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01-04_Ch21: The Roaring Life of the 1920s

Timeline: 1920 - 1929

FQ: Which Changes best Reflect the Developments of the rise of Urban America?

Main Idea: Americans experienced cultural conflicts as customs and values changed in the 1920s.
Among the trends that challenged prior notions of propriety, and contributed to social/ cultural conflict, were the
new lifestyles, jobs, and societal roles pursued by women during the period. To this we can add the contributions
of African-Americans, who would contribute ideas, political perspective, art, literature, and music while forever
elevating Harlem to iconic status.
Mass media, movies, and spectator sports played a contributing role by creating a popular culture that
showcased these trends. Many Americans, among them artists and writers, made an effort to criticize the trends
of the 1920s.


I. The Dominance of Urban Life

A. 1920 Census: The US becomes an Urban nation.
B. Urban Lifestyle: Fast paced, competitive, impersonal. To thrive, what traits would you need?
C. Dont Worry. Be Happy. outlook of Post WWI America overwhelm the intended purpose of the 18th
Amendment (Prohibition) & The Volstead Act.
Organized Crime (Scarface - Al Capone, Chicago).
D. Battle of Ideas: Traditional Values/ Concepts vs. Modern (Scientific) Interpretations
Creationism vs. Evolution: The Scopes Trial (W. J. Bryan vs. Clarence Darrow)
Regarding Women, Traditional and Modern Views clashed

II. Women of the 1920s: Wild or Assertive?

A. The Flapper and the sexual double standard. A clash of Victorian ideals & modern views of women.
B. A booming economy liberates women from the home. Discrimination is uninhibited, however.
C. American families change as both parents increasingly acquire an education and pursue a profession.
Children raised in this caldron of transitional cultural values will reflect some of these tendencies as they mature.

III. Schools & Popular Culture Shape Young Minds

A. Booming Economy + Huge Immigrant Population = Effort to enroll students
B. Explosion of Mass Media Outlets: Newspapers, Radio
C. Increased Wealth: Leisure Activities & Fades
Sports Heroes: The Babe
Adventurers: Lucky Lindy
Entertainers: George Gershwin

IV. The Many Facets of The Harlem Renaissance

A. The Organizing Element: National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP, 1909).
W.E.B. DuBois (founding Member, Writer, Activist).
B. The Political & Economic Efforts of African-American: Marcus Garvey
C. The Flowering of the Arts: W.E.B. DuBois, Claude McKay, Langston Hughes, Paul Robeson, Louis
Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Bessie Smith

V. Summary: Why it matters today.

The way in which different groups react to change continues to cause conflict today.
Workplace opportunities and trends in family life are still major issues for women today.
Much of todays popular culture can trace its roots to the popular culture of the 1920s.
The Harlem Renaissance provided a foundation of African-American intellectualism to which African-
American writers, artists, and musicians contribute today.

Materials/Sources: Refer to the course calendar for additional assignments and pertinent due dates.

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