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Thousands joined Martin Luther King, Jr. on the National Mall in 1963 to demand jobs, freedom, and civil rights for African-Americans.

Thousands joined Martin Luther King, Jr. on the National Mall in 1963 to demand jobs, freedom, and civil rights for African-Americans.

© Flip Schulke/CORBIS

Thousands joined Martin Luther King, Jr. on the National Mall in 1963

Images of the Era: 1945-Present

Flexibility in meeting change is vital to the success of American democracy. And seldom has change come so quickly as in this era.

After World War II, veterans returned home eager to find jobs and start families. The postwar baby boom, combined with immigration, doubled the U.S. population over the next half century, increasing demands for schools, housing, and goods; and economic growth was unprecedented. In order to expand the benefits of American freedom and prosperity, Congress passed laws aiding the elderly, disabled, and poor, as well as historic civil rights legislation.