The Civil War in Memory: 1877 to 2013

The Civil War in Memory: 1877 to 2013

Why is 1920 one of the grand landmark years of American history?

1920 is not a “red-letter” date in the way 1776, 1812, 1861, and 1941 are. Rather, it is one of those “quiet” years that saw an enormous transition. For example, the federal census of 1920 revealed that for the first time more Americans lived in localities of two thousand persons and more than lived in smaller towns and villages. The United States was not yet a truly urban nation, but it was on its way toward that reality. The year 1920 was also when full demobilization of the World War One forces was complete and when the nation went back to a peacetime footing. And, perhaps most important, 1919–1920 was when the nation rejected its international obligations, saying it preferred to live in neutrality.

President Woodrow Wilson attempted to persuade Americans to sign on to the Versailles Treaty that ended the war, and that established the League of Nations, the world’s first true international political organization. When the U.S. Senate, the prominent leaders of which were mainly Southern, rejected the treaty, the United States embarked on almost twenty years of self-chosen isolation; 1920 also witnessed a powerful resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan.


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