World War I was a period when the United States was engaged in preserving democracy worldwide. Although the League of Nations plan fell through, world unity did not keep the United States from prospering. The Roaring Twenties followed the war, and were so called this because of the nation's economic boost. America was remolded by jazz and art booms. Yet, tensions were still present. Conflict dominated with regards to urban and rural attitudes, science and religion, and nativism and immigration.
While rural America was looking forward to the nation's "return to normalcy," cities seemed to be breaking every rule. Cities consisted of different cultures, while rural areas remained traditional. At a time when alcohol was outlawed, cities seemed to house all the lost souls who broke the law. In addition to having speakeasies, or areas where illegal alcohol was consumed, cities consisted of flappers. Rural Americans viewed these women as overly liberal and as a shame to the nation, for no sophisticated young lady should smoke cigarettes. By breaking traditional women roles, flappers angered small-town Americans.
Illegal alcohol and modern women caused conflict between rural and urban America. Yet the debate between science and religion seemed to be according to region as well. Rural Americans aimed to keep traditional values, that worshipped the bible and accepted the Book of Genesis. However, urban modernism called for Darwin's theory of evolution, which questioned creationism. As seen in the Scopes Monkey Trial, the questioning of religion lead to serious consequences. Upon teaching evolution in his classroom, this teacher was arrested and tried. Although the question of religion in classrooms lives on today, this Tennessee teacher was eventually set free.
As tensions regarding the city arose, anxiety against immigration did as well. The "red scare" which is characterized by communist xenophobia gave way to racism and anti-immigration movements that characterize the roaring twenties. Two groups arose to promote nativism. The Ku Klux Klan returned to the picture of American society, targeting Blacks as well as people with certain religious view. The Hundred Percenters also wanted to decrease immigration. A a matter of fact, their ultimate goal was to achieve an isolated United States consisting of one hundred percent Americans.
While groups arose to promote American pride and to limit immigration, several acts were passed to aid their motives. The Immigration Act, which limited European immigration, and the Chinese Exclusion Act, which limited Asian immigration, serve as examples of these immigration-limiting policies. Although immigration was significantly limited, the immigrants already residing in United States territory were given a hard time. Sacco and Vanzetti were innocently convicted of a murder, most likely due to their Italian background and political views. The Literacy Test Act limited immigrant power by requiring a reading test.
The Roaring Twenties is often pictured as a colorful decade full of art expression and new cultural beginnings. Yet, in the struggle to "return to normalcy," Americans turned against each other due to differing opinions. Speakeasies and flappers turned urban Americans against rural Americans. Also, the idea of evolution added further conflict. Finally, the red scare lead to a wave of xenophobia and anti-immigration policies. The Roaring Twenties were without a doubt roaring with tensions and conflict regarding differing public opinions.