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How Did World War One Change American

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Society? Essay, Research Paper


In 1917 America entered World War one. By doing this America played a grave role in conquering Germany and ushering peace to Europe. However, the Great War also meant that the US would change dramatically through historical issues and changes which resulted in American society. Industries had started to realise that it was not as simple as it was before to abstract the immigrants. As the country developed and became more successful it attracted outsiders who were searching for chances. During the 1920?s the United States began to confine immigrants due to cultural and economical purposes. The immigrants faced several afflictions such as: racism and religious oppression. The examination of immigration expressed an important shift in American society after WWI.

In this essay I am going to discuss how world war one altered the american society. As it is impossible to and superficial to focus and examine all the transformations in US society, I have decided to focus on two particular areas that display how American society altered after WWI. These issues are immigration, and racial discrimination. The Italians serve as my main example.


Imagine if you are an immigrant and you have entered a bizzare and new environment. You do not belong anywhere and to this place you are not given the same privileges as the other people. These people see you as an alien and someone who takes away their jobs. As well as this you are also accused and blamed for things that you have never done. No matter how much you beg, or convince them that you have not done anything they still do not believe you. This society is against you and have nothing positive to say. This is what the immigrants had to face. This was particularly true for the Italians.

At the dawn of the nineteenth century the amount of immigration to the united states was increasing rapidly. The largest proportion of these ?new? immigrants were from Italy, Russia, and Ireland. There was a combined reaction to these immigrants. Even though they provided the industries with cheap labour, the Americans saw them as a threat towards their society. The Americans were afraid and antagonistic towards these new groups. They altered from the ?classic? Americans through language, religion and customs.

Italian Immigrants

Italian immigration contributes to us as an excellent example of immigration into the united states due to large amount of Italians who settled there. Between 1840 to 1920 approximately 37 million immigrants from Europe to the US . The 1910 census figures indicate that 4.75 million of these were Italians . Italians tended to be Catholics while the Americans were Protestant. Americans were concerned that the Catholics would receive an increased voting power through the new immigrants. Italians and other immigrants were immediately accused and blamed for the country?s dilemmas. An example of such a dilemma is when the government launched a surprise attack on the immigrants housing due to the phobia of them being communists. In several cases these Italian immigrants were found guilty due to their beliefs instead of their actions.

Not only did these immigrants face problems due to their religious beliefs they would encounter yet another threat towards them. The KKK was an anti-catholic group and this was especially a threat to the Italians as they were Catholics. Immigrants and Italians introduced prohibition to America. Americans were not pleased with the idea of drinking, and gambling. This explains why the prohibition amendment was created.

You may question yourself why the Americans saw these immigrants as a threat to their society? Simply that the competition for occupations was one reason of racism felt by the Americans. Therefore, the Americans felt that these immigrants were stealing the jobs that they had. An example of competition is the ?birds of passage? which was when Italian workers came to America for work however returned to Italy with the money they earned while working there.

Sacco-Vanzetti Case

Do you think that it is justice for the Italians to receive lower wages than the Americans just because of their nationality? A perfect example of this is the Sacco-Vanzetti case. Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti were Italian immigrants in the United States. Sacco and Vanzetti were two workers who were arrested and charged with murder. There have been people who claimed that they were guilty due to the fact that they were immigrants and outspoken anarchists. They were accused and blamed for something that they never did. There was no proof of evidence that they were guilty. It turned out that they were guilty of just being Italians. By using this case as an example racism tended to spread throughout America.

It is stated that during the early 20th century the Italians received white received much lower wages than the average American. What can you observe from this? According to me you can tell that the immigrants were victimized against society. Eventually the Italians were accepted into American society. The Americans started to conceive that the Italians were no threat towards them or their society.

Racism in American Society

Immigration and racism often go together and they were closely related in American society in the 1920s. Not only was immigration a major problem in American society but racism had started to develop and increase after WWI. Not only was it the immigrants who were attacked by the Americans it was also the blacks, and the Jews. America is composed from several groups which include the immigrants from Europe and Asia, blacks, and native Americans. Now, you have realised that there are several different customs within America. For all these groups there was an obstacle of adjusting into the society and environment. In the 1920?s the racial pressure in the society started to attain a blistering mark.

Both Americans and protestants were trying to connect alcohol to the Irish, Italian, and Catholic immigrants. They thought that these immigrants had introduced alcohol and other habits which they felt changed and threatened their society. Racism was expressed in several ways such as through the media, literature and worst of all through groups against them such as the KKK. During the 1920?s it is shown that prejudice was an available through racism, and hate towards other ethnic groups. However was not America supposed to be the ?land of opportunity? where anyone should be welcome? There was a group called ?Immigration Restriction League? who stated that they had ?scientific evidence? meaning that the immigrants were inferior and a threat to America. They had extreme faith in that religions such as Catholics and Jews were over-crowding America.

Racism started to develop throughout America and several people started forming groups. The clearest example of this is the KKK who assumed to guard the protestants from aliens. Their goal was to ?clean America? by doing so things went violently such as threats, beating, abusing and even murdering to achieve their goal.

An author who started to become popular was Madison Grant who wrote the book ?The Passing of a Great Race.? He stated that these ?new immigrants? were ?worthless races? and in the book it stated that ?whole tone of American life, social, moral, and political has been lowered and vulgarised by them.? Mr. Grant had the same opinion of these cultural groups as other authors at the time.

Immigrants were made fun of and even had nicknames especially created for them, for example if someone was of a Latin culture they were called ?Spic.? Italians also had names such as ?Dogo? ?Guinea? and ?Greaser.? Blacks were adverted as ?Niggers.?

There were two laws which were established to prevent further immigration. In 1921 ?Emergency Immigration Quota? prevented immigrants of 3% of alien birth . In 1924 ?Johnson-Reed Act? limited the amount of individuals from other cultures to 2% of total amount of national origin . The government simply ignored and bypassed subjects connected to cultural groups and had no attempt or interest to improve the perspective by the people.

Occupations were taken by immigrants thus the Americans thought of them as threats. Usually the immigrants accepted occupations that the native whites did not want. Competition for jobs increased and workers saw them as challengers.

Blacks were disconnected from the society completely and were forced to be away from public white areas. Protestants despised the Catholics through sports thus created a separate athletic area. However, Jews were still continued to be inferior to society through the 20?s.


Throughout this essay I have dealt with the issues of immigration and racial discrimination. Was it hard for the Italians to fit into society? Not only was it hard for them but for all the immigrants that arrived during the 1920?s. If you enter a new society it means that you will not automatically be accepted. It will take a really long time until the Americans have accepted you. Immigration and racial discrimination have played the most important role as to why American society has altered. As you have read immigration and racial discrimination have drastically changed the society and behaviour of the American environment. However, there were two lessons which have been learned and developed from the Americans. At first the behaviour and reactions of the American citizens towards the ?foreigners? was pure hatred but then they started to realize that the immigrants were there for a purpose. They gradually learned to accept them as time passed on through the 1920s in the American society.


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