When the First World War ended, Americans welcomed what they hoped would be a “return to normalcy.” The decades that followed, however, are ones which would rarely be described as normal, in comparison to what came before or after. During these decades, a struggle ensued within the American nation regarding how best to define the nation’s essential character, as groups like the revived Ku Klux Klan fought a rearguard action to define nationhood solely in terms of white skin and Protestant religion against secularists, Catholics, flappers, “New Negroes,” and others who challenged the traditional order. Immediately thereafter, the New Deal implemented in response to the Great Depression threatened to revolutionize the role of the federal government in lives of the American people, in ways which many Americans believed violated the basic tenets of the Constitution—and others believed were not radical enough. Taken together, the decades from 1920 to 1940 may have transformed the American nation more than any other comparable time period. Review the major social and economic developments in American society during the 1920s and 1930s. Identify the factors which made the 1920s “roar,” and explain how the events of that decade contributed to the outbreak of the Great Depression. Then, describe how Americans responded to the Great Depression, both individually and through the government and other organizations, and assess the effectiveness of their responses. Pay particular attention to New Deal programs, and how the approach of the New Deal changed over the course of the 1930s.
Along with the general discussion, address developments across these two decades related to TWO of the following groups:
a. Evangelical Protestants
c. African Americans
e. Business owners
f. The middle class
To summarize your response to the prompts above, consider the following questions (your response does not need to respond directly to each specific question, but should touch on the various themes implicit in the questions):
a. How did American society change in the two decades after the First World War?
b. How did the federal government change in response to those changes?
c. How did the American people respond to the changing role of the federal government?
d. How did the New Deal change over time and what alternatives were offered to it?
e. Which groups benefited or suffered most from these changes?
f. Should this period be regarded as having represented a revolutionary moment in American history?
Also, draw from the material in at least THREE of the following primary sources:
a. Lending a hand: A woman remembers hoboes of the 1930s
b. Flapper Jane
c. Bonus army marches on Washington, DC 1932
d. “The new Negro”: “When he’s hit, he hits back!”
e. Share our wealth speech
f. An open letter to the honorable Alfred E. Smith
g. Hell and high schools
h. The double task of Negro womanhood
i. Address of the President delivered by radio from the White House
j. I’d rather not be on relief
k. TVA: Electricity for all
l. Prosperity for all
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