Decade Overview of the 1920s
The stock market crashed in 1929, which led to the
Hi, I'm Frank Couvares for About.com, and I'm here to talk to you about the 1920s.In popular memory, the 1920s are remembered as "The Roaring Twenties," or "The Jazz Age." And by those terms, people generally mean a number of things. An era of prosperity - that's what the "roaring" is about, an era of affluence, a growth of income and the like. And "The Jazz Age," an era when mass culture, and popular music, movies, and baseball reach a peak of popularity in the United States. But the 1920s is more than what those labels seem to suggest. Even though the Gross Nation Product increases by 39 percent, and per capital income by 30 percent, most of the growth in that era goes to the very highest categories. But for unskilled and semi-skilled workers, in most sectors in American industry and in agriculture, it is really a very bad time.Two important phenomena occur. First, in 1923, immigration restriction - finally, the restrictions win out, and the gates close on American immigration. One outcome of that decision is that American industry needs to find workers - and the place it goes is to the American south. Both white and black rural people from the South come streaming into the cities, looking for work - and finding it. This significant transfer of population results in considerable racial conflicts, where African Americans find an inadequate housing market, and end up living in subdivided houses and neighborhoods that were once populated by Eastern and Southern European immigrants.As African-Americans move into the cities, they begin to inflect popular culture with what we've come to known as jazz. It's not called The Jazz Age for nothing! It's partially the presence of African Americans in those dance halls and music halls in Chicago and Kansas City and Detroit and places like that that leads increasing numbers of whites to pay attention to this lively and exciting music.But by the end of the decade the 1920s, no matter how much it roared, however jazzy it was, comes to a crashing finale when the stock market just falls through the basement. That leads to The Great Depression, eventually to the New Deal, and to a truly transforming decade.Thanks for watching. To learn more, visit us on the web at About.com.