Cultural Revolt Of 1920s


     The 1920's were times of cultural revolution. The times were changing in
many different ways. Whenever the times change, there is a clash between the
"old" and the "new" generations. The 1920's were no
exception. In Dayton, Tennessee, 1925, a high school biology teacher was
arrested. He was arrested because he taught the theory of evolution. The
teacher, John T. Scopes, was accused of having violated the Butler Act. This was
a Tennessee law that forbade the teaching of the theory of evolution in public
schools. The Tennessee legislature felt that teaching evolution was wrong
because it contradicted the creation theory of the Bible. The Scopes trial
received worldwide publicity. The press nicknamed it the Monkey Trial because,
people believed that the theory of evolution meant that humans were descended
from monkeys. Clarence Darrow was the defense lawyer. Former U.S. secretary of
state William Jennings Bryan was the prosecutor. The defense argued that the

Butler Act was unconstitutional. They did not deny that Scopes had broken the
law. He was convicted and fined $100. Darrow was quoted as saying, "Scopes
isn't on trial, civilization is on trial." The world was changing and
scientific advances made it harder to fully accept the Bible's interpretation of
creation. The older generation seemed set in their ways. It would seem that a
science was on trial defending itself against traditional beliefs. The Red Scare
was the result of wartime tensions. There was a growing fear of communism during
the 1920's. The Red Scare became like a witch-hunt. Everyone was suspicious of
each other. U. S. Attorney-General Palmer planned a round up of communists.

January 2, 1920, he ordered department raids on meeting halls and homes in
thirty cities nationwide to gather all suspected communists. Twenty seven
hundred people were arrested without being charged with a specific crime. In
all, more than 6,000 people were arrested. The raids ended after May 5th. This
was due to a government ruling that mere membership in the party is not in
itself a crime. Most people that were arrested were released, few of the people
arrested were actually communists. The Red Scare continued when on April 1, five
legitimately elected members of the New York State legislature were expelled for
being members of the Socialist Party. World War I ended in 1920 with the signing
of the Treaty of Versailles. Russia and the United States were allies during the
war. After the war, both became the world's new superpowers. As the tension
between the two nations grew, so did the fear of Communism. The Ku Klux Klan was
a racist organization founded in 1915 by William Simmons. The KKK's popularity
peaked in the 1920's when its membership exceeded 4 million nationally, with
strong organizations in the Midwest as well as in the South. The Klan began to
persecute Roman Catholics, Jews, foreigners, Communists, and organized labor.

Stressing white Protestant domination, the Klan enjoyed a spurt of growth in

1928 as a reaction to the Democrats' nomination for president of Alfred E.

Smith, a Roman Catholic. The KKK was made up of many prejudice people that
couldn't keep up with the changing times. They were comfortable with the old
racist ways. They could not deal with the new, more liberal beliefs. Women of
the 1920's were fighting in their own revolution. Women were fighting to break
down the sex-based restrictions that were set before them. The old standards
that were set were slowly being changed. Many women of the 1920's were going out
and getting jobs. Over 10.6 million women were working at the end of the decade.

Women like Margaret Sanger fought to educate women on the pros of using birth
control. She saw many poor women that were burdened with many children. If they
were educated about family planning, they could control the size of their
families and keep the cost of living down. In 1921 she founded the American

Birth Control League. Many people with traditional values were against birth
control methods. They believed that it was against Gods will. This would cause
another of the conflicts that arouse due to a changing society. With the Scopes

Trial, Red Scare, the rise and fall of the KKK, and Women's Rights, we see how
the times were changing in the 1920's. Religion, politics, and ignorance were
all obstacles to the progress that was being made in the 1920's. Change always
brings about conflict between the "old" and the "new."