Explaining The Twenties Essay

1260 words - 5 pages


In 1920, for the first time, the United States census revealed that more Americans lived in cities than in rural areas. This fact speaks to a dramatic cultural shift that had taken place. The older ethnically homogenous white Anglo-Saxon Protestant (WASP) culture, characterized by their traditional religion and farm life fell into decline. Overtaking its influence was a new, secular, urban mass culture rooted among diverse ethnic groups. It was a culture that provided more opportunity for equal participation to women and minorities than did the older traditional culture. Like all periods of change, however, the Twenties were accompanied by a reaction against these changes, as the older culture tried to reassert itself as the dominant group. The result was a decade marked by striking cultural conflict. Those who considered themselves traditional Americans, committed to traditional ways of life, launched a cultural war against those who presented a threat to it. There were many common themes that connected the three essays, “Sacco and Vanzetti”, “The Scopes Trial and the American Character”, and “Rural-Urban Conflict in the 1920’s”. Together they present an accurate interpretation of the Roaring Twenties.
     
The case of Sacco and Vanzetti represented a deep division in American society. Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti were Italian immigrants who came to American in 1908. In 1920, Sacco was working in a shoe factory and Vanzetti was selling fish on the streets. On April 15, 1920 a double murder and robbery took place at the Slater and Morrill shoe factory where Sacco worked. Three weeks later, the two men were arrested for these murders and the robbery. They were put on trial one year later and found guilty of all charges. Sacco and Vanzetti were executed for their alleged crimes. Many experts today and back then agree that the prosecution did not present the two men to be guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. There were many conflicting factors during the trial. Sacco and Vanzetti were avowed anarchists, people who believed in the absence of government. Their radical ideas were considered unacceptable in a society that was at the time experiencing a deep hatred of non-democratic ideas. Their political beliefs and ethnic backgrounds worked to their disadvantage. The judge presiding over the case of Sacco and Vanzetti made clear his hostility toward the defendants and even went as far as calling them “anarchist bastards.” Many critics of the verdict believed that widespread anti-immigrant sentiment, and a bigoted judge out to railroad the two, led to scapegoating. To some historians, the Sacco and Vanzetti verdict represents one of the darkest moments for American democracy. Today, it is clear that Sacco and Vanzetti were arrested and convicted because of who they were- Non-Protestant, Non-Fundamentalists who believed in something different from the majority of the people.

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