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Was American Society Intolerant in the 1920's?

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Nadirah Kaba Was American Society Intolerant in the 1920's? American society was undergoing vast changes in the early twentieth century. The world was changing and America was not to be left behind. The twentieth century brought with it to America the consumer age and although technology was becoming more advanced was society really progressing with the times and becoming as 'civilised' as people liked to believe? In the past America had been a very intolerant society with slavery being one of its key industries and although it operated a 'melting pot' open door policy was the white, Anglo Saxon, Protestant (W.A.S.P) society really as open minded as they liked to believe about the diversity of other cultures? The aim of this essay is to try and explore how tolerant American society really was, looking into the key areas of racism, political intolerance and religion. In the 1920's, political intolerance in America rose drastically, not only with the re-formation of racist groups such as the Ku Klux Klan, but also with congress passing immigration laws and events such as the Palmer raids. Before the 1920's America operated a 'melting pot' policy, which meant that anyone was welcome to immigrate to the U.S.A and they would be welcome. People would melt different cultures together to form an 'American' culture. However this was not working, as although people migrated, they did not 'melt' their cultures together and instead carried on following the traditions that they were brought up with. ...read more.


The laws varied from state to state, from placing curfew times on black people to working conditions, but they generally all had the same purpose; to 'put blacks in their place' and to ensure that in social hierarchy white people remained on top and blacks at the bottom. On top of the 'Jim Crow Laws,' black American's who lived in the south also had to combat with the Ku Klux Klan. A racist organisation who not only disliked black people, but also Catholics, Jews, homosexuals and those who supported the Republicans. They dressed in white robes, had secret identities and their own leaders and even language. Their membership was very widespread with over four million members nationwide by 1924 and any crimes they committed were over looked, as most judges, police and juries were white and therefore members of this extreme activist group. The klan got their way and punished those they didn't like by using extreme violence such as lynching and terror tactics to get people to do as they wished. However after 1925 they did begin to go into decline as a result of 'self-inflicted wounds.' The klan's leader raped a woman during an over night train journey, ruining their reputation, as this directly went against their belief's of 'defending the purity of Christian womanhood.' This proved their policies to be lies and therefore resulted in loss of support. ...read more.


The Red Scare may have swept America, but once society began to be attacked as a result of the fear of Communism via the Palmer Raids, people began to protest against this, showing that although socialist views were not accepted, American society was not prepared to allow the government to withdraw civil rights from anyone. Society began to accept new ideas and crazes that swept the nation such as the rise of Hollywood and the Media. New ideas were accepted within American society, such as equality, however much of the old such as religion was still an important part of life. When it comes to assessing whether or not American society was tolerant in the 1920's, I think that you have to look at the different areas of society individually. In the north new ideas were more easily accepted as it was mainly industrial areas, and although racism was common here it wasn't as bad as in the south where 'Jim Crow Laws' were enforced. The south of American was mainly rural areas and therefore traditionalists tended to live here and wanted America to remain filled with a W.A.S.P society and their morals and values. However the times were changing and although the north was becoming more tolerant to try and keep up with the rest of the world, the south was not. America was fairly intolerant of new ideas in the 1920's, however when it came to civil rights especially in the north of the country, many wanted to abide not only by the law but also by religion. ...read more.

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