Monday, March 9, 2009

Living It Up in the Roaring Twenties (5)

"The Sweet case gripped the nation's attention in 1925 and 1926 as race riots became commonplace, the Ku Klux Klan's influence grew, and rapid urbanization and industrialization created an array of new urban problems." (7)

The Teapot Dome scandal occurred in the early 1920s, during the administration of President Harding. The name referred to the Teapot Dome Reserve, a 9,321 acre oilfield on public land near Casper, Wyoming, which was set aside in 1915 as an oil reserve for the U.S. Navy. President Warren C. Harding, at the insistence of his Secretary of the Interior Alfred B. Fall, signed an executive order transferring the naval petroleum reserves from the Navy to Fall's Department of the Interior. In 1922 Secretary of the Interior Albert Bacon Fall secretly leased the two oil reserves to private oil companies; Harry Sinclair's Mammoth Oil Company and the 38,000-acre Elk Hills Reserve in California, to Edward Doheny's Pan-American Petroleum Company. As a result of the Senate Committee's investigation under Senator Thomas J. Walsh in 1923, Fall was convicted on federal bribery charges, having received about $400,000 for manipulating the leases. He was sentenced to one year in prison and assessed a $100,000 fine. (8).

On September 16, 1920 a bomb placed by the American Anarchists Fighters exploded in the J.P. Morgan bank building in New York City, killing 30 and injuring 200.

Between 1915-1920, hundreds of thousands of African-Americans began to migrate at a fast pace from the "economically depressed rural South to the industrial cities of the North to take advantage of urban economic opportunities in steel mills, auto factories and packing houses. Though they expected a more racially tolerant environment, conflicts would escalate between the African-American influx and the white population as the competition for jobs worsened in cities such as Chicago, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Cleveland and St. Louis. Thousands would also fan out to the black ghettos of New York City, seeking work in the bars and cabarets.

Numerous white-collared positions at good salaries were available in federal and local civil service to which many applied... Federal employment of African Americans nearly doubled during the twenties." (

Businesses began mushrooming all over the Harlem neighborhoods, offering their services to the black community through beauty shops, food stores, insurance companies and more. During the decade, many positive changes were beginning to occur within Harlem's African-American community. Black intellectuals began to show a new intense enthusiasm for their African heritage. A surge of artistic and literary talent would assert their freedom in expressing themselves on their own terms as artists and intellectuals. In 1923 the Cotton Club was opened in Harlem presenting all-black performances to white only audiences. Click here for the Cotton Club. Entertainers included Lena Horne, the Nicholas Brothers, and Cab Calloway. A rising popular interest in African-American literature sparked the beginning of the Harlem Renaissance which was one of this nation's greatest outpouring of music, literature, art and racial pride.

To be continued: (6)


7) Organization Of American Historians” Defending the Home: Ossian Sweet and the Struggle Against Segregation in 1920s Detroit.

8) Flexner, Stuart Berg; I Hear America Talking, An Illustrated History of American Words and Phrases; A Touchstone Book Published by Simon and Schuster-New York (1976)

9) Wish, Harvey; Society and Thought in Modern America; Volume II Page: 434; David McKay Company, Inc.-New York (1952)


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