The 1920s are commonly referred to as the Roaring Twenties. The 1920s was a time when the American people were facing massive technological and social change as well as new roles for women and Afro-Americans. Discuss the many ways in which Americans responded to these changes in terms of artistic movements and social behavior.
The 1920’s, also known as the Roaring Twenties or Jazz age, were an age of dramatic technological, economical, political, and social change. This decade of change that followed World War I was filled with liberated women known as flappers, speakeasies that violated the laws of Prohibition, and a rising stock market. With sudden change in the United States, many Americans became uncomfortable and feared the racial diversity and lax moral standards of the urban lifestyle. However, for many Americans including women and African Americans, the Roaring Twenties provided new prosperity.
With the new culture of the Roaring Twenties, Americans experienced a shift in social behavior. During this era, a new society was created and social behavior change throughout the United States. The economy was booming and consumer goods of all kinds flourished, altering daily life for many Americans. Products such as telephones, vacuum cleaners, washing machines, and refrigerators reduced the amount of work needed in a home. With more time on their hands, Americans began to spend more of their money on leisure activities. Vacations, sporting events, and movies reached an all time high during the 1920’s. Work, which was once seen as a source of pride, was now viewed as a way to obtain goods and entertainment. There is no doubt the Roaring Twenties, changed the behavior of Americans, but some were transformed more than others.
After the ratification of the 19th amendment in 1920, women could no longer be discriminated against and were guaranteed the right to vote. The 19th amendment gave women of the Roaring Twenties a sense of liberation. As a result, a new style of woman, known as a “flapper,” surfaced during this time. With bobbed haircuts, short skirts, public smoking and drinking, and the use of birth control, “flappers” epitomized the change in American society. Before World War I, women had a very strict role in society and within the household. Carrie Chapman Catt’s, “Shall All Women Obey Men,” brings the expectation of women during this time to the forefront and challenges them, but it wasn’t until the 1920’s that women themselves defied society’s norms. These women changed society’s standards for how women should talk, dress, and act in America.
Along with many social changes, many cultural and artistic movements occurred during the 1920’s. A cultural movement, known as surrealism, began in the early 1920’s and influenced visual arts and writing. Surrealists sought to unleash their unbridled imagination through their work. Because of surrealism, techniques such as automatic painting, decalcomania, and frottage became significant within the art community. Art Deco was another movement that became popular during the Roaring Twenties. It was characterized by the use of bold patterns and materials such as aluminum and stainless steel. The Art Deco movement affected the decorative arts and architecture within the United States. Both of these movements changed the traditional views on art throughout America.
During the Roaring Twenties, a cultural, social, and artistic movement, known as the Harlem Renaissance, emerged. Harlem was home to a vibrant, black community that created ties with the artistic mainstream of New York. Writers like Countee Cullen, Langston Hughes, and Claude McKay became sponsored and published by the white press and for the first time, Broadway casted several black actors. The Harlem Renaissance was a literary, artistic, and intellectual movement that changed the view on African Americans within the United States. A new cultural identity was given to black culture that allowed them to expand their legacy.
The Roaring Twenties was an era of unprecedented affluence and change. With a mass consumption economy, the roles of women drastically changed in the home and community, creating a new standard for American women. As a result of the Harlem Renaissance, African Americans were beginning to be viewed differently. The country was soaring at an all time high with many technological, economical, political, and social changes. Although there were Americans looking ahead to a new future that was emerging, many found themselves at a crossroads between modernization and tradition.