If you have ever taken an American History class, you have probably studied Prohibition. During this period, from 1919 to 1933, the manufacture, sale and transportation of alcohol were banned across the United States due to the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution.
Though Prohibition did not begin until 1919, its roots were planted in the 1840s. It was during this time that many temperance groups began to form and gain momentum. The temperance movement was originally meant to moderate the consumption of alcohol. The movement then changed its focus and began pushing for total abstinence of alcohol consumption.
The temperance movement did see some success: Maine banned the sale and manufacture of alcohol in 1851. However, due to the civil war, the movement began to lose its strength.
After the civil war, the temperance movement was given a second life by groups such as the Prohibition Party and the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. The groups used education to spread the word about prohibition.
Kansas became the first state to ban alcohol in its Constitution, with many other states, particularly in the South, following suit.
In 1917, a resolution to add an amendment to the Constitution that would ban liquor was introduced into the 65th United States Congress. The resolution was passed by both houses in December of that year. The 18th Amendment was ratified by 36 of the 48 states on January 16, 1919. Prohibition officially began in January 1920.
During prohibition, the amount of crime grew in many cities as the mafia developed a profitable, but oftentimes quite violent, black market for liquor. The racketeering became so widespread that many law enforcement agencies were corrupted by crime.
Prohibition was repealed in 1933 after the ratification of the 21st Amendment. This amendment gave states the right to regulate or ban the sale of liquor. However, even after the 21st Amendment was passed, several states still enforced prohibition laws, and Mississippi was the last state to repeal prohibition laws in 1966. Even today, there are several counties or townships where alcohol may not be sold, though it may be consumed privately.
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