USM Open Source History Text: The World at War: World History 1914-1945

U.S. Identity in the 1920s

What was the United States in 1920? Who were Americans? Trying to figure out the identity of one person or nation is inherently a comparative, subjective, and somewhat fruitless pursuit. Such is the pursuit of the formation of "American identity" in the war and postwar years. For purposes here, I would will focus on three (intertwining) aspects of American identity: A) anti-radicalism, B) international autonomy or unilateralism, C) individualism. These elements might have transcended racial dynamics in the United States, but I would argue that they are critical aspects to the development of a specifically white nationalist identity that sought to define the national citizenry in exclusionary, intolerant terms. This white nationalism was not only targeted against black Americans, though of course black people faced the most violent and powerful oppression, but also against perceived "radical" threats like communism and anarchism, Jews, and other immigrant groups.  

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