America in 1880-1920
The Pride and the Shame
The Populist Party Platform
The economic reforms proposed by the populists included an increase in the money supply, which would produce a rise in prices received for goods and services; a graduated income tax; and a federal loan program. The proposed governmental reforms included the election of U.S. senators by popular vote, single terms for the president and the vice-president, and a secret ballot of end vote fraud. Finally, the Populists called for an eight-hour workday and restrictions on immigration. I am proud of the Populist Party Platform because they kept alive the concept that the government is responsible for reforming social injustices.
Rails made local transit reliable and westward expansion possible for business as well as for people. The railroads brought the dreams of available land, adventure, and a fresh start within the grasp of many Americans. But accidents and diseases disabled and killed thousands of railroad laborers each year. I am proud of Transcontinental Railroads in spite of the difficult working conditions because the railroad laborers helped to transform the diverse regions of the country into a united nation.
Social Darwinism is a social philosophy, supposedly based on the biologist Charles Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection, holding that a system of unrestrained competition will ensure the survival of the fittest. Because the theory supported the notion of individual responsibility and blame, it also appealed to the Protestant work ethic of many Americans. According to Social Darwinism, riches were a sign of God's favor and therefore the poor must be lazy or inferior people who deserved their lot in life. I am ashamed of Social Darwinism because some people cant work for reasons they cant control like a disabled person for example and this philosophy is only favoring the people who are lucky or people who have more power.
In 1906, the local board of education in San Francisco segregated Japanese children by putting them in separate schools. When Japan raised an angry protest at this treatment of it emigrants, President Theodore Roosevelt worked out a deal. Under the Gentleman's Agreement of 1907-1908, Japan's government agreed to limit emigration of unskilled workers to the United States in exchange for the repeal of the San Francisco segregation order. I am ashamed of the Gentleman's Agreement because all people should be treated equal and everyone should have the opportunity to invest in the same education.
One response to the rise in immigration was nativism, or overt favoritism toward native-born Americans. Nativism gave rise of anti-immigrant groups and led to a demand for immigration restrictions. I am ashamed of Nativism because it causes many colleges, businesses, and social clubs to omit Jews and a nativist group founded in 1887 launched vicious anti-Catholic attacks.
The Americanization Movement was designed to assimilate people of wide-ranging cultures into the dominant culture. Schools and voluntary associations provided programs to teach immigrants skills needed for citizenship, such as English literacy and American history and government. I am both proud and ashamed of the Americanization Movement because it helped immigrants with skills needed for citizenship but people should not have to abandon their tradtions.
Settlement houses are community centers in slum neighborhoods that provided assistance to local residents, especially immigrants. Settlement houses soon began appearing in U.S. cities. One of the first was Hull House in Chicago, founded by Jane Addams in 1889. Addams became one of the most influential members of the settlement house movement. I am proud of Jane Addams because she helped many of people who were less fortunate.
Innovations in mass transit, transportation systems designed to move large numbers of people along fixed routes, enabled workers to go to and from jobs more easily. By the early 20th century, mass transit networks in many urban areas linked city neighborhoods to one another ad to outlying communities. I am proud of mass transit because it helped the growth of economy and people who didn't have a way to go to and from places now did which opened up new opportunities.
After working-class families left the central city, immigrants often took over their old housing, sometimes with two or three families occupying a one-family residence. These multifamily urban dwellings, called tenements, were over crowded and unsanitary. In 1879, to improve such slum conditions, New York City passed a law that set minimum standards for plumbing and ventilation in apartments. I am proud that we were trying to improve the conditions of tenements but I overall ashamed of tenements.
Prohibition is the banning of alcoholic beverages. Prohibitionist groups feared that alcohol was undermining American morals. Founded in Cleveland in 1874, the Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) spear headed the crusade for prohibition. Members advanced their cause by entering saloons , singing, praying, and urging saloon keepers to stop selling alcohol. I am proud of prohibition because alcohol is a lot more harmful then most people realize but no matter what people will always find it.
All Southern states imposed new voting restrictions and denied legal equality to African Americans. Some states, for example, limited the vote to people who could read, and required registration officials to administer a literacy test to test reading. Blacks trying to vote were often asked more difficult questions than whites, or given a test in a foreign language. Officials could pass or fail applicants as they wished. I am ashamed of voting restrictions because everyone should be given the right to vote and equal rights no matter their race.
At the same time that blacks lost voting rights, Southern states passed racial segregation laws to separate white and black people in public and private facilities. Racial segregation was put into effect in schools, hospitals, parks, and transportation systems throughout the South. I am ashamed of segregation because it is not only not fair and cruel but it also violates the Fourteenth Amendment.
Alfred T. Mahan
Seeing that other nations were establishing a global military presence, American leaders advised that the United States build up its own military strength. One such leader was Admiral Alfred T. Mahan of the U.S. Navy. Mahan urged government officials to build up American naval power in order to compete with other power nations. I am both proud and ashamed of this because the construction of modern battleships transformed the country into the worlds third largest naval power but with everyone building up their navies the tensions grew and eventually lead to battle.
By the time Roosevelt became president, many Americans, including Roosevelt, felt that the United States needed a canal cutting across Central America. In 1903, the president and Congress decided to use the Panama route and agreed to buy the French company's route for $40 million. I am proud of the Panama Canal because it greatly reduced travel time for commercial and military ships and it also ranks as one of the world's greatest engineering feats.
The Open Door Notes
The United States began to fear that China would be carved into colonies and American traders would be shut out. To protect American interests, U.S. Secretary of State John Hay issued a series of policy statements called the Open Door Notes. The notes were letters addressed to the leaders of imperialist nations proposing that the nations share their trading rights with the United States, thus creating an open door. I am proud of the Open Door Notes because it meant that no single nation would have a monopoly on trade with any part of China.
Selective Service Act
To meet the government's need for more fighting power, Congress passed the Selective Service Act in May 1917. The act required men to register with the government in order to be randomly selected for military service. I am proud of the Selective Service Act because the United States was not prepared for war and this helped.
Treaty of Versailles
The Treaty of Versailles established nine new nations and shifted the boundaries of other nations. It carved five areas out of the Ottoman Empire and gave them to France and Great Britain as mandates. I am ashamed of the Treaty of Versailles because several basic flaws in the treaty sowed the seeds of post war international problems that eventually would lead to the Second World War.
In concrete terms, the greatest effect of the First World War on African American lives was that it accelerated the Great Migration which was the large-scale movement of hundreds of thousands of Southern blacks to the cities in the North. I am proud of the Great Migration because it helped African Americans escape racial discrimination and opened up many job opportunities.