Why did images of white, nuclear families dominate television in the 1950s? Why has it taken nearly 70 years for images of a diverse America—featuring people of color, immigrants, women as independent social beings—to appear on prime time television? Challenging the longstanding belief that what appeared on television screens in the 1950s and after resulted from some social consensus, The Broadcast 41 addresses these and other questions by telling two intersecting stories.
At the end of World War II, anti-communists—including powerful organizations like the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), the American Legion, the National Association of Manufacturers, the Catholic Church, Chambers of Commerce around the country, and many other institutions and organizations—initiated an apocalyptic battle over their definition of Americanism.
In New York City, then the center of broadcast production, in the years between the two world wars, diverse groups of women had taken advantage of economic and political instabilities to carve out toeholds in media industries. To be a woman who wanted to change the treatment of women on and off-screen in the 1930s and 1940s was to struggle constantly against incredibly rigid and powerful institutions.