, possibly going all the way up to the present. You can e-mail the show here, we would love your feedback!: boomertomillennial @t







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Episode 18C - Big Jim Folsom: 10 Minute Profile

Although the majority of white Southerners were staunchly opposed to racial integration during the 1950 & 60s, there were a few mavericks who held a different point of view. One of these was Big Jim Folsom, who successfully ran for Governor of Alabama in 1946, and again in 1954. Gov. Folsom gained popularity by challenging the corruption and selfishness of the wealthy elites who dominated state politics. He became known for building roads & schools, and he created old-age pensions & worker protection laws. However, by the mid-50s, a different and uglier version of populism began sweeping the South, as white Southerners rallied against the push to give civil rights & voting rights to African-Americans. Folsom's popularity suffered because he was relatively progressive on racial issues, & said he would not defy the federal courts if they mandated integration. In 1962, Big Jim's racial tolerance, along with his many personal flaws & vices, caused him to lose the governor's race to George C. Wallace, a former Folsom supporter who had become a militant segregationist. Gov. Wallace went on to gain national fame as a far-right demagogue, while Big Jim & his form of economic populism faded from the Southern political scene. Support the Show.


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Ep. 18B - The Kennedys as Boomer Icons, Part IV: Ascendancy, 1953 - 1959

In the long-awaited next episode in our Kennedys series, we explore how JFK went from a relatively obscure rookie senator to a viable presidential candidate. We document his imperfect but glamorous marriage to Jacqueline Bouvier, his controversial refusal to censure Joe McCarthy, and his continued battle with health problems. We also explore how the publication of Jack's award-winning book "Profiles in Courage," and his attempt to win the vice-presidential nomination in 1956, helped to raise Kennedy's national profile. The battle against organized crime took center stage in domestic politics during the 1950s, while continued decolonization abroad shook up the international situation & forced Americans to cope with the damage the Jim Crow system was doing to the effort to win over potential Cold War allies in the Third World. Kennedy would try to steer a moderate course in the debates of the Civil Rights Act of 1957, hoping to appeal to Northern liberals without alienating the White Southerners within the Democratic Party coalition. We conclude by noting how JFK promoted himself as a promising young political star in the national media, setting the stage for his successful 1960 presidential run. Support the Show.


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Episode 18A - Hannah Arendt: 10-Minute Profile

This episode examines the first 10-minute profile subject who was born outside of the United States. Hannah Arendt was born to a secular Jewish middle-class family in Germany, and as a young woman she was an academic prodigy. She entered university to study philosophy, and engaged in an affair with a famous professor, Martin Heidegger. By the late 20s, Arendt broke up with Heidegger and completed her academic studies. During the early 30s, the Nazis came to power in Germany, and Prof. Heidegger joined the party. Arendt wrote critical articles about the Nazi regime and was jailed for a brief time by the new government that did not tolerate free speech. Arendt was stripped of her German citizenship & fled to Paris, where she met a fellow exile who became her husband. However, when the Nazis invaded France, Arendt moved to the USA, which became her permanent home. As an adopted American, she published 2 classic works of political philosophy: "The Origins of Totalitarianism" (1951), which examined how fascist & communist regimes came to power, and "Eichmann in Jerusalem" (1963), which considered Nazi officials' unquestioning loyalty to their government to embody the modern "banality of evil." Arendt generated controversy with remarks defending her former mentor & lover Heidegger over his decision to join the Nazi Party, but she nevertheless remains an influential thinker whose writings about the dangers of authoritarianism remain relevant to this day. Support the Show.


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Episode 18 - 1961 Part II: Pay Any Price

In 1961, an multiracial group of intrepid "Freedom Riders" attempted to desegregate bus stations in some of the most militantly segregationist parts of the Deep South. These courageous civil rights activists, including John Lewis, Diane Nash, Jim Zwerg, and James Peck, encountered shocking violence in the State of Alabama. A bus they were taking was burned down, and several Riders were bloodied & beaten by organized vigilantes who opposed racial integration. Once photographic images & film footage of this brutality received international media coverage, the Kennedy Administration finally intervened to force desegregation of interstate travel facilities. Southern politicians then attempted to get revenge by tricking busloads of impoverished African-American Southerners to head north in the so-called "Reverse Freedom Rides." Meanwhile, Cold War tensions continued to heat up, as the Vienna Summit between John F. Kennedy & Nikita Khrushchev failed to reach a solution to the Berlin crisis, leading the Communists to construct the Berlin Wall to keep East Germans from moving into the capitalist West. Decolonization continued to free global populations from European imperialism, including a violent struggle that gained Algerian independence from France. Some new nations sought neutral non-alignment, while others allied with the Communist bloc. JFK tried to keep these new Third World nations from siding with the Soviets via aid programs such as Food for Peace, the Peace Corps, and the Alliance for Progress in Latin America. However, there was a more coercive side to these US Cold War efforts, as the Kennedy Administration also funded CIA interference into foreign politics, anti-Communist military buildups in Latin nations, and an escalation of US military commitment in South Vietnam. The year closed on an ominous note as both the USA & the USSR began escalating defense spending and nuclear testing. Support the Show.


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Episode 17D - Reinhold Niebuhr: 10-Minute Profile

In our latest profile episode, we provide an overview of the life of pastor & public intellectual Reinhold Niebuhr, who was something we rarely see today - a clergyman who became an important figure on the political Left. Niebuhr led a Protestant church in Detroit, Michigan during the 1910s & 1920s. From his pulpit, he spoke out against the Ku Klux Klan and in favor of organized labor. During the 1940s & 1950s, Niebuhr moved away from pacifism & socialism and became a more mainstream Cold War liberal. He became one of the founders of the anti-Communist ADA organization and wrote books expressing a "Christian realist" view of foreign policy. With the arrival of the turbulent 1960s, Niebuhr reconsidered his support for US Cold War policies overseas; he spoke out in favor of the civil rights movement & against the Vietnam War until his death in 1971. In recent years, his writings have drawn a diverse group of admirers that include Barack Obama & James Comey. Support the Show.


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Episode 17C - Bayard Rustin: 10-Minute Profile

In this profile, we shift gears to examine the life of someone who was an outsider to mainstream America during the mid-20th Century, but who nevertheless found a way to make a major impact as an activist and organizer. Bayard Rustin was born to an African-American family of Quakers in Pennsylvania who were heavily involved in the NAACP. After being kicked out of college, Rustin pursued a singing career in New York City during the 1930s. While living in the Big Apple, he became involved with the Young Communist League. Rustin liked the group's promotion of equal rights for Black people, but he disapproved of its cultish devotion to Soviet dictator Josef Stalin, which led him to resign. During the 1940s, he was hired as a writer & organizer by a pacifist organization, and he studied Mahatma Gandhi's nonviolent resistance tactics in India. In the years that followed, Rustin ran afoul of the law 3 times: for failing to register for the draft, for participating in a civil rights sit-in, & for engaging in a gay relationship. During the late 50s & early 60s, Rustin met Martin Luther King Jr. and convinced him to embrace a totally nonviolent approach (King had been carrying a gun for protection up to that point). Rustin successfully organized the famous March on Washington in 1963, despite becoming a lightning rod for right-wing criticism when people learned that he was a gay ex-Communist. In the late 60s & early 70s, Rustin also drew criticism from some on the Left due to his opposition to the non-nonviolent militancy of the Black Power movement. Bayard Rustin then advocated for LGBT rights in his home state of New York prior to his death in 1987. Support the Show.


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Episode 17B - Henry Cabot Lodge Jr.: 10-Minute Profile

This episode debuts a new format of very brief profiles of interesting historical figures that we haven't given sufficient attention to in regular episodes. Henry Cabot Lodge Jr. is a prime example of the Northeastern elites who had a disproportionate (albeit declining) amount of power in mid-20th Century America. Both of Lodge Junior's parents were descended from Republican Senators, so you could say politics was in their blood. Lodge launched a successful political career during the 1930s. When Lodge, who was a Moderate Republican, lost his Massachusetts US Senate seat to John F. Kennedy in 1952, he pivoted to a diplomatic career. He became US Ambassador to the United Nations under President Eisenhower. He then served as Richard Nixon's running-mate in the razor-thin 1960 presidential election. After losing that race, his former opponent President Kennedy appointed Lodge to serve as Ambassador to South Vietnam, & Lodge remained involved in diplomatic negotiations in Southeast Asia for the remainder of the disastrous Vietnam conflict. The Lodge family is a prime example of a New England WASP political dynasty, one that never achieved the glamour & fame gained by the Kennedys, but which nevertheless wielded considerable power. Support the Show.


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Ep. 17A - The Kennedys as Boomer Icons, Part III: Young Bobby

Season 3 of our podcast begins with the next chapter of the Kennedy saga, as Rep. John F. Kennedy manages to knock off powerful incumbent Republican Senator Henry Cabot Lodge Jr. in the 1952 Massachusetts U.S. Senate race. The secret ingredient in that victory was JFK's tenacious & combative younger brother, Robert F. Kennedy (often known as "RFK" or "Bobby"), who served as his campaign manager. RFK had grown up younger & shorter than his charismatic brothers Joe Junior & Jack, and he had a bit of a chip on his shoulder. He started his political career as a staunch anti-Communist conservative, taking after his right-wing father. He even worked for infamous red-baiting Senator Joe McCarthy. But he still supported the Democrats, and after getting JFK into the Senate in 1952, he also served as the campaign manager for his presidential campaign in 1960. As a reward for his hard work, & to have a trusted confidant in the White House, JFK appointed RFK as his Attorney General. Bobby was known at the Justice Dept. for taking tough stances against organized crime at home & Communists abroad. However, after Jack's assassination in 1963, he moved far to the Left politically. He remade himself as a crusader against poverty & the Vietnam War, & he sought to defeat archrival Lyndon B. Johnson in the 1968 Democratic primary. However, his race was tragically cut short when he, too, was assassinated, leaving many Baby Boomers to dream about the America that might have been if Bobby Kennedy had survived to become president. Support the Show.


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Episode 17 - 1961 Part I: Bear Any Burden?

In January 1961, new President John F. Kennedy said in his Inaugural Address that the American people were ready to "bear any burden" and "pay any price" in order to fight for global freedom, which he argued was being threatened by the Communist bloc. That price soon turned out to include a new taxpayer-funded military buildup when Congress approved increased government spending upon nuclear missile production. It also included the cost of a new federal investment in diplomatic initiatives such as the Peace Corps and the Alliance for Progress. However, an aggressive US attempt to use Cuban exiles to overthrow Fidel Castro was met with disaster in the Bay of Pigs invasion. This fiasco taught Kennedy to question the advice he was receiving from the military & the CIA. When JFK's hawkish advisors later suggested that the USA should undertake a substantial military intervention in order to prevent Communists from taking power in Laos, the president decided that another attempt at foreign intervention was a burden that he could not bear. Unfortunately, Kennedy hadn't seen the last of his foreign policy troubles related to both Cuba and Southeast Asia. Support the Show.


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Ep. 16B - The Kennedys as Boomer Icons, Part II: Origins

This episode examines the origins of John F. Kennedy's political career, considering his youthful health problems & his sibling rivalry with his older brother Joe Junior. JFK was a charming, irreverent, & popular young man, although he struggled with chronic pain & health difficulties that prevented him from matching the accomplishments of his older brother, who was a standout student & athlete. Both brothers graduated from Harvard & then enlisted in the US military at the outbreak of World War II. JFK started out in a comfy posting with naval intelligence in Washington DC, until his love affair with a married foreign journalist (who was suspected of being a Nazi spy) led to his transfer into combat duty. Jack then commanded a boat in the South Pacific, & he heroically helped rescue crew members when his ship capsized. Joe Junior also had dangerous wartime adventures, which unfortunately led to his death in a plane crash over the English Channel. At war's end, family pressure led Jack to run for Congress; he overcame debilitating back pain to become a successful politician. However, Congressional colleagues dismissed JFK as an idle playboy; few would have guessed he was just a dozen years away from being elected President of the United States. Support the Show.


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Episode 16A - The Kennedys as Boomer Icons, Part I: Introduction

This supplemental series examines the continued obsessions many Americans have with the Kennedy political dynasty, ranging from Oliver Stone's 1991 hit movie "JFK" to the current QAnon conspiracy theorists' preoccupation with the idea that certain Kennedys faked their deaths. This episode provides background to the rise of Kennedy political family by focusing on the controversial career of Joseph P. Kennedy, Senior (the father of President John F. Kennedy). It examines Joe Kennedy's rise to wealth & power through various business ventures, including banking, stock trading, investments in the film industry, and importing liquor after the repeal of Prohibition. We also consider the most infamous aspects of Joe's life, including his decision to lobotomize his intellectually disabled daughter Rosemary, and his efforts to appease the fascist Axis powers as US Ambassador to the UK in the years immediately preceding the Second World War. Support the Show.


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Ep. 16 - 1960 Part II: New Trajectories for American Politics & Society

A new wave of civil rights activism during the year 1960 indicated that social activist movements would be more aggressive during the Sixties than they had been during the previous decade. A sit-in at a lunch counter by four black college students in Greensboro, North Carolina gained national attention, & the nonviolent protest tactic spread around the country in the months that followed, successfully pushing many private businesses to desegregate their facilities. Many African-American groups rallied around the idea that non-violent civil disobedience was the future of the movement, although there were some dissenting voices. The presidential election of '60 pitted Vice-President Richard Nixon against the young upstart Senator John F. Kennedy. In order to win the Democratic nomination, Kennedy made certain to address & mitigate concerns that his Catholic faith would have an undue influence on his conduct in office. JFK's energy & charisma helped him outshine Nixon in one of the first televised presidential debates in US history. The November election proved extremely close, but Kennedy prevailed by a narrow margin in the popular vote & a broader margin in the Electoral College. Nixon showed restraint by accepting JFK's victory, despite reports of suspicious voting irregularities in Chicago. The FDA approved a birth control pill for the first time. Although its adoption was gradual, this development opened the door for major changes in American gender relations & sexual norms. We conclude by pointing out that there was much continuity between the late 50s & early 60s, but developing societal trends had already opened the door for the big changes soon to come. Support the Show.


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Ep. 15 - 1960 Part I: Military-Industrial Complexities & The Last Days of the Eisenhower Era

In May 1960, the USSR shot down a US spy plane trespassing in their airspace, & the Soviets captured its American pilot, Francis Gary Powers. This international incident increased tensions between the superpowers, & it spoiled peace negotiations between President Dwight Eisenhower & Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev. However, the Americans did eventually succeed in negotiations to get the Soviets to release the imprisoned Powers, by agreeing to return a Russian spy in US custody. By the early 60s, both superpowers began scaling back nuclear testing within their borders due to growing concerns about the impact of atomic fallout. Unfortunately, this development came too late for tens of thousands of "downwinders" in the American West, who had already been exposed to radiation that endangered their long-term health. By the end of Ike's administration, the USA was increasing its financial & military support for a troubled regime in South Vietnam. Eisenhower ended his presidency with a speech that expressed concern over the growing "military-industrial complex," which was a monster that his own policies had helped to create. Support the Show.


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Episode 14B – 1959: A Rock ‘N Roll Tragedy & A Podcast Update

This episode begins with a few stray observations exploring topics mentioned in recent episodes, including the Cuban Revolution, neoliberalism, the Capitol Riot, & the popularity of conspiracy theories. The main narrative of the program explores the early history of rock 'n roll. We discuss how rock music became big business by the late 50s, despite accusations from conservative forces that the new sound was an immoral & subversive racket that corrupted American teenagers. One of the rising stars of the genre was a lanky & bespectacled young man from Lubbock, Texas named Buddy Holly. He quickly attained national fame thanks to hit songs like "Peggy Sue," but he then experienced a financially-damaging breakup with his band & his management. Short on cash & needing to provide for his new wife & unborn child, he launched on an ill-advised mid-winter tour of the Upper Midwest alongside fellow rockers Richie Valens & the Big Bopper. After their rickety tour bus broke down in dangerously cold temperatures, resulting in his drummer being hospitalized with frostbite, Holly decided that chartering a private plane might be a safer way to travel. Unfortunately, this proved not to be the case, & Holly became the first of a string of rock stars to die young under tragic circumstances. Support the Show.


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Episode 14A - Recapping Our Show So Far

This show summarizes all of our past episodes so far, providing our listeners with a refresher course on life in the USA during the Truman & Eisenhower Administrations (from 1946 to 1959). This episode will be a good resource for anyone who just wants a "Cliff Notes" or "Spark Notes" version of this mid-century era of Modern US History. By listening to this episode, you will get all the general backstory & historical context you need in order to prepare for our upcoming episodes about the wild & turbulent 1960s. Support the Show.


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Episode 14 - 1959: Coping with Cuba

This episode first examines the Great Leap Forward in China, an instance of bad Maoist policies creating mass starvation. We then discuss diplomatic exchanges between the superpowers in 1959, including the Kitchen Debate between Khrushchev & Nixon, as well as the Soviet Premier's cordial visit to the USA later that same year. But the main portion of our program explores the causes, consequences, & legacy of a dramatic political revolution in the Caribbean island nation of Cuba. The January 1959 Cuban Revolution was a key turning point in the history of the Cold War. US support of dictator Fulgencio Batista, alongside the heavy influence by American corporations & organized criminal syndicates on the island, led Cuban revolutionaries such as Fidel Castro & Che Guevara to distrust the United States. They instead pursued an alliance with the capitalist Americans' archrival, the Communist Soviet Union. This pact panicked the Eisenhower Administration. In response to the emergence of a Marxist regime in Cuba, the USA attempted to adopt more humane policies toward other Latin American nations (in an attempt to prevent similar left-wing revolutions), while simultaneously taking a very hard line against Castro. By 1960, the CIA was training anti-Castro Cuban exiles to invade the island & topple the regime. In the early 60s, tensions over the fate of Cuba would bring the two superpowers to the brink of nuclear war. Support the Show.


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Episode 13A - Special: Defining Liberalism

After spending our last episode discussing the rise of Cold War Liberalism, we take time out from our historical narrative during this special supplemental episode to explain the origins of the "liberal" political label, to identify why it became widely popular during the mid-20th-Century US, & to track how the term became so stigmatized by the American Right (& also the Far Left) that it has declined in popularity by the 21st Century. This episode briefly takes us back to the American & French Revolutions of the 18th Century, which were inspired by Enlightenment ideals proposing individual rights as a check upon the power of absolute monarchs. We then describe how middle-class liberals & working-class socialists sometimes cooperated but often clashed in 19th Century Europe. However, because there was no powerful Socialist movement in the United States, a Left-Liberal movement was able to emerge out of the 20th Century Progressive reform era that kept middle-class professionals & working-class laborers within the same Democratic Party coalition. That "New Deal" coalition of left-liberalism remained intact until the economic problems & culture wars of the late 20th Century weakened the coalition & allowed American conservatives to successfully turn "liberal" into a dirty word. In the 21st Century, the word "liberal" is still more favored by the American center-left's enemies than its advocates, but liberal philosophies have still left a major lasting impact on the modern United States. Support the Show.


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Episode 13 - 1958: The Rise of Cold War Liberalism

In 1958, Pres. Eisenhower grew fearful that Middle Eastern revolutions were posing a threat to America's military & economic interests, so he flexed US muscles by sending troops to Lebanon in what turned out to be an uneventful beachside deployment. Vice-President Nixon received a menacing reception while on tour in South America. In domestic politics, the big story of the late 50s was the rise of Cold War Era Liberalism, which became possible once the fears of McCarthyism subsided & Americans again began dreaming of major reforms. A new avant-garde emerged in the arts, as figures such as Jack Kerouac & Lenny Bruce were not afraid to challenge conventions. The Supreme Court under the leadership of Chief Justice Earl Warren issued rulings protecting civil liberties. John Kenneth Galbraith's "The Affluent Society" & other non-fiction bestsellers made the case for more government funding to public education & social services. In the 1958 Congressional elections, Democrats gained significant ground in both houses of Congress. Senator John F. Kennedy began laying the groundwork for an upcoming presidential bid. Meanwhile, figures on the Conservative Right (such as National Review published William Buckley, Atlas Shrugged author Ayn Rand, & John Birch Society founder Robert Welch) began challenging Eisenhower's moderate Republicanism. Finally, the United States expanded its official borders to new frontiers on the fringes of the North American continent by granting statehood to both Alaska & Hawaii. Support the Show.


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Episode 12 - 1957: The Blessings of the Cold War?

After a brief reflection on troubling recent events in the USA, this episode looks back at a seemingly simpler time - Dwight D. Eisenhower's second term as President. By the late 1950s, Cold War pressures led the US government to build major defense & infrastructure projects, to invest heavily in education & scientific research, & to undertake modest steps in the direction of greater racial equality. The Interstate Highway Act of 1956 was a public works program that created jobs & democratized interstate travel, while displacing some unfortunate urban residents. The USSR's launch of the Sputnik satellites in 1957 led the US to invest in science via the National Defense Education Act (NDEA), & motivated the creation of the National Aeronautics & Space Administration (NASA). New defense spending spurred further southwestern migration, & this population shift enabled the Dodgers & Giants franchises of Major League Baseball to relocate to the West Coast. In 1957, a new civil rights act passed the United States Senate for the first time in nearly a century. However, the biggest racial justice milestone of the year occurred in Little Rock, Arkansas, where 9 black students courageously faced down jeering protesters & bullying classmates to integrate Central High School. Arkansas's segregationist governor, Orval Faubus, tried to prevent the Little Rock 9 from attending their classes, but when a reluctant President Eisenhower finally decided to send in federal troops to protect these African-American students, racist politicians & vigilantes backed off of their most blatant intimidation tactics. Support the Show.


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Episode 11 - 1956: Trouble in the Promised Land

The key events of 1956 include a civil rights milestone, a presidential election, & an international crisis. The 1955 lynching of black teenager Emmett Till in Mississippi was just one manifestation of Southern resistance to the challenge to white supremacy posed by desegregation. More organized defenses of Jim Crow also formed, ranging from the plebeian (Ku Klux Klan) to the patrician (White Citizens' Councils; US Senate Southern Manifesto) social sphere. Nevertheless, during 1956, African-American activists including Rosa Parks & Martin Luther King Jr. defied the racist establishment with a successful boycott of the segregated bus system in Montgomery, Alabama. Meanwhile, Republican President Dwight Eisenhower cruised to an easy victory over Democratic retread candidate Adlai Stevenson in November '56. In Eastern Europe, new Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev ruthlessly crushed a popular rebellion against Communism in Hungary. Further south, Egypt's nationalist dictator Gamal Abdel Nasser was more successful in his revolt against the vestiges of British colonialism in '56. Nasser seized the Suez Canal, and was able to parry British, French, & Israeli efforts to recover it. Strangely, the Soviets & the Americans would find themselves on the same side in an effort to resolve this crisis in the Middle East. Support the Show.