In 1914, Franz Ferdinand was assassinated by a Serbian terrorist. This event started a war between Serbia and Austria-Hungary. Because each country has their own respective allies sworn to defend them, more nations became involved. Germany, Russia, France, and Great Britain were all dragged into fighting. America wanted to stay neutral, but after constant German attacks on American naval ships, people wanted revenge. In 1917, America declares war on Germany.
During the war, a government endorsed movement tried to remove anything German from America. German Americans could not speak their native language, German books were removed from libraries, German classes were removed, German music could not be played, and even specific German words were banned. Furthermore, the lawmakers illegalized any criticism aimed towards the military, the war, and the government. Anyone breaking these rules were charged hefty fines and sentenced to prison. The government even monitored the mail to check if anyone disobeyed these rules. So much for being “progressive”.
The war made an enormous amount of African Americans to move to the North. This was also known as the Great Migration. The amount of violence and discrimination that blacks faced in the South only encouraged more to move north. The North had the big cities such as Chicago, Philadelphia, and New York, which had many jobs with higher salaries. But like in the past, their endeavors were not always met with perfect results. In East St. Louis, a race riot ensued where 39 people were killed and several thousands were left without a home.
Even after the war, violence against blacks continued. Black troops arriving home from the war were met with violence from whites. In the South, seventy black soldiers were lynched and eleven were burned alive within the first year after the war ended. There were riots all over the nation, even in the North side. Battles between white veterans and black veterans went on for several days. Even in the big cities like Chicago, there was fighting between whites and blacks, which involved the use of deadly weapons. These riots raged on for nearly two weeks, which ended with thirty eight fatalities.
Even with the rest of the world at war, battles not only happened overseas, but within the country as well. During the war, German Americans had their rights restricted. Anything remotely German was destroyed. African Americans living in the South moved to the North for better jobs and less discrimination, but that doesn’t work out as planned. Even after the war, violence continued to rage on. Black troops arriving home from the war were met with violence and many were lynched. As black troops retaliated against violent white veterans, the violence only got worse. Riots continued to spread throughout the entire country which resulted in dozens of deaths. With all this corruption the country faced during this period, it’s safe to say that this was not one of America’s finest moments.
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