How do immigration restrictions, the Red Scare and the Ku Klux Klan help us understand the mood of American society immediately after World War I?

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mkoren | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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The mood of Americans after World War I can be seen in responses to the Red Scare, increasing immigration, and the activities of the Ku Klux Klan.

Americans wanted to turn inward. We wanted to return to simpler days when we weren’t trying to solve all the problems of the world. The Red Scare was more of an attempt to divert attention from our economic problems after World War I than about the threat of a communist takeover. There were many strikes after World War I, and these strikes were often linked to anarchists or revolutionaries. We just wanted to lead a simple life without having to worry about problems. Thus, it was easier to blame the communists than to deal with the real issues.

There was a significant influx of immigrants from South and East Europe between 1880-1920. These immigrants had very different cultures and ways of living than the immigrants from North and West Europe. This made people uncomfortable. Also, some of these immigrants supported the ideas of communism or anarchism. We wanted a simple, “American” way of life. As different groups of people with different ways of living and with different ideas came to the United States, people became uncomfortable. It was easier to pass laws to restrict these immigrants from coming than to deal with them.

The Ku Klux Klan supported what they perceived as an "American" way of life. This was supporting white and Protestant groups and values. As more immigrants came who weren’t white and Protestant, the Ku Klux Klan tried to intimidate these groups from living in the United States. They wanted to send a message that this country wasn’t for these different ethnic, racial, and religious groups. They wanted a simple, homogeneous population that had “American” values. After World War I, Americans wanted to return to simpler and less diverse ways of living.

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