Photographic book

California from 1950 to 1970


Edmund G. Brown
Edmund G. Brown

California’s varied economy provided its new residents with a personal income substantially above the national average. The decade after the war saw especially rapid urban residential growth. In those ten years, California’s population increased almost 50 percent—from almost 9 million to 13 million. By 1970 the state numbered 19.9 million residents, bypassing New York to become the most populous state.

Earl Warren, a liberal Republican, served as governor for ten years until September 1953, when he was appointed chief justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. In 1959 Edmund G. Brown, Sr., became the state’s second Democratic governor since 1899. But by 1966 California had become more conservative, and Brown was defeated in his bid for a third term by Republican Ronald Reagan, a former movie actor. Many California voters saw government activity related to social and economic problems as too much interference in the concerns of private individuals.

Conservatism in California was especially strong in populous southern California and in rural areas. Reagan, who was reelected governor in 1970, also became a leading spokesman nationwide for conservative issues, and in 1980 was elected president of the United States, defeating Democratic President Jimmy Carter. Racial politics were also part of the conservative trend. Blacks had migrated to California in large numbers during and after World War II seeking jobs. Their growing resentment against discrimination in housing and labor unions accompanied the destructive August 1965 riots in the Watts section of Los Angeles.

The 1970s


These outbreaks helped turn many whites against the policies of Governor Brown. Brown’s administration had cracked down on racial discrimination by employers. In the 1970s many conservative voters also began to resent the large influx into the state of Mexican immigrants, many of them illegal. Dissident protests took place on California’s college campuses in the late 1960s. Students demonstrated against U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War (1959-1975). One major center of public demonstrations was the University of California at Berkeley.

The protests alarmed many voters, who generally supported measures to suppress the disturbances and to reduce funds for higher education.

Labor issues also confronted the state in the 1960s and 1970s, especially in the important fruit and vegetable industry. During World War II the United States had reached an agreement with Mexico to allow large numbers of workers, called braceros, to work in the United States. They had been joined by illegal immigrants from Mexico who were looking for work. Many of these immigrants became farm workers in California. The United Farm Workers Union, headed by César Chávez, struggled to unionize agricultural laborers, largely Hispanic, despite the determined opposition of farm owners. In 1975 all farm workers were guaranteed the right to collective bargaining by the Agricultural Labor Relations Act, and in 1978 a majority of grape growers, whom the United Farm Workers had been boycotting, signed contracts with the union.

Californians also faced the problem of protecting both their physical resources and their environment. The state’s extraordinary growth in the years after World War II required the development of huge projects to supply residential, agricultural, and industrial water needs, particularly in arid and heavily populated southern California. The exploding population and growing economy also contributed to pollution of the air and of the environment. In the 1950s and 1960s the smog for which Los Angeles had become notorious spread to other urban areas, even to the Central Valley, as well as to Lake Tahoe and Yosemite National Park in the summers. California now began seriously to attack its environmental problems, and in 1976 the legislature created a commission to control development along the coastline.

Reagan


Reagan was succeeded as governor in 1975 by Democrat Edmund G. Brown, Jr., the son of Reagan’s predecessor. Brown, Jr., also supported government involvement in social and economic activities. His administration supported civil rights legislation, programs to protect the state’s environment, and completion of his father’s huge California Water Project.

But Brown, Jr., also argued that government could only do so much. In 1978 a “taxpayers’ revolt” in California offered Brown, Jr., an opportunity to put his theories of smaller government into practice. The state’s voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment, known as Proposition 13, that severely reduced local property tax rates by more than two-thirds. This amendment created a financial crisis for local governments, and the state legislature was forced to provide emergency aid from the treasury. "USA" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia

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