Jazz Age: People and Perspectives

Jazz Age: People and Perspectives

Jazz Age: People and Perspectives

Jazz Age: People and Perspectives


This volume in ABC-CLIO's social history series, People and Perspectives, looks at one of the most vibrant eras in U.S. history, a decade when American life was utterly transformed, often veering from freewheeling to fearful, from liberated to repressed.

What did it mean to live through the Jazz Age? To answer this and other important questions, the volume broadens the spotlight from famous figures to cover everyday citizens whose lives were impacted by the times, including women and children, African Americans, rural Americans, immigrants, artists, and more. Chapters explore a wide range of topics beyond the music that came to symbolize the era, such as marriage, religion, consumerism, art and literature, fashion, the workplace, and more--the full cultural landscape of an extraordinary, if short-lived, moment in the life of a nation.


Defining any time period can be difficult. When the term Jazz Age is brought to mind, so are countless images, mostly of the 1920s: the music, fashion, Prohibition, movies, radio, and the rise of automobiles. More importantly, the words Jazz Age conjure up an atmosphere never previously before seen. For purposes of this book, the period of the Jazz Age will encompass the years 1918–1930. This range has been chosen for several reasons. First, obviously, this is the period in which jazz music gained a wide audience. Second, it is also a period in which so many changes in the country’s culture accompanied the rise of jazz music, whether or not the music had a direct influence. Third, in terms of American social history, it is a distinct period in which so much was not only happening but was also interconnected in some way.

What is meant exactly by the term Jazz Age? Is it defined solely by the musical form that gained strong popularity during the 1920s? First, we can address some conceptions and misconceptions. Typical conceptions of the Jazz Age relate to the music, fashion, social behavior, and great developments in art, literature, economics, and political battles. As far as misconceptions go, many would suggest that the Jazz Age was a time when social norms were thwarted and so-called proper behavior was suddenly thrown out the window, all because of this new form of music that many believed was corrupting long-cherished values.

The era of World War I is often considered to be an era of lost innocence, the end of the Victorian era. The common perception of Victorian society was this was a time when the Western world supposedly behaved according to a strict moral code. With the end of World War I the world entered a new age, one in which the beliefs of the past no longer seemed valid. Some people wished to hold on to the norms of the past, and some desired to move forward and embrace the sweeping changes the new era presented. The Jazz Age is the period of time in which society was emerging from a devastating period and allowing a new generation to define its own social code.

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