A.P. U.S. History Notes
Chapter 34: “American Life in the ‘Roaring Twenties’”
~ 1919 – 1929 ~
Insulating America from the Radical Virus
World War I
, America turned inward, away from the world, and denounced “radical”
foreign ideas and “un-American” lifestyles.
The “red scare” of 1919-20 resulted in Attorney General
A. Mitchell Palmer
Quaker”) using a series of raids to round up and arrest about 6000 suspected Communists.
In December of 1919, 249 alleged alien radicals were deported on the
The red scare severely cut back on free speech for a period, since the hysteria caused many
people to want to eliminate any Communists.
Some states made it illegal to merely
the violent overthrow of government
for social change.
, a shoe-factory worker, and
, a fish
peddler, were convicted of murdering a Massachusetts paymaster and his guard; in
that case, the jury and judge were prejudiced in some degree because the two were
Italians, atheists, anarchists, and draft dodgers.
In this time period, anti-foreignism was high as well.
Liberals and radicals rallied around the two men, but they died
Hooded Hoodlums of the KKK
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 anti-birth control.
At its peak in the 1920s, it claimed 5 million members, mostly from the South, but it also
featured a reign of hooded horror.
It was stopped not by the exposure of its horrible intolerance but by its money fraud!
Stemming the Foreign Flood
In 1920-21, some 800,000 Europeans (mostly from the southeastern regions) came to the
U.S., and to quell the fears of the “100% Americans,” Congress passed the
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 really favored the Slavs and the southeaster Europeans.
This was then replaced by the
Immigration Act of 1924
, which cut the quota down to 2%
and the origins base was shifted to that of 1890, when few southeaster Europeans lived in
This act also slammed the door against Japanese immigrants.
By 1931, for the first time in history, more people left America than came here.
The immigrant tide was now cut off, but those that were in America struggled to adapt.
Labor unions in particular had difficulty in organizing because of the differences in
race, culture, and nationality.