1919 The Year That Changed America

1919 The Year That Changed America

by Martin W. Sandler


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1919 was a world-shaking year. America was recovering from World War I and black soldiers returned to racism so violent that that summer would become known as the Red Summer. The suffrage movement had a long-fought win when women gained the right to vote. Laborers took to the streets to protest working conditions; nationalistic fervor led to a communism scare; and temperance gained such traction that prohibition went into effect. Each of these movements reached a tipping point that year.

Now, one hundred years later, these same social issues are more relevant than ever. Sandler traces the momentum and setbacks of these movements through this last century, showing that progress isn’t always a straight line and offering a unique lens through which we can understand history and the change many still seek.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

In six lucid chapters, Sandler (Apollo 8: The Mission That Changed Everything) details headline-dominating events from 1919, “one of the most momentous years in the nation’s history.” After a riveting start devoted to a single, highly destructive incident—Boston’s Great Molasses Flood, which led to building code, municipal oversight, and corporate liability precedents—Sandler proceeds to topics with a longer history, some of whose reverberations continue today: the passage of the 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote, widespread racial strife, waves of red scares that spread the fear of a Communist takeover, labor unrest, and the advent of Prohibition. For each subject, Sandler provides historical context, recounts the specific events of 100 years ago, and traces the impact through to the present day. He succeeds to varying degrees in making connections between women’s presence in government and business, the Black Lives Matter movement, immigration, white supremacy, climate change, gun control, and public health. Even so, Sandler’s narrative skill and eye for detail, and the abundant archival photos throughout, make for an engrossing resource. Further reading, sources, credits, and an index augment the text. Ages 10-14. (Jan.)

From the Publisher

Sandler's prose is vigorous, impassioned, and carefully contextualized. . . . A fascinating story, augmented by numerous attractive archival images. An entertaining and instructive look at a tumultuous year.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Well researched and presented in an attractive manner, Sandler's text delivers a solid look at a pivotal year.” —School Library Journal

“[C]lear, cogent text with many well-chosen archival photos. . . . An intriguing look back at America in 1919.” —Booklist

“Sandler's narrative skill and eye for detail, and the abundant archival photos throughout, make for an engrossing resource.” —Publishers Weekly

“Engaging and highly readable.” —School Library Connection

"Sandler illuminates the relevance of history . . . Discover: this centennial look at a fraught year in U.S. history makes a valiant case for 1919's outsize significance." - Shelf Awareness

"As welcome as some of 1919’s beginnings might have been…many of the archival photos in “1919” capture a sense of turmoil….Sandler, a prolific historian for young readers, includes timelines that run through the present day in an effort to put the events of 1919 in historical context." - Wall Street Journal

“Though written for teenagers, this album-size volume lends itself to coffee-table enjoyment for adults, who may naturally feel some connection to the numerous photographs of John, Paul, George and Ringo.” —Wall Street Journal on HOW THE BEATLES CHANGED THE WORLD

“Here this delicate topic is handled with sensitivity and insight. . . . A must-have for any library collection.” —Starred review, School Library Journal on IMPRISONED

“Beautifully illustrated with well-chosen photographs and other documents, this handsome book offers a clear view of an episode in American history that still receives too little focus.” —Starred review, Booklist on IMPRISONED

School Library Journal


Gr 7 Up—This readable journey through the year 1919 begins with an attention-grabbing and rather strange episode in U.S. history, the Great Molasses Flood. Each subsequent chapter follows a different large-scale event in 1919 that greatly affected the United States: Prohibition, women's suffrage, the red scare, labor strikes, and the Red Summer. At the end of each section, a "One Hundred Years Later" segment takes the historical social issue previously covered and shows how it affects contemporary society, with relatable examples included. Time lines throughout the volume demonstrate for readers how progress isn't always linear and how change can happen slowly, if at all. Filled with full-color pictures and extremely descriptive captions, students are transported in time to a period of turmoil and victory. VERDICT Well researched and presented in an attractive manner, Sandler's text delivers a solid look at a pivotal year.—Stephanie Wilkes, Good Hope Middle School, West Monroe, LA

Kirkus Reviews


The year 1919 was a significant one in 20th-century American history.

Sandler draws on a wide range of resources to present some of the most compelling news stories of a banner year. In Boston, a huge tank of molasses exploded, sending a lethal flood of syrup across an area largely occupied by impoverished immigrants. Both soldiers just returned from the Great War and those who'd patriotically served on the homefront discovered that there'd be few jobs for them—most of those at wages insufficient to support families—leading to numerous strikes. Reacting to intolerable repression, black Americans struck back at white abuses in a series of violent racial conflicts (described as "riots") that rocked both urban and rural communities. The U.S. attorney general pushed back against a perceived "Red Scare" of communist agitators, leading to mass imprisonments and deportations that reflected more a growing sense of anti-immigrant prejudice than any actual danger. Women were campaigning to achieve voting rights, and Prohibition was instituted. Each chapter attempts to relate that section's issue to modern problems, in one case tenuously drawing a connection between labor unrest and climate change. Sandler's prose is vigorous, impassioned, and carefully contextualized. If some of his choices seem odd (he fully reports the Molasses Flood, a regional story, while the massive international influenza epidemic of the era receives scant coverage), it's nevertheless a fascinating story, augmented by numerous attractive archival images.

An entertaining and instructive look at a tumultuous year. (further reading, sources, index) (Nonfiction. 11-16)

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781681198019
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
Publication date: 01/08/2019
Pages: 192
Sales rank: 129,304
Product dimensions: 8.50(w) x 10.60(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range: 10 - 14 Years

Customer Reviews