The 1920s - Defining the Jazz Age

Theme: on its surface, the 1920s was the "Jazz Age"--an era of pleasure seeking similar to the 1950s and 1990s, as people sought to forget the disruptions of progressive reform and horrors of The Great War--but it was simultaneously an age in which profoundly conservative political forces tried to reshape the nation.

Prologue: Sacco and Vanzetti as Victims of the Red Scare? 

  I.  The Jazz Age

Fitzgerald: beautiful and damned
A.  F. Scott Fitzgerald Defines the Jazz Age
       -The Great Gatsby, Beautiful and Damned, This Side of Paradise

B.   Jazz comes North, the Black Bottom, and the Charleston

C.   Advertizing and Consumption
       --newspaper sensationalism
       --automobilies and youth

I will build a motor car for the great multitude. It will be large enough for the family but small enough for the individual to run and care for. It will be constructed of the best materials, by the best men to be hired, after the simplest designs that modern engineering can devise. But it will be so low in price that no man making a good salary will be unable to own one--and enjoy with his family the blessing of hours of pleasure in God's great open spaces.

Source: Henry Ford, 1907; from Warren Susman, Culture as History, p. 136.

      --cigarettes and flappers

 D. Sex and the Cult of Pensonality

II. Zora Neale Hurston: Extending the Jazz Age - The Harlem Renaissance

Zora Neale Hurston
A. Zora Neale Hurston
     - born poor in Alabama,  from poor maid to Howard University student; Columbia graduate school and New York; folklorist of the Negro rural South - part             of yet apart from the Harlem renaissance; civil rights movement; dies in poverty, 1960; rediscovered in 1970s

Josephine Baker: the Jazz Age Abroad
    -From East St. Louis to the Harlem Stage; Paris and the "Revue Negre;" Princess Tam Tam; post-war career

Josephine Baker

III.  The Other Side of the 1920s

    A. Race riots open the era
    B. Revival of a the Klan -- the Second Ku Klux Klan
    C. the women's movement sputters after the 19th Amendment
    D. fundamentalism and Scopes

Identification: F. Scott Fitzgerald, Zora neale Hurston, Josephine Baker, Jazz Age, automobiles, Scopes Trial, Ku Klux Klan, religious fundamentalism/anti-evolution, Sacco & Vanzetti

Suggested Sources: Public Broadcasting Station: The American Experience, The Monkey Trial, 1999-2002 at

Florida Memory Project, Zora Neale Hurston, the WPA in Florida, and the Cross City Turpentine Camp,  at