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United States

Dominant nation culturally, economically, and militarily

Top 10 United States related articles

Coordinates: 40°N 100°W / 40°N 100°W / 40; -100

United States of America

Motto: 

The United States, including its territories
Capital
Largest city
Official languagesNone at federal level[a]
National languageEnglish
Ethnic groups
(2018)[7]
By race:
Ethnicity:
Demonym(s)American[b][8]
GovernmentFederal presidential constitutional republic
• President
Donald Trump (R)
Mike Pence (R)
Nancy Pelosi (D)
John Roberts
LegislatureCongress
Senate
House of Representatives
Independence 
July 4, 1776
March 1, 1781
September 3, 1783
June 21, 1788
September 25, 1789
August 21, 1959[d]
May 5, 1992
Area
• Total area
3,796,742 sq mi (9,833,520 km2)[e][9] (3rd/4th)
• Water (%)
6.97
• Total land area
3,531,905 sq mi (9,147,590 km2)
Population
• 2019 estimate
328,239,523[7] (3rd)
• 2010 census
308,745,538[f][10] (3rd)
• Density
87/sq mi (33.6/km2) (146th)
GDP (PPP)2020 estimate
• Total
$22.321 trillion[11] (2nd)
• Per capita
$67,426[11] (11th)
GDP (nominal)2020 estimate
• Total
$22.321 trillion[11] (1st)
• Per capita
$67,426[11] (7th)
Gini (2017)  39.0[12]
medium · 56th
HDI (2018)  0.920[13]
very high · 15th
CurrencyUnited States dollar ($) (USD)
Time zoneUTC−4 to −12, +10, +11
• Summer (DST)
UTC−4 to −10[g]
Date format
  • mm/dd/yyyy
  • yyyy-mm-dd
Mains electricity120 V–60 Hz
Driving sideright[h]
Calling code+1
ISO 3166 codeUS
Internet TLD
Generic top-level domain
.com, .org, .net, .edu, .gov, .mil
ccTLD (generally not used in the U.S.)
.us, .pr, .as, .gu, .mp, .vi and, formerly, .um (removed by ICANN in 2008, but still recognized by the U.S. government as a ccTLD)

The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country mostly located in central North America, between Canada and Mexico. It consists of 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions.[i] At 3.8 million square miles (9.8 million km2), it is the world's third- or fourth-largest country by total area.[e] With a 2019 estimated population of over 328 million,[7] the U.S. is the third most populous country in the world. Americans are a racially and ethnically diverse population that has been shaped through centuries of immigration. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the most populous city is New York City.

Paleo-Indians migrated from Siberia to the North American mainland at least 12,000 years ago,[19] and European colonization began in the 16th century. The United States emerged from the thirteen British colonies established along the East Coast. Numerous disputes between Great Britain and the colonies led to the American Revolutionary War lasting between 1775 and 1783, leading to independence.[20] Beginning in the late 18th century, the United States vigorously expanded across North America, gradually acquiring new territories,[21] killing and displacing Native Americans, and admitting new states. By 1848, the United States spanned the continent.[21] Slavery was legal in much of the United States until the second half of the 19th century, when the American Civil War led to its abolition.[22][23]

The Spanish–American War and World War I entrenched the U.S. as a world power, a status confirmed by the outcome of World War II. It was the first country to develop nuclear weapons and is the only country to have used them in warfare. During the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union competed in the Space Race, culminating with the 1969 Apollo 11 mission, the spaceflight that first landed humans on the Moon. The end of the Cold War and collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 left the United States as the world's sole superpower.[24]

The United States is a federal republic and a representative democracy. It is a founding member of the United Nations, World Bank, International Monetary Fund, Organization of American States (OAS), NATO, and other international organizations. It is a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council.

A highly developed country, the United States is the world's largest economy and accounts for approximately a quarter of global gross domestic product (GDP).[25] The United States is the world's largest importer and the second-largest exporter of goods, by value.[26][27] Although its population is only 4.3% of the world total,[28] it holds 29.4% of the total wealth in the world, the largest share held by any country.[29] Despite income and wealth disparities, the United States continues to rank very high in measures of socioeconomic performance, including average wage, median income, median wealth, human development, per capita GDP, and worker productivity.[30][31] It is the foremost military power in the world, making up more than a third of global military spending,[32] and is a leading political, cultural, and scientific force internationally.[33]

United States Intro articles: 137

Etymology

The first known use of the name "America" dates back to 1507, when it appeared on a world map created by the German cartographer Martin Waldseemüller. On this map, the name applied to South America in honor of the Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci.[34] After returning from his expeditions, Vespucci first postulated that the West Indies did not represent Asia's eastern limit, as initially thought by Christopher Columbus, but instead were part of an entirely separate landmass thus far unknown to the Europeans.[35] In 1538, the Flemish cartographer Gerardus Mercator used the name "America" on his own world map, applying it to the entire Western Hemisphere.[36]

The first documentary evidence of the phrase "United States of America" dates from a January 2, 1776 letter written by Stephen Moylan, Esq., to Lt. Col. Joseph Reed, George Washington's aide-de-camp and Muster-Master General of the Continental Army. Moylan expressed his wish to go "with full and ample powers from the United States of America to Spain" to seek assistance in the revolutionary war effort.[37][38][39] The first known publication of the phrase "United States of America" was in an anonymous essay in The Virginia Gazette newspaper in Williamsburg, Virginia, on April 6, 1776.[40]

The second draft of the Articles of Confederation, prepared by John Dickinson and completed no later than June 17, 1776, declared "The name of this Confederation shall be the 'United States of America'".[41] The final version of the Articles sent to the states for ratification in late 1777 contains the sentence "The Stile of this Confederacy shall be 'The United States of America'".[42] In June 1776, Thomas Jefferson wrote the phrase "UNITED STATES OF AMERICA" in all capitalized letters in the headline of his "original Rough draught" of the Declaration of Independence.[41] This draft of the document did not surface until June 21, 1776, and it is unclear whether it was written before or after Dickinson used the term in his June 17 draft of the Articles of Confederation.[41]

The short form "United States" is also standard. Other common forms are the "U.S.," the "USA," and "America." Colloquial names are the "U.S. of A." and, internationally, the "States." "Columbia," a name popular in poetry and songs of the late 18th century, derives its origin from Christopher Columbus; it appears in the name "District of Columbia." Many landmarks and institutions in the Western Hemisphere bear his name, including the country of Colombia.[43]

The phrase "United States" was originally plural, a description of a collection of independent states—e.g., "the United States are"—including in the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, ratified in 1865.[44] The singular form—e.g., "the United States is"—became popular after the end of the Civil War. The singular form is now standard; the plural form is retained in the idiom "these United States." The difference is more significant than usage; it is a difference between a collection of states and a unit.[45]

A citizen of the United States is an "American." "United States," "American" and "U.S." refer to the country adjectivally ("American values," "U.S. forces"). In English, the word "American" rarely refers to topics or subjects not directly connected with the United States.[46]

United States Etymology articles: 21

History

Indigenous peoples and pre-Columbian history

The Cliff Palace, built by ancient Native American Puebloans around 1190 AD

It has been generally accepted that the first inhabitants of North America migrated from Siberia by way of the Bering land bridge and arrived at least 12,000 years ago; however, increasing evidence suggests an even earlier arrival.[19][47][48] After crossing the land bridge, the Paleo-Indians moved southward along the Pacific coast[49] and through an interior ice-free corridor.[50] The Clovis culture, which appeared around 11,000 BC, was initially believed to represent the first wave of human settlement of the Americas.[51][52] It is likely these represent the first of three major waves of migration into North America.[53]

Over time, indigenous cultures in North America grew increasingly complex, and some, such as the pre-Columbian Mississippian culture in the southeast, developed advanced agriculture, grand architecture, and state-level societies.[54] The Mississippian culture flourished in the south from 800 to 1600 AD, extending from the Mexican border down through Florida.[55] Its city state Cahokia is the largest, most complex pre-Columbian archaeological site in the modern-day United States.[56] In the Four Corners region, Ancestral Puebloan culture developed from centuries of agricultural experimentation.[57]

Three UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the United States are credited to the Pueblos: Mesa Verde National Park, Chaco Culture National Historical Park, and Taos Pueblo.[58][59] The earthworks constructed by Native Americans of the Poverty Point culture have also been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site. In the southern Great Lakes region, the Iroquois Confederacy was established at some point between the twelfth and fifteenth centuries.[60] Most prominent along the Atlantic coast were the Algonquian tribes, who practiced hunting and trapping, along with limited cultivation.

Effects on and interaction with native populations

Alaskan Alutiiq dancer in traditional festival garb

With the progress of European colonization in the territories of the contemporary United States, the Native Americans were often conquered and displaced.[61] The native population of America declined after European arrival for various reasons,[62][63] primarily diseases such as smallpox and measles.[64][65]

Estimating the native population of North America at the time of European contact is difficult.[66][67] Douglas H. Ubelaker of the Smithsonian Institution estimated that there was a population of 92,916 in the south Atlantic states and a population of 473,616 in the Gulf states,[68] but most academics regard this figure as too low.[66] Anthropologist Henry F. Dobyns believed the populations were much higher, suggesting 1,100,000 along the shores of the gulf of Mexico, 2,211,000 people living between Florida and Massachusetts, 5,250,000 in the Mississippi Valley and tributaries and 697,000 people in the Florida peninsula.[66][67]

In the early days of colonization, many European settlers were subject to food shortages, disease, and attacks from Native Americans. Native Americans were also often at war with neighboring tribes and allied with Europeans in their colonial wars. In many cases, however, natives and settlers came to depend on each other. Settlers traded for food and animal pelts; natives for guns, ammunition and other European goods.[69] Natives taught many settlers to cultivate corn, beans, and squash. European missionaries and others felt it was important to "civilize" the Native Americans and urged them to adopt European agricultural techniques and lifestyles.[70][71]

European settlements

With the advancement of European colonization in North America, the Native Americans were often conquered and displaced.[72] The first Europeans to arrive in the contiguous United States were Spanish conquistadors such as Juan Ponce de León, who made his first visit to Florida in 1513. Even earlier, Christopher Columbus landed in Puerto Rico on his 1493 voyage. The Spanish set up the first settlements in Florida and New Mexico such as Saint Augustine[73] and Santa Fe. The French established their own as well along the Mississippi River. Successful English settlement on the eastern coast of North America began with the Virginia Colony in 1607 at Jamestown and with the Pilgrims' Plymouth Colony in 1620. Many settlers were dissenting Christian groups who came seeking religious freedom. The continent's first elected legislative assembly, Virginia's House of Burgesses, was created in 1619. The Mayflower Compact, signed by the Pilgrims before disembarking, and the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut, established precedents for the pattern of representative self-government and constitutionalism that would develop throughout the American colonies.[74][75]

Most settlers in every colony were small farmers, though other industries were formed. Cash crops included tobacco, rice, and wheat. Extraction industries grew up in furs, fishing and lumber. Manufacturers produced rum and ships, and by the late colonial period, Americans were producing one-seventh of the world's iron supply.[76] Cities eventually dotted the coast to support local economies and serve as trade hubs. English colonists were supplemented by waves of Scotch-Irish immigrants and other groups. As coastal land grew more expensive, freed indentured servants claimed lands further west.[77]

European territorial claims during the mid-18th century

A large-scale slave trade with English privateers began.[78] Because of less disease and better food and treatment, the life expectancy of slaves was much higher in North America than further south, leading to a rapid increase in the numbers of slaves.[79][80] Colonial society was largely divided over the religious and moral implications of slavery, and colonies passed acts for and against the practice.[81][82] But by the turn of the 18th century, African slaves were replacing indentured servants for cash crop labor, especially in the South.[83]

With the establishment of the Province of Georgia in 1732, the 13 colonies that would become the United States of America were administered by the British as overseas dependencies.[84] All nonetheless had local governments with elections open to most free men.[85] With extremely high birth rates, low death rates, and steady settlement, the colonial population grew rapidly. Relatively small Native American populations were eclipsed.[86] The Christian revivalist movement of the 1730s and 1740s known as the Great Awakening fueled interest both in religion and in religious liberty.[87]

During the Seven Years' War (known in the United States as the French and Indian War), British forces seized Canada from the French, but the francophone population remained politically isolated from the southern colonies. Excluding the Native Americans, who were being conquered and displaced, the 13 British colonies had a population of over 2.1 million in 1770, about a third that of Britain. Despite continuing, new arrivals, the rate of natural increase was such that by the 1770s only a small minority of Americans had been born overseas.[88] The colonies' distance from Britain had allowed the development of self-government, but their unprecedented success motivated monarchs to periodically seek to reassert royal authority.[89]

In 1774, the Spanish Navy ship Santiago, under Juan Pérez, entered and anchored in an inlet of Nootka Sound, Vancouver Island, in present-day British Columbia. Although the Spanish did not land, natives paddled to the ship to trade furs for abalone shells from California.[90] At the time, the Spanish were able to monopolize the trade between Asia and North America, granting limited licenses to the Portuguese. When the Russians began establishing a growing fur trading system in Alaska, the Spanish began to challenge the Russians, with Pérez's voyage being the first of many to the Pacific Northwest.[91][j]

During his third and final voyage, Captain James Cook became the first European to begin formal contact with Hawaii.[93] Captain Cook's last voyage included sailing along the coast of North America and Alaska searching for a Northwest Passage for approximately nine months.[94]

Independence and expansion (1776–1865)

Declaration of Independence, by John Trumbull (1819), depicts the Committee of Five presenting their draft of the Declaration to the Continental Congress

The American Revolutionary War was the first successful colonial war of independence against a European power. Americans had developed an ideology of "republicanism" asserting that government rested on the will of the people as expressed in their local legislatures. They demanded their rights as Englishmen and "no taxation without representation". The British insisted on administering the empire through Parliament, and the conflict escalated into war.[95]

The Second Continental Congress unanimously adopted the Declaration of Independence, which asserted that Great Britain was not protecting Americans' unalienable rights. July 4 is celebrated annually as Independence Day.[96] In 1777, the Articles of Confederation established a decentralized government that operated until 1789.[96]

Map of territorial acquisitions of the United States between 1783 and 1917

Following the decisive Franco-American victory at Yorktown in 1781,[97] Britain signed the peace treaty of 1783, and American sovereignty was internationally recognized and the country was granted all lands east of the Mississippi River. Nationalists led the Philadelphia Convention of 1787 in writing the United States Constitution, ratified in state conventions in 1788. The federal government was reorganized into three branches, on the principle of creating salutary checks and balances, in 1789. George Washington, who had led the Continental Army to victory, was the first president elected under the new constitution. The Bill of Rights, forbidding federal restriction of personal freedoms and guaranteeing a range of legal protections, was adopted in 1791.[98]

Although the federal government criminalized the international slave trade in 1808, after 1820, cultivation of the highly profitable cotton crop exploded in the Deep South, and along with it, the slave population.[99][100][101] The Second Great Awakening, especially 1800–1840, converted millions to evangelical Protestantism. In the North, it energized multiple social reform movements, including abolitionism;[102] in the South, Methodists and Baptists proselytized among slave populations.[103]

Americans' eagerness to expand westward prompted a long series of American Indian Wars.[104] The Louisiana Purchase of French-claimed territory in 1803 almost doubled the nation's area.[105] The War of 1812, declared against Britain over various grievances and fought to a draw, strengthened U.S. nationalism.[106] A series of military incursions into Florida led Spain to cede it and other Gulf Coast territory in 1819.[107] The expansion was aided by steam power, when steamboats began traveling along America's large water systems, many of which were connected by new canals, such as the Erie and the I&M; then, even faster railroads began their stretch across the nation's land.[108]

From 1820 to 1850, Jacksonian democracy began a set of reforms which included wider white male suffrage; it led to the rise of the Second Party System of Democrats and Whigs as the dominant parties from 1828 to 1854. The Trail of Tears in the 1830s exemplified the Indian removal policy that forcibly resettled Indians into the west on Indian reservations. The U.S. annexed the Republic of Texas in 1845 during a period of expansionist Manifest destiny.[109] The 1846 Oregon Treaty with Britain led to U.S. control of the present-day American Northwest.[110] Victory in the Mexican–American War resulted in the 1848 Mexican Cession of California and much of the present-day American Southwest.[111] The California Gold Rush of 1848–49 spurred migration to the Pacific coast, which led to the California Genocide[112][113][114][115] and the creation of additional western states.[116] After the Civil War, new transcontinental railways made relocation easier for settlers, expanded internal trade and increased conflicts with Native Americans.[117] In 1869, a new Peace Policy nominally promised to protect Native Americans from abuses, avoid further war, and secure their eventual U.S. citizenship. Nonetheless, large-scale conflicts continued throughout the West into the 1900s.

Civil War and Reconstruction era

President Abraham Lincoln in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, November 19, 1863

Irreconcilable sectional conflict regarding the slavery of Africans and African Americans ultimately led to the American Civil War.[118] Initially, states entering the Union had alternated between slave and free states, keeping a sectional balance in the Senate, while free states outstripped slave states in population and in the House of Representatives. But with additional western territory and more free-soil states, tensions between slave and free states mounted with arguments over federalism and disposition of the territories, as well as whether to expand or restrict slavery.[119]

With the 1860 election of Republican Abraham Lincoln, conventions in thirteen slave states ultimately declared secession and formed the Confederate States of America (the "South" or the "Confederacy"), while the federal government (the "Union") maintained that secession was illegal.[119] In order to bring about this secession, military action was initiated by the secessionists, and the Union responded in kind. The ensuing war would become the deadliest military conflict in American history, resulting in the deaths of approximately 618,000 soldiers as well as many civilians.[120] The Union initially simply fought to keep the country united. Nevertheless, as casualties mounted after 1863 and Lincoln delivered his Emancipation Proclamation, the main purpose of the war from the Union's viewpoint became the abolition of slavery. Indeed, when the Union ultimately won the war in April 1865, each of the states in the defeated South was required to ratify the Thirteenth Amendment, which prohibited slavery.

The government enacted three constitutional amendments in the years after the war: the aforementioned Thirteenth as well as the Fourteenth Amendment providing citizenship to the nearly four million African Americans who had been slaves,[121] and the Fifteenth Amendment ensuring in theory that African Americans had the right to vote. The war and its resolution led to a substantial increase in federal power[122] aimed at reintegrating and rebuilding the South while guaranteeing the rights of the newly freed slaves.

Reconstruction began in earnest following the war. While President Lincoln attempted to foster friendship and forgiveness between the Union and the former Confederacy, his assassination on April 14, 1865, drove a wedge between North and South again. Republicans in the federal government made it their goal to oversee the rebuilding of the South and to ensure the rights of African Americans. They persisted until the Compromise of 1877 when the Republicans agreed to cease protecting the rights of African Americans in the South in order for Democrats to concede the presidential election of 1876.

Southern white Democrats, calling themselves "Redeemers," took control of the South after the end of Reconstruction. From 1890 to 1910 the Redeemers established so-called Jim Crow laws, disenfranchising most blacks and some poor whites throughout the region. Blacks faced racial segregation, especially in the South.[123] They also occasionally experienced vigilante violence, including lynching.[124]

Further immigration, expansion, and industrialization

Ellis Island, in New York Harbor, was a major entry point for European immigration into the U.S.[125]

In the North, urbanization and an unprecedented influx of immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe supplied a surplus of labor for the country's industrialization and transformed its culture.[126] National infrastructure including telegraph and transcontinental railroads spurred economic growth and greater settlement and development of the American Old West. The later invention of electric light and the telephone would also affect communication and urban life.[127]

The United States fought Indian Wars west of the Mississippi River from 1810 to at least 1890.[128] Most of these conflicts ended with the cession of Native American territory and their confinement to Indian reservations. This further expanded acreage under mechanical cultivation, increasing surpluses for international markets.[129] Mainland expansion also included the purchase of Alaska from Russia in 1867.[130] In 1893, pro-American elements in Hawaii overthrew the monarchy and formed the Republic of Hawaii, which the U.S. annexed in 1898. Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines were ceded by Spain in the same year, following the Spanish–American War.[131] American Samoa was acquired by the United States in 1900 after the end of the Second Samoan Civil War.[132] The U.S. Virgin Islands were purchased from Denmark in 1917.[133]

Rapid economic development during the late 19th and early 20th centuries fostered the rise of many prominent industrialists. Tycoons like Cornelius Vanderbilt, John D. Rockefeller, and Andrew Carnegie led the nation's progress in railroad, petroleum, and steel industries. Banking became a major part of the economy, with J. P. Morgan playing a notable role. The American economy boomed, becoming the world's largest, and the United States achieved great power status.[134] These dramatic changes were accompanied by social unrest and the rise of populist, socialist, and anarchist movements.[135] This period eventually ended with the advent of the Progressive Era, which saw significant reforms including women's suffrage, alcohol prohibition, regulation of consumer goods, greater antitrust measures to ensure competition and attention to worker conditions.[136][137][138]

World War I, Great Depression, and World War II

The Empire State Building was the tallest building in the world when completed in 1931, during the Great Depression.

The United States remained neutral from the outbreak of World War I in 1914 until 1917, when it joined the war as an "associated power," alongside the formal Allies of World War I, helping to turn the tide against the Central Powers. In 1919, President Woodrow Wilson took a leading diplomatic role at the Paris Peace Conference and advocated strongly for the U.S. to join the League of Nations. However, the Senate refused to approve this and did not ratify the Treaty of Versailles that established the League of Nations.[139]

In 1920, the women's rights movement won passage of a constitutional amendment granting women's suffrage.[140] The 1920s and 1930s saw the rise of radio for mass communication and the invention of early television.[141] The prosperity of the Roaring Twenties ended with the Wall Street Crash of 1929 and the onset of the Great Depression. After his election as president in 1932, Franklin D. Roosevelt responded with the New Deal.[142] The Great Migration of millions of African Americans out of the American South began before World War I and extended through the 1960s;[143] whereas the Dust Bowl of the mid-1930s impoverished many farming communities and spurred a new wave of western migration.[144]

U.S. troops landing on Omaha Beach during the invasion of Normandy, June 6, 1944

At first effectively neutral during World War II, the United States began supplying materiel to the Allies in March 1941 through the Lend-Lease program. On December 7, 1941, the Empire of Japan launched a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, prompting the United States to join the Allies against the Axis powers.[145] Although Japan attacked the United States first, the U.S. nonetheless pursued a "Europe first" defense policy.[146] The United States thus left its vast Asian colony, the Philippines, isolated and fighting a losing struggle against Japanese invasion and occupation, as military resources were devoted to the European theater. During the war, the United States was referred to as one of the "Four Policemen"[147] of Allies power who met to plan the postwar world, along with Britain, the Soviet Union and China.[148][149] Although the nation lost around 400,000 military personnel,[150] it emerged relatively undamaged from the war with even greater economic and military influence.[151]

Trinity test of the Manhattan Project's nuclear weapon

The United States played a leading role in the Bretton Woods and Yalta conferences with the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union, and other Allies, which signed agreements on new international financial institutions and Europe's postwar reorganization. As an Allied victory was won in Europe, a 1945 international conference held in San Francisco produced the United Nations Charter, which became active after the war.[152] The United States and Japan then fought each other in the largest naval battle in history, the Battle of Leyte Gulf.[153][154] The United States eventually developed the first nuclear weapons and used them on Japan in the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki; the Japanese surrendered on September 2, ending World War II.[155][156]

Cold War and civil rights era

Martin Luther King, Jr. gives his famous "I Have a Dream" speech at the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington, 1963

After World War II, the United States and the Soviet Union competed for power, influence, and prestige during what became known as the Cold War, driven by an ideological divide between capitalism and communism.[157] They dominated the military affairs of Europe, with the U.S. and its NATO allies on one side and the USSR and its Warsaw Pact allies on the other. The U.S. developed a policy of containment towards the expansion of communist influence. While the U.S. and Soviet Union engaged in proxy wars and developed powerful nuclear arsenals, the two countries avoided direct military conflict.

The United States often opposed Third World movements that it viewed as Soviet-sponsored, and occasionally pursued direct action for regime change against left-wing governments, even supporting right-wing authoritarian governments at times.[158] American troops fought communist Chinese and North Korean forces in the Korean War of 1950–53.[159] The Soviet Union's 1957 launch of the first artificial satellite and its 1961 launch of the first manned spaceflight initiated a "Space Race" in which the United States became the first nation to land a man on the moon in 1969.[159] A proxy war in Southeast Asia eventually evolved into full American participation, as the Vietnam War.

At home, the U.S. experienced sustained economic expansion and a rapid growth of its population and middle class. Construction of an Interstate Highway System transformed the nation's infrastructure over the following decades. Millions moved from farms and inner cities to large suburban housing developments.[160][161] In 1959 Hawaii became the 50th and last U.S. state added to the country.[162] The growing Civil Rights Movement used nonviolence to confront segregation and discrimination, with Martin Luther King Jr. becoming a prominent leader and figurehead. A combination of court decisions and legislation, culminating in the Civil Rights Act of 1968, sought to end racial discrimination.[163][164][165] Meanwhile, a counterculture movement grew which was fueled by opposition to the Vietnam war, black nationalism, and the sexual revolution.

The launch of a "War on Poverty" expanded entitlements and welfare spending, including the creation of Medicare and Medicaid, two programs that provide health coverage to the elderly and poor, respectively, and the means-tested Food Stamp Program and Aid to Families with Dependent Children.[166]

The 1970s and early 1980s saw the onset of stagflation. After his election in 1980, President Ronald Reagan responded to economic stagnation with free-market oriented reforms. Following the collapse of détente, he abandoned "containment" and initiated the more aggressive "rollback" strategy towards the USSR.[167][168][169][170][171] After a surge in female labor participation over the previous decade, by 1985 the majority of women aged 16 and over were employed.[172]

The late 1980s brought a "thaw" in relations with the USSR, and its collapse in 1991 finally ended the Cold War.[173][174][175][176] This brought about unipolarity[177] with the U.S. unchallenged as the world's dominant superpower. The concept of Pax Americana, which had appeared in the post-World War II period, gained wide popularity as a term for the post-Cold War new world order.

Contemporary history

After the Cold War, the conflict in the Middle East triggered a crisis in 1990, when Iraq under Saddam Hussein invaded and attempted to annex Kuwait, an ally of the United States. Fearing the instability would spread to other regions, President George H. W. Bush launched Operation Desert Shield, a defensive force buildup in Saudi Arabia, and Operation Desert Storm, in a staging titled the Gulf War; waged by coalition forces from 34 nations, led by the United States against Iraq ending in the expulsion of Iraqi forces from Kuwait and restoration of the monarchy.[178]

Originating within U.S. military defense networks, the Internet spread to international academic platforms and then to the public in the 1990s, greatly affecting the global economy, society, and culture.[179] Due to the dot-com boom, stable monetary policy, and reduced social welfare spending, the 1990s saw the longest economic expansion in modern U.S. history.[180] Beginning in 1994, the U.S. entered into the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), prompting trade among the U.S., Canada, and Mexico to soar.[181]

On September 11, 2001, Al-Qaeda terrorists struck the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon near Washington, D.C., killing nearly 3,000 people.[182] In response, the United States launched the War on Terror, which included a war in Afghanistan and the 2003–11 Iraq War.[183][184]

Government policy designed to promote affordable housing,[185] widespread failures in corporate and regulatory governance,[186] and historically low interest rates set by the Federal Reserve[187] led to the mid-2000s housing bubble, which culminated with the 2008 financial crisis, the nation's largest economic contraction since the Great Depression.[188] Barack Obama, the first African-American[189] and multiracial[190] president, was elected in 2008 amid the crisis,[191] and subsequently passed stimulus measures and the Dodd–Frank Act in an attempt to mitigate its negative effects and ensure there would not be a repeat of the crisis. In 2010, the Obama administration passed the Affordable Care Act, which made the most sweeping reforms to the nation's healthcare system in nearly five decades, including mandates, subsidies and insurance exchanges.

President Donald Trump and former presidents Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter at the state funeral of George H. W. Bush, December 2018

American forces in Iraq were withdrawn in large numbers in 2009 and 2010, and the war in the region was declared formally over in December 2011.[192] But months earlier, Operation Neptune Spear led to the death of the leader of Al-Qaeda in Pakistan.[193] In the presidential election of 2016, Republican Donald Trump was elected as the 45th president of the United States, making him both the oldest and wealthiest person elected president in the country's history.[194]

On January 20, 2020, the first case of COVID-19 in the United States was confirmed.[195] Over the course of the next five months, the disease has affected over 3 million Americans and killed over 130,000 people.[196] The United States is, by far, the country with the most cases of COVID-19 as of June 10, 2020.[197]

United States History articles: 327