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The Jazz Age
A Clash of Values
• In the early 1920’s many Americans saw the millions of immigrants as a
threat to stability and order and a threat to the four million
demobilized servicemen searching for work in an economy with
soaring unemployment and rising prices
• As anti-immigration fever rose, nativists emboldened their arguments
against immigration with Eugenics, a pseudo-science that emphasized
that human inequalities were inherited and warned against breeding
the “unfit” or “inferior”
• The “science” fueled the nativists’ argument for the superiority of the
“original” American stock – White Protestants of Northern
• According to the 1921 Emergency Quota Act, only 3% of the
total number of people in any ethnic group already living in
the United States, as indicated in the 1910 Census, could be
admitted in a single year.
• The 1924 National Origins Act tightened the quota system,
setting the quotas at 2% of each national group residing in
the country in the 1890 Census
• The immigration acts of 1921 and 1924 greatly reduced the
labor pool in the United States
Changing Culture
• Many groups that wanted to restrict immigration also feared
the “new morality” that glorified youth and personal
• The flappers were young women who personified this new
• While flappers pursued social freedoms other woman sought
economic freedom by entering the work force
• To many Americans, the modern consumer culture, relaxed
ethics, and growing urbanism symbolized America’s moral
Changing Culture
• Fundamentalists focused on defending the Protestant
faith against ideas that implied that human beings derived
their moral behavior from society, not God
• Many people believed that prohibition of alcohol would
help reduce unemployment, domestic violence and
• The 18th amendment specifically granted the federal
government, as well as state governments, the power to
enforce prohibition