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Topic Eight: American History: The Roaring Twenties

The American involvement in the First World War ushered in various attitudes, beliefs and practices. Although the 1920s was seen by different people in different lights, it was a general consensus of opinions that, the 1920s was a period of remarkable changes.

To some people, the 1920s was a period of great fun and prosperity. This was because of the boom enjoyed immediately after the war (1919-1921). To others, however, the 1920s was a period of great tribulations and unhappiness.

This was because they were severely hit by the great depression of 1921. However, there were those who saw the 1920s in a different line.

A salient representative of this school was an author known as Fitz Gerald, who regarded the 1920s as an epoch. Americans not only lost their humanity, but also became Godless.

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American Flag, Getty Images/Chris Mellor/Lonely Planet Images

The American nation, no doubt, experienced severe changes during the period. Almost all segments of American life became affected with the new changes. One of the basic changes experienced by America was the recourse to Nativism.

This was a situation in which America developed an attitude antagonistic of new immigration policy. It would be recalled that America had for years encouraged immigration. Indeed, America was the quintessential land of immigrants.

However, the problems experienced by the American nation during and after the First World War made them to decide against further immigration.

It was a period characterized by the activities of Anarchists and Fascists and most of those alleged to be involved were recent immigrants.

The arrest of two Italians, namely Sacco and Vanzetti for anarchism further buttressed the belief that the new immigrants were indeed troublemakers. The period, therefore, became characterized by the philosophy of “America for Americans”.

The 1920s also recorded the resurgence of the activities of the most notorious secret society, the KU KLUX KLAN (KKK). The resurgence of this body was traceable to the spirit of nativism. Its objectives were clear and definitive.

They proposed to reinvigorate the Anglo-Saxon culture and the spirit of Protestantism. Put differently, they were supremacists. It was their ambition not only to destroy blacks, but also Mexicans and Catholics.

The KKK in the 1920s became very popular because of its mode of dressing and its esoteric languages.

The new attitude experienced in the United States was also transferred into the religious sphere.  A group developed that could be regarded as religious extremists. Darwinism had encouraged the teaching of the Evolution Theory in schools.

But as far as the extremists were concerned, this was against the teachings, the preaching, the tenets, the doctrines and the dogmas of Christianity. In fact, it contradicted the positions of the Holy Bible.

As a result of this, the extremists deployed all the strategies at their disposal to discourage the teaching of evolution. They were supported in this bid by the governor of Texas, Mariam Ma Fergusson.

The overwhelming support they received, no doubt, contributed to the unpopularity of the theory of evolution during the period. 

Sonniee Alli

Sunday Abraham Ogunode, Ph.D., (Sonniee Alli) Senior Lecturer, Department of History and International Studies Adekunle Ajasin University Akungba-Akoko, Ondo State, Nigeria.