Roaring twenties: prohibition, suffrage and the Ku Klux Klan

THE ROARING TWENTIES

The ‘United States of America‘ entered the roaring twenties with full on enthusiasm as to what the new world would give them, with people moving to key cities, like Chicago and New York, jazz music, fashion, Art Deco, and technology blossomed. People began buying cars as the credit options made it more affordable for the average person. The overall wealth of the nation doubled, more people owned appliances and telephones, with sport and cinema becoming big businesses.

The American economy and industrial sectors were booming, and America was divided by wealth. Many people were living lavish lifestyles, whilst others were living in dire poverty, and even though it was getting close to 50 years since slavery was abolished, many African Americans in the Deep South suffered horrendous racial prejudice and lived barely surviving as they didn’t have equal rights to whites. Although the birth of jazz and the rise of blues brought many African Americans into the cities to perform and started the Harlem Renaissance, in return millions of American whites joined the Ku Klux Klan as they believed they were combating the debauchery of society with Christian values.

THE PROHIBITION

Imagine a time when alcohol was illegal to go into production, transportation, and importation for 13 years between 1920 and 1933, but consuming it wasn’t a crime. As you’d expect, religion was behind it, and Lutheranism had attempted several times since the 19th century to remove alcohol from society as it went against their Christian beliefs, and America’s involvement in World War I created a national pride and opposition to the German beer producers, and it paved the way to diminish the influence in the alcohol trade, and the 18th amendment was voted in by a majority. On January 16th, 1920, the Volstead Act went into force and closed every establishment that sold liquor in America. The main reason was alcohol being the primary factor for most social disruption, marriage breakups and violence in America, and this gave women a voice that was heard.

“After one year from the ratification of this article the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors within, the importation thereof into, or the exportation thereof from the United States and all territory subject to the jurisdiction thereof for beverage purposes is hereby prohibited.” – Amendment XVIII

Bootleggers took advantage of the prohibition and made illegal gin and moonshine, but often it was created using industrial strength alcohol which led to many deaths to those desperate enough to drink it. Little did the Christians who campaigned against the immorality of selling alcohol know that the prohibition would backfire and give rise to mobsters, and none were as notorious as Al Capone, who ruled the Chicago underworld and made a fortune from casinos, speakeasies (secret bars) and racketeering.

The issue that the American government faced during the prohibition was enforcing it. Underground bars appeared everywhere, and police officers, lawyers and judges could be found drinking there. The government only had around 1500 agents to cover all of the states so a lot of the drinking continued unnoticed, and certain cities completely disregarded it and became anti-prohibition. The President at the time of 1933, Franklin Roosevelt, was inaugurated at a time of the Great Depression and low morale from American citizens and he signed the 21st amendment.

“The eighteenth article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed. … The transportation or importation into any State, Territory, or possession of the United States for delivery or use therein of intoxicating liquors, in violation of the laws thereof, is hereby prohibited.” – Amendment XXI

WOMEN’S SUFFRAGE

1840 was the time when women began the fight to change the law so that they were eligible to vote, and in 1890 the separate suffrage organisations finally joined forces as one and became the ‘National American Woman Suffrage Association‘. The movement tirelessly campaigned for the constitution to pass an amendment for the right for women to vote, and the fight for women’s suffrage came to an end by the passing of the 19th amendment in August 18, 1920. It was 80 years in the making.

“The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.” – Amendment XIX

America was in a strange place. Racism was very strong, yet in 1870 the 15th Amendment was passed allowing African American men the right to vote, yet no woman was able until 50 years later as the American man saw the woman as a homemaker.

‪The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” – Amendment XV‬

KNIGHTS OF THE KU KLUX KLAN

In the early 1920s America grew suspicious of foreigners, and their paranoia over communism began, and throughout the land, and predominantly rural America the ‘Knights of the Ku Klux Klan‘ grew in a second wave after being dormant for almost 50 years and awoken by ‘Rev. William J. Simmons‘ who recruited over 5,000,000 members and millions more supporters, due to their racist, anti-Semitic, and anti-Catholic views. America was becoming dangerous for anyone who wasn’t a white supremacist. Their influence over state governments and politics was huge, and they took control of many cities’ police departments and court houses.

Considering the Klan was claiming to be enforcing Christian values, they actively encouraged their members that bigotry, prejudice, harassment, condemnation and violence was not only patriotic but it’s God’s will. The white Anglo-Saxon Protestants were becoming anxious about the state of America. Foreigners from Europe were invading their lands, the blacks were spreading, women were gaining rights and they saw this as America being undone, and they resented the modernism that their country was going through. They were strongly opposed to contraception, abortion and evolution being taught in schools, and this led to much vigilante violence. As the Klan grew they helped charity organisations and supported schools, and donated much money to the churches to support the poor Protestants, but at the same time their influence went to the top as Klan members became mayors, governors and senators. Some members of the Klan were not interested in violence as they just wished moral values to return, but others joined so that they could beat and lynch blacks, Catholics, foreigners, adulterers and promiscuous women.

Despite the Klan’s popularity in the mid twenties, the Presidents saw them as a sadistic organisation who was a danger to the public, and many higher ranking public officials began to turn their backs on Klan members and activities. Many people began to publicly oppose them as the death toll, raping, and violence was contradicting their alleged moral outlook. The Klan slowly diminished as social outlook towards minorities became more tolerant, but it begs the question of how and why did America accept the Ku Klux Klan as social and cultural figureheads when they promoted so much hatred?

“H e and other Klan leaders would look to Christianity to find support for racism. Even liberal Protestant churches supported white supremacy. That seemed the natural order of things. Just as people used Biblical texts to support slavery.” – Kelly J. Baker

Animal Symbolism and Zoolatry

Humans have had relationships with animals for thousands of years, be it cattle, horses or domesticated animals like dogs and cats. Some religions hold certain animals in high esteem, and others see all sentient life as being important, especially religions, and philosophies that believe you’ll gain enlightenment through reincarnation.

BUDDHISM

In Buddhism all animals are classified as sentient life, and are eligible for enlightenment, and any animal could potentially be a reincarnation of a family member or a loved one, so they are seen in high regard, and this is one of the reason why many Buddhists prefer to live as vegetarians. They believe that morality is indistinguishable between the treatment of humans and animals and we are connected. In Buddhism they have something known as the Five precepts, which is essentially their version of the Ten Commandments, and the first precept is not to take any life, animal, insect, bird, fish or human.

• to refrain from taking life, ie killing any living creature

• to refrain from taking what is not freely given

• to refrain from misuse of the senses or sexual misconduct

• to refrain from wrong speech

• to refrain from intoxicants that cloud the mind

‘Siddhārtha Gautama‘, or as he’s commonly known, Buddha, claimed that all sentient life contained Buddha nature, and due to the continuous rebirths throughout time, every animal has been a person at some point. Buddhism’s sister religions, Hinduism and Jainism share a similar belief system which is about reaching a truer level of reality through enlightenment. Buddha said in the Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra, that the eating of meat isn’t permitted under any circumstance, but some people who follow Buddhism claim that buying food at a supermarket, or restaurant hasn’t been killed for them, so it’s permissible.

“In every country in the world, killing human beings is condemned. The Buddhist precept of non-killing extends even further, to include all living beings.” – Monk Thich Nhat Hanh

HINDUISM

Hindus see all life as having equal spiritual power, and in Hindu scripture many stories are about animals who are classed as divine. Hindus, like Buddhists believe in reincarnation, and karma, and with the belief in karma comes dying and being born as an animal if you repeatedly make the same mistakes. Ahimsa is the principle of respecting the rights of animals and see that no harm comes to them. They also believe that humanity should always try to create an equilibrium with the world they live in, and living unselfishly is expected. The cow is the sacred animal in Hinduism and it’s seen as a symbol of life and Earth, and is heavily respected as it’s used widely in farm work. They believe that humans weren’t put on Earth to dominate other species, which is in direct opposition to Christianity as god promotes dominionism in Genesis.

“No person should kill animals helpful to all. Rather, by serving them, one should attain happiness.” – Yajur Veda

SIKHISM

Whilst Sikhs don’t worship animals, they believe in reincarnation also, and believe god put all life on Earth for a purpose, so animal cruelty is forbidden. They believe that bodies are clothes for the soul, and we can enjoy life as human or animals before we are released from reincarnation to live with god. Even though they respect all life, Sikhs only believe that humans can break away from reincarnation, as we have morals whereas animals rely on instincts. Sikhs believe that if they are to eat meat, the animal must be slaughtered immediately so that the animal experiences little to no suffering, so because of this they are forbidden to eat kosher or halal meat from ritual slaughtering. Because of this many Sikhs actively choose to be vegetarians to preserve life.

“In so many incarnations, you were a worm and an insect in so many incarnations, you were an elephant, a fish and a deer In so many incarnations, you were a bird and a snake In so many incarnations, you were yoked as an ox and a horse Meet the Lord of the Universe – now is the time to meet Him After so very long, this human body was fashioned for you.” – Guru Granth Sahib ji

ANCIENT EGYPT

Zoolatry, which is the worship of animals was extremely prevalent in Ancient Egypt, and as well as being seen as idols, the majority of households had pets ranging from domestic, to more extravagant like Lions, Tigers, Elephants and Crocodiles. And 1 in 4 hieroglyphs discovered feature animals of one description or another. Many of the gods were either depicted as animals, or at least had an animals head on a human body. The Egyptians were mystified by the seemingly magical abilities that certain animals had; be it flight, heightened awareness, stealth, agility and hunting abilities. They didn’t see the animals as gods themselves, but believed they were the means that the gods could manifest themselves. Mummified remains of animals have been discovered in tombs, where they’ve been left with much wealth which was a gift to the gods, and in ‪Beni Hassan there’s a tomb with an estimated 80,000 feline burials.‬

‪”You are the Great Cat, the avenger of the gods, and the judge of words, and the president of the sovereign chiefs and the governor of the holy Circle; you are indeed the Great Cat.” – Valley of the kings inscription ‬

TAOISM

Taoism, or Daoism, is a religious philosophical Chinese tradition and originated from the School of Yin-yang. Yin-Yang are opposites; Yin is female, and Yang is male; female is darkness; male is lightness; female is absorption, male is penetration. The school of shin-Yang also studies the Five Elements (water, fire, wood, metal, and earth). The Tao is the single principle that controls the universe, and it’s separated into two opposite principles of Yin and Yang, and they accomplish changes in the universe through the Five Elements. The Chinese Zodiac originated from studies by Taoist priests who nominated twelve animals for a twelve-year cycle. The yellow Emperor, or Emperor Huang Ti created the Chinese lunar calendar in 2637 BCE, and this paved the way for the Chinese Zodiac.

Yang: (1) Rat, (3) Tiger, (5) Dragon, (7) Horse, (9) Monkey, (11) Dog

Yin: (2) Ox, (4) Rabbit, (6) Snake, (8) Sheep, (10) Rooster, (12) Pig

A retrospective: Malcolm X

Malcolm X‘ was born Malcolm Little in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1925, and spent his youth growing up in multiple foster homes. At age 19 he was sentenced to prison for burglary/breaking and entering, and in prison he discovered Islam, and he joined the political group, Nation of Islam (NOI) where he changed his name and publicly he became Malcolm X. Elijah Muhammad, who was the leader of the NOI became Malcolm’s mentor after he left prison in 1952.

“You can’t separate peace from freedom because no one can be at peace unless he has his freedom.” – Malcolm X

Elijah Muhammad preached his own version of Islam where he claimed that whites were inferior, and blacks being the original humans should take back what’s theirs. Of course he gained much sympathy and allegiance as he targeted young black men who were oppressed, who were often Christian who he successfully converted to Islam. The Nation of Islam combined Islam with black nationalism and this ideology appealed to Malcolm, after his brother, Reginald, who was also in prison with him converted. Upon release from prison he created a newspaper for the Nation of Islam called Muhammad Speaks, and every member of the movement was obligated to sell a fixed amount after publication. Malcolm quickly rose through the ranks and became minister at the Temple No. 7 in Harlem, and Elijah Muhammad made him National Representative of the Nation of Islam, his second in command.

“I’m for truth, no matter who tells it. I’m for justice, no matter who it is for or against. I’m a human being, first and foremost, and as such I’m for whoever and whatever benefits humanity as a whole.” – Malcolm X

He tirelessly worked to recruit and gain notoriety in his battle against racial hatred and the civil rights movement, and this involved him preaching on the streets of Harlem, and giving public speeches wherever he could. Whilst both him and Martin Luther King Jr. had the same objectives, they were extremely critical of each other’s methods. It was partly due to Malcolm’s pride and persistence that the terms coloured and negro were replaced by African American, or black, as he formed the foundations of black power, and black consciousness.

“The future belongs to those who prepare for it today.” – Malcolm X

His relationship with the Nation of Islam became sour, and his relationship with Elijah diminished because of separating views, and he announced his separation in 1964, but remained a Muslim. He founded the Muslim Mosque, Inc. and went on a pilgrimage to Mecca that all Muslims are required to do at least once in their lives, and he changed his name to el-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz.

“I believe in human beings, and that all human beings should be respected as such, regardless of their color.” – Malcolm X

In February 1965 he held a rally in New York that’s aim was to unite others for the human rights movement. As he began his speech in front of the small crowd in Audubon Ballroom in Harlem, a man stepped forward brandishing a Sawn-off shotgun and shot Malcolm in the chest. He was then shot another 14 times by other assailants representing the Nation of Islam. His death led to the prominent Black Power movement.

A retrospective: Martin Luther King Jr.

‘Michael King Jr.‘ was born in Atlanta, Georgia, and was christened Michael but later had his name changed to Martin. His life was surrounded by the church as his grandfather, and father were pastors at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. In his teenage years he studied at Crozer Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania, where he did a three year course on theology, and then a doctorate at Boston University where he graduated in 1955.

“Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever. The yearning for freedom eventually manifests itself.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

He got a role as pastor at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, and this is where he began to advocate for racial equality and joined the committee of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. During his time as a protestor he was arrested over twenty times, and his home was bombed, but he was a determined man and this just encouraged him even more. The civil rights movement was getting stronger and its voice was being heard, and in 1957 he became elected president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

In 1963 the March on Washington became synonymous with the Civil Rights Movement, which saw 250,000 people gather by the Lincoln memorial in Washington D.C, America’s capital city. The world’s press were there, who took note of the various speeches by activists, and most notably the speech that made Martin Luther King, Jr infamous.

“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, sons of former slaves and the sons of former slaveowners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood. I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice. I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today!” – Martin Luther King, Jr

In 1964, at just 35 years old, King became the youngest man to be awarded the Nobel Peace prize for his contributions to racial equality through non violent methods. The United States of America created a landmark moment when the Civil Rights Act of 1964 essentially made discrimination illegal. There’s just too much to quote as it’s an extremely lengthy, but to put it simply, it outlawed public segregation, and made employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion or sex against the law.

“That old law about ‘an eye for an eye’ leaves everybody blind. The time is always right to do the right thing. – Martin Luther King, Jr

In Memphis, Tennessee, April 4th, 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr was staying at the Lorraine Motel. ‘James Earl Ray‘ fired a rifle containing a .30 bullet at King when he was stood on the balcony of the second floor of the motel.

“The bullet entered through King’s right cheek, breaking his jaw and several vertebrae as it traveled down his spinal cord, severing his jugular vein and major arteries in the process, before lodging in his shoulder” – Wikipedia

He was rushed to the local hospital, but surgeons were unable to save his life and he died just over an hour after he was shot. King instantly became a Martyr to the Civil Rights Movement across the world, as he died for his passion and his beliefs.

A retrospective: Nelson Mandela

‘Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela‘ was a South African politician, philosopher, revolutionary and anti-apartheid demonstrator, and he was a socialist who served as the first black South African President from 1994 to 1999 after his release from prison. Nelson had a long and complicated life which I will discuss further.

“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion.” Nelson Mandela

Nelson was born to a village chief, and was born and raised in Mvezo, South Africa, and belonged to the Thembu dynasty, and was baptised at the local Methodist church. His father died at the age of 12 and he was adopted by the regent of the Thembu people, chief Jongintaba Dalindyebo, and lived the remainder of his childhood at the royal residence in Mqhekezweni.

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” – Nelson Mandela

When he reached adulthood he studied law, and upon getting his degree he practised being a lawyer in Johannesburg. This is when he became involved with politics and decided to join the opposition to the racially motivated, white supremacist government, and he secretly joined the South African Communist Party, where he began to promote social rights for black citizens of South Africa, and he joined the African National Congress in 1942.

“I detest racialism because I regard it as a barbaric thing, whether it comes from a black man or a white man.” Nelson Mandela

Initially he peacefully protested against the discrimination and racist tactics of the South African white government, and he created a law firm with his friend Oliver Tambo to represent underprivileged blacks who were caught up in protests. For almost 20 years Nelson and his comrades held rallies and protested peacefully but it was futile, and it was decided that guerilla style tactics was more effective against the worsening apartheid, and he co founded the Umkhonto we Sizwe. In 1963 this came to an end when he was charged with political offences and sentenced to life imprisonment.

“Religion is one of the most important forces in the world. Whether you are a Christian, a Muslim, a Buddhist, a Jew, or a Hindu, religion is a great force, and it can help one have command of one’s own morality, one’s own behavior, and one’s own attitude.” – Nelson Mandela

During his time in prison he reached legendary status and became an icon for black resistance against South Africa’s apartheid regime. He spent 27 years in prison, and after much international public and political protests, the new President of South Africa, Frederik Willem de Klerk announced his release date. Even after his release his ways didn’t change. He was considerably older, and much more educated as he’d studied a bachelors in law during his time in prison, but he still insisted on protest and fought for the rights for blacks to vote.

“As long as poverty, injustice and gross inequality persist in our world, none of us can truly rest.” – Nelson Mandela

In 1993 both Nelson and de Klerk were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace prize for ridding South Africa of apartheid, and they negotiated the country’s first multiracial elections. In 1994, during a democratic election, Nelson was inaugurated as the country’s first black president, with de Klerk as Vice President. This was the end of years of struggles and inequality for black citizens of South Africa, and Nelson Mandela had successfully turned a page in African history. In 1999, at the age of 82 he retired from politics , but didn’t leave the public arena until he was 92, and in 2013, age 95 he passed away at his home in Johannesburg.

July 18th, Nelson’s birthday, became internationally, Mandela day which was created to promote world peace and unity. Not only did he bring peace, but he brought equality, especially by bringing women into the political arena which had never been seen before since South Africa began. As well as equality and rights, he brought education to rural Africa, and led a fight against the life taking disease AIDS.

“The Mandela Day Global Network is a community of organisations, government, corporates and individuals that partner with the Foundation to drive Mandela Day and pursue its objectives. It is a base for the strategic partnerships of organisations with common goals aimed at globally coordinating efforts, sharing information and linking the needs to resources.” – MandelaDay