The Silent Generation is a generation of people born in the United States between roughly 1923 and the early 1940s. Members of this generation experienced vast cultural shifts in the United States, and many of them struggled with conflicted morals, ideas, and desires. Some claim that they are one of the least understood generations from the 20th century, perhaps because of its relatively small size.
Describing this generation as the “Silent Generation” is a bit of a misnomer. In fact, many revolutionary leaders in the civil rights movement came from this group, along with a wide assortment of artists and writers who fundamentally changed the arts in America. The Beat Poets, for example, were members, as were Martin Luther King, Gloria Steinem, and many other notable agitators for change in the 20th century.
This generation is comparatively small when compared to the surrounding generations because people had fewer children in the 1920s and 1930s, most in response to financial and global insecurity. As a result, those children were uniquely poised to take advantage of economic opportunities, thanks to the reduced competition. Many of them went on to harness the scientific and technological advances of the Second World War, developing innovative inventions that laid the groundwork for even more technological progress in the late 20th century.
However, the term “Silent Generation” is not wholly inappropriate. While some members did become outspoken activists, many were also quiet, hardworking people who focused on getting things done and advancing their careers, even as they struggled with what to do with their lives. These people were generally encouraged to conform with social norms, and many did so, but this generation often seethed on the inside as people coped with the growing civil rights movement, the women's liberation movement, and the explosion of the Baby Boomers. Internal conflict plagued many individuals.
The Silent Generation was at its peak in the 1950s, an era in American history that many people find interesting as a transition between the war years and the counterculture revolution of the 1960s. In the wake of the Second World War, this generation had to make amends with Germany and Japan, recognizing these countries as allies and friends less than a decade after the chaos of the war. At the same time, they were faced with the Cold War, a prolonged period of political and military posturing between the United States and Russia.