If you’re interested in learning about what was happening in the USA during the year 1921, this blog post is for you! We’ll cover some of the biggest political events of the year, including the inauguration of Warren G. Harding and the trial of communist leaders.
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The Rise of the Ku Klux Klan
The Ku Klux Klan (KKK) is a white supremacist hate group that was founded in 1865 in Pulaski, Tennessee. The Klan has a long history of violence and terrorism against African Americans, Jews, immigrants, and other groups that they deem to be “undesirable.” In the early 1920s, the Klan experienced a resurgence in popularity and membership. This was due in part to the release of the film “The Birth of a Nation,” which glorified the Klan, and to the fear of immigrants that was sweeping the nation. The Klan began to hold large rallies and marches, and their numbers grew exponentially.
In June of 1921, one such rally was held in Tulsa, Oklahoma. This rally turned into a full-blown riot when a group of black men attempted to stop the KKK from marching. The violence that ensued left over 300 people dead (most of them black) and over 1,000 people injured. It was one of the worst race riots in American history.
The Tulsa Race Riot was a turning point for the KKK. After this incident, their popularity began to decline and they slowly lost their influence.
The Election of Warren G. Harding
In the election of 1920, the Republican Party nominated Warren G. Harding for president and Calvin Coolidge for vice president. The Democrats nominated James M. Cox for president and Franklin D. Roosevelt for vice president. The election was largely a referendum on Wilson and the Democrats, who were seen as incompetent, says Matthew Diller, a Columbia University law professor. Harding ran on a platform of a return to normalcy and won in a landslide, with more than 60 percent of the vote.
The Teapot Dome Scandal
The Teapot Dome Scandal was a political scandal that took place in the United States in the early 1920s. It involved the secret leasing of oil reserves by the U.S. Navy to two private companies, without the approval of Congress. The leases were given in exchange for bribes paid to officials of the administration of President Warren G. Harding.
The scandal came to light after Harding’s death in 1923, and resulted in the conviction of several Cabinet members and others for bribery and conspiracy. It was one of a number of scandals that rocked the Harding administration, and helped lead to its eventual downfall.
The Death of President Warren G. Harding
On August 2, 1923, President Warren G. Harding died suddenly in San Francisco while on a western tour. The cause of death was listed as a heart attack, although it is now believed that he may have actually suffered from food poisoning. At the time of his death, Harding was widely unpopular due to a number of scandals that had arisen during his administration, and his death sparked a wave of conspiracies and rumors.
Vice President Calvin Coolidge, who was vacationing at his family home in Vermont at the time of Harding’s death, was notified of the president’s passing early in the morning on August 3. He immediately took the oath of office and became the 30th president of the United States. Coolidge would go on to serve the remainder of Harding’s term and win election to a full term in 1924.
The Ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment
The amendment reads as follows: “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.”
In May 1919, both houses of the U.S. Congress passed the amendment, and it was then sent to the states for ratification. On August 18, 1920, Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify the amendment, ensuring that it would become part of the Constitution.
The amendment did not guarantee women the right to vote nationwide—several states, including Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, and North Carolina, continued to deny women voting rights even after its ratification. It wasn’t until the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that all Americans—regardless of race or gender—received equal protection under voting laws.