The Twentieth Century Decades Project

               .  .                       

As centuries go, this has been one of the most amazing: inspiring, at times horrifying, and fascinating. Let's take stock for a moment. To name just a few random things we did in a hundred years: we split the atom, invented jazz and rock, launched airplanes and landed on the moon, concocted a general theory of relativity, devised the transistor and figured out how to etch millions of them on tiny microchips, discovered penicillin and the structure of DNA, fought down fascism and communism, developed cinema and television, built highways and wired the world. Not to mention the peripherals these produced, such as sitcoms and cable channels, "800" numbers and Websites, shopping malls and leisure time, existentialism and modernism. Against all odds, we avoided blowing ourselves up. All this produced some memorable players. Look around. There's Louis Armstrong with his horn, Charlie Chaplin with his cane, Rosa Parks staying seated on her bus, Einstein is in his study, and the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show~

Objectives due 3/20

1. Google Slide Deck Requirements

  • Significant Events That Shaped the Era
  • Politics (domestic affairs)
  • Diplomacy (foreign affairs)
  • Economy
  • Culture and Society (Technology, Music, Sports and Entertainment)

Each group will produce a Google Slide Deck that will summarize your research. Your team will present your research to the class as we begin each new unit in the 20th century beginning with the Roaring 20's and finishing in the 1970's. You will become experts and teach the class about significant events that shaped an era, politics, foreign affairs, the economy, popular culture and society. Each team member will incorporating photos, political cartoons, charts and graphs to contribute to the production of the Twentieth Century Decades Project. Carpe Diem!

The Decades Project Topics

The Jazz Age 1920-1929

The 1920s ushered in an era of great social change, general prosperity, Prohibition and what historians refer to as the Jazz Age. The popular image of the 1920's, as a decade of prosperity and riotous living and of bootleggers and gangsters, flappers and hot jazz, flagpole sitters, and marathon dancers, is indelibly etched in the American psyche. But this image is also profoundly misleading. The 1920s was a decade of deep cultural conflicts, pitting a more cosmopolitan, modernist, urban culture against a more provincial, traditionalist, rural culture. An energetic postwar mentality emerges and old traditions are challenged during the roaring 1920's. Women take bold steps toward equality and an artistic explosion occurs within the African American community that produced a wealth of music, literature poetry, dance, social discourse and visual art.

The Great Depression 1930-1939

The stock market crash of 1929 ushered in the greatest period of economic malaise in America's history. The Great Depression shaped the atmosphere for a decade; the most prosperous country on earth could not feed its own citizens. The popular culture of the 1930s was fraught with contradictions. It was, simultaneously, a decade of traditionalism and of modernist experimentation; of sentimentality and "hard-boiled" toughness; of longings for a simpler past and fantastic dreams of the future. It was a decade in which many Americans grew increasingly interested in tradition and folk culture. Beset by deep anxieties and insecurities, many Americans in the 1930s hungered for heroes. Popular culture offered many: superheroes like Superman and Batman, who appeared in the new comic books of the 1930's; tough, hard-b
oiled detectives in the fiction of Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler; and radio heroes like "The Lone Ranger" or "The Shadow". The Depression was, in certain respects, a powerful unifying experience. A new phrase, "the American way of life," entered the American vernacular. The new photojournalism that appeared in magazines like Life helped to create a common frame of reference.

The Homefront 1940-1949

When Japan bombed Pearl Harbor in December of 1941, America was a country steeped in isolationist policies and ill prepared for war. Within a matter of weeks, the country made an amazing turnover from a peacetime nation suffering the final throes of a depression to the most efficient and productive nation in the world. World War II produced important changes in American life, some trivial, others profound. One striking change involved fashion. To conserve wool and cotton, dresses became shorter and vests and cuffs disappeared, as did double-breasted suits, pleats, and ruffles. Women also substituted for men on the home front. For the first time in history, married working women outnumbered single-working women as 6.3 million women entered the work force during the war. The war challenged the conventional image of female behavior, as "Rosie the Riveter" became the popular symbol of women who abandoned traditional female occupations to work in defense industries. After the initial jubilation at the end of World War II, America faced severe domestic demographic problems and the international specter of communism and the Cold War. In response to the serious housing shortages exacerbated by the high marriage rates and subsequent baby boom of returning soldiers and the girls they left behind, the Truman administration created the GI Bill, which enabled veterans to secure low interest mortgages and college educations. But the post war peace could not alleviate the growing fears of the new atomic age and the emerging Cold War.

Happy Days 1950-1959

The end of World War II brought thousands of young servicemen back to America to pick up their lives and start new families in new homes with new jobs. With energy never before experienced, American industry expanded to meet peacetime needs. Americans began buying goods not available during the war, which created corporate expansion and jobs. The baby boom was underway. The election of Dwight Eisenhower in 1952 ushered in one of the most prosperous eras in American history. The shortages of the war were a distant memory as consumers rushed to spend their wartime savings on the new homes, cars and appliances that were now abundant. During the 1950s, a sense of uniformity pervaded American society. Conformity was common, as young and old alike followed group norms rather than striking out on their own. Men expected to be the breadwinners; women, even when they worked, assumed their proper place was at home. The nuclear family as the haven from political and atomic anxiety depended on rigid gender roles and consumption, and television provided the images of themselves that Americans wanted to see. Television contributed to the homogenizing trend by providing young and old with a shared experience reflecting accepted social patterns. But the expanding economy and domestic bliss could not alleviate the growing hysteria of the new atomic age, and a demagogue from Wisconsin, Senator Joseph McCarthy, harnessed this hysteria for his personal political success. Beneath the complacency of the era lurked the indicators of a society waiting to rebel, and the realties of a nation divided by racial and class conflicts. A number of writers, members of the so-called "beat generation," rebelled against conventional values. Stressing spontaneity and spirituality, they asserted intuition over reason, Eastern mysticism over Western institutionalized religion. The "beats" went out of their way to challenge the patterns of respectability and shock the rest of the culture.

Poisoned Dreams

Some call the 1960s the era of peace and love while others view it as the decade of discontent. The "Psychedelic Sixties" broke the rules in every conceivable way from music to fashion, to manners and mores. Boundaries were challenged and crossed in literature and art; the government was confronted head-on for its policies in Vietnam; the young embraced the cause of civil rights. The first few years of the 1960s promised a greater, stronger and more unified America than ever. The United States, as the undisputed leader of the free world, straddled the globe like Colossus. But within a few years the optimism of the first years of the decade would vanish, only to be replaced by the uncertainty of a new and unfamiliar world, and the national mourning of a fallen leader. In the years that followed the assassination of John F. Kennedy the United States stood on the brink of domestic conflict and entrenched in the quagmire of the Vietnam War. The years 1963 through 1968 remain some of the most violent and destructive years of American history. Major events of those turbulent years, including the murder of three civil rights workers in 1964, Freedom Summer, student protest and the Students for a Democratic Society, Lyndon Baines Johnson's Great Society, the counterculture, the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy, and the 1968 Democratic convention.

The Unraveling 1970-1979

The 1970s were a tumultuous time. In some ways, the decade was a continuation of the 1960s. Women, African Americans, Native Americans, gays and lesbians and other marginalized people continued their fight for equality, and many Americans joined the protest against the ongoing war in Vietnam. In other ways, however, the decade was a repudiation of the 1960s. A New Right mobilized in defense of political conservatism and traditional family roles, and the behavior of President Richard Nixon undermined many people's faith in the good intentions of the federal government. By the end of the decade, these divisions and disappointments had set a tone for public life that many would argue is still with us today.

Decades Project Rubric