Prohibition


Prohibition (2011) tells the story of the rise, rule, and fall of the Eighteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the era it encompassed.

  • Women's Temperance and the Anti-Saloon League | Ken Burns: Prohibition

    View images of reformer Carrie Nation and other reformers of the prohibition era. From 1920-1933, the United States was a dry country. The 18th Amendment to the Constitution prohibited the making, transportation, and sale of alcohol. The amendment grew out of the pervasive alcohol abuse, especially among men and immigrant populations, of the 19th century. Women had few legal rights, and their lives were often ruined from dealing with alcoholic and abusive spouses. The Women’s Christian Temperance Union and the Anti-Saloon League grew out of concern for the rights of women and children, and both organizations pushed for the 18th amendment. View images of reformer Carrie Nation and other reformers of the era.

    Grades: 9-12
  • Chicago, Gangsters, Bootleggers, and Crime | Ken Burns: Prohibition

    View images of public enemy number one, mobster Al Capone, as well as other gangsters, bootleggers, and violent gangs of the era. From 1920-1933, the United States was a dry country. The 18th Amendment to the Constitution prohibited the making, transportation, and sale of alcohol. The law, as explained in the Ken Burns’ film Prohibition, “turned law-abiding citizens into criminals.” It also proved to be a lucrative business venture for gangsters and bootleggers, who took over once legitimate businesses to illegally supply alcohol to Americans. The prominence and power of gangsters during Prohibition grew as a result.

    Grades: 9-12
  • Flappers, Speakeasies, and Raids | Ken Burns: Prohibition

    View images of speakeasies, flappers, homemade stills, and liquor raids during prohibition. From 1920-1933, the United States was a dry country. The 18th Amendment to the Constitution prohibited the making, transportation, and sale of alcohol. The law, as explained in the Ken Burns’ film Prohibition, “turned law-abiding citizens into criminals.” Americans went to illegal bars, called “speakeasies,” on the sly to drink. Some made moonshine at home. The Volstead Act was created to support the enforcement of the 18th Amendment, but many police officers were bribed or became bootleggers themselves. The moral attitudes of the American public loosened. 

    Grades: 9-12
  • Politics and Culture | Ken Burns: Prohibition

    View images of famous figures of the prohibition era including William Jennings Bryan, a “dry” supporter, Fiorello La Guardia, Mayor of NYC, and critic of Prohibition, President Herbert Hoover (1929-1933) a “dry,” and more. From 1920-1933, the 18th Amendment to the constitution ruled the land. It prohibited the making, transportation, and sale of alcohol. The amendment grew out of the pervasive alcohol abuse, especially among men and immigrant populations, of the 19th century. The Women’s Christian Temperance Union and Anti-Saloon League politicized the issue, and the nation was divided between “wets” opposed to the amendment, and “drys” supporting it. 

    Grades: 9-12
  • Alcohol and the Roots of Prohibition | Ken Burns: Prohibition

    View images of 19th century breweries and saloons. From 1920-1933, the 18th Amendment to the United States Constitution ruled the land. It prohibited the making, transportation, and sale of alcohol. The amendment grew out of what was viewed as the pervasive alcohol abuse, especially among men and immigrant populations, of the 19th century. Americans on average drank seven gallons of pure alcohol each year, according to the Ken Burns documentary Prohibition. For nearly 100 years, activists and social reformers fought to improve the lives of all Americans, expand the rights of women, and protect children. These reformers supported the 18th amendment as means to social reform. 

    Grades: 9-12

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