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.