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The first radio breakthrough occurred when original station KDKA in Pittsburgh broadcasted the news of Warren Harding's election in 1920. As more and more families gathered around the early radios, commercials for products soon began popping up.

Radio broke down local accents by providing a national standard of speech. It also affected politics by carrying the words of candidates and the sound of their speaking voices, something only a small proportion of the population had ever heard before the 1920s. This development hurt squeaky-voiced politicians like Al Smith and helped great radio personalities like Franklin Roosevelt.

The Harlem Renaissance

The Harlem Renaissance (1926), with writers like Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston and musicians like Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington, expanded the urban culture of black Americans.

Marcus Garvey (1921) tried to raise money for black-owned businesses and the African American colony in Liberia. He galvanized black pride but was set up by the first black employees of the FBI and deported. For the first time, blacks and whites mingled in the nightspots. The Renaissance basketball team was the best in the world. Ongoing racism was highlighted by the death sentences of the innocent black Scottsboro Boys (1931) by an all-white jury in the South.


Question: Who was Marcus Garvey?

Answer: Garvey was an organizer who raised African American pride with plans for black owned businesses and an African colony.

Movies and their influence

Movies changed history during this period, whether it was through an overt message like The Birth of a Nation or the shared experience of just going to the movies together.

As one of the first feature films, The Great Train Robbery (1903) excited the inexperienced audience so much that some of them ducked when the train went by. The earliest movies were silent and included explanation signs; the cowboys would be galloping silently away and suddenly everything would stop for what looked like a PowerPoint slide. In 1927, The Jazz Singer contained the first synchronized dialogue (and singing) in a feature film. After sound was possible, nobody wanted to read written explanations in films again, and from then on movies could talk. A little later, color movies began to appear. Films largely replaced ethnic theater and united the country in shared dramatic experiences. Movies helped white ethnic Americans become regular Americans.

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