We use cookies to enhance your experience on our website. By continuing to use our website, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Find out more

Edexcel GCSE History: The USA, 1954–75, conflict at home and abroad Glossary

The key vocabulary you need to learn for your Edexcel GCSE History: The USA, 1954–75: conflict at home and abroad History paper. Find all the terms and definitions you need to understand, from ‘amendment’ to ‘WPC’.

A – B (Amendment to boycott)
An amendment is a change or addition to something; an Amendment is a change or addition to the US Constitution.

The ARVN (or the Army of the Republic of Vietnam) was the South Vietnamese government’s military force.

Black nationalism
The term Black nationalism refers to a movement in support of unity as well as political and economic self-determination for Black people.

Black Power
The term Black Power refers to a movement in support of rights and power for Black people that was prominent in the US in the 1960s and 1970s; used as a political slogan, Black Power still promotes self-determination for Black people and encourages pride in Black identity.

To boycott is to refuse to buy or use something, or to refuse to take part in something.

C (Chair to counterinsurgency)
A chair is a person responsible for overseeing a meeting or an organisation.

CIA is the short form of Central Intelligence Agency, which is the department of the US federal government responsible for gathering foreign intelligence to protect national security.

civil rights
The term civil rights refers to the rights that all citizens of a country are entitled to regardless of race, religion, or other characteristics. Civil rights include the right to vote and the right to a fair trial as well as the rights to access public facilities and equal opportunities and protection.

Cold War
The term Cold War refers to the period of tension between East and West following the Second World War.

collateral damage
The term collateral damage refers to the unintended damage, injuries, and civilian deaths that occur due to military action.

Communism is the ideology of Soviet Russia and China after 1949 and refers to an economic and political system under which the government controls the economy, and politicians – not businesses – decide what and how many goods are made; in theory, wealth is shared more equally and there isn’t a big gap between rich and poor.

A constitution refers to the basic principles, laws, and rules that govern a country and that are usually contained in one document, such as the US Constitution, which has various Amendments.

CORE is the short name form for the Congress of Racial Equality, which was a civil rights group formed in 1942 to protest inequality in the USA. CORE tactics included non-violent direct action, such as marches and sit-ins.

Counterinsurgency is the term that describes military or political tactics aimed at defeating irregular, guerrilla forces.

D (Defoliant to draft)
Defoliant is a chemical that destroys trees and other plants, causing their leaves to fall off.

To desegregate is to end a policy of racial segregation.

To discriminate is to treat a person or a group unfairly because of characteristics such as race.

Dixiecrat was the nickname for Southern US politicians who opposed desegregation. The term came into use after dissident Southern Democrats formed a breakaway party in 1948; ‘Dixie’ refers to Dixieland, a name for the South no longer used because of its racist connotations.

A doctrine is a statement of government policy, often referring to foreign or military affairs.

domino theory
The term domino theory refers to US President Eisenhower’s fear that, should one country in Asia fall to communism, the surrounding countries would follow suit – as in a domino rally.

Draft is the term that refers to the conscription (compulsory military service) of young men from the age of 18 into the US Army during the Vietnam War; exemptions were given to students and key workers and for other reasons.

F – I (Federal to incendiary)
The US government is a mix of state (regional) and federal (national) governance.

Fragging is the deliberate or attempted killing of a military colleague, usually a superior.

Freedom Ride
A Freedom Ride was a form of non-violent direct action that involved an interstate bus trip through the American South in protest segregation.

The term guerrilla refers to the form of warfare used by often irregular forces against larger, regular forces, adopting unconventional tactics such as ambushes, sabotage, and rapid mobility.

‘hard hats’
Named after the hats worn by construction workers, ‘hard hats’ is the nickname for working-class white Americans, often ex-military, who supported the war in Vietnam and attacked anti-war protestors.

imperialist puppet
The term imperialist puppet refers to a weakened government that has come under the control of a much larger foreign power, as if it was part of that power’s empire.

The term incendiary describes something that causes fires.

J – M (‘Jim Crow’ state laws to morale)
‘Jim Crow’ state laws
‘Jim Crow’ state laws were discriminating racist laws that enforced segregation in the US South and prevented Black people from exercising their rights, such as to vote.

Ku Klux Klan
The Ku Klux Klan (KKK) is a racist hate organisation that promotes ‘white supremacy’ and encourages violence against Black Americans. The Ku Klux Klan has been responsible for many lynchings.

lunch counter
The term lunch counter refers to a diner-style restaurant where patrons sit on stools beside the service counter.

Lynching is the unlawful killing of a person without trial by a mob enacting their own summary ‘justice’, common in the US South since the Civil War in the nineteenth century. Lynching was a constant threat for Black people living in the South.

A manifesto is a written public declaration of political principles or policies.

MIA is the short form of the Montgomery Improvement Association, which was set up in 1955 during the Montgomery Bus Boycott and led by Martin Luther King.

The term militant is used to describe violent or confrontational methods used to advance a political or social cause; militant also refers to people who adopt such methods.

The term morale refers to the courage and confidence of a person or a group of people, including states of emotional strength, satisfaction, and resilience.

NAACP is the short form of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, which was formed in 1909 to challenge segregation in the courts of the USA.

Napalm was a sticky incendiary chemical weapon used by the US military to cling to and burn anything the gel contacted.

Nation of Islam
The Nation of Islam (NOI) is a militant movement founded in 1930 that combines elements of traditional Islamic and Black nationalist ideas; NOI is not an orthodox Islamic organisation and is considered a hate group for its antisemitism (prejudice against Jewish people).

non-violent direct action
Non-violent direct action is a term that refers to a method of protest through symbolic acts, non-cooperation, and defiance that refrains from employing violence. Marches, boycotts, and sit-ins are examples of non-violent direct action.

Patriotism is a fervent belief in, support of, and love for one’s country.

The term prejudice refers to a preconceived, biased idea that is not based on reality or facts.

The term propaganda refers to the spreading of ideas, messages, and information to influence people’s thinking and actions, often through the use of media such as posters, film, radio, and newspapers; propaganda is generally misleading or untruthful in its approach.

A psychedelic is a drug that causes effects on the mind, such as hallucinations or heightened senses.

PTSD is the short form of post-traumatic stress disorder, which is a condition caused by witnessing distressing events, such as participation in conflict; PTSD is common in war veterans.

R - S (Radical to sit-in)
The term radical describes the belief in extreme or revolutionary change, often political or social.

Red Scare
Red Scare refers to the fear of communism in the USA that led to ‘witch-hunts’ of suspected communists, such as those led by Senator Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s.

SCLC is the short form of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, which was set up by Martin Luther King in 1957 to oppose segregation and support Black voter registration.

To segregate is to separate from each other, as policies of racial separation divide people into different groups based on their race. In the US, segregation was officially put into effect by ‘Jim Crow’ state laws.

‘separate but equal’
The phrase ‘separate but equal’ refers to a legal ruling from Plessy v. Ferguson that allowed segregation as long as the facilities for Black and white people were ‘equal’, which they weren’t in practice.

‘silent majority’
The phrase ‘silent majority’ refers to traditional, conservative American voters who do not voice their opinions in protest and yet are largely supportive of the government (and supposedly ignored by the media). The term was coined by President Nixon at a speech he made in 1969 complaining about anti-Vietnam War protests.

A sit-in is an organised protest during which protestors refuse to move from their seats; it is an example of non-violent direct action.

S - W (SNCC to WPC)
SNCC is the short form of the Student Non-violent Co-ordinating Committee, which was a civil rights group set up in 1960 after the Greensboro movement and based on Martin Luther King’s principles of non-violent direct action.

The term strategic describes something that relates to long-term aims and how to achieve those interests. When used to describe military action, the term relates to the gaining of long-term advantage and can describe bombing that is focused on destroying enemy military strength and infrastructure, as well as lowering enemy morale.

Supreme Court
The Supreme Court is the highest court in the USA, with ultimate authority and jurisdiction.

Tactics are actions or strategies chosen to achieve a desired goal.

The Vietcong was a communist guerrilla force fighting in South Vietnam against the corrupt Southern government. The Vietcong was established by the Vietminh, a left-wing group founded by Ho Chi Minh that resisted French and Japanese rule in Vietnam.

Vietnamisation refers to President Nixon’s strategic plan for withdrawing US troops from the Vietnam War without losing South Vietnam to communism.

White Citizens’ Council
The White Citizens’ Council (WCC) was a network of racist organisations set up in 1954 that opposed desegregation and encouraged violence as well as economic discrimination against Black Americans.

WPC is the short form of the Women’s Political Council, which was a civil rights group set up in 1949 to improve the political and social status of Black Americans; the WPC launched bus boycotts in Montgomery in 1955.