The Ku Klux Klan was basically based in the south of America. Here they targeted those set free after the American Civil War - the African Americans. The KKK had never considered the former slaves as being free and terrorised Africa American families based in the South. America experienced great economic prosperity during the 1920's but not much of it filtered to the South. Racism mixed with anger at their economic plight formed a potent cocktail.
Many different groups had emigrated to America over the years. One group - the Blacks - had been brought there against their will and after the success of the northern states during the Civil War and the freeing of the Blacks from slavery in 1865, a sinister group was established which was designed to spread fear throughout the Black population that still lived in the southern states. This was the KKK. Only WASP’s could belong to it — WhiteAnglo-Saxon Protestants. It is a common myth that the KKK targeted only the Blacks - also hated were the Jews, Catholics, liberals etc but most hatred was directed against the poor black families in the south who were very vulnerable to attack. A meeting of the KKK in 1922
The leader of the KKK in the 1920’s was a dentist called Hiram Wesley Evans whose name in the KKK was Imperial Wizard. The KKK were a violent organisation. The white hooded KKK burnt churches of the black population, murdered, raped, castrated etc and they were rarely caught as most senior law officers in the South were high ranking KKK men or sympathetic with their aims - which was a white protestant south. Even white people who had contacts with the blacks had reason to fear the KKK.
The Black Americans tried to fight back using non-violent methods. The NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People) asked Washington for new laws to help combat the KKK violence but received very little, if any, help. In the 1920’s Black Americans started to turn to the ‘Back to Africa’ movement which told blacks that they should return to their native America. This was started by Marcus Garvey but the whole movement faltered when he was arrested for fraud and sent to prison.
Prohibition and the Gangsters
Prohibition and the gangsters are an integral part of America's history in the 1920's.America experienced the Jazz Age and the young who formed the basis of this period's fame wanted alcohol.
The 18th Amendment had banned the sale, transportation and manufacture of alcohol inAmerica. But it was clear to some, that millions neither wanted this law nor would respect it. There was obviously a huge market for what in the 1920's was an illegal commodity. It was the gangsters who dominated various cities who provided this commodity. Each major city had its gangster element but the most famous was Chicago with Al Capone. Al Capone
Capone was "Public Enemy Number 1". He had moved to Chicago in 1920 where he worked for Johnny Torrio the city's leading figure in the underworld. Capone was given the task of intimidating Torrio's rivals within the city so that they would give up and hand over to Torrio their territory. Capone also had to convince speakeasy operators to buy illegal alcohol from Torrio.
Capone was very good at what he did. in 1925, Torrio was nearly killed by a rival gang and he decided to get out of the criminal world while he was still alive. Torrio handed over to Capone his 'business'.
Within 2 years, Capone was earning $60 million a year from alcohol sales alone. Other rackets earned him an extra $45 million a year.
Capone managed to bribe both the police and the important politicians of Chicago. He spent $75 million on such ventures but considered it a good investment of his huge fortune. His armed thugs patrolled election booths to ensure that Capone's politicians were returned to office. The city's mayor after 1927 was Big Bill Thompson - one of Capone's men. Thompson said
"We'll not only reopen