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By the end of this section, you will be able to:
  • Define nativism and analyze the ways in which it affected the politics and society of the 1920s
  • Describe the conflict between urban Americans and rural fundamentalists
  • Explain the issues in question in the Scopes trial

While prosperous, middle-class Americans found much to celebrate about the new era of leisure and consumption, many Americans—often those in rural areas—disagreed on the meaning of a “good life” and how to achieve it. They reacted to the rapid social changes of modern urban society with a vigorous defense of religious values and a fearful rejection of cultural diversity and equality.


Beginning at the end of the nineteenth century, immigration into the United States rocketed to never-before-seen heights. Many of these new immigrants were coming from eastern and southern Europe and, for many English-speaking, native-born Americans of northern European descent, the growing diversity of new languages, customs, and religions triggered anxiety and racial animosity. In reaction, some embraced nativism    , prizing white Americans with older family trees over more recent immigrants, and rejecting outside influences in favor of their own local customs. Nativists also stoked a sense of fear over the perceived foreign threat, pointing to the anarchist assassinations of the Spanish prime minister in 1897, the Italian king in 1900, and even President William McKinley in 1901 as proof. Following the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia in November 1917, the sense of an inevitable foreign or communist threat only grew among those already predisposed to distrust immigrants.

The sense of fear and anxiety over the rising tide of immigration came to a head with the trial of Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti ( [link] ). Sacco and Vanzetti were Italian immigrants who were accused of being part of a robbery and murder in Braintree, Massachusetts, in 1920. There was no direct evidence linking them to the crime, but (in addition to being immigrants) both men were anarchists who favored the destruction of the American market-based, capitalistic society through violence. At their trial, the district attorney emphasized Sacco and Vanzetti’s radical views, and the jury found them guilty on July 14, 1921. Despite subsequent motions and appeals based on ballistics testing, recanted testimony, and an ex-convict’s confession, both men were executed on August 23, 1927.

Photograph (a) shows Bartolomeo Vanzetti and Nicola Sacco sitting beside one another in handcuffs. Photograph (b) shows a group of men protesting in the street. Several hold a large sign that reads “Save Sacco and Vanzetti / Protest Demonstration against Death Sentence / Trafalgar Square, Sunday Next at 3pm / Come in Your Thousands.”
Bartolomeo Vanzetti and Nicola Sacco (a) sit in handcuffs at Dedham Superior Court in Massachusetts in 1923. After the verdict in 1921, protesters demonstrated (b) in London, England, hoping to save Sacco and Vanzetti from execution.

Opinions on the trial and judgment tended to divide along nativist-immigrant lines, with immigrants supporting the innocence of the condemned pair. The verdict sparked protests from Italian and other immigrant groups, as well as from noted intellectuals such as writer John Dos Passos, satirist Dorothy Parker, and famed physicist Albert Einstein. Muckraker Upton Sinclair based his indictment of the American justice system, the “documentary novel” Boston , on Sacco and Vanzetti’s trial, which he considered a gross miscarriage of justice. As the execution neared, the radical labor union Industrial Workers of the World called for a three-day nationwide walkout, leading to the Great Colorado Coal Strike of 1927. Protests occurred worldwide from Tokyo to Buenos Aires to London ( [link] ).

Questions & Answers

I don't understand the meaning of human event
Raw Reply
why this bridge name
because the nucleotides are larger than the RNA produced during meosi
What does chasquis mean?
mary Reply
i need help
chasquis (also chaskis) were the messengers of the Inca empire. Agile, highly trained and physically fit, they were in charge of carrying the quipus, messages and gifts, up to 240 km per day through the chasquis relay system.
How did imperialism Effect America
Melinda Reply
Good question
when did the most distinguished leaders meet
Osvaldo Reply
Maytember 17th, 2056
what is the main idea of the passage
The Reply
what major industries emerged in the decades after the Civil war
ComicHickory Reply
Does militia men still exist in U.S.A?
Shakeel Reply
To contrast the steamboat of the antebellum to today’s technology?
Nyrah Reply
contrast the steamboats of the antebellum years with technologies today.
I love reading books about history.
I reading what happened earlier so much
I meant I love to read a lot
omg I never noticed this until now.
what advantages did people in urban areas have over rural areas?
what factors helped cause the dust bowl
They had easy availability of food water. They had more comfortable life style as compare to people in rural areas. Better education was at there disposal
why did northerners lose thier resolve to pursue reconstruction
bambi Reply
what is taring and feathering?
Dominic Reply
Isnt there any laws in place for gun control?
Ryan Reply
How would you characterize the former president’s reaction? What do you think he means by writing that the Missouri Compromise line “is a reprieve only, not a final sentence”?
Tonda Reply
Compare and contrast the steamboats of the antebellum years with technologies today. In your estimation, what modern technology compares to steamboats in its transformative power?
Tonda Reply
airplanes to jets. Another would be electric trains.
I would say the Internal Combustion engine was as if not more transformative the the Steam power which it replaced. The ability of the Steamboat to rapidly move large amounts of goods through the water ways that weave there way from town to town increased our fledgling country's economy. I can draw direct coraleris with the National highway system built during the 1950's that were soon clogged with Transport trucks using I.C.E.
what are the impact of the missionaries on indigenous knowledge of black communities
Don Reply

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Source:  OpenStax, U.s. history. OpenStax CNX. Jan 12, 2015 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11740/1.3
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