The 1920s were often known as the roaring twenties, this was so because they were a time of enjoyment in a society were everyone was having fun. It was a time of liberation and rebellion against traditional values and being who you wanted to be. But there were many cases were this was not so and people did not benefit from this ‘free and fair’ time.
Firstly, life throughout this period of time changed. Women benefited dramatically throughout this period; before women were expected to lead restricted lives, they were expected to behave politely wear formal clothes and their relationships with men were watched over. But many of this changed in the 20s, when the war had broken out many women had been put into the war industry they were given jobs which gave them skilled experience. In 1929 there were 10 million women with jobs 24 % more than in 1920, this had led to may women earning money for them buying items for themselves such as cars. And for many younger women the traditional rules of behaviour were forgotten they wore more revealing clothes, they hung out with men without anybody watching over them and lastly they drank and smoked in public.
Black Americans also benefited from the new life in the north; it was a lot fairer to them than before, they were allowed jobs and a good education. Many cities even set up their own institutes just for black Americans. In some cities like Chicago and New York many there was a growing black middle class. And in Chicago due to continuous boycotts of stores, protesting that unless they had some black staff they would not shop, by 1930 nearly all the shops in the south belt had black employees. The introduction of jazz in the black community made many musicians high profile throughout the media. And Harlem was well known for its numerous black musicians and singers.
The 1920s were also a turning point for Native Americans, they were granted American citizenship in 1924 and the Merriam report in 1928 proposed improvement to the laws relating to the native Americans.
Although some things were going well others were not, racism was still predominant in America and nearly all non-whites faced it. For women the society still wasn’t fair, they were treated differently to men. Women were still paid less than men for doing the same job, and in politics although they had been given the vote they did not achieve the same amount as men did. And many people considered women as unelectable and only a few women were elected.
In many cities racism was a part of life and nearly everyone faced it. In the USA’s big cities there were predominant social groups. At the top were the American people who had the best of everything; next were the first to come to America: the Irish Americans, the French Canadians and the German Americans whom all competed for the best jobs and the best housing; these groups normally looked down onto the more recent newcomers: the Italians and the eastern Europeans; lastly at the bottom of the scale were the Mexicans, the black Americans and the Native Americans.
The lower down the order the group was the more racial abuse they got and the unfair the society was. Many immigrants were abused because people were scared of them and their beliefs, but really they abused them because they were different. An example of this was the Red Scare, where the Americans feared that the immigrants from Eastern Europe were bringing along their radical communist ideas from the Russian revolution.
Although in the north black racism had nearly stopped, in the south they still faced fierce racism. Because of this many black people had left the discrimination and poverty and moved to the north into the cities. The population of blacks in both Chicago and New York doubled throughout the 1920s. In the cities they still faced minor problems; many people did not want black neighbours so they were forced to set up isolated ghettoes away from everyone else. Even still they were forced to pay more rent than whites even if the housing was smaller.
The Native Americans also known as the vanishing Americans, faced many problems from the white Americans. They lost their land very easily; mining companies were legally able to take large areas of land. Many of who owned land gave up the struggle to keep to their traditional beliefs and sold it to the companies. Many natives had to send their children away to special boarding schools at which they tried to destroy their culture and beliefs. Gradually they were losing against the unfair society.
The extent at which America was a free and fair society only just reached to the non-whites. The whites enjoyed freedom to do what they wanted they enjoyed sports, music, the latest fashions and cinemas and had enough money to spend on what they wanted. And whilst Americans had a good time so did the immigrants arriving in America wanted to do the same. They had arrived at the ‘melting pot’ where all individual ethnic groups were forgotten and blended together to become ‘Americans’.
Although this is what they had hoped for only some ended up having this, the rest had to face discrimination. But although there were enough jobs due to the economic boom, the society was still not as free as they hoped. The free and fair society reached out only to the non-whites who had either power or money such as black Americans who had become famous musicians had had their share of freedom but for the rest of their culture they had to face the brutality of discrimination. For women many things had changed on the way they were thought of but they still were not equal with men in society.