The main political and social challenges facing America

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The Open Door Policy

The purpose of the Open Door Policy was to make immigration as easy as possible. There was a mixture of people living in America during this period. Because of this the USA is now a multicultural and multiracial society.

  1. The Early Immigrants

  2. Native Americans

  3. Black Americans

  4. Eastern and southern Europeans

  5. Hispanics

  6. Asian people

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Why did people want to move to America?

A combination of push and pull factors made people immigrate to the USA. The push factors made people want to leave their own countries, and the pull factors attracted them to the USA.

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What were the push factors?

  • Escaping poverty in their own country
  • Escaping from economic and political percecution
  • Overcrowding in Europe
  • European class systen
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What were the pull factors

  • Promise of religious tolerance
  • The hope of owning property and land
  • Creating a new life
  • Equal opportunity
  • The US bill of rights
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Restricting entry to the country

As the number of immigrants increased, some Americans began to doubt the government's Open Door policy. Traditionally, the immigrants had tended to come from northern and western Europe – Britain, Ireland, and Germany. Between 1900 and 1914 13 million arrived, mainly from southern and eastern Europe – Italy, Austria-Hungary, Russia, Western Poland and Greece. People started feeling angry towards these 'new' immigrants. The reasons why were…

  1. They were often poor

  2. Many were illiterate

  3. Many were Roman Catholics or Jews, therefore from a different cultural and religious background

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What were the three laws to restrict immigration


  1. Literacy Test, 1917

  2. The Emergency Quota Act, 1921

  3. The National Origins Act, 1924

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What was the red scare

Many Americans were frightened by the Communist Revolution that had happened in Russia in October 1917. The American Socialist Party and the American Communist Party were established during this period. Some believed that a communist revolution was going to happen in America, and the immigrants in America were under suspicion of being, perhaps, involved in plotting a revolution.

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Religious Fundamentalism

After the First World War, a number of conservative Americans tried to rekindle old values. As a result, a new kind of Christianity emerged - Fundamentalism.

 Social changes in the 1920s led to a major religious revival among conservative Christians. They did not like the influence of cinema and jazz, or the new way in which women dressed and behaved.The Fundamentalists believed strongly and literally in everything the Bible said, and in the Bible belt they condemned any other beliefs.


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The Ku Klux Klan

The Ku Klux Klan was a racist group established by people who believed that white people were better and wanted to see black people remaining slaves. It began in the southern states at the end of the American Civil War in 1865. The movement was revived in 1915 by William J Simmons. It grew quickly and by 1921 it had over 100,000 members. By the mid-1920s the movement was at its strongest with 5 million members

  1. Only WASPs could join the Klan.

  2. The KKK discriminated against black people, Roman Catholics, Jews and Mexicans.

  3. Members of the Klan often killed black people by hanging without trial (lynching)

  4. Sometimes the local police could not protect the victims and even took part in the killings.

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The National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People was established in 1909 by William du Bois. They focussed on opposing racism and segregation through holding non-violent activities, such as marches and protests.

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The Universal Negro Improvement Association was established in 1914 by Marcus Garvey. UNIA members were more militant. Garvey encouraged black people to establish their own businesses and to employ black people only. He also encouraged them to return to their homeland, Africa. "Black is beautiful" was his most famous slogan.

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The Volstead act

On the 16th of January 1920 the Eighteenth amendment to the Constitution came into force, making it illegal to sell alcohol in the USA. This was the Volstead act.

 A number of organisations, for example, the Anti-Saloon League and the Women's Christian Temperance Union, and some religious groups such as the Methodists and the Baptists put pressure on the government to prohibit the production and sale of alcohol. They claimed that alcohol was the work of the devil and that it disobeyed Christianity.

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The people who sold the alcohol

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Rum runners

The people who smuggled the alcohol from Mexico or Canada

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The people who distilled their own drink at home

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Illegal bars which sold alcohol by 1925 there were over 10,000 of these in New York alone.

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In New York, Dutch Schultz was in control. Chester La Mare controlled Detroit. The St Valentine's Day Massacre of 1929 was the climax of the gangster wars between Bugs Moran and Al Capone

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Corrupt government

In 1920 Warren Harding was elected President of the USA. He gained a reputation as a weak manager for giving important and influential posts to friends and peers who were members of his cabinet. The Ohio Gang was a group of politicians who were in positions of power during Warren O Harding's administration. They betrayed the public's trust in several scandals.

At the beginning of 1924, soon after Harding's death, Congress began investigating reports of corruption and bribery during Harding’s administration. Several members of the Gang were charged and imprisoned for corruption.

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