RECONSTRUCTION AND THE AGE OF AMERICAN IMPERIALISM
Reconstructionand the Age of American Imperialism
Civil war and reconstruction brought a significant social change tothe lives of African-Americans. Firstly, due to labor arrangements,about four million slaves gained their freedom (DuBois, 2013). Families that were separated prior andduring this period were reunited. Remarkably, more than one thousandAfrican-American schools were built and slaves started to acquireeducation. Secondly, the 14th and 15thamendments made the national government to take the initiative todefine and protect the American’s civil rights. Therepublican congress enacted law and constitutional amendments thatequalized all citizens, whether Black or White. This was byempowering the federal government. Ten years earlier, theSupreme Court had ruled that African descents could never be citizensirrespective whether they were slaves or not. However, the 14thamendment declared blacks as citizens, and the federal laws protectedthem. It stated that all people born in thecountry automatically acquired citizenship, and they all deservedequal protection. Lastly, laws changes resulted in anincredible political revolution. The 15th amendmentenabled the black men to vote, as well hold a public office. For thefirst time, a Black person held a position of political power in thestate Legislature, US Congress, School board, or in the localSheriffs. In the end, there was a profoundchange in the American race relations, in which historians view it asa genuine progress for the slaves. In addition, racial segregationended.
The Industrial Revolution had a substantial outcome on the Americanculture, because it altered all sectors, from politics to economy,and the society. Its political repercussions led to the rise ofAmerica as a global economic power. Prior revolution, workers in thefactories worked under hazardous situations. They also performedtasks that were repetitive and uncreative, unlike the typicalworkers. Besides, employers paid poorly, practiced child labor, aswell as failed to compensate workers who were injured while workingfor them. As a response, the government came up with child laborlaws, minimum wage laws, injury compensation, and safety and pensionrequirements. Further, industrial revolution led to formation oftrade and labor union to fight workers’ interest. This changed therelationship between the government, employers, and workers.
Religion and social morality played a significant role in promoting progressive reforms by encouraging peaceful and sober co-existence among members of the society. Faith-driven progressives applied religious morality to transform the society by discouraging workers’ exploitation. They also encouraged the government to uphold the notion that all people are equal hence, they deserve dignity, freedom, political rights, and economic opportunities. They applied their teaching to address public problems. For example, the catholic social teaching advocated for economic fairness and justice. It demanded its followers to fight against oppression and hardship. Faith-oriented progressives worked against redundant military aggressions and war, the concepts of materialism and individualism, and instead promoted community solidarity.
The women’s reform movement contributed to defining the progressive era. They achieved many reforms including the 19th amendment which enfranchised, been the most concrete. They advocated for women’s rights. They also influenced the federal government to oversee issues of health, sanitation, education, working conditions, wages, and social welfare. Their reforms in during progressive era were evident in the government, Women’s and Children’ Bureau in the Department of Labor. Despite the challenges they were facing, women reformers definitely improved the lives of many Americans, as well as expanded the role of women in the politics, economy, and society.
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) also playeda key role in the progressive era. It established the overtime pay,minimum wage, working hours, recordkeeping, and other factors thataffected employees. Its aim was to diminish the oppressive workingconditions.
The progressive movement ratified four constitutional amendments and reforms to protect the rights of workers. They included the 16th, 17th, 18th, and 19th which introduced federal income tax, allowed direct U.S senator elections, established prohibition, and allowed women voting right respectively. According to Du Bois (2013), these reforms expanded the government and restored the Americans dream values.
American imperialism had a great influence in various conflictsincluding Hawaiian Annexation and World War 1. Hawaii was appealingbecause it was a stopping point between China and America. By 1820,the merchants were already making contact there, and thirty yearslater, a movement to annex the islands emerged. Themissionaries had also started to spread their faith here. Because ofsugar trade, American government had also acquired a grip in Hawaii.It provided generous terms to the cane growers, which made them earnhigh profits. However, the introduction of McKinley Tariff in 1890was a turning point of the Hawaiian-U.S relations, which increasedthe foreign sugar import rates. In1893, the planters plannedto overthrow Queen Liliuokalani and requested the United States tooffer them protection. They abdicated her leaving the Americanpolitician to make decisions. An anti-imperialist, Cleveland thoughtthat Americans were unfair toward Hawaii and withdrew annexationtreaty and ordered an investigation. Although he was determined torestore the queen to her throne, the business people favoredannexation.
In addition, imperialism also contributed to World War 1. MostAmericans and business leaders supported it because they believed itwas helpful in their economy because they would trade more with manynations. Moreover, they would gain raw materials for theirindustries. Imperialism helped to shape political alliances anddiverting attention to the economic improvement. The United Statesengaged in imperialism, which enabled them to gain control over manyweak countries. They sought for raw materialsin Africa, which had large unclaimed lands. In the meantime, Russiaand Britain, which were enemies, used imperialist strategies to grabprime tracts of land in order to gain control over the mostproductive areas. In order to do so, they formed alliances to weakeneach other.
Du Bois, W.E. B. (2013). BlackReconstruction in America: Toward a History of the Part Which BlackFolk Played in the Attempt to Reconstruct Democracy in America,1860-1880.Transaction Publishers.