The Beginning of Modern America (1920s) for AP U.S. History

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Updated on Mar 4, 2011

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The Beginning of Modern America (1920s) Review Questions for AP U.S. History

Summary: During the 1920s, Americans created a consumer culture in which automobiles, home appliances, and other goods were purchased at an unprecedented rate. Advertising helped to fuel this desire to purchase, and the popularity of radio and motion pictures helped to create a more uniform national culture. However, many small-town and rural Americans never felt totally comfortable with the values of the consumer-oriented, more urban "modern" America that they saw threatening their way of life. The conflict between urban and small-town American values was manifested in numerous ways: many in small-town America supported the Prohibition amendment banning alcohol, while many in America's cities tried to get around it. Many in small-town America feared immigration, while many American cities contained immigrant enclaves. Many in small-town America still opposed the teaching of evolution, while many urban newspapers mocked their views. The flapper and a more relaxed sense of morality were symbols of the Jazz Age; generally, these symbols were harder to find in small-town America. All Americans did rally around the two heroes of the age: aviator Charles Lindbergh and home run hitter Babe Ruth.


Teapot Dome: major scandal in the scandal-ridden administration of President Warren Harding; Secretary of the Interior Albert Fall had two oil deposits put under the jurisdiction of the Department of the Interior and leased them to private companies in return for large sums of money.

Red Scare: after World War I, the fear of the spread of communism in the United States.

Palmer Raids: as part of the Red Scare, in these 1919–1920 raids thousands of Americans not born in the United States were arrested, and hundreds were sent back to their country of origin. Today many view the raids as a gross violation of the constitutional rights of American citizens.

National Origins Act (1924): anti-immigration federal legislation that took the number of immigrants from each country in 1890 and stated that immigration from those countries could now be no more than two percent of that. In addition, immigration from Asia was halted. The act also severely limited further immigration from eastern and southern Europe.

Scopes Trial (1925): trial of teacher John Scopes of Dayton, Tennessee, for the teaching of evolution; during this trial, lawyers Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan squared off on the teachings of Darwin versus the teaching of the Bible.

Jazz Age: an image of the 1920s that emphasized the more relaxed social attitudes of the decade; F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby is seen by many as the novel that best depicts this view.

Flapper: the "new woman" of the 1920s, who was pictured as having bobbed hair, a shorter skirt, makeup, a cigarette in her hand, and somewhat liberated sexual attitudes. Flappers would have been somewhat hard to find in small-town and rural America.

"Lost Generation": the group of post–World War I writers who in their works expressed deep dissatisfaction with mainstream American culture. A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway is a novel that is representative of the works of these writers.

Harlem Renaissance: the 1920s black literary and cultural movement that produced many works depicting the role of blacks in contemporary American society; Zora Neale Hurston and Langston Hughes were key members of this movement.

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