The OAH Magazine of History

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Reinterpreting the 1920s

from the editor

Revisiting the 1920s, by Phillip M. Guerty

In October 1855, William Dungey of Clinton, Illinois, hired Abraham Lincoln to bring a slander suit against his brother-in-law, Joseph Spencer. Dungey brought the action after a family quarrel escalated and Spencer began publically claiming that Dungey was “a negro.” What made the matter so serious for Dungey was that, since 1819, Illinois restricted the immigration of free blacks into the state. These restrictions remained in effect into the mid-nineteenth century. The 1848 Illinois Constitution, for instance, required the state assembly to “pass such laws as will effectively prohibit free persons of color from immigrating to and settling” in the state. To Dungey, who claimed to be of Portuguese descent, being considered legally black would have meant the loss of his property, his marriage, and his right to stay in Illinois. Read more >


Reinterpreting the 1920s,
by Lynn Dumenil
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Rethinking the 1920s: Historians and Changing Perspectives,
by David J. Goldberg
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Nationalism, Immigration Control, and the Ethnoracial Remapping of 1920s America,
by Mae M. Ngai
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Rethinking Politics: Consumers and the Public Good During the “Jazz Age”,
by Lawrence B. Glickman
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The New Woman and the Politics of the 1920s,
by Lynn Dumenil
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teaching resources

Let the Jazz Bands Blare: The Harlem Renaissance Goes to School,
by Emily Bernard
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Historical Thinking and the Scopes Trial,
by Michael O’Malley
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Beyond the Flapper: The Problem of “Snapshot” History,
by Heather Owen
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Celebrating Cultural Diversity in the 1920s,
by Diana Selig
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teaching american history with documents from the gilder lehrman collection

The Passage of the Nineteenth Amendment,
by Steven Mintz
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america on the world stage

Nineteenth-Century Religion in World Context,
by Mark A. Noll
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