Between 1919 and 1921, the yearly number of new immigrants had shot up from 141,000 to 805,000. And Congress bowed to the pressure of Americans with nativist attitudes, by passing a new law limiting immigration into the US. Additional restrictions were imposed three years later when the National Origins Act of 1924 further limited immigration.
The acts discriminated against people from eastern and southern Europe, mostly Roman Catholics and Jews, and excluded the immigration of Japanese citizens altogether. The laws did not apply to immigrants from the Western hemisphere, however, and approximately one million Canadians and half a million Mexicans crossed the borders into the US. The increasing popularity of nativism also stirred the insurgence of the Ku Klux Klan,, A law that severely restricted immigration by establishing a system of national quotas that blatantly discriminated against immigrants from southern and eastern Europe and virtually excluded Asians. The policy stayed in effect until the 1960s.
the Ku Klux Klan, whose members had tormented and killed many African Americans in the South after the Civil War. The new Klan extended their bigotry to anyone not American, not Protestant, not white, while attempting to stamp out unions and saloons. By 1924, it boasted of membership of more than 4 million members. The Imperial Wizard of the KKK summed up the Klan's doctrine succinctly in his 1926 booklet "The Klan's Fight for Americanism" when he revealed the Klan's slogan-- "native, white, Protestant, supremacy.""Steve" Stephenson was indicted and jailed for a brutal assault on a female assistant. The resulting scandal and his conviction for second degree murder signaled the decline of the Klan's political influence. And by the end of the decade, membership had dwindled to only 50,000. Two events, fittingly demonstrate the clash between traditional moral values of the country and the modern mores of the city. The Scopes trial and Prohibition.
In 1925, the State of Tennessee passed a law that outlawed any teaching of English biologist Charles Darwin's theory of evolution. Darwin's book, "The Origin of Species," challenged contemporary beliefs about creation and outraged fundamentalist Christians' literal interpretation of the Bible, believing God created the universe in six days. John Scopes, a high school biology teacher from Dayton, Tennessee, believed Darwin was right and, despite the state law, taught his students the theory of evolution.
As a result, Scopes was charged under the anti-evolution statute and went to trial for the misdemeanor. The American Civil Liberties Union or ACLU, which had been founded during the Red Scare earlier in the decade, hired the most renowned trial lawyer of the day, Clarence Darrow, to defend Scopes. The prosecutor was equally well known. William Jennings Bryan, a three time candidate for President, skilled orator and fundamentalist Christian.
The press had a field day and called it the "monkey trial," as the big city reporters repeatedly made fun of rural values. Darrow defended his stats.
The Roaring '20s are often called the Jazz Age, a time when new forms of art like jazz emerged, with a distinctly American flair. Anti-war literature, like Ernest Hemingway's "The Sun Also Rises" found favor with Americans, as did the writing of F. Scott Fitzgerald whose "Great Gatsby" depicted the new American dream of wealth and success, while Sinclair Lewis examined the realities of life in small town America, revealing its greed and lack of culture.
On the stage, groundbreaking playwrights like Eugene O'Neill presented dramas that focused on family conflict and isolation in the modern age. Artists such as Georgia O'Keeffe depicted life in urban America in the '20s. Nowhere was America's uniqueness more evident than in her music. From George Gershwin's instant success with "Rhapsody in Blue" and "Concerto in F" to the phenomenal growth of a truly American musical form-- jazz.
Jazz was born in New Orleans in the early part of the century, a blend of the blues and ragtime. Migrating African Americans brought this new music to the north, a great many settling in the Upper West side of New York City in an area called Harlem. Harlem became the center not only for jazz, it became the heart of African American creativity during the Harlem Renaissance.