Will the pandemic, as many assume, be followed by a boom? Probably, but those who connect the 1918 pandemic to the Roaring Twenties ignore the far greater cultural impact of World War I’s 20 million dead and events of 1919, 1920 and 1921. One of the most difficult years in American history, 1919 saw a Red Scare, beatings and lynchings of returning Black soldiers, a race riot in Chicago and related unrest in 25 other cities, the collapse of agricultural prices, an attempted assassination on the U.S. attorney general, violent strikes that paralyzed coal mines and steel factories, a police strike in Boston (Calvin Coolidge’s response earned him the vice presidential nomination), and a general strike in Seattle. Then came a serious recession in 1920 and 1921. Only after all this did the 1920s roar.

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