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Visit our companion site, American Passages. Produced in conjunction with Oregon Public Broadcasting, this rich site includes an archive featuring over 3,000 images, audio clips, presentation software, and more.


These timelines will help you connect authors and literary works to their historical contexts.


Texts and Contexts

American Literature Since 1945

Texts Contexts
1941 Eudora Welty, "Petrified Man"
1944 Stanley Kunitz, "Father and Son"
1945 Randall Jarrell, "The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner"
  • 1945 U.S. drops atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki; Japan surrenders, ending World War II • Cold War begins
1947 Tennesse Williams, A Streetcar Named Desire
  • 1947 Jackie Robinson becomes the first black Major League ballplayer
1948 Theodore Roethke, The Lost Son
1949 Arthur Miller, Death of a Salesman
1950 Richard Wilbur, "A World without Objects Is a Sensible Emptiness" • Charles Olson, "Projective Verse"
  • 1950 Senator Joseph McCarthy begins attacks on communism
  • 1950-53 Korean War
1952 Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man
1953 Saul Bellow, The Adventures of Augie March • Charles Olson, "Maximus, to Himself"
  • 1953 House Concurrent Resolution 108 dictates government's intention to "terminate" its treaty relations with the Native American tribes
  • 1954 Brown v. Board of Education declares segregated schools unconstitutional • Beat Generation poets begin to gather at San Francisco's City Lights Bookshop
1955 Flannery O'Connor, "Good Country People"
1955-68 John Berryman composes The Dream Songs (pub. 1964, 1968, 1977)
1956 Allen Ginsberg, Howl
  • 1956 Martin Luther King Jr. leads bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama
1958 Bernard Malamud, "The Magic Barrel"
1959 Philip Roth, "Defender of the Faith" • Robert Creeley, "Kore" • Robert Lowell, Life Studies • Frank O'Hara, "Per­ sonism"
  • 1959 Fidel Castro becomes communist leader of Cuba
1960 Thomas Pynchon, "Entropy" • Gwendolyn Brooks, "We Real Cool" • Robert Duncan, "Often I Am Permitted to Return to a Meadow"
  • 1960 Woolworth lunch counter sit-in in Greensboro, N.C., marks beginning of Civil Rights Movement
1961 Denise Levertov, "The Jacob's Ladder"
1962 Jack Kerouac, Big Sur • Robert Hayden, "Middle Passage"
  • 1962 United States and Soviet Union close to war over Russian missiles based in Cuba; missiles withdrawn
1963 James Wright, "A messing" • Martin Luther King Jr., "I Have a Dream"
  • 1963 King delivers "I Have a Dream" speech • black church in Birmingham, Alabama, bombed, killing four girls • Pres­ ident John F. Kennedy assassinated
1964 John Cheever, "The Swimmer" • Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones) "An Agony. As Now." • Frank O'Hara, "A Step Away from Them"
1965 James Baldwin, "Going to Meet the Man" • A. R. Ammons, "Corson's Inlet"
  • 1965 Riots break out in Watts section of Los Angeles • Malcolm X assassinated • hippie culture flourishes in San Francisco
  • 1965-73 Vietnam War
1966 James Merrill, "The Broken Home" • Sylvia Plath, Ariel
  • 1966 National Organization for Women (NOW) founded • Hayden and Brooks crit­ icized at Black Writers' Conference, Fisk University, for composing "academic" poetry
1967 A. R. Ammons, "A Poem Is a Walk" • W. S. Merwin, "For a Coming Extinction"
1968 Donald Barthelme, "The Balloon" • Edward Abbey, "Havasu"
  • 1968 King assassinated • Senator Robert F. Kennedy assassinated • photo of Earthrise by Apollo 8
1969 N. Scott Momaday, The Way to Rainy Mountain • Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five • Galway Kinnell. "The Porcupine" • Robert Penn Warren, Audubon
  • 1969 U.S. astronauts land on the moon • Stonewall riots in New York City initiate gay liberation movement • Woodstock Festival held near Bethel, New York
1970 Ishmael Reed, "Neo-HooDoo Manifesto"
  • 1970 National Guard kills four students during antiwar demonstration at Kent State University, Ohio
1971 Audre Lorde, "Black Mother Woman"
1972 Rudolfo A. Anaya, Bless Me, Ultima • Anne Sexton, The Death of the Fathers • Letter from Elizabeth Bishop to Robert Lowell objecting to use of personal letters in manuscript of The Dolphin
  • 1972 Watergate Scandal • military draft ends
1973 Alice Walker, "Everyday Use" • Adrienne Rich, Diving into the Wreck
  • 1973 Roe v. Wade legalizes abortion • American Indian Movement members occupy Wounded Knee, South Dakota
1974 Grace Paley, "A Conversation with My Father" • Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek
1975 John Updike, "Separating" • John Ashbery, "Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror" • Michael S. Harper, "Nightmare Begins Responsibility"
  • 1974 President Richard Nixon resigns in wake of Watergate, avoiding impeachment
1976 Elizabeth Bishop, Geography III • Maxine Hong Kingston, "No Name Woman" • Barry Lopez, "The Raven"
1977 Audre Lorde, "Poetry Is Not a Luxury"
1978 Ann Beattie, "Weekend" • Jamaica Kinkaid, "0"
1979 Philip Levine, "Starlight" • Mary Oliver, "The Black Snake" • Robert Hass "Meditation at Lagunitas"
  • 1976 U.S. bicentennial
1980 Toni Cade Bambara, "Medley" • Sam Shepard, True West
1981 Leslie Marmon Silko, "Lullaby" • Lorna Dee Cervantes, "The Body as Braille" • James Dickey, "Falling" • Simon J. Ortiz, "From Sand Creek"
1982 Raymond Carver, "Cathedral" • David Mamet, Glengarry Glen Ross
  • 1982 Equal Rights Amendment defeated • antinuclear movement protests manufacture of nuclear weapons • AIDS officially identified in the United States
1983 Toni Morrison, "Recitatif" • Joy Harjo, "Call It Fear"
1984 Louise Erdrich, "Dear John Wayne"
1985 Ursula K. Le Guin, "She Unnames Them" • Stanley Kunitz, "The Wellfleet Whale"
1986 Louise Erdrich, "Fleur" • Art Spiegelman, Maus I • Rita Dove, Thomas and Beulah • Li-Young Lee, "Eating Together"
1987 Gloria Anzaldua, Borderlands/La Frontera • Sharon Olds, "I Go Back to May 1937"
1988 Yusef Komunyakaa, "Facing It"
1989 Amy Tan, The Joy Luck Club
  • 1989 Soviet Union collapses; Cold War ends • oil tanker Exxon Valdez runs aground in Alaska
1990 Robert Pinsky, "The Want Bone"
  • 1990 Congress passes Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act
1991 Sandra Cisneros, Woman Hollering Creek
  • 1991 United States enters Persian Gulf War • World Wide Web introduced
1993 Gary Snyder, "Ripples on the Surface" • A.R. Ammons, Garbage • Sherman Alexie, "This Is What It Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona"
1994 Cathy Song, "Lost Sister" • Stephen Dixon, "Flying"
  • 1995 Federal building in Oklahoma City bombed in a terrorist attack
1995 Jorie Graham, The Dream of the Unified Field
1996 W. S. Merwin, "Lament for the Makers" • Sherman Alexie, "The Exaggeration of Despair" • J unot Dfaz, "Drown"
1997 Julia Alvarez, jYo! • Fanny Howe, "[Nobody wants crossed out girls around]"
  • 1997 Pathfinder robot explores Mars
1998 Billy Collins, "I Chop Some Parsley While Listening to Art Blakey's Version of 'Three Blind Mice'"
1999 Jhumpa Lahiri, "Sexy" • Charles Simic, "Arriving Celebrities"
2000 Charles Wright, "North American Bear" • Lucille Clifton, "Moonchild"
2001 Charles Simic, "Late September"
  • 2001 Execution of Timothy McVeigh, convicted of 1995 Oklahoma City bombing • September 11 terrorist attacks on Pentagon and World Trade Center
2002 Dorothy Allison, "Stubborn Girls and Mean Stories" • Alberto Rfos, "Refugio's Hair"
  • 2003 United States and Great Britain invade Iraq
2004 Louise Glück, "October"
2005 Kay Ryan, "Home to Roost" • Joan Didion, The Year of Magical Thinking
2006 Thomas McGuane, "Gallatin Canyon" • Richard Powers, The Echo Maker • John Crawford, "The Last True Story I'll Ever Tell"
2007 Edwidge Danticat, Brother, I'm Dying
  • 2007 Advent of worst economic recession since the Great Depression.
  • 2009 Inauguration of Barack Obama as U.S. President
  • 2010 Massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico
  • 2011 Death of terrorist leader Osama bin Laden, architect of 9/11 attacks