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How widespread was racism and intolerance in America during the 1920s?

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How widespread was racism and intolerance in America during the 1920s? To the rest of the world in the 1920s America had the image of a land of prosperity, opportunity, freedom and tolerance. It gave the impression that if you went to live there you would soon become a naturalised American no matter where you came from. Because of this many immigrants flooded into America at the turn of the century from many different European states. But behind this fa´┐Żade things were a little bit different. America was not such a land of tolerance as it made out and many people suffered in the 1920s varying degrees of intolerance, discrimination and racism. On the whole immigrants were one large and diverse group of people who suffered varying degrees of discrimination in their slow process of assimilation. During the 1920s communism was spreading across Eastern Europe via Russia and the USA feared that recent immigrants from these places would bring the idea of communism to America. ...read more.


In the south in particular the Ku Klux Klan a white supremacy movement discriminated greatly against blacks. The Klan had died out in America by 1900 but in the 1920s their popularity grew due to a number of factors. The rebirth of a nation film, the influx of immigrants and the increasing fear of communism all combined to increase its popularity amongst all sections of society. The Klan terrorised blacks and sometimes even killed them with the legal system institutionally racist. Furthermore, in these places the Jim Crow laws meant that blacks could not use the same facilities as white people. They had to go to different schools or toilets for example. Faced with this discrimination many blacks moved into cities such as New York or Chicago, but life there was not as good as they thought it would be. And it was not just whites who treated them badly other blacks did as well in the competition for better quality housing and employment. ...read more.


The modernists won meaning it could be taught but the number of people on the fundamentalist side shows how many Americans were intolerant to new ideas or theories. Although there was a significant degree of racism and intolerance in America in the 1920s it would not be right to say there was total intolerance in America to every member of a minority group. Minority groups faced varying degrees of racism and discrimination depending on a whole series of local factors. Some people of course did well despite all the obstacles. Some blacks for example became successful in jobs like boxing baseball and jazz. Paul Robeson a black American became an actor and gained fame in the hit musical Showboat. And even the lives of the vanishing Americans improved. They were granted US citizenship and allowed to vote for he first time during the 1920s. It is also important to realise that intolerance and racism were not geographically located and existed in all levels of society. Even today America is faced with such problems despite its reluctance to accept it. Marc Cotterill ...read more.

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