Lessons of History with my Family

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My grandfather and his younger brother were born early into the baby boom generation of the 1940s-1950s and my father was born to parents who were hopeful for change at the height of the civil rights movement in the 1960s.  My mother is younger and so her viewpoint is shaped by fall of communism and the optimism of the late 1980s and early 1990s.  As a young African American student born at the beginning of the 21st century and as a member of what they call “generation Z”,  I am curious about the lessons of my family’s past.

My great uncle who was born in 1952, remembers Martin Luther King Jr. He says he used to despise anyone who wasn’t colored, until MLK’s speech. He learned everyone should be treated equally no matter their race, religion or ethnicity. Now that racism and segregation has decreased in America, I’m able to go to school, drink from the same water fountains, and use the same public bathrooms with different races. My Grandfather and his brother (my great uncle) did not have those same privileges growing up. My uncle also told me about how he remembers watching the first man to ever land on the moon. He was 17 at the time and his household did not have a TV at the time, but he watched it at school. The Space Race had pretty much begun when he was only 5 years old.

When did NASA begin?

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration was created in 1958, and after Russia launched the Sputnik satellite. This was the height of a 45 year time period after World War II known as the “Cold War”. (1945-1991).

After World War 2, the U.S. thought their best defense mechanism against the Soviet Union was to form the  containment policy. To protect and support the people within the country. The U.S. wanted to stop the Soviet Union from spreading communism.   The U.S.S.R. created a “superbomb”, that had a 25 square-mile fireball that could blow a hole through the ocean floor. Eventually, conflict extended to outer space when Russia launched the Sputnik (Russian for traveler) satellite. In 1958, the U.S. launched their first satellite, Explorer I, one year later and the space race had begun. After the Soviet Union were the first to land a probe on the moon and be the first to orbit Earth, President JFK announced there would be an American human landed on the moon by the end of the decade.

A rearward view of the International Space Station backdropped by the limb of the Earth. In view are the station's four large, gold-coloured solar array wings, two on either side of the station, mounted to a central truss structure. Further along the truss are six large, white radiators, three next to each pair of arrays. In between the solar arrays and radiators is a cluster of pressurised modules arranged in an elongated T shape, also attached to the truss. A set of blue solar arrays are mounted to the module at the aft end of the cluster.

In 1957, the U.S. and the Soviet Union (USSR) both attempted to build rockets to compete for spaceflight dominance.  In the beginning the U.S.S.R. was more successful with the first satellite, first animal, and first human in space flight. The US made quick advancements and were the first to put humans on the moon in July 1969.  When the Cold War ended space had become more of a place for international cooperation instead of competition as the Russian, American and international astronauts came together to work on the International Space Station. The Cold War ended with the fall of the Berlin wall and Space technology going private with SPACEX.


What else was happening in the world at this time?

The civil rights movement was coming to a climax as the summer of 1963 brought Martin Luther King JR’s March on Washington and “Dream Speech at the Lincoln memorial. In 1964, the civil acts right was passed and discrimination was prohibited in certain areas.

The assassination of JFK occurred in November 1963. Conspiracy thinking that it could have been a Cuban retaliation from Fidel Castro because the CIA had attempted to assassinate this Cuban communist dictator during the Kennedy Presidency.The Vietnam War started when my uncle was really young. But it lasted until he was 22. The war expanded more and more as more countries joined in. France, China, The Soviet Union, Cambodia and other countries became involved until North and South Vietnam finally made peace again and reunited.

My mom was born in 1982. She was pregnant with me when she graduated high school in 2000. My mom was born during the Millennial generation, which also includes the space shuttle program, the end of the Vietnam war and the end of the Cold War with the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.  How did the Cold War end?

In 1989, the Berlin Wall came down, borders opened, and free elections ousted Communist regimes everywhere in Eastern Europe. The German Communist Party on November 9th, 1989 announced that the citizens of the GDR could cross over whenever they wanted. At exactly midnight that night, a swarm of people charged into Eastern Europe.

A year after she had me, the attack on the World Trade Center occurred. My mom says we were at home when it happened and she remembers turning on the TV to watch it live. She said it was a tragic moment in the country’s history. The government was unable to find the mastermind behind the attack for an entire decade. Without the newly advanced technology, it would’ve been even more difficult to locate him. Technology has advanced drastically in the most recent generation. Computers, cell phones and cars are just some examples of changes in technology. Guns and other weapons that were used during the differed from the the weapons of mass destruction that were used during the Cold War.

The Cold War was just the beginning of the hardest generation in America. The Baby Boomer generation had the most struggles going on in america. It also starts around the same time World War II ended. Discrimination and Jim Crow laws were still occurring. The Cuban missile crisis, the assassination on JFK, and the assassination on MLK are just some examples of the horrifying events of the Baby Boomer generation.

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What about my generation?  What defines generation Z?

Generation Z contains the launch of the international space station in 1998, the 9/11 terrorist attack, and the nightclub shooting in Orlando. Things have changed alot in the past few years. I grew up in a country that had already been through wars, discrimination, and terrorist attacks. We continue to grow and get stronger by coming up with new inventions. Advancements and improvements in technology have helped Americans gain more knowledge. The country we live in now, what not have been like this if it weren’t for those major events. I also realized that my mom being that young and having me and my brother during the 9/11 attack must’ve been frightening or terrifying even. She was really young, around my age now, when it happened. She probably didn’t know what to do at first, and was worried about her safety for her and her kids.

Lessons in history are these events and has taught America to become a better country. We still live today with conflict with other countries, but we’re not at war like we were in the past. We’ve gained peace with most of the countries around the world. More people from other countries come to America more often and people can live without concerning about their safety. Discrimination and segregation has decreased drastically, although there are still some situations when police display cruel acts because of someone’s color of their skin. America is going to continue growing and get better throughout time. Technology will continue growing and so will the economy. There’s a possibility we may go into war, but hopefully, we won’t be the one’s declaring it.