& Terms in
Fasttrack to America's Past
Section 7: Becoming a World Leader
|Allied Powers - the alliance of
Russia, and a number of other countries in World War I. They
against the Central Powers, headed by Germany. The U.S. entered
war in 1917 on the side of the Allied Powers, helping achieve victory
Allies - In World War II, the Allies included the U.S., Great Britain, France, the Soviet Union (Russia) and other nations. The Allies fought against and defeated the Axis nations (Germany, Italy, and Japan).
appeasement - the common term for the policy
of the British and the French governments in the 1930s as Hitler and
started making aggressive moves against other nations.
Axis - the alliance of Germany, Italy, and Japan in World War II. Their aggression against other nations in the 1930s caused the war.
Babe Ruth - nickname of George Ruth, a famous baseball player of the 1920s whose energy and hard-drinking lifestyle reflected the spirit of the “Roaring Twenties.” Ruth set a number of batting and pitching records that made him one of the sport’s truly immortal heroes. He played much of his career with the New York Yankees, and helped lead the team to seven world series pennants.
bank run - a situation in which a large number of
at a bank rush to withdraw their money at the same time, usually
of rumors the bank is in financial trouble. Since banks lend out
most of their deposits to earn interest, they may be unable to cover
by large numbers of depositors on short notice.
Battle of Britain - the air war over Britain
after the fall of France in 1940. The Nazi leaders planned to
England, but first had to defeat the (British) Royal Air Force.
the height of the fighting, more than 200 German bombers hit the city
London every night for two months.
blitzkrieg - the “lightning war” strategy of the German army in World War II. This strategy called for a very rapid attack that made it difficult for the other side to organize a defense. Typically, airplanes went in first for bombing attacks, followed by tanks and motorized troop carriers. The strategy was designed to avoid the pattern of fighting common in World War I, when each side dug long lines of trenches and neither side could easily advance on the other. Blitzkrieg proved to be a very effective strategy.
Central Powers - the alliance of Germany, Austria-Hungary, the Ottoman Empire (Turkey), and a number of other countries in World War One. They were defeated by the Allied Powers.
Winston - Prime Minister of England during most of World War
He had tried to warn the British for many years of the threat of
rise, but his warnings went mostly unheeded until war broke out.
Once in office, he rallied the British people to keep up the fight
the Axis powers even as cities like London came under heavy air attack
from German planes.
Clayton Act - a law passed in 1914 that helped establish a solid legal basis for labor unions, and outlawed business practices that often led to the creation of monopolies. The law was among the most important of the Progressive movement. It said labor unions were not subject to antitrust laws aimed at big business, and said federal courts could not issue injunctions (orders) against peaceful strikes, picketing, or union meetings.
War - the struggle for dominance in the decades after 1945 between
Russia and other communist countries on one side, and America and other
free nations on the other.
- a form of socialism that embraces revolution and the violent
of the capitalist system. Like other modern forms of socialism,
began in the mid-1800s as a reaction to the oppressive conditions often
endured by workers as the Industrial Revolution spread in Europe and
Communists analyzed these conditions as a kind of “war” between the
owning class and the factory labor class that was emerging at that
conservation - the effort to preserve and protect wildlife and natural resources from destruction or erosion. The movement dates back at least to 1872, when the nation’s first national park, Yellowstone, was created. Theodore Roosevelt is famous for promoting public interest in conservation, and tripled the number of acres of land set aside for national forests. In modern times, the term “environmental” has almost replaced “conservation” in the language.
containment - the common term for the U.S. policy after World War II aimed at stopping the spread of communism. The policy was put into effect in many ways. The Marshall Plan and other foreign aid programs were aimed at building strong economies in other countries, so people there would not be tempted by the promises of communist propaganda. America became involved in wars in Korea, Vietnam, and Central America mainly to challenge attempts by communists to spread their system by violence.
D-Day - code name for the massive landing of
the beaches of Normandy, France, in 1944 to reclaim Europe from
by Germany. Over 175,000 troops involved in the landing were
across the English Channel to landing sites along 60 miles of the
depression - a long and serious drop in a nation’s economy, usually accompanied by job layoffs and factory closings. A less severe drop is called a recession. The very severe drop of the 1930s is called the Great Depression.
Dust Bowl - a common name for the region around Oklahoma hit by severe drought and blowing dirt in the early 1930s. The lack of rain killed crops, leaving the soil exposed to wind erosion. At times, “black blizzards” would darken the sky, and drifts of dirt would pile up against cars and houses. Many farmers in the region packed up and headed to California, and were given the nickname, “Okies.”
Earhart, Amelia - the famous woman aviator whose
exploits inspired women of the 1930s. In 1932 Earhart became the
first women to pilot a plane across the Atlantic alone. Other
feats kept her in the headlines, and in 1937 she began an attempt to
around the world. Earhart, her navigator, and her twin-engine
disappeared in the Pacific, however.
Ellington, Duke - an African-American band leader and composer of jazz who rose to fame in the 1920s and 1930s. He was one of the originators of “big band” jazz sound that led to the swing era in music.
Espionage Act/Sedition Act - two laws passed by
World War I that were used to intimidate or jail critics of American
involvement in the war. (Espionage means spying; sedition means
or writing against the government.)
fascism - Fascism is the brutal and aggressive
that was developed in the 1920s by the Italian dictator Benito
and embraced by Adolf Hitler. It features an almost maniacal
of state power and the glorification of its leader. War is seen
a good and natural outcome of a strong national spirit. Political
opponents are typically answered with arrests and beatings instead of
A strong emphasis is placed on maintaining order, and there is a strong
suspicion of education and ideas that might challenge the government.
Federal Reserve System - the national banking
set up by
Woodrow Wilson in 1913 to improve the government’s ability to maintain
a stable money supply. The system was a key Progressive movement
achievement because it took control of the nation’s banking system away
from private individuals and put it under a mixture of government and
Federal Trade Commission - a federal agency established by Congress in 1914 with the power to investigate and stop unfair business practices. The law is a good example of the Progressive movement’s efforts to expand the power of the federal government to regulate private business. The commission did not take very strong action at the time against business problems, however, in part because people appointed to the commission often shared the views of big business themselves. The commission still exists today, and deals with various business and consumer issues.
flappers - a term for young women of the 1920s who adopted a wild new style of clothing and behavior that included short skirts, short hair, and a determination to have a good time while the good times rolled. At a time when tradition set a reserved and dignified style as the ideal for respectable young women, the flapper broke the pattern.
Great Migration - the movement of thousands of
from the South to northern cities that started during World War
As the armaments (weapons) factories expanded to meet the needs of the
war, job shortages developed. Blacks frustrated by race relations
in the South were especially eager to take these jobs. The
continued into the 1920s and even beyond.
Harlem Renaissance - a flowering of art, music, dance, and writing by African-Americans in New York City that began in the 1920s. Harlem had become a large black neighborhood, and the excitement of the years after World War One helped spark the movement. Poet Langston Hughes and the singer-actor Paul Robeson (of “Old Man River” fame) are among the names associated with the Harlem Renaissance.
Adolf - the dictator who led Germany to brutal attacks on
countries of Europe, starting World War II in 1939. Hitler was
in Austria, but moved to Germany as a young man and served in World War
I. After the war, he rose to leadership position in the Nazi
and began spreading his ideas about the racial superiority of the
Aryan race. At the same time, he preached hatred against Jews,
blamed them for the defeat of Germany in Word War I.
Holocaust - a common term for the murder of an
million Jews in Europe by the Nazis during World War II. Another
six million people were also murdered, but the term Holocaust
refers to the deliberate effort to exterminate the Jews.
Hoover, Herbert - the president of the
U.S. when the
hit in 1930. Hoover’s inability to solve the economic crisis
the resentment of angry citizens who lost jobs and homes. His
was adapted to create the term “Hoovervilles” for the shanty towns of
people that sprang up outside many cities. Pants pockets turned
were termed “Hoover flags.”
imperialism - Imperialism is the dominance or
of a weaker
country by a stronger country for the stronger country’s benefit.
income tax - a tax paid to the federal government on personal income. The income tax was adopted in 1914 as a Progressive movement reform aimed at shifting more of the tax burden to wealthier Americans. Although it was a small tax on the wealthy at the time, it has since grown to be a fairly hefty tax paid by most working Americans. It is still a progressive tax, which means that the tax rate goes up on higher incomes. Most middle class Americans today pay at a rate of about 15 percent of their total income.
isolationism - the belief that America should not
in trouble in other parts of the world. This attitude was
strong in the years before America got involved in World War I, and
in the years before World War II. The attitude was especially
in the 1930s because of the memory of the destruction caused by World
internment - the forced relocation of Japanese Americans living
along the West Coast of the United States during World War II.
Those who could not move elsewhere on their own were moved to specially
built camps away from the coastal areas. There was a fear that
Japanese spies could easily hide in the large Japanese American
communities and report on ship movements. Many Americans today
consider this to be a disgraceful moment in American history, while
others see it as an unfortunate but necessary action during
wartime. In the 1980s, Congress passed a law apologizing for the
internment program, and gave $20,000 to each person who was forced to
relocate to one of the camps.
Jungle, The - a famous book by Upton Sinclair that exposed shocking conditions in the meat packing industry in the early 1900s. The book helped gain President Theodore Roosevelt’s support for passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act.
Ku Klux Klan revival - the revival of the KKK in
1920s as racial tensions rose in the U.S. The KKK had faded after it
other groups succeeded in driving blacks out of politics in the South
the Civil War. The new Klan was national in scope, and opposed
Catholics, and many other groups as well as blacks.
of Nations - the organization of nations that Woodrow Wilson
at the end of World War I as part of his Fourteen Point Plan.
called it “the only hope of mankind.” The League was formed, but
the U.S. did not join, in part because of a return of isolationist
in America. Most Americans simply wanted to avoid getting
in European affairs.
Lend-lease - a program pushed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1941 to “loan” supplies and weapons to countries fighting against Germany. England was especially desperate for help, and was running out of money. Congress approved the plan, which allowed America to exchange war materials for the right to use certain Allied military bases. By the end of the war, the U.S. contributed over $50 billion in supplies and equipment, some of which was eventually repaid by the recipient countries.
Lindbergh, Charles - the first man to fly an airplane alone across the Atlantic Ocean from New York to Paris. “Lucky Lindy” became a national celebrity after the 1927 flight. His instant popularity reflects the 1920s taste of the era for anything daring, risky and bold.
Lusitania - the famous British ship sunk by a German U-Boat (submarine) in 1915. Almost 1,200 lives were lost, including 128 Americans. The outcry helped shift public opinion in America against Germany and toward involvement in World War I. Germany defended its action with the claim that the ship was carrying arms as well as passengers.
Manhattan Project - the code name during World War II for the American effort to develop an atomic bomb. Much of the work was done at the specially created secret cities of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and Los Alamos, New Mexico. Two of the bombs created by the project were used against Japanese cities to end the war.
Marshall Plan - the plan adopted by the United
War II to help European nations get back on their feet. The plan
was proposed in 1947 by Secretary of State George C. Marshall.
in Europe had grown desperate, and American leaders feared this would
them easy targets for a takeover by communist political parties.
Model T - the most famous of the early automobiles
by Henry Ford. It was introduced in 1908, and became a hit with
who nicknamed it the “Tin Lizzie.” The car was built on a moving
assembly line system, which enabled Ford to sell the car at a very low
price, at one point under $300.
monopolies/trusts - A monopoly is a business that
has total or almost total control of the market for a product. A
trust is form of business organization in which
are joined and managed as if they were one giant company, often
creating a monopoly. They
illegal today, but were common in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
To form a
shareholders of several companies turn over their shares to "trustees"
who manage and coordinate the separate companies. The trust has
power to bargain with suppliers and create efficient, large-scale
It can also avoid the costs of competition.
Jones - the affectionate nickname given by miners to Mary Harris
a union organizer in the late 1800s and early 1900s who fought for the
rights of workers. Jones was an Irish immigrant whose husband, an
iron worker, died in 1867. She became involved in the labor
in the 1870s, and traveled to mining camps around the country to speak
for miners’ rights.
muckrakers - reporters and writers in the late 1800s and early 1900s who exposed problems in American society like child labor, sweatshops, corruption in politics, and dangerous food. Jacob Riis (How the Other Half Lives), Ida Tarbell (The History of the Standard Oil Company), and Upton Sinclair (The Jungle) are among the most famous. Today they would be called investigative reporters.
Benito - the dictator who seized power in Italy in 1922 as
of the Fascist Party. Mussolini liked to boast that he would make
the Mediterranean Sea into an “Italian lake.” By that he meant he
would expand Italy into an empire large enough to rival ancient
Italians were swept by his theatrical speeches and assurances that
would once again be a great power. Like Hitler, he rose to power
by playing off of fears caused by the chaotic conditions and economic
caused by World War I.
NAACP - the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, formed in 1909 to fight racism and discrimination against African-Americans. The organization was founded by W.E.B. Du Bois, a prominent black leader, Ida B. Wells, a famous black woman journalist, and others. The organization favored taking a more active stand against segregation and other unfair treatment. It remains the best known civil rights organization in the U.S.
NATO - the North Atlantic Treaty
formed in 1949 as a defensive alliance by the U.S., Canada, and many
countries worried about the threat of the Soviet Union. In this
the member nations pledged that an attack against one would be
an attack against all.
Nazi - the political party that carried Adolf Hitler to power in Germany in the 1930s. It is short for National Socialist German Workers’ Party. The party name is somewhat misleading, however. While the Nazis and socialists both sought a central government with wide powers, the Nazi political philosophy was actually fascism. (Nazis, for example, did not seek government ownership of industry, as socialists generally favored.) Under Hitler, the Nazi government of Germany became a totalitarian state, that is, a state where the government totally controls most aspects of life.
Deal, The - the name for President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s social
economic programs aimed at ending the Great Depression. The
represented a great change in the role of the federal government in
life. During these years, for example, the government became
involved in creating jobs for millions of unemployed people. It
the first system of national “social insurance,” called Social
It began to manage, on a national scale, the output of the nation’s
New laws set limits on the length of the work week.
Panama Canal - the canal between the Atlantic and
that crosses the Isthmus of Panama. President Theodore Roosevelt
counted construction of the canal as one of his great accomplishments.
Pearl Harbor - location of an important U.S. naval base in the Hawaiian Islands. The base was attacked by the Japanese without warning on December 7, 1941. Five U.S. battleships were destroyed, but luckily the fleet’s aircraft carriers were at sea. The raid killed over 2,000 Americans, and gave the Japanese a short period in which they extended their area of conquest in the Pacific. But the attack led to America’s immediate entry into World War II, and ultimately the defeat of Japan.
Progressive movement - the movement in the late
1900s that led to widespread reforms in laws affecting child labor,
safety, taxation, workplace safety, and many other issues.
Theodore Roosevelt is perhaps the best known figure associated with the
movement, which included a wide mix of political leaders, labor union
religious leaders, businessmen, and women active in social issues.
Prohibition - the period from 1920 to 1933 when
were made illegal in the U.S. by the Eighteenth Amendment to the
The drive to ban alcohol actually dates back to the early 1800s and the
rise of the temperance movement. Supporters of the movement felt
alcohol was a leading factor in crime, child abuse, and violence
women. The effort got a powerful boost with the organization of
Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) and other religious groups.
Pure Food and Drug Act - a law passed by Congress in 1906 that placed regulations on the manufacturing of prepared foods and some medicines. The law, along with the Meat Inspection Act, was passed as writers and scientists exposed shocking facts about the way food and drugs were prepared and sold. It ranks among the most important of the laws associated with the Progressive movement. It has been greatly strengthened in the decades since.
rationing - the system set up during World War II to make sure goods in short supply were available equally to all at fair prices. Purchases of about twenty products including sugar, meat, coffee, butter, and gasoline were controlled with special government coupons. The coupons had to be turned in as the items were purchased. The system is a good example of one way Americans on the “home front” shared the sacrifices needed to help win the war.
Red scare - a common term for any period of
communist activity or influence in American life. After World War
II, evidence surfaced in Canada and the U.S. of communist spies
within government offices. In the U.S., a large-scale
from 1947 to 1951 led to the dismissal of over 200 government employees
as possible security risks. Almost three thousand others
some in protest of the secret nature of the investigations.
organization that had communist connections was ordered to register
the U.S. government.
reparations - payments that Germany was forced to pay by France and England after World War I for the war damages it had caused. The sum of money - 32 billion dollars - was so large that it was impossible for Germany to pay the full amount without badly weakening its own economic recovery.
Franklin Delano - president of the U.S. during the Great Depression
and most of World War II. Through the creation of the New Deal
and programs like Social Security, FDR brought about sweeping changes
the role of the federal government in American life that are still felt
Theodore - president of the U.S. from 1901 to 1909. Roosevelt
is famous as the first president to challenge the power of the
giants, and was nicknamed the “trust buster.”
Rosie the Riveter - a poster figure of a woman
aircraft factory who became a symbol of the women who entered the
workforce during World War II. Some five million women went to
many at steel mills and factories that involved heavy physical labor.
Sanger, Margaret - a nurse and social
worker who fought
right to distribute information about birth control in the 1910s and
Her work landed her in jail briefly, but she continued her efforts and
started the organization that later became Planned Parenthood.
Scopes Trial - a famous court case in Tennessee in
the teaching of evolution in public schools. The case pit
religious views against modern science in a contest that often took on
a circus atmosphere as it attracted a worldwide audience.
Social Security - the system of social insurance adopted during the Great Depression to provide income for retired people, widows, orphans, and others who were unable to work. The Social Security Act was passed by Congress in 1935. It marks a milestone in American history because the country clearly accepted the view that a modern industrial society should take responsibility for helping citizens who cannot work.
socialism - an economic system in which factories,
mines are owned by the government, rather than by individuals.
and wages are typically controlled by the government, which also makes
decisions about what should be produced.
Stock Market Crash - the rapid fall in stock
October 1929 that signaled a crisis in the American business world and
helped lead to the Great Depression. The worst day, October 29,
called "Black Tuesday." Within a matter of weeks, billions of
of stock value had collapsed.
Harry S. - president of the U.S. as World War II ended.
who came to office on the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1945, made
the decision to drop the atomic bomb on Japan.
trusts - see monopolies/trusts, above.
United Nations - the international organizations of nations formed as World War II ended. The UN was intended to serve as a forum for nations to discuss their disagreements, rather than resorting to war. The main U.N. offices are in New York City.
Wright, Wilbur and Orville - the two brothers from Ohio who developed the first successful airplane in 1903. The brothers were bicycle mechanics and had built up a successful business. They also spent years working with kites and wing shapes to understand the physics of flight. Their first powered airplane flew at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, and now hangs in the Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.
Woodrow - president from 1913 to 1921, he brought America into
War I and proposed the formation of the League of Nations when the
ended. Wilson was born in Virginia, the son of a Presbyterian
and showed though his life and presidency a strong sense of justice and
duty to humanity.
woman suffrage - the formal term for women’s voting rights. The organized movement to win woman suffrage dates back to the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention in New York state. The movement advanced during the late 1800s with the work of suffragettes like Susan B. Anthony. It was not until 1920 that the 19th Amendment was passed by Congress to give women full voting rights, although some states did grant women limited voting rights earlier.
Copyright 1999, 2015 by David Burns. All rights reserved.