The Twenties

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The Twenties: Jazz Age or Depression Blues?
Positive results of WW2 were the increased economic growth of USA and greater
acceptance of women in the workplace.
Negative results were the continuing treatment of black Americans as 2nd class citizens,
economic problems of farmers, poor working conditions and anger against immigrants.
Optimism, like everything else in America, was mass produced `... such was the exuberance
of the people, manifested in spectacular bursts of invention and productivity.' (Evans: The
American Century.)
The Presidents of the decade ­ Harding, Coolidge and Hoover were all Republicans and that
reflected their party's confidence in the future.
Everyone was keen for a more laissez-faire approach to life with a clear separation between
business and government.
By 1929, 43% of the worlds manufactured goods were made in the USA.
By 1927 mass production and mass consumption meant 40% of households had telephones,
one third had a radio and two thirds electricity.
Since 1919, real wages for industrial workers had risen by 25% and production had doubled.
Americans felt they `had arrived,' if they had an indoor bathroom, a fridge, an electric cooker
and a washing machine.
This was the era of the flapper.
Age was increasingly one of freedom for women and the beginning of the acceptance of
birth control
Jazz was not only a style of music but a symbol and a way of life.
Jazz was associated with spontaneity and a new atmosphere of promiscuity amongst the
young. The term jazz became slang for sexual intercourse.
Since 1880, the USA had absorbed 23 million immigrants. For many white Americans they
were seen as `indigestible lumps
In 1921, 1924 and 1927, legislation was passed to limit immigrants combing to America.
Huge migration of black southerners to the north.
There was more work for them here with higher wages.
But- there was no end to deliberate or insidious segregation, with separate housing and
fewer opportunities to reach the top jobs.
1920's saw the beginning of the movement to raise pride in African heritage - Marcus
Garvey created the UNIA (Universal Negro Improvement Organisation.) He argued for
separatism from white culture and for black Americans to abandon the USA for a new life in

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The film, `Birth of a nation,' was full of stereotypes ­ the faithful `darkie' slave, threatening
mulattos, good white southerners, and greedy Yankees coming to take the riches of the
South. It was hugely popular and terribly racist.
It argued for white supremacy and patriotism.
It showed cloaked and hooded memebers of the KKK who claimed to be protecting the true
America, the people of the Nordic race.
The KKK used untimidation, arso and ohysical violence against blacks, Jews and Catholics.…read more


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