Discontented America: The United States in the 1920s / Edition 1

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Overview

It was a decade of great heroes like Babe Ruth and Charles Lindbergh, and of passive leaders like Warren Harding and Calvin Coolidge. The exuberant freedom of flappers drinking bathtub gin and dancing the Charleston did little to counter such powers of oppression as the rapidly rising Ku Klux Klan. Only the fictional wealth of F. Scott Fitzgerald's Jay Gatsby survived the stock market crash unscathed; by the end of the decade, the comic adventures of Charlie Chaplin's "little tramp" bore faint resemblance to the grim realities faced by countless destitute Americans.

Too often, notes historian David Goldberg, the mythic allure of the "Roaring Twenties" has deafened our ears to the real voices of those who lived through the decade. In Discontented America, he integrates social and political history to provide a new take on the 1920s—an account deeply rooted in the perspectives of that time. Goldberg argues that this contentious and fascinating decade should be viewed now as it was viewed then, as a distinctive postwar period, during which many of the conflicts generated by World War I continued to reverberate throughout American society.

As America sought to step back from the leadership role it had taken in the Great War, Goldberg explains, the nation faced internal battles over women's suffrage, prohibition of the sale of "intoxicating beverages," the specter of communism, and the declining power of labor unions. Large numbers of African Americans migrated from the southern states to the north in search of employment and a better life, and at the same time, there was another heavy wave of newcomers from overseas. These, Goldberg concludes, were the issues that preoccupied serious Americans, and their concern is reflected in the federal legislation of the period, from constitutional amendments providing for prohibition and women's suffrage to the National Origins Act, meant to curtail immigration from nonwestern European countries.

"The 1920s involved a time of confronting (or sometimes, ignoring) profound social problems, fears, and anxieties that had nagged the national consciousness for decades. David Goldberg very properly calls it a time of discontent, and in this work he thoroughly probes much of the underside of life that pitted Americans of differing classes, ethnicity, and religion against one another... As Goldberg notes, the Great Depression exposed underlying fallacies and weaknesses in the economy and provided the occasion for the great political and social transformation of the twentieth century. The achievements of the 1920s are long behind us, but the lessons of unbridled capitalism, intolerance, and the clashes between traditionalism and modernism very much remain."—from the foreword by Stanley I. Kutler

Johns Hopkins University Press

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Editorial Reviews

Journal of American History
Provides a timely new look at the 1920s.

— Joseph A. McCartin

Ohio History
Discontented America is in a class by itself. Goldberg provides an engaging, nicely written narrative and draws upon a variety of secondary and primary sources to create an outstanding historical synthesis.

— Kenneth J. Heineman

Choice

A special contemporary contribution to remind readers that the decade's major conflicts—over women's suffrage, Prohibition, immigration restriction, and racial intolerance—all evolved around the postwar generation's palpable discomfort with diversity.

Journal of American History - Joseph A. McCartin

Provides a timely new look at the 1920s.

Ohio History - Kenneth J. Heineman

Discontented America is in a class by itself. Goldberg provides an engaging, nicely written narrative and draws upon a variety of secondary and primary sources to create an outstanding historical synthesis.

Choice

A special contemporary contribution to remind readers that the decade's major conflicts—over women's suffrage, Prohibition, immigration restriction, and racial intolerance—all evolved around the postwar generation's palpable discomfort with diversity.

Booknews
Goldberg (history, Cleveland State U.) integrates social and political history to look behind the glitz of the Roaring decade and see it as people did who lived through it. Finding that people were very conscious of the post-war features of the period, he explores women's suffrage, prohibition, communism, labor unions, the migration of African Americans to northern cities, a new wave of immigrants from overseas, and other factors. He does not include illustrations. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknew.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801860058
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
  • Publication date: 1/28/1999
  • Series: The American Moment Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 790,446
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.48 (d)

Meet the Author

David J. Goldberg teaches history at Cleveland State University. He is the author of A Tale of Three Cities: Labor Protest and Organization in Paterson, Passaic, and Lawrence, 1916-1921.

Johns Hopkins University Press

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Table of Contents

Series Editor's Foreword
Preface
1 Progressivism and the War 1
2 The United States Faces the Postwar World 13
3 Anything But "Normal": Postwar American Politics and the Demise of Progressivism 40
4 Capital Triumphant: The Postwar Decline of the American Labor Movement 66
5 African Americans in the Postwar Period 89
6 The Rapid Rise and the Swift Decline of the Ku Klux Klan 117
7 Nordics to the Front: The 1924 National Origins Act 140
8 The New Era and the Presidential Election of 1928 167
Bibliographical Essay 185
Index 205
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