Wilson was correct in trying to maintain neutrality in the early stages of WWI. The US military was sorely unprepared for the scope of the European conflict. US interests were not directly threatened by the conflict. Wilson was swayed by anti-German propaganda after Britain cut Germany's transatlantic cable, thus ensuring...
Wilson was correct in trying to maintain neutrality in the early stages of WWI. The US military was sorely unprepared for the scope of the European conflict. US interests were not directly threatened by the conflict. Wilson was swayed by anti-German propaganda after Britain cut Germany's transatlantic cable, thus ensuring that anti-German war news came to the US.
Wilson also allowed major banks to provide funds to the Allies. Because of this, German war planners claimed that the US were really in favor of the Allies winning the war. Wilson did not suspend American travel on transatlantic cruise liners even after Germany declared a war zone around the British Isles. Prior to the sinking of the Lusitania, Germany took out an ad in the New York Times stating that all ships would be sunk approaching the British Isles.
Wilson thought that Americans could lead the world through moral superiority and he could perhaps broker a peace between the Allies and Central Powers, but the US had already invested too much in the Allied war effort to see them lose. Swayed by anti-German propaganda, the resumption of unrestricted submarine warfare, and the inflammatory Zimmerman note, Wilson was forced to join the Allies as an associated power in April 1917. Wilson was correct in his official stance against the war; however, he allowed political and financial events to push the country into the conflict.
Some of your classmates may take the pro-war stance, which is understandable given that Teddy Roosevelt was quite in favor of joining the war as soon as possible. You could point out a lack of US preparedness and the fact that the US had no direct interests in the war or was threatened by the Central Powers given the limited range of aircraft and submarines at the time.
African Americans left sharecropping positions in droves during WWI in order to work in factories in the North. This Great Migration would lead to racial tension in cities like St. Louis and Chicago after the war. Many African Americans resented being treated poorly by white American officers during the war but were treated better by French citizens. This led many African Americans to stay in France after the war or to campaign for rights upon returning to the US.
Women took some men's jobs during the war as men were called up for the draft. Women used peer pressure to get men to work in war industries, sign up for the draft, or buy war bonds. Women also planted victory gardens and sewed bandages for the Red Cross. Women used their expanded role outside the home during the war to pass the Nineteenth Amendment giving women the right to vote in national elections. For a follow-up post here, you could always address the role of African Americans and women in the postwar years and how these roles were affected by their contributions during the war.