The American Journey Modern Times © 2009

Chapter 10: The Jazz Age

Chapter Overviews

Section 1: Time of Turmoil

After enduring the uncertainties and disruptions of World War I, Americans wanted to return to a normal life. Unfortunately, world and national conditions remained unstable, some Americans grew suspicious of foreigners and those with views different from their own. Many believed that Russia’s newly established Communist government was a significant threat to American society. The Red Scare, as the growing fear of Communism came to be known, led to both labor tensions, many of which led to violence. Meanwhile, racial tensions increased. In 1919 a riot broke out in Chicago after a group of whites stoned an African American youth who was swimming in Lake Michigan. The influential leader Marcus Garvey, urged African Americans to escape discrimination, return to Africa and establish their own country.

Section 2: Desire for Normalcy

Warren G. Harding, promising a return to “normalcy” that Americans wanted, won a landslide victory in November 1920. But Harding’s administration suffered a blow when many of his political supporters were named in major scandals, including the famous Teapot Dome scandal. When Harding died, Coolidge took office and promoted a limited role for government, tax cuts, and support for business growth. Coolidge also wanted to reduce the nation’s involvement in foreign affairs. At the same time, however, the administration made serious efforts to promote peace among nations.

Section 3: A Booming Economy

A recession lingered after World War I, but was followed by a period of economic growth. Factories were increasingly powered by electricity and based on cheaper and faster methods of production.. By cutting costs, businesses could lower prices and increase profits. Americans began to buy more products, especially cars and household appliances. The car boom was followed by an increasing interest in travel, the construction of more highways, and the spread of suburbs. Unfortunately, some Americans, such as farmers, railroad workers, and coalminers, were did not share in this new prosperity.

Section 4: Social and Cultural Change

The 1920s brought many social changes. Cities continued to grow and shaped society’s’ values. Women gained the right to vote and increasingly worked outside the home. As laborsaving devices created more leisure time, and the motion picture industry grew, Americans had more opportunities for entertainment. Jazz emerged during this time, an African American literary culture blossomed in the Harlem section of New York City. Not everyone shared the values of this new urban society however. The major themes of the election of 1928 reflected the social tensions that had been growing around the issues of prosperity, prohibition of alcohol, and religious differences

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