Readings- the 1920s (hw 3/24- due Mon 3/27) amsco- the Era of the 1920s

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READINGS- The 1920s (HW 3/24- due Mon 3/27)
AMSCO- The Era of the 1920s

The armistice ending World War I was two years in the past in November 1920 when the American people- women as well as men- went to the polls to cast their votes for president. Their choice was between two men from Ohio, Governor James Cox, a Democrat who urged the adoption of the League of Nations, and Senator Warren G. Harding, a Republican who was unclear about where he stood on every issue. The only memorable phrase in Harding’s campaign was his assertion that the American people wanted a “return to normalcy.” Harding apparently was right, because he was elected by a landslide. It was a sign that the idealism and activism that had characterized the prewar years of the Progressive era were over.

Through the 1920s, three Republican presidents could control the executive branch. Congress too was solidly Republican through a decade in which US business boomed, while farmers and unions struggled.
Business Doctrine:

The great leader of the progressive wing of the Republican Party, Teddy Roosevelt, died in 1919. This loss, combined with public disillusionment over the war, allowed the return of the old-guard (conservative) Republicans. Unlike the Republicans of the Gilded Age, Republican leadership in the 1920s did not preach laissez-faire economics but rather accepted the idea of limited government regulation as an aid to stabilizing business. The regulatory commissions established in the Progressive Era were now administered by appointees who were more sympathetic to business than the general public. The prevailing idea of the Republicans was that the nation would benefit if business and the pursuit of profits took the lead in developing the economy.

The Presidency of Warren Harding:

Harding had been a newspaper publisher in Ohio before entering politics. He was handsome and well-liked among the Republican political cronies with whom he regularly played poker. His abilities as a leader, however, were less than presidential. When the Republican national convention of 1920 deadlocked, the party bosses decided “in a smoke-filled room” to deliver the nomination to Harding as a compromise choice.

A FEW GOOD CHOICES- Harding recognized his limitations and hoped to make up for them by appointing able men to his cabinet. He appointed the former presidential candidate and Supreme Court Justice Charles Evan Hughes to be secretary of state; the greatly admired former mining engineer and Food Administration leader Herbert Hoover to be secretary of commerce; and the Pittsburgh industrialist and millionaire Andrew Mellon to be secretary of the treasury. When the Chief Justice’s seat on the Supreme Court became vacant, Harding filled it by appointing former President William Howard Taft. The one surprise decision of Harding’s presidency was his pardoning of Socialist leader Eugene V. Debs and winning his release from federal prison (while a prisoner for violating the Espionage Act in wartime, Debs had won 920,000 votes in the 1920 election as the Socialist candidate for president). Harding’s pardoning of Debs was prompted by his generous spirit- not his ideology, since he was a conservative.
DOMESTIC POLICY-Harding did little more than sign into law the measures adopted by the Republican Congress. He approved (1) a reduction in income tax, (2) an increase in tariff rates (Fordney-McCumber Tariff 1922) and (3) establishment of the Bureau of the Budget, with procedures for all government expenditures to be placed in a single budget for Congress to review and vote on.
SCANDALS AND DEATH- Curiously, Harding’s postwar presidency was marked by scandals and corruption similar to those that had occurred under an earlier postwar president, Ulysses S. Grant. Having appointed some excellent officials, Harding also selected a number of incompetent and dishonest men to fill important positions, including Secretary of the Interior Albert B. Fall and Attorney General Harry M. Daugherty. In 1924, Congress discovered that Fall had accepted bribes for granting oil leases near Teapot Dome, Wyoming. Daugherty also took bribes for agreeing not to prosecute certain criminal suspects. Shortly before these scandals were uncovered Harding died suddenly in August 1923 while traveling in the West. He was never implicated.
The Presidency of Calvin Coolidge:

Harding’s vice president and successor, Calvin Coolidge, had won popularity in 1919 as the Massachusetts governor who broke the Boston police strike. He was a man of few words who richly deserved the nickname “Silent Cal.” Coolidge once explained why silence was good politics. “If you don’t say anything,” he said, “you can’t be called on to repeat it.” Also unanswerable was the president’s sage comment: “When more and more people are thrown out of work, unemployment results.” Coolidge summarized both his presidency and his era in the phrase: “The business of America is business.”

THE ELECTION OF 1924- After less than a year in office, Coolidge was the overwhelming choice of the Republican Party as their presidential nominee in 1924. The Democrats nominated a conservative lawyer from West Virginia, John W. Davis, and tried to make an issue of the Teapot Dome scandal. Unhappy with conservative dominance in both parties, liberals formed a new Progressive party led by its presidential candidate, Robert La Follette of Wisconsin. Coolidge won the election easily, but the Progressive ticket did extremely well for a 3rd party in a conservative era. La Follette received nearly 5 million votes, chiefly from discontented farmers and laborers.
VETOES AND INACTION- Coolidge believed in limited government that stood aside while business conducted its own affairs. Little was accomplished in the White House except keeping a close watch on the budget. Cutting spending to the bone, Coolidge vetoed even the acts of the Republican majority in Congress. He would not allow bonuses for WWI veterans and vetoed a bill (the McNary-Haugen Bill of 1928) to help farmers cope with falling crop prices.
Hoover, Smith, and the Election of 1928:

Coolidge declined to run for the presidency a second time. The Republicans therefore turned to an able leader with a spotless reputation, self-made millionaire and Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover. Hoover had served three presidents (Wilson, Harding, and Coolidge) in administrative roles but had never before campaigned for elective office. Nevertheless, in 1928, he was made the Republican nominee for president. Hoover’s Democratic opponent was the governor of New York, Alfred E. Smith. As a Roman Catholic and an opponent of prohibition, Smith appealed to many immigrant voters in the cities. Many Protestants, however, were openly prejudiced against Smith. Republicans boasted of “Coolidge Prosperity,” which Hoover promised to extend. He even suggested ironically, that poverty would soon be ended altogether. Hoover won in a landslide and even took a large number of the electoral votes in the South. In several Southern states- including Texas, Florida, and Virginia- the taste of prosperity and general dislike for Smith’s religion outweighed the voters’ usual allegiance to the Democratic Party.


Politics took a backseat in the 1920s, as Americans concentrated on adapting to economic growth and social change. The decade began with a brief postwar recession (1921), entered a lengthy period of business prosperity (1922-28), and ended in economic disaster (October 1929) with the nation’s worst stock market crash. During the boom years, unemployment was generally below 4%. The standard of living for most Americans improved significantly. Indoor plumbing and central heating became commonplace. By 1930, two-thirds of all homes had electricity. Real income for both the middle class and the working class increased substantially. The prosperity, however, was far from universal. In fact, during the 1920s as many as 40% of US families in both rural and urban areas had incomes in the poverty range- they struggled to live on less than $1,500 a year. Farmers in particular did not share in the booming economy.

Causes of Business Prosperity:

The business boom- led by a spectacular rise of 64% in manufacturing output between 1919 and 1929- resulted from several factors.

INCREASED PRODUCTIVITY- There was greater use of research, as with the expanded application of Frederick W. Taylor’s time-and-motion studies and principles of scientific management. The manufacturing process was made more efficient by the adoption of improved methods of mass production. In 1914, Henry Ford had perfected s system for manufacturing automobiles by means of an assembly line. Instead of losing time moving around a factory as in the past, Ford’s workers remained at one place all day and performed the same simple operation over and over again at rapid speed. In the 1920s, most major industries adopted the assembly line and realized major gains in worker productivity.
ENERGY TECHNOLOGIES- Another cause of economic growth was the increased use of oil and electricity, although coal was still used for the railroads and to heat most homes. Increasingly, oil was used to power factories and to provide gasoline for the rapidly increasing numbers of automobiles. By 1930, oil would account for 23% of US energy (up from a mere 3% in 1900). Electric motors in factories and new appliances at home increased electrical generation over 300% during the decade.
GOVERNMENT POLICY- Government at all levels in the 1920s favored the growth of big business by offering corporate tax cuts and doing almost nothing to enforce the antitrust laws of the Progressive Era.
Farm Problems:

Farmers did not share in the Coolidge prosperity. Their best years had been 1916-1918, when crop prices had been kept artificially high by (1) wartime demand in Europe and (2) the US government’s wartime policy of guaranteeing a minimum price for wheat and corn. When the war ended, so did farm prosperity. Farmers who had borrowed heavily to expand during the war were now left with a heavy burden of debt. New technologies (chemical fertilizers, gasoline tractors) helped farmers increased their production in the 1920s, but did not solve their problems. In fact, productivity only served to increase their debts, as growing surpluses produced falling prices.

Labor Problems:

Wages rose during the 1920s, but the union movement went backward. Membership in unions declined 20%, partly because most companies insisted on an open shop (keeping jobs open to nonunion workers). Some companies also began to practice welfare capitalism- voluntarily offering their employees improved benefits and higher wages to remove the need for organizing unions. In the South, efforts to unionize the textile industry were violently resisted by police, state militia, and local mobs. In an era that so strongly favored business, union efforts at strikes usually failed. The United Mine Workers, led by John L. Lewis, suffered setbacks in a series of violent and ultimately unsuccessful strikes in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Kentucky. Conservative courts routinely issued injunctions against strikes and nullified labor laws aimed at protecting workers’ welfare.


The Census of 1920 reported that, for the first time, more than half of the American population lived in urban areas. The culture of the cities was based on popular tastes, morals, and habits of mass communication that were increasingly at odds with the strict religious and moral codes of rural Americans.
The Jazz Age:

High school and college youth expressed their rebellion against their elders’ culture by dancing to jazz music. Brought north by African American musicians, jazz became a symbol of the “new” and “modern” culture of the cities. The proliferation of phonographs and radios made this new style of music available to a huge (and chiefly youthful) public.


Electricity in their homes enabled millions of Americans to purchase the new consumer appliances of the decade- refrigerators, vacuum cleaners, and washing machines. Automobiles became more affordable and sold by the millions, making the horse-and-buggy era a thing of the past. Advertising expanded as business found that consumers’ demands for new products could be manipulated by appealing to their desires for status and popularity. Stores increased sales of the new appliances and automobiles by allowing customers to buy on credit. Chain stores proliferated. Their greater variety of products were attractively displayed and often prices lower than the neighborhood stores, which they threatened to displace.

IMPACT OF THE AUTOMOBILE- More than anything else, the automobile changed the pattern of American life. By 1929, a total of 26.5 million automobiles were registered, compared to 1.2 million in 1913. The enormous increased in automobile sales meant that, by the end of the decade, there was an average of nearly one car per American family. In economic terms, the production of automobiles replaced the railroad industry as the key promoter of economic growth. Other industries- steel, glass, rubber, gasoline, and highway construction- now depended on automobile sales. In social terms, the automobile affected all that Americans did: shopping traveling for pleasure, commuting to work, even courting (or “dating”) the opposite sex. Of course, there were also new problems as well: traffic jams in the cities, injuries and deaths on roads and highways.
ENTERTAINMENT- Newspapers had once been the only medium of mass communication and entertainment. In the 1920s, a new medium- the radio- suddenly appeared. The first commercial radio station went on the air in 1920 and broadcast music to just a few thousand listeners. By 1930 there were over 800 stations broadcasting to 10 million radios- about a third of all US homes. The organization of the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) in 1924 and the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) in 1927 provided networks of radio stations that enabled people from one end of the country to the other to listen to the same programs: news broadcasts, sporting events, soap operas, quiz shows, and comedies. The movie industry centered in Hollywood, California, became big business in the 1920s. Going to the movies became a national habit in cities, suburbs, and small towns. Sexy and glamorous movie stars such as Greta Garbo and Rudolf Valentino were idolized by millions. Elaborate movie theater “palaces” were built for the general public. With the introduction of talking (sound) pictures in 1927, the movie industry reached new heights. By 1929, over 80 million tickets to the latest Hollywood movies were sold each week.
POPULAR HEROES- In an earlier era, politicians like William Jennings Bryan, Teddy Roosevelt, and Woodrow Wilson had been popularly viewed as heroic figures. In the new age of radio and movies, Americans radically shifted their viewpoint and adopted as role models the larger-than-life personalities celebrated on the sports page and movie screen. Every sport had its superstars who were nationally known. In the 1920s, people followed the knockouts of heavyweight boxer Jack Dempsey, the swimming records of Gertrude Ederle, the touchdowns scored by Jim Thorpe, the homeruns hit by Babe Ruth, and the golf tournaments won by Bobby Jones. The most celebrated was a young aviator who, in 1927, thrilled the nation and the entire world by flying nonstop across the Atlantic from Long Island to Paris. Americans listened to the radio for news of Charles Lindbergh’s flight and welcomed his return to the US with ticker tape parades larger than the welcome given to the returning soldiers of WWI.
Gender Roles, Family, and Education:

The passage of the 19th Amendment did not change either women’s lives or US politics as much as had been anticipated. Voting patterns in the election of 1920 showed that women did not vote as a bloc, but adopted the party preferences of the men in their families. With few exceptions, for examples, wives of Republican husbands voted Republican.

WOMEN AT HOME- The traditional separation of labor between men and women continued into the 1920s. Most middle-class women expected to spend their lives as homemakers and mothers. The introduction into the home of such laborsaving devices as the washing machine and vacuum cleaner eased but did not substantially change the daily routines of the homemaker.
WOMEN IN THE LABOR FORCE- Participation of women in the workforce remained about the same as before the war. Employed women usually lived in cities, were limited to certain jobs (clerks/nurses/teachers/domestics) & received lower wages than men.
REVOLUTION IN MORALS- Probably the most significant change in the lives of young men and women of the 1920s was their revolt against sexual taboos. Some were influenced by the writings of the Austrian psychiatrist Sigmund Freud, who stressed the role of sexual repression in mental illness. Others, who perhaps had never heard of Freud, took to premarital sex as if it were- like radio and jazz music- one of the inventions of the modern age. Movies, novels, automobiles, and new dance steps (the fox-trot and the Charleston) also encouraged greater promiscuity. The use of contraceptives for birth control was still against the law in almost every state. Even so, the work of Margaret Sanger and other advocates of birth control achieved growing acceptance in the twenties. A special fashion that set young people apart from older generations was the flapper look. Influenced by movie actresses as well as their own desires for independence, young women shocked their elders by wearing dresses hemmed at the knee (instead of the ankle), “bobbing” (cutting short) their hair, smoking cigarettes, and driving cars. High school and college graduates also took office jobs until they married. Then, as married women, they were expected to abandon the flapper look, quit their jobs, and settle down as wives and mothers.
DIVORCE- as a result of women’s suffrage, state lawmakers were now forced to listen to feminists, who demanded changes in the divorce laws to permit women to escape abusive and incompatible husbands. Liberalized divorce laws were one reason that one in six marriages ended in divorce by 1930- a dramatic increase over the one-in-eight ration of 1920.
EDUCATION- Widespread belief in the value of education, together with economic prosperity, stimulated more state governments to enact compulsory school laws. By the end of the 1920s, the number of high school graduates had doubled to over 25% of the school-age young adults.

Divisions among Protestants reflected the tensions in society between the traditional values of rural areas and the modernizing forces of the cities.

MODERNISM- A range of influences, including the changing role of women, Social Gospel movement, and scientific knowledge, caused large numbers of Protestants to define their faith in new ways. Modernists took a historical and critical view of certain passage in the Bible and believed they could accept Darwin’s theory of evolution without abandoning their religious faith.
FUNDAMENTALISM- Protestant preachers in rural areas condemned the modernists and taught that every word in the Bible must be accepted as literally true. A key point in fundamentalist doctrine was that creationism (the idea that God had created the universe in seven days, as stated in the Book of Genesis) explained the origin of all life. Fundamentalists blamed the liberal views of modernists for causing a decline in morals.
REVIVALISTS ON THE RADIO- Ever since the Great Awakening of the early 1700s, there had been periodic religious revivals in America. Revivalists of the 1920s preached a fundamental message but did so for the first time making full use of the new instrument of mass communication, the radio. The leading radio evangelists were Billy Sunday, who drew large crowds as he attacked drinking, gambling, and dancing; and Aimee Semple McPherson, who condemned the twin evils of communism and jazz music from her pulpit in Los Angeles.
The Literature of Alienation:

Scorning religion as hypocritical and bitterly condemning the sacrifices of wartime as a fraud perpetrated by money interests were the dominant themes of the leading writers of the postwar decade. This disillusionment caused the writer Gertrude Stein to call these writers a “lost generation.” The novels of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, and Sinclair Lewis, the poems of Ezra Pound and T.S. Eliot, and the plays of Eugene O’Neill expressed disillusionment with the ideals of an earlier time and with the materialism of a business-oriented culture. Fitzgerald and O’Neill took to a life of drinking, while Eliot and Hemingway expressed their unhappiness by moving into exile in Europe.


The widely held belief in scientific efficiency and business was reflected in many areas. A new profession, industrial design, developed; it was devoted to making products look as well as they functioned. In architecture, Frank Lloyd Wright expanded on the idea of his mentor Louis Sullivan in applying functionalism (form follows function). Many architects followed this philosophy in building a generation of skyscrapers with little decoration. A more critical view of the impact of this new technology and urban life is found in the stark paintings of Edward Hopper and Georgia O’Keefe.

Harlem Renaissance:

By 1930, almost 20% of African Americans lived in the North, as migration from the South continued. In the North, African Americans still faced discrimination in housing and jobs, but for most, there was at least some improvement in their earnings and material standard of living. The largest African American community developed in the Harlem section of New York City. With a population of almost 200,000 by 1930, Harlem became famous in the 1920s for its concentration of talented actors, artists, musicians, and writers. So promising was their artistic achievement that it was referred to as the Harlem Renaissance.

POETS AND MUSICIANS- The leading Harlem poets included Countee Cullen, Langston Hughes, James Weldon Johnson, and Claude McKay. Commenting on the African American heritage, their poems expressed a range of emotions, from bitterness and resentment to joy and hope. The Jazz Age resulted from the broad popularity among whites and African Americans of jazz music and artists such as Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong. African American artists received acclaim in many areas, including the great blues singer Bessie Smith, and the multitalented singer and actor Paul Robeson. Yet while they might perform before integrated audiences in Harlem, they often found themselves and their audiences segregated in much of the rest of the nation.
MARCUS GARVEY- In 1916, the United Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) was brought to Harlem from Jamaica by a charismatic immigrant, Marcus Garvey. Garvey advocated individual and racial pride for African Americans and developed political ideals of black-nationalism. Going beyond the efforts of WEB Du Bois, Garvey established an organization for black separatism, economic self-sufficiency, and a back-to-Africa movement. Garvey’s sale of stock in the Black Star Steamship line led to federal charges of fraud. In 1925, he was tried, convicted, and jailed. Later, he was deported to Jamaica and his movement collapsed. WEB Du Bois and other African American leaders disagreed with Garvey’s back-to-Africa idea but endorsed his emphasis on racial pride and self-respect. In the 1960s, Garvey’s thinking helped to inspire a later generation to embrace the cause of black pride and nationalism.


The dominant social and political issues of the 1920s expressed sharp divisions in US society between the young and the old, urban modernists and rural fundamentalists, prohibitionists and anti-prohibitionists, and natives and the foreign-born.
Fundamentalism and the Scopes Trial:

More than any other single event, a much-publicized trial in Tennessee focused the debate between religious fundamentalists in the rural South and modernists of the northern cities. Tennessee was one of several southern states that made it illegal to teach Darwin’s theory of evolution in the public schools. To challenge the constitutionality of such laws, the American Civil Liberties Union persuaded a Tennessee biology teacher, John Scopes, to teach the theory of evolution to his high school class. For doing so, Scopes was duly arrested and brought to trial in 1925.

THE TRIAL- The entire nation followed the Scopes trial both in their newspapers and on the radio. Defending Scopes was the famous lawyer Clarence Darrow. Representing the fundamentalists was three-time Democratic candidate for president William Jennings Bryan, who testified as an expert on the Bible. In the most sensational moment of the trial, Bryan was made to look foolish by Darrow’s clever questioning. Soon afterward, Bryan died of a stroke.
AFTERMATH- As expected, Scopes was convicted, but the conviction was later overturned on a technicality. Laws banning the teaching of evolution remained on the books for years, although they were rarely enforced. The northern press asserted that Darrow and the modernists had thoroughly discredited fundamentalism. To this day, however, the basic question of religion and the public schools remains controversial and unresolved.

Another controversy that helped define the 1920s concerned people’s conflicting attitudes toward the 18th Amendment. Wartime concerns to conserve grain and maintain a sober workforce moved Congress to pass this amendment, which strictly prohibited the manufacture and sale of alcoholic beverages, including liquors, wines, and beers. It was ratified in 1919. The adoption of the Prohibition amendment and a federal law enforcing it (the Volstead Act 1919), were the culmination of many decades of crusading by temperance forces.

DEFYING THE LAW- By no means did Prohibition stop people from drinking alcohol either in public places or at home. In fact, especially in the cities, it became fashionable to defy the law by going to clubs or bars known as speakeasies, where bootleg (smuggled) liquor was sold. City police were paid to look the other way. Even elected officials like President Harding served alcoholic drinks to guests. Liquors, beers, and wines were readily available from bootleggers who smuggled them from Canada or made them in their garages or basements. Rival groups of gangsters, including a Chicago gang headed by Al Capone, fought for control of the lucrative bootlegging trade. Organized crime became big business. The millions made from the sale of illegal booze allowed the gangs to expand their illegal activities involving prostitution, gambling, and narcotics.
POLITICAL DISCORD AND REPEAL- Most Republicans publicly supported the “noble experiment” of Prohibition (although in private, many politicians would drink). Democrats divided on the issue, with southerners supporting it and northern city politicians calling for repeal. Supporters of the 18th Amendment pointed to declines in alcoholism and alcohol-related deaths, but as the years passed, they gradually weakened in the face of growing public resentment and clear evidence of increased criminal activity. With the coming of the Great Depression, economic arguments for repeal were added to the others. In 1933, the 21st Amendment repealing the 18th Amendment was ratified; millions celebrated the New Year by toasting the end of Prohibition.

The world war had interrupted the flow of immigrants to the United States, but as soon as the war ended, immigration shot upward. Over a million foreigners entered the country between 1919 and 1921. Like the immigrants of the prewar period, the new arrivals were mainly Catholics and Jews from eastern and southern Europe. Once again, nativist prejudices of native-born Protestants were aroused. Workers feared competition for jobs. Isolationists wanted minimal contact with Europe and saw the immigrants as radicals who might foment revolution. In this climate of anti-foreign reaction, public demands for restrictive legislation were quickly acted upon by Congress.

QUOTA LAWS- Congress passed two laws that severely limited immigration by setting quotas based on nationality. The first quota act of 1921 limited immigration to 3% of the number of foreign-born persons from a given nation counted in the 1910 Census (a maximum of 357,000). To ensure that the law would discriminate against immigrants from southern and eastern Europe, Congress passed a second quota act in 1924 that set quotas of 2% based on the Census of 1890 (before the arrival of the “new” immigrants). Although there were quotas for all European and Asia nationalities, the law chiefly restricted those groups considered “undesirable” by the nativists. By 1927, the quota for all Asians and eastern and southern Europeans had been limited to 150,000, with all Japanese immigrants barred. With these acts, the traditional United States policy of unlimited immigration ended. Canadians and Latin Americans were exempt from restrictions. This fact enabled almost 500,000 Mexicans to migrate legally to the Southwest during the 1920s.
CASE OF SACCO AND VANZETTI- Although liberal American artists and intellectuals were few in number, they were a vocal minority who protested against racist and nativist prejudices. They rallied to the support of two Italian immigrants, Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, who in 1921 had been convicted in a Massachusetts court of committing robbery and murder. Liberals protested that the two men were innocent, and that they had been accused, convicted, and sentenced to die simply because they were poor Italians and anarchists (who were against all government). After six years of appeals and national and international debates over the fairness of the trial, Sacco and Vanzetti were executed in 1927.
Ku Klux Klan:

The most extreme expression of nativism in the 1920s was the resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan. Unlike the original Klan of the 1860s and the 1870s, the new Klan founded in 1915 was as strong in the Midwest as in the South. Northern branches of the KKK directed their hostility not only against African Americans but also against Catholics, Jews, foreigners, and suspected Communists. The new Klan used modern advertising techniques to grow to 5 million members by 1925. It drew most of its support from the lower middle class in small cities and towns.

TACTICS- The Klan employed various methods for terrorizing and intimidating anyone targeted as “un-American.” Dressed in white hoods to disguise their identity, Klan members would burn crosses and apply vigilante justice, punishing their victims with whips, tar and feathers, and even the hangman’s noose. In its heyday in the early 1920s, the Klan developed strong political influence. In Indiana and Texas, its support became crucial for candidates hoping to win election to state and local offices.
DECLINE- At first, the majority of native-born white Americans appeared to tolerate the Klan because it vowed to uphold high standards of Christian morality and drive out bootleggers, gamblers, and adulterers. Beginning in 1923, however, investigative reports in the northern press revealed that fraud and corruption in the KKK were rife. In 1925, the leader of Indiana’s Klan, Grand Dragon David Stephenson, was convicted of murder. After that, the Klan’s influence and membership declined rapidly. Nevertheless, it continued to exist and remained a force for white supremacy into the 1960s.

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