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World War I: Homefront

AP.USH:
KC‑7.2.I.C (KC)
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KC‑7.2.II.A.i (KC)
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KC‑7.2.II.B.i (KC)
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KC‑7.2.II.C (KC)
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MIG (Theme)
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Unit 7: Learning Objective G
World War I led to many changes at home for the United States. As international migration slowed considerably, the availability of wartime factory jobs led half a million African Americans to leave the South and move to northern and western cities for work. But the US government also stifled dissent during World War I with restrictions on freedom of speech and antiwar protest.

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  • leaf green style avatar for user vicky o'connor
    It was suggested that we read Wilson's speeches. Does anyone have any idea if these are on the Khan site? Any ideas how they might be found?
    (4 votes)
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  • boggle yellow style avatar for user Emma
    At she says that “Propaganda campaigns strongly linked patriotism with unquestioning support of the American Government and of Capitalism.”
    I don’t understand why the propaganda campaigns were linked to supporting capitalism…?
    (3 votes)
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  • piceratops ultimate style avatar for user Kevin S.
    If the French treated the 369th regiment so well why didn't they just stay in France instead if they saw that serving in the war didn't help them?
    (2 votes)
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    • aqualine ultimate style avatar for user Ben McCuskey
      It's possible that the 369th regiment was composed of patriotic Americans who served their country and then returned home to the country they loved even if that country didn't treat them as if they were equal to their fellow citizens who were not people of color. It's also possible that concept may be hard to understand for those who have never had to experience that reality. I know I've been lucky to not have to deal with that reality, but it doesn't mean it's not reality. I guess we all have to decide if we want to open our eyes and recognize systemic inequalities or just keep the blinders on because things may be working out for some of us.

      It may be easier for those who have the advantage to justify the status quo and casually and callously and smugly and selfishly dismiss current inequalities, but is it the right thing to do? And when some people say, "America, love it or leave it" are they really patriots who love their country or do they really just want to preserve their preferred status and not really care about the freedom and equality all of citizens but just want to be one of the winners? Are those people really "Americans" who share the belief that "all men are created equal" and that they "are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights" and "that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" or are they just people who care about themselves and have no real values other than self-interest?
      (3 votes)
  • female robot ada style avatar for user Raleigh
    Why did Wilson literally go back on his word? was it so he could remain in office?
    (2 votes)
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  • male robot johnny style avatar for user Cameron Porter
    Why did we back communism, then fought them like 1970's and the power war ( cold war )
    (1 vote)
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    • mr pants purple style avatar for user The Purple Bear
      The US did not "back" communism, we just allied with a communist power, the USSR. The US was a capitalist state and after the war tried to convince the USSR to hold elections. Instead, Stalin intensified his regime and took control of surrounding areas, and turned them into communist states. This lead to tension and to the Cold War.
      (3 votes)
  • blobby green style avatar for user glozano634
    Why weren't the black soldiers were send home instead of having to join the victory celebration when the war ended.
    (1 vote)
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  • piceratops seed style avatar for user Stephen
    what had the biggest impact upon the home front of the United States during WWI?
    (1 vote)
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  • male robot johnny style avatar for user malhas5949
    How did World war 1 impact the Home front?
    (0 votes)
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    • male robot hal style avatar for user Miles Urbano
      WW1 impacted the Homefront by opening new job possibilities and a chance of a better life for African Americans which led many of them to migrate to northern and midwestern cities. Also, the war allowed many African Americans and Immigrants to advance their social status by contributing to war efforts. Immigrants who displayed great acts of patriotism and support of the US in the war were ways they could show that they were American and be accepted by the American society.
      (1 vote)

Video transcript

- [Instructor] In 1917 the United States entered World War I on the side of the allies. After several years of neutrality, Woodrow Wilson, who was serving as President of the United States at the time, even campaigned for reelection on the slogan: He kept us out of war. But, less than a month after his second inauguration, Wilson went before Congress to ask for a declaration of war against Germany. It wasn't easy to achieve an abrupt about face from a country that was determined not to become involved in the conflict to a country that was wholly dedicated to the war effort. So the US Government swept into action to convince everyone to support the war. The new committee on pubic information churned out propaganda to convince people to war bonds and to keep soldiers well supplied with food and weapons. Propaganda campaigns strongly linked patriotism with unquestioning support of the American Government and of Capitalism. Dissenters were not just called Un-American, they were also in danger of being arrested or deported under new laws that restricted freedom of speech. For many immigrants and African Americans in this time period, the home front during World War I, offered both new opportunities and great dangers. One major opportunity brought on by World War I was the prospect of better jobs for African Americans. The war slowed down immigration to about a tenth of what it had been previously. Since torpedo's made the Atlantic a dangerous place for ships. The sudden drop in immigrants and the need to produce war material led to an explosion in the number of factory jobs that were available to black workers. In the decade that surround World War I, half a million African Americans left the South and headed for Northern and Mid-Western cities in a mass exodus known as the The Great Migration. Even though black factory workers didn't enjoy anything, like the wages or privileges afforded to white workers, they still could make more money in the North than they could as share-croppers in the South. In the North they also had the right to vote and were less likely to encounter racial violence like lynching. But, racial violence, segregation, discrimination, were still prominent fixtures of black life in the North. Several of the most deadly race riots in American History happened during this period in Northern cities. Another opportunity that World War I offered to immigrants and African Americans was the ability to boost their status in society by contributing to the war effort. Many immigrants saw displays of patriotism as a way to show they were truly American and had assimilated through the melting pot. US Government appealed to immigrants specifically to show their patriotism by enlisting, participating in parades, or buying war bonds. Take a look at this propaganda poster showing immigrants passing by the Statue of Liberty. It's written in Yiddish, the language commonly spoken Eastern European Jews. And it says: You came here seeking freedom, now you must help preserve it. And it instructs them not to waste food. So, conspicuous to displays of patriotism and other efforts to help the war, were a way that immigrants could show that they were America and therefore deserve to be treated just the same as other Americans. For similar reasons, African American leaders like, W.E.B. DuBois encouraged black men to enlist for military service hoping that serving honorably in the war would help improve the status of African Americans. Just as the service of black service had done in the Civil War. This poster celebrated the accomplishments of the all black 369th Infantry Regiment, known as the Harlem Hell Fighters, who were the first allied soldiers to engage the Germans in combat. The French Government awarded many of them the Croix de Guerre, its medal for heroism. But, despite the hopes of DuBois and others, the war time service of African Americans didn't result in any significant Civil Right's gains during the war or when they returned home. Army units were segregated and most soldiers were confined to menial duties. The Wilson Administration didn't even allow black soldiers to participate in victory parades at the end of the war. At home, failure to fully embrace American patriotism was sharply punished. In 1917 and 1918 Congress passed the Espionage Act which made it a crime to spy, interfere with the draft, or make false statements about the military. And the Sedition Act, which criminalized statements critical of the government. These laws were especially dangerous for immigrants who were more likely to advocate for Socialism and for labor unions, which were by their vary nature, a critique of the American Economic System. Thousands of people were arrested as a result of these laws for doing things like publishing newspapers or handing out pamphlets. German immigrants faced particular discriminations since they were suspected of sympathizing with, or colluding with the enemy. The push for a unified American public during the war also led to new immigration restrictions. In 1917 Congress required that immigrants pass a literacy test and after the war Congress would pass a series of new laws establishing ethnic quotas among immigrants which heavily discriminated against the new immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe. These laws were partly motivated by fears that radicals sympathetic to the Russian Revolution in which Communists took control of the Russian Government were part of a global conspiracy to undermine capitalism. There were a series of labor strikes in 1919 that seemed to confirm this suspicion leading to a crackdown on labor unions and Socialist organizations known as the Red Scare. Red was the color of the Russian Communists. Thousands more people were arrested as possible radicals and many immigrants were deported. So, World War I and the United State's response to it at home caused huge changes in the flow of people to and within the United States. The dangers of war slowed what had been a tidal wave of immigrants from Europe down to just a trickle. And the economic opportunities it brought in the form of war-time factory work led hundreds of thousands of African Americans to leave the South and head to Northern cities. But, restrictions on civil liberties and fear that immigrants might be importing radical ideas from abroad led many to define who was eligible to become an American more narrowly than before. Setting the stage for a series of cultural and political battles in the 1920s about what kind of society the United States should be in this new modern era.