The 1920s are best known as the decade that defined the American working class as it was defined – as a class that was struggling and underrepresented in American society.
That era was also the decade that became a symbol of the Great Depression, the economic disaster that was created by the Great Depression and by a few men who used that depression as a way to advance their own political goals.
What was the ‘Roaring Twenties’?
In some ways, the 1920s were as revolutionary as the late ’40s: they broke free of the traditional class conflict which had been so evident in the preceding decades and also helped break the grip of the traditional Democratic and Republican parties on American politics.
It was the era when labor unions, civil rights, the New Deal legislation and other progressive institutions like Social Security and unemployment checks, started to make their mark on the American political scene.
Many of the things that made the 1930s such a revolutionary era were not born in the 1920s at all. This explains why many of these concepts, some of which had been a centerpiece for decades, seemed like they had been invented in the ’20s – because, after all, it was in the ’20s that it all happened.
The Great Depression was still a thing, even though most Americans weren’t fully aware of it. The 1920s were the start of a new era where the working class was at the forefront, not just fighting the bosses and the government, but in demanding changes to the social and economic order.
The Roaring Twenties
In the 1920s, American society started to become increasingly “downtrodden,” with a vast majority of workers’ incomes going almost entirely to wages and salaries. In the same time span as wages in all industries continued to decline, working-class wages and salaries also fell. Meanwhile, the wealth of the upper class grew exponentially, in part thanks to corporate profits and the power and wealth that corporations held through political bribery.
It’s the rise of the working class which helped turn on the corporate and financial system that facilitated the rise of the middle class in the first place.
In a time period known affectionately in some circles as “the twenties,” working-class communities began to take to the streets and protest against the declining living standards of their families.
In the face of these rising concerns, corporations began to use politics to gain support for their policies. As an example, the CIO organized
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