L e s s o n 1 (SOCIAL STUDIES) 13 J o u r n e y s i n F i l m : H i d d e n F i g u r e s Bitter Rivals: The Cold War at Mid-Century Enduring Understandings • Knowledge of the origins of the Cold War is essential to understanding the urgency of the work done by the “human computers” in Hidden Figures . • Because of the escalation of the Cold War into 1961, the United States and the Soviet Union viewed the space race as one element of their rivalry for global political and military domination. • The growth in the number of Communist-controlled countries and allies added increased urgency to the United States’ desire to win the Cold War. • Essential Questions • What was the geographic scale of the Cold War? • How did the various events prior to 1961 escalate the importance of the work done at NASA? • How did the United States and the Soviet Union become such enemies after being allies in World War II? • Who were the major personalities involved in the Cold War conflict? How did these leaders shape global policy prior to 1961? Notes to the Teacher As World War II drew to a close, the Allies rushed to divide up as much ground as possible from Germany; the British, French, and Americans moved eastward as the Russians moved west. Eastern Europe in 1945 was in Communist hands, Western Europe was in the hands of democratic nations, and Germany was split between the two factions. The Cold War was on, as each side maneuvered to strengthen its “sphere of influence” over emerging nations elsewhere; “containment” became the overriding foreign policy goal of the United States, but the Korean War and the victory of the Vietnamese against the French in Indochina confirmed Western fears. Fear of Communist “subversives” had an impact within the United States as well, as investigations by Senator Joseph McCarthy and by the House Un-American Activities Committee wrecked the careers of innocent citizens accused of Communist sympathies. This lesson traces the increasing animosity between the Communist nations and the West, in order to explore the pressures under which the “human computers” at Langley were working. This lesson can be completed prior to viewing Hidden Figures . It is designed to provide students with background information about the Cold War as well as a sense of the potential for conflict as the film opens in 1961. The lesson is divided into three parts, with an optional extension activity that uses primary sources to help students understand the mindset of the politicians as they made their decisions during this difficult period. The first part will take at least one period to allow students adequate time to research the nuances of the various events that occurred from 1945 to 1961 as the world attempted to prevent nuclear war. For homework, please encourage
14 J o u r n e y s i n F i l m : H i d d e n F i g u r e s students to use sources that allow for unbiased reviews of the events. If possible, you may wish to have your school
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