12.1 Americans Struggle with
Postwar Issues
How did Americans adjust to the
end of the war?
Postwar Trends and Fears
• Much of the American public was divided
about the League of Nations
• The end of the war hurt the economy;
returning soldiers took jobs away from
many women and minorities
• Waves of nativism and isolationism swept
over Americans who were suspicious of
foreigners and who wanted to pull away
from world affairs
Fear of Communism
• Americans saw communism, or an economic
and political system that supports govt. control
over property to create equality, as a threat to
their way of life
• Communists came to power in Russia through
violent revolution, and the new govt. wanted to
overthrow capitalism
• In America, about 70,000 people joined the
Communist Party, or the “Reds”
• A fear of communism, or a “red scare”, swept
over the U.S.
Continued
• Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer set up an
agency in the Justice Department to arrest
communists, socialists, and anarchists, who
opposed all forms of govt.
• This agency later became the FBI
• Palmer’s agents trampled on civil rights; most
radicals were sent out of the country without trial
• One case involved two Italian immigrants who
were arrested for murder and robbery in
Massachusetts
Continued
• Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti
admitted they were anarchists, but denied
committing any crime
• The case against them was weak, but they
were convicted anyway
• Many believed they were convicted based
on a fear of foreigners
• The two were executed in 1927
Limiting Immigration
• Some used the Red Scare as an excuse
to act against any who were different
• The Ku Klux Klan saw a revival during this
time that targeted African Americans,
Jews, Roman Catholics, immigrants, and
union leaders
• They used violence to keep these groups
‘in their place’
Continued
• As a result of nativism, Congress passed the
Emergency Quota Act of 1921, which
established a quota system, which set a limit on
how many immigrants from each country could
enter the U.S. every year
• This limited mostly immigrants from Eastern and
Southern Europe as well as Japan; people from
the Western Hemisphere still entered the U.S. in
large numbers
Labor Unrest
• Strikes were not allowed during WWI because
they may have hurt the war effort
• Three main strikes in 1919 revolutionized
workers, the most successful of which was led
by John L. Lewis, the president of the United
Mine Workers
• When Lewis’ workers closed the coal mines,
President Wilson tried to help end the dispute
and the workers got higher wages
Negative Times for Workers
• Overall, the 1920s was a bad time for unions
• Union membership declined from 5 million to 3.5
million for the following reasons:
– Immigrants were willing to work in poor conditions
– Language barriers made organizing people difficult
– Farmers who had migrated to cities were used to
relying on themselves
– Most unions excluded African Americans
– Ryan Walz is the coolest kid in the whole world!!
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12.1 Americans Struggle with Postwar Issues