American History / 1900-1929: Social Turmoil -- Dbq

1900-1929: Social Turmoil -- Dbq

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Autor:  anton  21 December 2010
Tags:  Social,  Turmoil
Words: 1587   |   Pages: 7
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The early 1900s were filled with many new social ideas and changes. New faces arose during this time, and many new ideas changed the shape of society. Among these were race relations, the role of women in society, and the ever-heated modernism versus fundamentalism debate.

Relationships between races were very sketchy during the early 1900s. Racism was still very strong in the country, and ethnic groups settled in an area and created their own little communities. Harlem, New York was a black community in the north, many of the people having settled there because the north held many economic opportunities. Yet despite racism, cultures flourished. The Harlem Renaissance, a flowering of black culture in the 1920s, is a great example. Jazz music sprung up in the 20s, which lead to the popularity of people such as Louis Armstrong, Bessie Smith, and Duke Ellington. The Cotton Club, located in Harlem, was a popular site to hear some of these people. White bands soon introduced a milder version of the black jazz they had picked up. Soon music and dancing that was popular amongst the blacks became popular among the white Americans. The literary movement was just as important as the music. Young writers created many novels, poems, and short stories that talked about the black experience. Among these people were Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen, James Johnson, and Claude McKay, leading Harlem poets of the 20s. Yet, despite what one would think, the Harlem Renaissance depended largely on white patronage. Alienated white intellectuals and rebellious youth practically idolized Harlem’s black performers, writers, and artists for their “primitive” energy and supposed sensuality. Yet, they ignored the complex social problems the ghetto had. For example, Harlem’s jazz clubs actually excluded black customers. Langston Hughes’s white patron would only support him if his poems evoked the “African soul”, but dropped him when he began to write of black working people in New York and Kansas City. Also, there were many people speaking out for black rights. One example is in Document I, where Rev. F. J. Grimke gave a welcome back speech to black soldiers returning from France after World War I and told them they needed to speak up for their rights. Another example is Marcus Garvy, leader of the United Negro Improvement Association, stirred up trouble in Harlem. He had come to the town to preach individual pride and to promote black nationalism. He encouraged blacks to be self-sufficient and to return to Africa. The government jailed him for selling shares on his ship; Garvy was later deported.

The Ku Klux Klan had arisen a second time during this age, which only added to the social chaos. The Klan had faded by the 1870s, but was revived in 1915 at Stone Mountain, Georgia. It is estimated that during this brief period from 1915 to 1925 the Klan gained anywhere from 2 to 5 million members. Document J shows the KKK having an initiation ceremony in 1921 where hundreds of members are gathered in Houston, Texas. (A pro-KKK movie “The Birth of a Nation”, based on a novel, helped the Klan gain supporters and increased racism in the country; many people tried to stop this movie from being showed; document B details one small example of this opposition.) This time blacks were not the only ones heavily persecuted (they were especially targeted in the South), the North and West targeted Jews and Catholics. But while the KKK was full of corruption at the top, observers commented on the ‘ordinariness’ of the members. The Klan had promised to return the nation to an imagined purity (this being ethnic, moral, and religious purity), which appealed greatly to uneducated, very religious, and economically marginal Americans that were disoriented by a quickly changing social and moral order. The KKK also drew people who doubted their own worth and made them feel important and like they belonged together. Yet despite how pitiable the individual members seemed, the whole movement was not the least bit calm. The KKK resorted to many violent actions such as intimidation, beating, and even murder in their quest to purify the country until at last they collapsed in 1925. After the Grand Dragon went to jail, he revealed details of pervasive political corruption in Indiana, and the Klan once again faded.

Women’s roles in society changed drastically during the early 1900s. In 1910 40 percent of the Americans attending college were women. Women of the urban middle class – if not tied down by the demands of home, children, and an ideology of domesticity – worked white-collar jobs such as secretaries, typists, librarians, public-school teachers, and telephone operators. The number of women working such jobs increased from about 949,000 in 1900 to 3.4 million in 1920. However, the divorce rate slowly began to rise, moving from 1/12 in 1900 to 1/9 in 1916. Soon even those middle-class women who were usually stuck with un-challenging domestic routines began to join the female white-collar workers and college graduates in leading a resurgent women’s movement. Document D lists statements by many outspoken women’s suffrage leaders such as Jane Addams and Helen M. Todd. There were many others, though, who helped this cause. Carrie Chapman Catt took over the presidency of the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) after Susan B. Anthony retired from it in 1900. Women nationwide, following a strategy thought of by NAWSA’s central office, lobbied legislature, handed out literature, conducted referenda, and organized rallies and parades; state after state, mostly in the far and mid-west, submitted to the suffrage movement. In 1917 New York State voters approved a woman-suffrage referendum. Yet even for all this, there were some upper-class women who opposed this reform. Josephine Dodge formed the National Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage. She claimed “women already had vast behind-the-scenes influence, and to invade the male realm of politics could only tarnish their moral and spiritual role”. At last, and partly thanks to women’s active participation in the war effort (shown in Documents F [marine poster] and Document G [women unloading ice]), the 19th Amendment to be passed, however narrowly, by Congress in 1919; it was ratified in 1920. Women of the era were also adopting a new look. They cut their long hair to their ears and their dresses to their knees. In the years before, women had worn their hair up in a bun constantly, unless going to bed, and had worn dresses past their ankles and up practically to their chins, so this new look was a drastic change. Women also started smoking, riding bikes, and driving.

There was an on-going battle during the early 1900s between Fundamentalism and Modernism. Fundamentalists defended divine creation and blamed scientists for the shift in morals during that time. Protestant preachers condemned Modernists and insisted on a literal approach to the Bible. Modernism was due to the changing role of women, the Social Gospel movement (which was the duty to give back to the community), and scientific knowledge. Large numbers of Americans believed they could accept Darwin’s Theory of Evolution. This issue came up in the Scopes’ Trial, also known as the Monkey Trial. A college professor in Dayton, Tennessee named John Scopes taught evolution to his class and was arrested. Clarence Darrow defended him in trial while William Jennings Bryan defended Tennessee. The trial took two weeks, but Scopes was convicted and fined. In this case Fundamentalism won over Modernism. Margaret Sanger’s position on birth control brought up this debate once again. Her largest opposition came from the Catholic church. They said there was one truth, and that was what they thought. Pope Pius XI said, "the conjugal act is of it’s very nature designed for the procreation of offspring; and therefore those performing it deliberately deprived of it’s natural power and efficacy, act against nature and do something shameful and intrinsically immoral". No matter where Sanger went, demonstrators would chant and hold signs, calling her immoral and a sinner. Sanger fought back, saying the church only wanted more kids to fill their schools and money for their offering plates. In 1929 the church held the Lambeth conference where a heated debate over birth control went on; with a split vote, the traditional view won. Other opposition to Sanger was abundant. Her thinking was considered vulgar and inappropriate, and she eventually fled to England to escape persecution. She returned, however, and eventually started the first birth control clinic. It was located in New York, and tons of women lined up to receive information. The government shut it down, and arrested Sanger. She was released on bail, reopened the clinic, and was arrested again. Others, like Sigmund Freud, would introduce into society many new and often ‘radical’ ideas that would gain as much support as there was opposition.

In conclusion there were many different factors that upset society from 1900-1929. Racial relations such as the blacks in Harlem and the KKK, the roles women now played, and the modernism v. fundamentalism debate that stretched over many topics. All contributed to the social turmoil of the age and set the stage for society today.

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