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Republican Policies

Throughout the 1920s, Republican presidents were in power, and they implemented Reublican Policies. President Harding believed in what he called 'normalcy' - letting the USA get back to normal life as it had been before the war.

Key policies were:

  • ISOLATION- The USA was not to get involved in foreign wars or disputes
  • TARIFFS were placed on foreign goods to make them expensive in the USA so that people would buy American goods instead
  • LOW TAXES - these helped businesses to grow, and gave workers money to spend

When Harding died suddenly in 1923, Vice-President Coolidge became President. Coolidge followed the same policies as Harding.

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Key Terms

Rugged Individualism:

The notion that people should overcome problems and succeed by their own efforts and hard work, not by recieving help from the government.


Withdrawing from international politics and policies.

Economic Boom:

A period of time that sees individual incomes and company profits increase.


The American representative assemblies (the equivalent of Parliament in Britain). There are two houses, the Senate and the House of Representatives. Roosevelt had majority Democrate support ion both houses.

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Weaknesses in the US economy

There were worrying weaknesses in the US economy during this period.

  • Some major industries did not grow in the 1920s (for example, coal and textiles)
  • Some industries could not export goods because of tariffs in other countries. Often these tariffs were simply a reaction to American tariffs
  • Farmers had produced too much food and prices were very low. Farm incomes fell from $22 billion in 1919 to $13 billion in 1928
  • Many ordinary Americans did not share in the boom. African Americans, in particular, suffered from discrimination and often had the worst jobs
  • Wealth in the USA was concentrated in a small number of hands. Around 5% of the population owned 32% of the country's wealth. Meanwhile, 42% of the population lived below the poverty line


E - Europe stopped buying from the USA

C - Competition from Canadian Wheat farmers

O -Overproduction

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Prohibition and Crime

By the end of the First World War, there was a strong temperance (anti-alcohol) movement in the USA. Temperance groups pressured the government to pass the 18th Amendment to the US Constitution, commonly known as the Volstead Act, prohibiting the manufacture or sale of alcohol in 1919.

Prohibiton was essentially a failure. Making it illegal didn't stop the alchol trade - it simply forced it underground. Bootleggers made large amounts of money smuggling alcohol into the USA, or through illegal brewing. People simply did not support prohibition. The demand for alcohol was always there. Secret bars called speakeasies were easy to find if people wanted to drink.

Law enforcement was also ineffective. There was not enough agents to enforce prohibiton and they were poorly paid. Agents and police officers were often bribed or intimidated. Gangs of criminals began to run bootlegging and other forms of crime (gambling, durgs, prostitution) almost like a business. These gangs would sometimes fight with each other for control of the trade.

Prohibition - the law in the USA that made making and consuming alcohol illegal

Bootleggers - people who carried liquor into the USA from Canada or Mexico. The name comes from the fact that they would sometimes hide the bottles inside their knee-length boots. 

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The Red Scare

The Communist revolution in Russia alarmed some Americans, particularly leading industrialists. They saw the USA's trade unions as a threat that could lead to a revolution. The radicals in the USA's immigrant communities were immediate targets. They were suspected of planning a revolution. Police, soldiers and ex-servicemen disrupted meetings and raided offices and thousands of people were arrested. The government was involved in and supported this campaign.

Sacco and Vanzetti were two high profile victims of the Red Sacre. They were arrested for armed robbery and murder but it emerged that tehy were self-confessed anarchists who believed in creating social disorder. Their trials became less a trial for murder and more of a trial for their radical ideas.

At the trial the judge said that although Vanzetti might not have committed the crime he was guilty because he was an enemy of authourity. Racist attitudes existed in America at the time and increased the fear of Communism. They feared that meny immigrants might bring radical ideas with them to the USA.

The evidence against them both was very weak but the prosecution relied heavily on racist slurs of their Italian origins and stiirring up fears of their radical beliefs. Also, the judge was a narrowminded, predjudiced judge who was affected by the fear of Communism.

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Most Americans were immigrants or the children of immigrants. However, after the First World War, the USA tried to slow down the flow of immigrants with the 1921 Immigration Act.

1917 Immigration Law:

All immigrants had to prove that they could read English, banned all immigration from Asia, and charged and immigration fee of $8

1921 Emergency Quota Act:

The number of immigrants from the 'eastern hemisphere' could not be more than 3% of the number already in America in 1910. It set the maximum number of immigrants in any year at 357,000

1924 Reed-Johnson Act:

Maximum number of immigrants in any year at 154,000. Quota from eastern hemisphere reduced to 2% of those already in America in 1890; the South and the East of Europe were thus only allowed to send 20,000 immigrants per year, and non-Europeans only 4,000.

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The Ku Klux Klan were a racist group, who targetted black African - Americans, Jews and Catholics. They wore long white robes with a full-faced mask. The bullied, lynched, tortured and murdered blacks.

  • Southern States of North America
  • Believed white people were superior
  • Created a wave of terror which included violence, bullying, lyncing setting fire to buildings and murder
  • In the 1920s the maximum membership reached was around 4.5 million

W - White

A - Anglo

S - Saxon

P - Protestants

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Prejudice and Intolerance

Problems for Black Americans:

In the South they were lynched, whipped, beaten etc

Their churches, schools and homes were burnt

Poverty for balck people

Segregation of black and white people

Abuse caused tham to leave

Were not allowed to work

Were not allowed to get an education

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Racial Intolerance

Improvements in Black People's lives:

In the North, they were allowed to get jobs

Given a good education

Jazz music allowed black musicians to be high-profiled figures

Black artists and writers flourished

Blacks were respected

Howard University was an excusively African-American insitution 

People felt like they could stand up for what they believed in

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