Chapter 34 ~ American Life in the Roaring Twenties ~ 1919 – 1929
I. Insulating America from the Radical Virus
After World War I, America turned inward, away from the world, and started a policy of “isolationism.”
Americans denounced “radical” foreign ideas and “un-American” lifestyles.
The “Red Scare” of 1919-20 resulted in Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer (“Fighting Quaker”) using
a series of raids to round up and arrest about 6,000 suspected Communists.
In December of 1919, 249 alleged alien radicals were deported on the Buford.
The Red Scare severely cut back free speech for a period, since the hysteria caused many people to want
to eliminate any Communists and their ideas.
Some states made it illegal to merely advocate the violent overthrow of government for social
In 1921, Nicola Sacco, a shoe-factory worker, and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, a fish peddler, were
convicted of murdering a Massachusetts paymaster and his guard. In that case, the jury and judge
seemed prejudiced in some degree, because the two accused were Italians, atheists, anarchists,
and draft dodgers.
In this time period, anti-foreignism (or “nativism”) was high.
Liberals and radicals rallied around the two men, but they were executed anyway.
II. Hooded Hoodlums of the KKK
The new Ku Klux Klan was anti-foreign, anti-Catholic, anti-black, anti-Jewish, anti-pacifist, anti-
Communist, anti-internationalist, anti-revolutionist, anti-bootlegger, anti-gambling, anti-adultery, and
More simply, it was pro-White Anglo-Saxon Protestant (WASP) and anti-everything else.
At its peak in the 1920s, it claimed 5 million members, mostly from the South, but it also featured a
reign of hooded horror.
The KKK employed the same tactics of fear, lynchings, and intimidation.
It was stopped not by the exposure of its horrible racism, but by its money fraud.
III. Stemming the Foreign Flood
In 1920-21, some 800,000 European “New Immigrants” (mostly from the southeastern Europe regions)
came to the U.S., and to quell the fears of the “100% Americans,” Congress passed the Emergency
Quota Act of 1921, in which newcomers from Europe were restricted at any year to a quota, which was
set at 3% of the people of their nationality who lived in the U.S. in 1910.
This policy still really favored the Slavs and the southeastern Europeans in comparison to other
groups. So, a new policy was sought…
A replacement law was found in the Immigration Act of 1924, which cut the quota down to 2% and the
origins base was shifted to that of 1890, when few southeastern Europeans lived in America.
This change clearly had racial undertones beneath it (New Immigrants out, Old in).