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Which of the following problems do you consider to have been the most serious threat facing American society in the 1920s: a) Organised crime b) Racial and religious intolerance c) The growing divisions between the rich and poor.

This essay will investigate the threats facing American society in the 1920s and it will come to a conclusion about which threat was the most serious. The threats that I will talk about are organised crime, intolerance of race, region, religion and political view, and the growing divisions between the rich and the poor.America is the ‘Land of opportunity.’ It stands for a fresh start, liberalism, free speech, freedom to worship, freedom from persecution, the welcoming of different immigrants, equality and fairness. The American dream was not closed to anyone. However during the course of the 1920s this completely tolerant view was threatened. Crime and intolerance increasingly grew in America. By the end of the 1920s America had gained a reputation for diverting from its completely tolerant ideal and becoming an intolerant country. The problems I will now explain are threats these values and therefore American society.The first section I will talk about is intolerance of race, region, religion and political view.The war ended in 1918 and the USA emerged from this with many problems. There was unemployment, strikes, fear of radicalism and race riots. The war had also started the communist revolution in Russia. In 1919 two communist parties were established in America, a strictly capitalist country. There was also a wave of bomb attacks by anarchists known as the reds. Between 1914 and 1919 prices had doubled, yet wages had hardly risen at all. Workers demanded higher wages but their employers new that they had the upper hand due to the high amount of unemployment at the time. Employees were not hard to find and jobs could easily be filled, especially due to the 4 million soldiers returning to America trying to find work.Violent waves of strikes happened during 1919 as a result of this problem. These strikes made the American population worried that these workers would cause a communist revolution in America. This was known as the ‘Red Scare’ in America which happened during 1919-1921. The Attorney-General called Mitchell Palmer had a bomb blow up a part of his house which he believed was due to the reds. He set up the Palmer Raids in which between 4000 and 6000 suspected reds were arrested and 556 were deported. Some people used these raids as an excuse to attack any groups they disliked such as Catholics, Jews, Blacks or new immigrants.These groups had a hard time in the 1920s. The Black population suffered from 23 race riots across the USA in 1919. A lot of the Blacks which had moved to the Northern Cities from the South after 1910 found themselves under attack from the white population around them. The Ku Klux Klan was a group of white Anglo-Saxon Protestants who believed that they were the supreme race. They were anti-communist, anti-negro, anti-Catholic and against all foreigners. By 1920 they had 100,000 members and by 1925 claimed they had 5 million members. However the main group they targeted were the blacks, especially in the South.The Klan was a too extreme version of what some of the American population were thinking at the time. They were becoming more and more intolerant towards immigrants as time passed. They wanted an end to this open-door policy for immigrants. By 1900 there was not as much land available and the need for workers had declined. Americans also believed that the quality of immigrants had declined as illiterate people came from came into the USA. Anti-foreigner feeling had increased during the war, especially against Germans. They brought in a literacy test where immigrants had to read a 40 word passage to be able to come to America. This was bad for uneducated people usually from Eastern Europe, Italy and Russia who were also feared as they might bring over communist or socialist ideals. After the war problems for new immigrants in the post-war depression got worse. Ghettos of immigrants appeared in the big Northern cities of America which got a reputation for being very dangerous places. These Ghettos were places of violent crime, drunkenness and prostitution. Many of the American population blamed the immigrants for these problems, which caused an intolerance of foreigners which continued into the 1920s. This was a threat to American society as it told people around the world that immigrants were not wanted into America. This threatens the ideal that America is open to all.Intolerance towards Catholics and blacks was also a problem in the 1920s. Years after slavery of the blacks, the American population still had a prejudice against them. The black population were treated as inferior and childlike. They would not get good jobs because of discrimination and the favouring of whites so they had to work for low wages and live in poverty. Blacks were seen as bad people who wanted to terrorise and harm others by some Americans. The Catholics were not welcomed by the protestant population of America which had settled in America before the Catholics. Some believed that the Catholics would try and convert America into a Catholic country and the Protestants above all wanted to stay traditional. Change was not very favoured by them. The Protestants even went as far as persecuting a school teacher named John Scopes as he had taught the evolutionary theory in a science lesson. The Protestants did not like this as it goes against Christianity and they fined him 100 dollars after a strenuous trial called the monkey trial. This just shows you that religious intolerance was so great that anything that went against the Protestant religion would be attempted to be eradicated.As a whole, racial and religious intolerance was increasing during the 1920s as well as intolerance of political view. The ever increasing immigrants had provided America with a wide range of people from different races and religious backgrounds. As more of these immigrants came into America the intolerance of them grew. This was a very serious threat to American society in the 1920s as tolerance of all and freedom for all were meant to be what America stood for, and now the growing intolerance threatened this.Now for my second section I will talk about organised crime.Another problem that threatened American society in the 1920s was the ever increasing amount of crime. As well as the immigrant ghettos being a place of crime, danger and drunkenness, in 1920 the policy of Prohibition in America fuelled organised crime. Prohibition was a law that made it illegal to make, sell or transport alcoholic drinks in the USA. However drinking did not stop, it became secretive and more expensive. The rich had it delivered to their homes and others could get it from a ‘speakeasy’ which was a basement bar behind locked doors. Prohibition was a law passed with good intentions. The idea behind it was that people act badly when under the influence of alcohol, so if you take away the alcohol there will not be these problems.However instead of solving problems it just created more problems in the form of organised crime. Bootleggers and smugglers formed gangs and brought illegal liquor into the country. They sold their alcohol on for a high profit and in turn became very rich and powerful, all through crime. Illegal liquor was being made at home and caused many problems when drank. People went blind or died. Deaths from alcohol poisoning went up from 98 in 1920 to 760 in 1926. The profits from bootlegging were so great that many people were willing to risk imprisonment. Around 2000 agents were employed to stop the illegal trade. However 1 out of 12 agents were sacked for taking bribes. It was either being beaten up and murdered by the gangs or taking a bribe.Gangsters were making 2 billion dollars a year from booze. They were becoming more and more powerful, fighting and killing other gangs, bribing or harming anyone in their way. Everyone was becoming corrupt and this wasn’t good. The biggest gangs survived and had enough money to bribe anyone they wanted to and do whatever they wanted. Prohibition had not worked at all. People had gone as far to murder to keep this trade in motion and the crime that prohibition was meant to prevent had in fact just created hugely powerful gangs of crime. Americans wanted an end to prohibition. The people who had once petitioned for prohibition were now petitioning against it. The government legalised alcohol in 1932. This had stopped the crime from increasing and gave America some tax to reap the benefits of.Organised crime was a huge threat to American society in the 1920s. It had made a lot of the population corrupt and gangs rich and powerful. This showed that America was a corrupt country full of crime and death. This threatened the world view of America being the land of opportunity and a place of freedom as people involved in crime had ridden people of the freedom to chose for themselves and not agree with them if they didn’t want to. Some gangsters made sure people voted how the gangsters wanted them to. They made the police accept their bribes as if they didn’t they would be killed. Therefore crime seriously threatened American society.For my third section I shall talk about the growing divisions between the rich and the poor.During the 1920s a large divide could be seen between the rich and the poor. The boom had made people rich, but it had also made a lot of people poor. 42 percent of the population were unable to cover the costs of basic food, clothing and shelter. The majority of these poor people were farmers. 30 million people made a living from farming. New machines made it easier to farm, which in turn made more food, however America did not need this much food. During the war it had been sold to Europe, but now Europe could produce their own food so there was no need for all this American food. As the income of farmers dropped, they found it difficult to keep up mortgage payments.Some were evicted and others sold their property and for the first time ever in American history the amount of farms fell. Farm labourers found themselves out of work because of mechanisation and the decline of need of the workers. These people either became migrant workers, moved to the industrial cities or stayed at the farms and barely scraped a living. Some big mechanised farms did well however, but very few. It was the small farmers and farm labourers that had the problems. These farmers were becoming very poor and because of the majority of 30 million farmers being poor, it showed that if you come to America, there is a large chance that you will become poor and stay poor no matter how hard you worked. This threatened American society greatly.The black population were mainly living in the South states of the USA where they were either labourers or Sharecroppers. Sharecroppers were people who farmed other peoples land and in turn gave them a bit of their crop. 3/4 million black farm workers lost their jobs during the 1920s. By the end of the 1920s 25 percent of black people were living in the Northern States trying to find work in the cities. Here they had greater opportunities, but they still faced discrimination. 60 percent of black women in the Milwaukee in the north were servants in white households. Car factories only hired a few blacks as they usually operated on a white-only policy.The Native Americans also suffered during the 1920s. They became full American citizens in 1924. However during the 1920s the white authorities tried to destroy the Indian culture and traditional way of life. The Indian children were made to go to boarding schools and children from the same tribe were kept apart so that the tribes could be destroyed. If the Native American children were caught speaking their own language they were beaten. At the boarding schools the children were made to make fun of their families and their ideals and convert to Christianity. Many Indian traditions were banned such as having long hair, wearing traditional clothes or doing the Sun Dance.New immigrants who arrived before and after the war also faced discrimination. As they were often less educated than the rest of the population, they took any work they could get. They were cheap labour and a high amount of them were unemployed. The ones that could get a job often worked in construction.The people that had worked in old industries found their wages falling. The steel industry was successful however the industries in raw materials such as cotton, coal, tin and copper were suffering. This was because of overproduction which had been caused by the new techniques and machinery the factories used and prices dropped as a consequence. These people had a very hard time and for 4 months 600,000 miners went on strike.These people I have mentioned became very poor and struggled to survive through poverty. However the people who had become businessmen and such in the cities became very rich. The white population in poverty had a better chance of a happy life, however the Native American and Black population were very discriminated against and would almost definitely be poor. This divide could be seen more and more over the years. The educated people usually prospered, however the uneducated people usually didn’t. This included the small farm owners, immigrants, blacks and manual labourers whilst the educated white population became rich. This divide was a serious threat to American society as the ideal was that anyone who came to America could prosper by working hard. However these people got stuck in dead end jobs and no matter how hard they worked they could not live out the American dream. This threatened the view that I stated in my second paragraph and therefore was a threat to American society.In conclusion I would have to say that there is no most serious threat. All of them are serious threats but you cannot just take one and call it the most serious threat as they are all linked. The racial and religious intolerance was involved in every aspect of American life. They were the people who because of intolerance got worse jobs and became poorer than the rest of the white population. This caused the rich and poor divide. This linked the intolerance of race, region and religion with the growing divide between the rich and the poor. This divide was then extended by the gangsters becoming extremely rich off illegal alcohol trade.This money they were getting was not coming from outside the USA; it was coming from the American population. Therefore the population in America that did not sell alcohol during prohibition became poor in comparison to the gangsters which they were giving their money too. This linked the growing divide between the rich and the poor with organised crime. These gangsters were usually Italian Americans and because they killed people and were involved in lots of crime, the Italian population became discriminated against. This links the Organised Crime to the intolerance of Race, Religion, and region.Organised crime, intolerance of race, region and religion and the growing divide between the rich and the poor were all linked together. This created the threat that American society was faced with during the 1920’s. Therefore I cannot answer the question by saying that there was one most serious threat as there was not. They were all part of one big threat which threatened American society in the 1920s due to the ideal that it stood for.

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