1920s America: end of mass immigration, prohibition, the red scare, the KKK

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Ending of Mass immigration
Immigration before World War One
The 1920s unfolded at the tail end of the greatest wave of immigration in American history
Between 1880 and 1920, more than 25 million foreigners arrived on American shores,
transforming the country
They also departed in large numbers
The New Immigrants were distinctive from earlier migrants in that many didn't want to stay
These immigrants, mostly male and mostly young, hoped to earn enough money during a
temporary stay in America to be able to afford an increased standard of living upon returning
to their homeland
Something between 50% and 80% of the New Immigrants are believed to have eventually
returned to their countries of origin
The most compassionate strain of that nativist sentiment came in the form of aggressive
"Americanisation" campaigns
Efforts to remake the immigrants into good Americans through work, education, and social reform
Henry Ford was a leading exponent of the movement, declaring that "these men of many
nations must be taught American ways, the English language, and the right way to live."
Ford forced immigrant workers at his automotive factories to attend lengthy Americanization
courses, in which they were schooled in the English language and Ford's conservative ideology
Other Nativists lacked Ford's hope that the New Immigrants could be remade into good Americans, and
focused their efforts on blocking immigration altogether
Immigration Laws
Prior to 1921, with one exception (the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882) immigration into the United States
had never been systematically restricted by federal law
That changed with the 1921 Emergency Quota Act and the 1924 Immigration Act , which imposed for the
first time a limit on the number of immigrants allowed to enter the United States
The two laws were targeted squarely at the New Immigrants
o They established a new National Origins system that created different quotas
for immigrants from each country
o pegged to those countries' representation in the population of the United
States in either 1910 (the 1921 law) or 1890 (the 1924 law)
o Because countries like Italy and Poland had contributed a tiny proportion of
America's population before 1890, they received miniscule quotas
The effect was startling
o Prior to the quota, immigrants were arriving at a rate of more than 850,000 per year,
with just under 700,000 of those coming from Southern and Eastern Europe and only
175,000 coming from Northern and Western Europe
o The strict 1924 act imposed a very mild restriction on immigration from Northern and
Western Europe, still allowing 140,000 arrivals per year from those countries
o But immigration from Southern and Eastern Europe was limited to just 22,000 per
year--a 97% reduction from pre-restriction levels
These immigration restriction acts of 1921 and 1924 well reflect the nativist, anti-immigrant attitudes of
many Americans during the Roaring Twenties
But the laws' practical effects were not as great as one might expect
o Because of difficulties in determining the precise proportions of the 1890 population
that belonged to each country, the law did not take effect until 1929
o At which point the economic collapse brought about by the onset of the Great
Depression naturally reduced the immigrant flow to a trickle

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Why was prohibition introduced?
Prohibition made it illegal for Americans to make, sell or transport alcohol
For many years, there had been groups in the USA campaigning against alcohol
The Women's Christian Temperance Union and the Anti-Saloon League, supported by many
other Americans with strong Christian beliefs, had argued that alcohol
o Led to drunkenness and violence
o Brought poverty and hunger to families when men spent all their wages on liquor
o Such people believed that alcohol undermined the decent American values of…read more

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In the cities, organised criminals, gangsters, soon began to control this illegal trade
They were involved in other `rackets', such as gambling, prostitution and `protection', but their largest
profits came from moonshine, bootlegging and the speakeasies
Such gangsters achieved control of areas of the cities through violence
Rival gangs fought for control of territory
Resulting in an increasing number of gangland murders
The most successful gang leaders became immensely rich and were regarded almost as celebrities
In Chicago, Al Capone, the leader of an Italian-American…read more

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Due to it being an infringement of basic rights many ordinary people disobeyed the law and became
supporters of bootlegging
This support led to organised crime increasing massively and being glamorised
In contrast to Prohibition unorganised and under-financed ability, organised crime was sophisticated
and had heavy financial power (for example Al Capone)
This under-finance often led to a large corruption within the police force who were easily
bribed by criminals.…read more

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The Red Scare
Inflation and Strikes
After the First World War, high inflation caused industrial unrest
In 1920 prices had doubled since 1913
It was estimated that during 1919, four million workers went on strike
Many believed that strikers were led by Communists who sought revolution in the USA
It was feared that the same would happen as had been achieved in the USSR
Fear grew as general strike brought the city of Seattle to a halt, In Boston even the police were striking
In…read more

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The Rise of the Ku Klux Klan
What was the KKK?
The KKK was a white supremacist organisation active during the civil rights movement
They were known to harass, beat, and even murder African Americans to prevent their participation in
the political process
Klan members feared growing black political strength in southern states
The KKK grew after the Civil War in 1866 in Tennessee
They opposed Black Freedom
The KKK resurged after WWI
The 2nd Klan set up in 1915 in Atlanta, Georgia
By William…read more

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Used to be (1st Klan) exclusively democratic (1865-1874) People (NAACP) opposed the
Now (2Klan) were republicans (1915-1944) KKK
Most powerful KKK members of 1920s in Indiana Many prominent Protestant
Over 30% of Indiana's white male citizens were ministers spoke out against the
KKK members KKK
The decline in support for the KKK
Congress passed a legislation to curb terrorism at the end of the 1920s
Murder trial of D C Stephenson (Grand Dragon of the KKK) 1926
The KKK began to collapse
Main reasons…read more


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