A National Clash of Cultures in the 1920’s
The 1920’s, known as the “Roaring Twenties”, is generally seen as a decade of great prosperity in America. In the beginning of the 1920’s there was a brief economic recession, but as the decade moved on, the economy exploded. The cities were rapidly increasing and the majority of Americans lived in urban areas, causing worry for those living in rural areas. Anxiety only heightened as farm-to-factory migration increased. Cities were booming while the countryside was declining. People living in the countryside were worried that this signified a passing of an era, that their culture was being taken over by that of the city.
Within the nation conflict arose from different views on values, religion, immigration, and prohibition between urban-rural cultures. In the 1920’s there was a huge difference between urban and rural values. The growth of cities, the rise in consumerism, and the shift in morals and manners represented the change from the country’s Victorian past. Major cities like Chicago and New York grew rapidly and the Empire State Building began construction, giving the appearance of American self-confidence. There were numerous social changes in sexual mores, gender roles, hairstyles, and fashion.
A National Clash of Cultures in the 1920’s Essay Example
Most Americans wanted to have as much fun as they could. Jazz music was becoming huge and crowds flocked to watch film stars like Charlie Chaplin and baseball stars like Babe Ruth. As the economy boomed, America started the era of consumerism. Car sales increased, radio and television broadcasting began and penicillin and insulin injections were discovered. Home refrigeration, automatic dishwasher, and electric air conditioning systems were invented. This gave off the idea that it was America’s century and that the U. S. was destined to be the greatest country of the era.
Yet, the change was occurring mainly in the cities and people living in the countryside did not support this new culture. New technology and ideas were bringing America into the modern world and leaving the traditional ideas, that originally dominated the U. S. , behind. However, all this change resulted in conflict. Traditionalists were people who held on to old values while modernists leapt into the new culture. Traditionalists were generally older people living in rural areas and modernists were typically younger city dwellers. With all the new inventions coming out, the generation during the 1920’s were gladly taking it all in.
The traditionalists condemned the way that the modernists were lavishly living (Doc 6). Traditionalists claimed that the sacredness of their religion, of their homes, of chastity, and the right to teach their children what they wanted was being ripped away from them (Doc 1). In the 1920’s, science began to progress and new technology was being discovered, and urban-rural views were vastly different. Many people didn’t want their kids to being taught evolution and went to extreme measures to defend their right to teach their children the fundamental, traditional values.
Scientific evolution opposed the traditional religious views. Since the people paid their taxes which supported the schools, they theoretically had the right to decided what was being taught. This was seen as a battle between Fundamentalism and twentieth century skepticism, assisted by Modernism (Doc 2). Religion stated that humans were put on Earth by their creator, God. Emerging science was showing evidence of evolution. An example of this occurred in Dayton, Tennessee with a court case in 1925. John Scopes was a young biology teacher who was charged with violating the state law of teaching evolution.
These modernists ideas conflicted with the strict fundamentalist views. The views on evolution varied in rural-urban areas due to different ideas of values. There was a lot of urban-rural conflict about religion mainly because in the cities there were more people with different cultures. Change during this decade was occurring in the cities and this was mainly due to immigrants. Much of the rural areas were populated by Protestants who thought that the cities were degrading traditional religious beliefs. The new religions were increasing and even the sacredness of Sabbath was being discarded (Doc 1).
Catholics and Jewish immigrants also lived in the cities and it was often believed by traditionalists that they watered down once-accepted American morals. The immigrants were blamed for bringing in unknown political church influences (Doc 3). Conservative Protestant members launched attacks on the insidious influences of urbanism, modernism, and atheistic science. World War I brought on a strong sense of nationalism in America. In WWI, Russia originally fought with the Allies, however, the Russian people were unhappy.
They wanted to get rid of their ruler, Tsar Nicholas II and close the wealth gap. The people rebelled Russia’s traditional monarchy was replaced with Communist dictatorship, led by Lenin. In America, this frightened many people and the first Red Scare came about. The postwar era in America seemed to be filled with problems and was on the verge of ruin. People believed that communists would infiltrate America and communism would take over. The Red Scare was the nationwide fear of communists, socialists, anarchists, and other dissidents in the U. S.
In response to conflict, President Wilson’s attorney general, Mitchell Palmer, conducted illegal “witch hunts”, looking for communists and anarchists. These were called the Palmer Raids, where up to 5,000 people were rounded up and thrown in jail. During this time the Ku Klux Klan also increased its membership to around five million. Much like the Red Scare, the Ku Klux Klan was created from fear. Therefore, it was no surprise that the strongest supporters of the Klan were from rural areas, people who were afraid of the new, urban ideas that were rapidly spreading.
The traditional moral standards that they had lived by were being abandoned (Doc 1). In response, the Ku Klux Klan attacked those who they thought led the change in values; African Americans, Catholics, Jews, immigrants, and others who were thought to be modernists. The KKK used violence, intimidation, and organized political activity to lash out at these groups who they thought were defiling traditional American customs. The KKK aimed to get rid of anything and anyone that tainted the American nation. Immigration was a big urban-rural conflict that caused several large changes in the decade.
Traditional Americans had become progressively more concerned about the arrival of millions of immigrants. The immigrants were from Southern and Eastern Europe and were culturally and ethnically seen as very different from the first wave of immigrants. The immigrants brought with them their culture and threatened change. The second wave of immigrants managed to put down roots in America and often settled with people from their nation. Ethnic shops, markets, banks, clubs, etc. were created within the settlements. However, immigrants still brought up issues and accusations.
People claimed that the immigrants were ruining the lives of young, American children by forcing their culture on them (Doc 5). It was believed that immigrants brought their drinking habits to America and couldn’t manage to control themselves when they were drinking. Immigrants were blamed for vicious crimes because they didn’t know the necessity for conforming to the statutes and restrictions of the government (Doc 3). Rural people said that immigrants filled the cities and took over the industries and commerce (Doc 1).
Anti-immigrant sentiment increased and it showed with immigration restrictions. The National Origins Act restricted the total number of foreigners who were allowed into the U. S. legally. The Open Door Policy was also closed, ending full immigration. The mass immigration in the 1920’s caused conflict in America and resulted in a strong backlash. African Americans migrated from Southern plantations to Northern cities, this was known as the Great Migration. They brought with them their culture and it flowered in the cities. The Harlem Renaissance was centered in Harlem, New York.
African American authors, authors, poets, musicians, and other artists flourished and became nationally popular. In the twenties, African American culture was shown through a new genre of music known as jazz. It was a spontaneous form of music that was promoted and led by African Americans. This was the first time that African American life was shown first hand. The Harlem Renaissance also proved African American intelligence. However, there was still opposition. The character of the music was associated with loose morals and relaxed social codes, going against fundamentalist ideas.
The 1920’s was when prohibition first started. Alcohol had always been a concern in America and groups had begun to pressure for the ban of it. Many progressive reformers saw the ban of alcohol as the solution to eliminating several of societies problems among the poor and immigrant groups. Children and women would no longer be victims of drunken abuse, immigrants wouldn’t be out of control, worker absenteeism would be reduced, and worker productivity would increase. The most active nationwide supporters of prohibition were the white, Protestants of rural America.
Alcohol was seen as an evil that needed to be purged. They said immigrants could not voluntarily stay sober because of their backwards culture. However, when the prohibition law passed, it was impossible to enforce. A large population wanted alcohol and since it became illegal, it was extremely profitable. Urban dwellers wanted to be allowed to drink and opposed prohibition. They stated that prohibition exceeded the role of government in a democratic society and was an unjust attack on the lower class based on racial and religious prejudice.
Due to prohibition, alcohol production was very beneficial and lead to increased crime in liquor trafficking and drinking (Doc 3). Organized crime rose and gangs started to form. The automobile only further increased to opportunity for criminal activity. The younger generation embraced the excitement, much to the traditionalists demise. A young couple, a bottle of liquor, and an automobile was seen as dangerous and would destroy society (Doc 4). Prohibition also lead to speakeasies and bootleggers. The younger generations in the 1920’s challenged the traditional notions of proper behavior.
WWI proved that women could do work equally as well as men and many then wanted to be treated equally. By the twenties, women had gained the right to vote which meant they had a voice. Yet, the want for equality did not end there. Women wanted to break the traditional ideas about genders and wanted to be able to do what men did. Women known as flappers, rebelled against the traditional stereotype. They drank and smoked in public, cut their hair shorter, and flattened their breasts. Women wore short dresses, resisting the traditional ideas of long dresses. They danced to revolt against the idea of women being proper.
Birth control had recently come out and it allowed women the freedom of having sex like men. This gender role change was happening in the cities and people in the country strongly opposed it. The 1920’s had a nice exterior layer of prosperity and America as a top nation. However, underneath, there were urban-rural culture wars. People living in the cities were moving forward with the evolving culture while those in the country were grasping on to the traditional ways. These opposite views created social, political, and economic issues that impacted America.