When the 1920s began, a devastating world war was still raging. As the decade concluded, a stock market crash in the United States catalyzed a decade-long depression that reverberated worldwide. In the years between, many other significant changes and events took place that would lay the groundwork for the state of the world as we know it today. Let’s look at the decade now and see how our modern world took shape during the 1920s.

Women Make Political and Social Advances

In August 1920, Congress ratified the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, allowing women to vote in public elections for the first time. The amendment was spearheaded by suffragists, activists who fought for women’s right to vote. World War I saw many women take jobs outside the home for the first time. These jobs traditionally belonged to men, but the war caused an employment shortage, and women stepped in to fill those roles. The ability to earn money gave many women their first taste of freedom, which many increasingly embraced and extended into modes of dress and public behavior previously considered taboo.

Black Americans Make Progress and Suffer Setbacks

The Harlem Renaissance, begun late in the prior decade, hit its stride in the 1920s, lasted into the ‘30s, and saw Black Americans express themselves and project their own image through music, literature, film, and other art forms. Prior to this era, Black figures were almost universally depicted by white artists, and these depictions were often stereotyped at best or openly racist at worst.

By the 1920s, Black Americans in the Tulsa, Oklahoma, area had made progress toward financial independence and were in fact prospering in an area sometimes called “Black Wall Street.” The Greenwood District, as it was formally known, was an area of businesses and homes owned by Black residents. In 1921, a still-disputed incident between a Black man and a white woman led to armed mobs in the streets, hundreds dead, the Greenwood District burned to the ground, and thousands of Black residents rounded up and placed in internment. For many years a historical footnote, the Tulsa Massacre has become more widely known in recent times.

The Powers Behind the Next World War Begin Their Rise

In Italy, Benito Mussolini became the country’s youngest prime minister to date. Hirohito became emperor of Japan and would remain so until the late 1980s. In Germany, Adolf Hitler became chairman of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party and later staged a failed coup. During his ensuing imprisonment, he began work on “Mein Kampf,” a manifesto in which he made his antisemitic ideas and ambitions for Germany known. As leaders of their respective countries, the three would later unite into what was known as the Axis powers during World War II.

Crime Remediation Backfires

A less popular and ultimately unsuccessful addition to the U.S. Constitution also took place in 1920. The 18th Amendment forbade the production, sale, and distribution of alcoholic beverages. During the 13 years of Prohibition, many people made their own liquor, and some opened secret clubs called speakeasies where liquor was served behind closed doors. Though the amendment was enacted with the intention of reducing crime rates, organized crime rose to prominence in the U.S. during Prohibition.

Mass Communication Goes Wider

The first commercial radio station hit the airwaves in 1920, enabling families to tune in on user-friendly radio equipment. Prior to this, such equipment was more complex, and only a limited audience was able to listen. The first television set was introduced in 1927, but it would be another two decades or more before most people owned one.

The ‘20s Roar

Music, dance, risqué fashion, illicit alcohol, licentious behavior, and economic prosperity were all hallmarks of the 1920s for some Americans. Yet, with the Great Depression closing the decade, and the Dust Bowl drought following in multiple states in 1930, it seems the good times weren’t meant to last.

A Course Focused on the 1920s

We’ve just summarized some of the monumental events and changes that took place in the 1920s. A selection of these and other events are explored more deeply in a UT Permian Basin course fittingly called The 1920s (HIST 6347). Part of our Master of Arts in History program, this course examines historical literature related to the 1920s with a focus on gender, race, politics, and cultural shifts. See what else our degree program has to offer now!

A Deep Dive Into History

Our online Master of Arts in History helps you understand the state of the world today through the lens of history. Each course is devoted to a specific epoch or event, such as the Industrial Revolution, the American Revolution, or World War I, providing in-depth perspectives across 16-week sessions. If you’ve already earned a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution, we invite you to expand your expertise with this graduate-level program. Consider the benefits:

  • Complete all coursework online, from any location, around your professional and personal commitments.
  • Earn your master’s degree in as little as two years.
  • Choose from thesis and non-thesis track options.

A Brighter Professional Future

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), those who’ve completed a master’s degree earn about 20% more than those whose highest education level is a bachelor’s degree. In addition, an MA in history will help you develop career-enhancing communication, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills. The U.S. Department of Labor and Forbes report that employers are seeking these skills among potential hires or in current employees competing for advancement into new positions.

Expand your knowledge of history and your professional potential with an MA in history. Apply now!