Here we are, in the year 2020. Though many people at the turn of the decade thought that 2020 would replicate the 1920s in the sense of flapper dresses and Gatsby-like parties, it ended up repeating the 20s in the complete opposite way. There are riots and protests, unease in the air, and a virus that is detrimental to humankind. One hundred years ago, in 1920, this is not what they envisioned the future to be like. Have you ever heard the phrase “history repeats itself”? Well, that statement is factual being in 2020.
According to digitalhistory.uh.edu, in the 1920s there was the Spanish Flu pandemic, racial and gender issues, and as the sitestates, “the 1920s was a decade of profound social changes”. Sounds familiar right? Now in 2020, we have the coronavirus pandemic, people fighting for equal rights, and absolute chaos worldwide.
Shouldn’t we have learned from the 1920s? There is a lesson to be taught here and it’s that you have to learn from the past. So, what could we have learned?
In the early 1900s, especially the years leading up to and during the 20s there was an outbreak of the flu, diphtheria, and polio, according to an article on healthline.com called The Worst Outbreaks in U.S. History. Also, in the article, it states that “the [influenza] virus killed most people who were infected with it”. If we listened and payed attention to pandemics throughout history, we would try our best to avoid rapid death. Unfortunately, that’s not the case in present America.
According to history.com’s article When Mask-Wearing Rules in the 1918 Pandemic Faced Resistance, the influenza pandemic killed “up to 50 million people worldwide”. As of right now, the number of deaths in America due to the coronavirus are constantly changing. According to an article by The Washington Post published on July 30, 2020, “more than 1,400 coronavirus-related deaths were reported nationwide on Wednesday-roughly one fatality for every minute of the day”. Calculating from when the coronavirus pandemic started, the numbers keep rising and will eventually get to the same number as the influenza pandemic 100 years ago.
Also with a pandemic comes safety precautions and repercussions for not following those safety guidelines. In the 1920s and the years leading up to the 20s, people resisted masks. Likewise, people are still resisting mask-wearing to this day. There is a famous photo going around that illustrates a group of people wearing masks and a member of that group wearing a sign across their chest that says, “wear a mask or go to jail”.
People often forget the importance of safety precautions during a deadly pandemic. According to a recent article from history.com, people in the early 1900s would display signs to warn people to wear masks that said, “spit spreads death” or the famous “wear a mask or go to jail”.
Despite those PSA’s, people still didn’t listen. Nowadays, people still post public service announcements but through their social medias and direct text messages in hopes that people will abide by what the CDC states, but alas that is not the case.
Along with the global pandemic, people in 2020 are still fighting for equal gender and racial rights. According to National Geographic, the year 1919 going into 1920 was a very divided time. Many African Americans fought for their freedoms as well as women.
In the National Geographic article 2020 is not 1968: To understand today’s protests, you must look further back, they said, “In 1921, white mobs, with the complicity of local police, torched Tulsa, Oklahoma’s black business district[…]killing about 300 people”. Because of this incident and many others, the African American community established organizations to defend their rights in the 1920s. Then in later years, protest began to occur and eventually they were granted some rights.
Likewise, the suffragette movement started in the years prior to World War 1. They protested for voting rights and equal rights for both men and women and eventually, after World War 1, were granted those voting rights. They too were given some rights in those times.
In both cases, the protests were not easy. African American’s were ignored, women were sexually harassed, and both groups worked hard to gain their rights.
Similar to the early 1900s, Americans are protesting in 2020 for the Black Lives Matter movement, women’s rights, LGBTQ+ rights, and many more. Though this new generation of people may be protesting for similar motives, the movements have evolved over the years and have taken a more modern approach to these everyday issues.
Though we are in a new century, all the answers lie in the past. We have to look to the past to discover how to deal with our current issues and help make the world a better place.
Alyssa Maria Cabrera is a junior journalism and musical theatre major at the University of Tampa. She has written for The Minaret, the University of Tampa’s newspaper, and has written a couple of plays, including “White Rose Pedals” which was awarded with an excellent rating at the district level of the Florida State Thespian Individual Events competition. As she continues to study the craft of journalism, she falls in love with it more and more. She hopes that she’ll be able to inspire many with her writing.