Nativism and cultural repression in the 1920 s
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Nativism and Cultural Repression in the 1920’s. A bad time to be different. Why were the 20s a bad time to be different?. Post war/post progressivism, Americans sick of new things Rise of communism overseas sparks fears at home Leaders use this fear to get votes. NATIVISM.

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Nativism and Cultural Repression in the 1920’s

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Nativism and cultural repression in the 1920 s

Nativism and Cultural Repression in the 1920’s

A bad time to be different

Why were the 20s a bad time to be different

Why were the 20s a bad time to be different?

  • Post war/post progressivism, Americans sick of new things

  • Rise of communism overseas sparks fears at home

  • Leaders use this fear to get votes



  • Working definition—prejudice or discrimination against immigrants or those who fall outside of the traditional group (not Racially Pure).

  • Early 20th Century American nativism has roots in the following

    • Immigration from Southern and Eastern Europe freaks people out b/c the new immigrants are sooo different

    • Literature— one great example is “The Passing of the Great Race” by Madison Grant.

The passing of the great race 1916 by madison grant

The Passing of the Great Race (1916) By Madison Grant

  • Highly popular book—although there were others like it

  • Argued that “Nordic” races are superior—responsible for humanity’s great achievements.

  • Warned against “Mongrelization” of races—said mixing is race suicide.

  • Argued that governments must make policies to prevent superior races from being overtaken by weaker races

This stuff is scary

This stuff is SCARY

  • A rigid system of selection through the elimination of those who are weak or unfit — in other words social failures — would solve the whole question in one hundred years, as well as enable us to get rid of the undesirables who crowd our jails, hospitals, and insane asylums. The individual himself can be nourished, educated and protected by the community during his lifetime, but the state through sterilization must see to it that his line stops with him, or else future generations will be cursed with an ever increasing load of misguided sentimentalism. This is a practical, merciful, and inevitable solution of the whole problem, and can be applied to an ever widening circle of social discards, beginning always with the criminal, the diseased, and the insane, and extending gradually to types which may be called weaklings rather than defectives, and perhaps ultimately to worthless race types.—MADISON GRANT

Fear of immigrants develops

Fear of Immigrants Develops

  • “New” immigrants 1890-1920s are different.

  • Many into radical politics (Palmer Raids seek to deport)

  • Movement to exclude develops

Immigration restriction laws passed in 1921 1924


  • Immigration Restriction Act--1921

  • NATIONAL ORIGINS ACT (1924)Sets quotas based on earlier census (1890) that limits immigration from less desirable nations.

    • Post N.O. Act Immigration

      • Great Britain 65, 721

      • Italy 5,802

      • Russia 2,712

Revival of ku klux klan

Revival of Ku Klux Klan

  • Membership reaches over 3 million in 20s

  • Revived in part by “Birth of a Nation”

  • Anti Black, Catholic, Jew, Immigrant, Bootlegger, Adulterer

  • Saw self as guardian of “Pure Americanism”

Cultural repression in the 20 s

Cultural Repression in the 20’s

  • Issues go beyond race to politics, religion, political persuasion

Attacks on free speech

Attacks on Free Speech

  • Schenk v. United States --1919

    • Case involves German immigrant who felt the draft was unconstitutional—he urges folks not to register—busted for violation of sedition act

    • Court rules 9-0 that free speech not protected

    • Justice Holmes writes majority opinion—”clear and present danger” clause.

Sacco and vanzetti

Sacco and Vanzetti

  • Italian Anarchists accused of murder of payroll office.

  • Convicted and executed in spite of unclear evidence

  • Many felt their political views more than evidence led to their doom

  • Also contributes to Nativism—need to restrict immigration.

Scopes monkey trial

Scopes Monkey Trial

  • Case involved Anti-Evolution Law in Tennessee

  • Trial of the Century

  • Shows the strength of feeling that fundamentalists have

Some stuff you might not know about the scopes trial

Some stuff you might not know about the Scopes Trial

  • It was kind of a setup to gain media attention. (since a new highway bypassed Dayton, some residents were looking for a way to stir up interest in the town.

  • William Jennings Bryan’s position often oversimplified. He wasn’t a superstitious simpleton as he is often portratyed

Changes in african american culture

Changes in African American Culture


    • James Brown put it best, 40 years later “Say it Loud, I’m Black and I’m Proud”

    • Time to embrace blackness, not be ashamed of it

    • Leaders

      • The NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

      • Marcus Garvey (review the stuff about him in your reading)

      • The Harlem Renaissance

The naacp


  • Started by W.E.B. DuBois 1909

  • Worked to gain black rights in the courts

Marcus garvey

Marcus Garvey

  • Started a “back to Africa” movement.

  • Forerunner of later black nationalists

The harlem renaissance

The Harlem Renaissance

  • Flowering of literature, culture and thought centered in Harlem, NY.

  • Brings about some of the period’s best writing

  • Notice in the following poems that there’s a real sense of black identity and a point of view.

Langston hughes

A party of whites from Fifth Avenue

Came tippin’ into Dixie’s to get a view

Came tippin into Dixie’s with smiles on their faces

Knowin’ they can buy a dozen colored places

Dixie grinned. Dixie bowed.

Dixie rubbed his hands and laughed out loud—

While a tall white woman in an ermine cape

Looked at the blacks and

Thought of rape

Looked at blacks and

Thought of a rope

Looked at the blacks and

Thought of flame,

And thought of something

Without a name

Folks, I’m telling you

birthing is hard

and dying is mean—

so get yourself

a little loving

in between

Langston Hughes

Countee cullen

Countee Cullen

Once , riding in old Baltimore

Heart-filled, head-filled with glee

I saw a Baltimorean

Keep looking straight at me

Now I was eight, and very small

And he was no whit bigger

And so I smiled, but he poked out

His tongue and called me, “Nigger.”

I saw the whole of Baltimore

From May until December;

Of all the things that happened there

That’s all that I remember.

Claude mckay


If we must die, let it not be like hogs

Hunted and penned in an inglorious spot. . .

Like men we’ll face the murderous cowardly pack

Pressed to the wall dying, but fighting back!

The presidents of the 1920s


Back to the Gilded Age

Mood of america changes post wwi

Mood of America Changes post WWI

  • Sick of crusades

  • Progressivism, WWI required a lot of sacrifice (Historian Robert Dallek says“you can only sing at the highest note for so long”—meaning after awhile its too much work)

  • The people were tired—needed a break

Warren g harding 1921 23

Warren G. Harding (1921-23)

  • Called for a “return to normalcy”

  • The usual perceptions is that he was not very bright—one of the most average men ever to be president.

Harding s background

Harding’s background

  • From Marion, Ohio

  • Served in Ohio legislature and then became Senator from Ohio, without distinction

    • It was said you could spend hours going through his speeches looking for an idea.

  • Attractive presidential candidate because he was likeable, looked the part.

Harding s presidency

Harding’s Presidency

  • Known mostly for scandal

  • Cronies known as “Ohio Gang” cheated government out of millions

  • Famous scandals

    • Teapot Dome (in which secretary of interior sold off naval oil reserves to private developers in exchange for a bribe)

    • Veteran’s Bureau Scandal

  • Harding’s personal character not exactly great either.

    • Had young girlfriend, Nan Britton (they met when he was 40something, she was 17

    • Rumors of trysts in White House, illegitimate baby)

Calvin cooldidge 1923 29


  • “Silent Cal”

  • Trivia—only president sworn in by his father. (Papa Coolidge was a judge, Cal was on a home visit when news of Harding’s death arrived)

  • Great friend of business.

Coolidge is fun this is trivia but it makes a point

Coolidge Is Fun (This is trivia—but it makes a point)

  • Totally boring—completely hilarious (ok—he’s not s’posed to be funny, but the guy cracks me up).

  • Oddly quotable

    • “The Business of America is business”

    • “The man who builds a factory, builds a temple. The man who works there works there.”

    • The story of the woman at the white house dinner.

    • “Farmers have always been poor, I don’t suppose there’s anything the government can do about it”

Coolidge s philosophy

Coolidge’s Philosophy

  • Pro Business

    • Credited with “Coolidge Prosperity”

    • Of course, that prosperity, unchecked, may have created the Great Depression.

  • Believes in a VERY limited presidency (to this end, he worked short days, took a lot of naps, went fishing often.)

  • Would have fit right in the Gilded Age

  • Does not believe in government intervention

    • Vetoes McNary-Haugen farm support bill (see quote about farmers on previous slide for example of his tremendous sensitivity to farmers’ plight)

Herbert hoover 1929 33

Herbert Hoover 1929-33

  • “Rugged Individualism”

  • Background is as a self-made man and a humanitarian

  • Right Man Wrong Time? (he had the traits of a good president, but his philosophy was inadequate for the Great Depression. In another era, he might have performed admirably.

Overall evaluation of 20 s presidents

Overall Evaluation of 20’s Presidents

  • Sets the trends for much of 20th Century Republican Presidents

    • Low tax pro-business economic outlook creates great wealth and tremendous poverty

    • Seemingly little interest in using the government to promote social issues

    • Widely popular in small town, conservative America

    • Very much in the tradition of Reagan/Bush/Bush, at least in terms of domestic outlook.

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