Essential Question

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Essential Question:

  • Essential Question:
    • How did the changes of the “Roaring 20s” clash with traditional American values?
  • Warm-Up Question:
    • What part of the 1920s we’ve talked about so far might cause CONFLICT??

Life in the 1920s

  • The 1920s were an era of change:
    • Increased wealth, consumerism, leisure time, & new forms of entertainment led to a “Jazz Age”
    • By 1920, more Americans lived in cities than in rural areas
    • Rural Americans reacted to these changes by attacking behaviors they viewed as “un-American”
  • Prohibition


  • In 1920, the 18th Amendment went into effect & Prohibition began:
    • Supported by rural Protestants who believed drinking led to crime, abuse, & job accidents
    • 26 states had already outlawed alcohol before 1920
    • The Volstead Act made the sale, manufacture & transportation of alcohol illegal
  • Prohibition: A “Noble Experiment”
  • The U.S. Treasury Dept was in charge of enforcing the Volstead Act
  • As a result of prohibition, alcohol consumption declined


  • But, many urban Americans resisted prohibition:
    • Most immigrants considered drinking part of socializing
    • Wealthy urban Americans wanted to enjoy themselves
    • Bootleggers made illegal alcohol & rum runners smuggled foreign alcohol into the country
    • Secret saloons (speakeasies) were created to sell booze

Rum Runners smuggled booze from Canada, the Caribbean, & Europe

Bootleggers & moonshiners made illegal booze

  • Why are they called “bootleggers”?

Speakeasies were secret saloons or nightclubs


  • Prohibition had some negative effects on America in the 1920s:
    • Smuggling & bootlegging increased crime & lawlessness
    • Organized crime grew & took control of the illegal alcohol trade
    • Mob bosses paid off politicians, judges, & police departments
    • The federal gov’t could not enforce prohibition effectively

Organized crime grew in American cities, especially in Chicago where Al Capone’s gang was dominant

  • Gangster Al Capone made $60 million per year in bootlegging & became a notorious icon
  • To control the liquor trade, mobsters resorted to bloody gang killings; The most notorious was the St. Valentines Day Massacre in 1929


  • By the end of the 1920s, only 19% of Americans supported prohibition
    • The strongest defenders of prohibition were rural Americans
    • But, most Americans believed prohibition caused more problems than it solved
    • In 1933, the 21st Amendment ended prohibition

The Rise of Prohibition (4.31)

  • Al Capone (4.33)
  • Prohibition & Corruption (3.05)
  • Optional Prohibition Film Clips
  • Intolerance

Intolerance in the 1920s

  • In the 1920s, America experienced a new wave of nativism:
    • 800,000 Southern & Eastern European immigrants arrived each year in the early 1920s
    • Rural folks associated immigrants with “anti-American” cultures: non-Protestant religions & supporters of anarchy or socialism

The Red Scare

  • In 1917, Lenin led the Bolsheviks in the Russian Revolution & created the 1st communist gov’t
  • During WWI & 1920s, Americans feared a similar revolution in the U.S.
    • Eugene Debs formed an American Socialist Party & ran for president
    • Unskilled workers were unhappy with low wages & went on strike

Red Scare in America

Sacco & Vanzetti

  • During the Red Scare, suspected immigrants were under attack:
    • In 1920, two Italian immigrants named Sacco & Vanzetti were arrested & charged with murder
    • Sacco & Vanzetti were anarchists (believed in no gov’t) but claimed to be innocent of the crime
    • With only circumstantial evidence, they were found guilty & executed

Sacco & Vanzetti

Immigration Restrictions

  • In 1921 & 1924, the gov’t passed new laws restricting immigration:
    • These laws created quotas that placed a maximum number on how many immigrants could enter the United States
    • The laws discriminated against Southern & Eastern European immigrants & Asian immigrants

National Origins Act & the Sacco/Vanzetti Trial Video (2.19)

The Ku Klux Klan

  • The 1920s saw an increase in membership in the Ku Klux Klan:
    • The KKK promoted traditional values & “100% Americanism”
    • Used violence & fear to attack African Americans, immigrants, Catholics, Jews, unions, socialists
  • By 1924, the KKK had 4.5 million members & elected politicians to power in several states

The 1st KKK disbanded when Reconstruction ended in the 1870s, but the 2nd KKK formed in 1915 to protect rural, Christian values

The KKK supported Protestant, white American values, including prohibition

  • The KKK was anti-Catholic & anti-immigrant (many “new immigrants were Catholic)
  • D.W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation (1915) was one of the most controversial films in movie history. Set during & after the Civil War, the film glorifies white supremacy & the KKK

At its height in the 1920s, the KKK had 4.5 million members nationwide

  • Religion

Religious Fundamentalism

  • In the 1920s, rural Americans found comfort in religious fundamentalism (a literal interpretation of the Bible)
    • Disliked the immigrants, flappers, socialists they saw in cities
    • Evangelists used the radio to broadcast Christian messages
    • Rejected many modern scientific theories; Towns in the South & West outlawed teaching evolution

Religious Fundamentalism

  • In 1925, teacher John Scopes was arrested in Dayton, TN for teaching evolution in his biology class

The Scopes “Monkey Trial” was a national sensation

  • ACLU attorney Clarence Darrow defended Scopes; Represented urban America, science & modernity
  • Former presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan served as prosecutor; Represented fundamentalism & rural America
  • Scopes was found guilty & fined $100, but evolutionists believed they won because Darrow got Bryan to admit that the world might not have been made in six 24 hour days
  • Scopes “Monkey Trial” Video (stop at 2:00)


  • America in the 1920s experienced a decade of change:
    • Wealth, consumerism, credit, cars, radios, advertising
    • Pro-business gov’t attitude & isolationist foreign policy
    • New freedoms for women & African Americans
    • Attempts by tradition-minded rural folks to protect against the rapid changes of America
  • In the United States, the decade of the 1920’s was characterized by
  • 1. a willingness to encourage immigration to the United States
  • 2. increased consumer borrowing and spending
  • 3. the active involvement of the United States in European affairs
  • 4. major reforms in national labor legislation

The 1920’s are sometimes called the "Roaring Twenties" because

  • The 1920’s are sometimes called the "Roaring Twenties" because
  • A. foreign trade prospered after World War I
  • B. the United States assumed a leadership role in world affairs
  • C. political reforms made government more democratic
  • D. widespread social and economic change occurred
  • Which events best support the image of the 1920’s as a decade of nativist sentiment?
  • the passage of the National Origins Act and the rise of the Ku Klux Klan
  • the Scopes trial and the passage of women’s suffrage
  • the Washington Naval Conference and the Kellogg-Briand Pact
  • the growth of the auto industry and the Teapot Dome Affair
  • After World War I, which factor was the major cause of the migration of many African Americans to the North?
  • the start of the Harlem Renaissance
  • increased job opportunities in Northern cities
  • laws passed in Northern States to end racial discrimination
  • Federal Government job-training programs

Closure Activity: The Urban vs. Rural Debate

  • In the chart below your notes:
    • Write a sentence that describes the changes of the 1920s from the perspective of an urban & rural American
    • On each side, include 3 images for each side that represent these different perspectives

The 1920s

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