Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format



Master of Arts




Sendzikas, Aldona


Between the years of 1950 and 1965, evacuations and sheltering were used to ensure the protection of American civilians from a nuclear threat. However, not all Americans were able to employ these safety measures to prominent racial hierarchy within civil defense policy. This thesis explores the distribution, attainability, and utilization of civil defense to and by Black Americans. It examines the demographic, societal, and financial discrepancies between white and Black Americans employing census information, federal documents, and newspaper distribution. Owing to deep-rooted disparities in income between white and Black Americans, demographics, and racial ideals, this thesis argues that Black Americans were largely unequipped for an imminent nuclear attack as civil defense officials focused on providing protection to the white, middle-class, suburban, nuclear family. Inherent racial hierarchy and segregation within the U.S. would remained at the forefront of civil defense policy.

Summary for Lay Audience

In this research project, safety measures during a period of potential nuclear annihilation will be examined to better understand if both white and Black Americans had access to life-saving equipment. This thesis examines where white and Black Americans typically resided, their average income, the availability of safety measure information, as well as survey data. The study examines if Americans had knowledge, understanding of, and accessibility to such measures. This thesis will demonstrate that safety measures were largely out of reach for Black Americans. Instead, civil defense officials and the federal government preferred to provide information about and accessibility to safety measures strictly to the white community.