|Table of Contents
Taking Sides: Clashing Views in United States History, Volume 2: Reconstruction to the Present, 16 Edition
Issue 1. Did Reconstruction Fail as a Result of Racism?
YES: George M. Fredrickson, from "The Black Image in the White Mind: The Debate on Afro-American Character and Destiny, 1817-1914", The Black Image in the White Mind: The Debate on Afro-American Character and Destiny, 1817-1914 (1971)
NO: Heather Cox Richardson, from "The Death of Reconstruction: Race, Labor, and Politics in the Post-Civil War North, 1865-1901", The Death of Reconstruction: Race, Labor, and Politics in the Post-Civil War North, 1865-1901 (2001)
George M. Fredrickson concludes that racism, in the form of the doctrine of white supremacy, colored the thinking not only of southern whites but of most Northerners as well and produced only half-hearted efforts by the Radical Republicans in the postwar period to sustain a commitment to black equality. Heather Cox Richardson argues that the failure of Radical Reconstruction was primarily a consequence of a national commitment to a free labor ideology, which opposed an expanding central government that legislated rights to African Americans that other citizens had acquired through hard work.
Issue 2. Did a “New South” Emerge Following Reconstruction?
YES: Ronald D. Eller, from "A Magnificent Field for Capitalists", Miners, Millhands, and Mountaineers: Industrialization of the Appalachian South, 1880-1930 (1982)
NO: James Tice Moore, from "Redeemers Reconsidered: Change and Continuity in the Democratic South, 1870-1900", Journal of Southern History (1978)
Ronald D. Eller describes the post-Reconstruction entrepreneurial spirit that altered the traditional rural economy of the Mountain South through the introduction of the railroad and the development of coal, iron, and lumber industries in Appalachia. James Tice Moore challenges the view that the white, Democratic political elite that ruled the post-Reconstruction South abandoned antebellum rural traditions in favor of business and commerce and concludes that these agriculturally oriented “Redeemers” actually represented a continuity of leadership from the Old South to the New South.
Issue 3. Were the Nineteenth-Century Entrepreneurs “Robber Barons”?
YES: Howard Zinn, from "Robber Barons and Rebels", HarperCollins Publishers (1999)
NO: John S. Gordon, from "Was There Ever Such a Business?", HarperCollins Publishers ( 2004)
According to Howard Zinn, the new industrialists such as John D. Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie, and J. P. Morgan adopted business practices that encouraged monopolies and used the powers of the government to control the masses from rebellion. John S. Gordon argues that the nineteenth-century men of big business such as John D. Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie developed through the oil and steel industries’ consumer products that improved the lifestyle of average Americans.
Issue 4. Were Anarchists Responsible for the Haymarket Riot?
YES: Timothy Messer-Kruse, from "Introduction and Chapter 6 of The Haymarket Conspiracy: Transatlantic Anarchist Networks", The Haymarket Conspiracy: Transatlantic Anarchist Networks (2012)
NO: Bruce C. Nelson, from "Eight Hours, Riot, and Repression", Beyond the Martyrs: A Social History of Chicago's Anarchists, 1870-1900 (1988)
Timothy Messer-Kruse challenges the traditional narrative of the Haymarket riot and concludes that the violence in Chicago on May 4, 1886, was the culmination of a thoroughly planned conspiracy by dedicated anarchists committed to the cause of violent revolution. Bruce C. Nelson believes that, while understanding the nature of the anarchist movement provides a useful backdrop for the Haymarket incident, the violence of May 4, 1886 most accurately represented a “police riot” supported by law enforcement officials, business leaders, and the mainstream press in Chicago who hoped to suppress workers’ demands for an eight-hour workday.
Issue 5. Were Late Nineteenth-Century Immigrants "Uprooted"?
YES: Oscar Handlin, from "The Shock of Alienation", Hachette Book Group USA (1973)
NO: Mark Wyman, from "Ch. 9, The America Trunk Comes Home", Round-Trip to America: The Immigrants' Return to Europe, 1880-1930 (1993)
Oscar Handlin asserts that immigrants to the United States in the late nineteenth century were alienated from the cultural traditions of the homeland they had left as well as from those of their adopted country. Mark Wyman argues that as many as four million immigrants to the United States between 1880 and 1930 viewed their trip as temporary and remained tied psychologically to their homeland to which they returned once they had accumulated enough wealth to enable them to improve their status back home.
Issue 6. Did Booker T. Washington’s Philosophy and Actions Betray the Interests of African Americans?
YES: Donald Spivey, from "Schooling for the New Slavery: Black Industrial Education, 1868-1915", Schooling for the New Slavery: Black Industrial Education, 1868-1915 (1978)
NO: Robert J. Norrell, from "Understanding the Wizard: Another Look at the Age of Booker T. Washington", Booker T. Washington and Black Progress: Up from Slavery 100 Years Later (2003)
Donald Spivey contends that Booker T. Washington alienated both students and faculty at Tuskegee Institute by establishing an authoritarian system that failed to provide an adequate academic curriculum to prepare students for the industrial workplace. Robert J. Norrell insists that Booker T. Washington, while limited by the racial climate of the day in what he could accomplish, nevertheless spoke up for political and civil rights, decried mob violence, and defended black education as a means of promoting a more positive image for African Americans in an era dominated by the doctrine of white supremacy.
Issue 7. Did the Progressives Fail?
YES: Richard M. Abrams, from "The Failure of Progressivism", The Failure of Progressivism (1971)
NO: Arthur S. Link and Richard L. McCormick, from "Progressivism", Progressivism (1983)
Richard M. Abrams maintains that progressivism was a failure because it tried to impose a uniform set of values upon a culturally diverse people and never seriously confronted the inequalities that still exist in American society. Arthur S. Link and Richard L. McCormick argue that the Progressives were a diverse group of reformers who confronted and ameliorated the worst abuses that emerged in urban-industrial America during the early 1900s.
Issue 8. Was Woodrow Wilson Responsible for the Failure of the United States to Join the League of Nations?
YES: Thomas A. Bailey, from "Woodrow Wilson Wouldn't Yield", Essays Diplomatic and Undiplomatic of Thomas A. Bailey (1969)
NO: William G. Carleton, from "A New Look at Woodrow Wilson", Virginia Quarterly Review (1962)
Thomas A. Bailey argues that a physically infirm Woodrow Wilson was unable to make the necessary compromises with the U. S. Senate to join the League of Nations and convince America that the United States should play a major role in world affairs. The late William G. Carlton believed that Woodrow Wilson understood better than any of his contemporaries the role that the United States would play in world affairs.
Issue 9. Was the Ku Klux Klan of the 1920s a Mainstream Organization?
YES: Shawn Lay, from "The Second Invisible Empire and Toward a New Historical Appraisal of the Ku Klux Klan of the 1920s", The Invisible Empire in the West: Toward a New Historical Appraisal of the Ku Klux Klan of the 1920s (2004)
NO: Thomas R. Pegram, from "Preface", One Hundred Percent American: The Rebirth and Decline of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s (2011)
Shawn Lay rejects the view of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) as a radical fringe group comprised of marginal men and instead characterizes the KKK of the 1920s as a mainstream, grassroots organization that promoted traditional values of law, order, and social morality that appealed to Americans across the nation. Thomas Pegram, on the other hand, recognizes that Klansmen were often average members of their communities, but this did not prevent most Americans from denouncing the organization’s commitment to white supremacy, xenophobia, religious intolerance, and violence as contradictory to the values of a pluralistic society.
Issue 10. Did the New Deal Prolong the Great Depression?
YES: Gary Dean Best, from "Pride, Prejudice, and Politics: Roosevelt Versus Recovery, 1933-1938", Pride, Prejudice, and Politics: Roosevelt Versus Recovery, 1933-1938 (1990)
NO: Roger Biles, from "A New Deal for the American People", A New Deal for the American People (1991)
Gary Dean Best argues that Roosevelt established an antibusiness environment with the creation of the New Deal regulatory programs, which retarded the nation’s economic recovery from the Great Depression until World War II. Professor of history Roger Biles contends that, in spite of its minimal reforms and nonrevolutionary programs, the New Deal created a limited welfare state that implemented economic stabilizers to avert another depression.
Issue 11. Was the World War II Era a Watershed for the Civil Rights Movement?
YES: Neil A. Wynn, from "Mobilizing For War: The Arsenal of Democracy and the Struggle for Inclusion and Conflict on the Home Front", The African American Experience During World War II (2010)
NO: Harvard Sitkoff, from "African American Militancy in the World War II South: Another Perspective", University Press of Mississippi (1997)
Neil A. Wynn describes individual acts of resistance and organized direct action carried out by African Americans both before and during World War II, which attempted to link the struggle against the Axis powers to the struggle for racial equality at home in order to end racial segregation and expand economic opportunities for black Americans. Harvard Sitkoff challenges the “watershed” interpretation by pointing out that, after Pearl Harbor, militant African American protest against racial discrimination was limited by the constraints imposed on the nation at war, the dwindling resources for sustained confrontation, and the genuinely patriotic response by black Americans to dangers faced by the nation.
Issue 12. Was President Truman Responsible for the Cold War?
YES: Walter LaFeber, from "America, Russia, and the Cold War, 1945-1996", America, Russia, and the Cold War, 1945-1996 (2002)
NO: John Lewis Gaddis, from "The Origins of the Cold War: 1945-1953", Russia, the Soviet Union, and the United States: An Interpretive History, 2nd ed. (1990)
Walter LaFeber argues that the Truman administration exaggerated the Soviet threat after World War II because the United States had expansionist political and economic global needs. John Lewis Gaddis argues that the power vacuum that existed in Europe at the end of World War II exaggerated and made almost inevitable a clash between the democratic, capitalist United States and the totalitarian, communist USSR and that Joseph Stalin, unwilling to accept any diplomatic compromises, was primarily responsible for the Cold War.
Issue 13. Was Rock and Roll Responsible for Dismantling America's Traditional Family, Sexual, and Racial Customs in the 1950s and 1960s?
YES: Jody Pennington, from "Don’t Knock the Rock: Race, Business, and Society in the Rise of Rock and Roll", Cracking the Ike Age: Aspects of Fifties America (1992)
NO: J. Ronald Oakley, from "God's Country: America in the Fifties", God's Country: America in the Fifties (1990)
Jody Pennington believes that the emergence of rock and roll in the 1950s along with new forms of consumerism expressed “the inner conflict between conservative and rebellious forces for high school teenagers who wanted to rebel against their parents yet still grow up to be them.” J. Ronald Oakley argues that although the lifestyles of youth departed from their parents, their basic ideas and attitudes mirrored the conservatism of the affluent age in which they grew up.
Issue 14. Did President John F. Kennedy Cause the Cuban Missile Crisis?
YES: Thomas G. Paterson, from "When Fear Ruled: Rethinking the Cuba Missile Crisis", New England Journal of History (1995)
NO: Robert Weisbrot, from "The Missile Crisis in Historical Perspective", Maximum Danger: Kennedy, the Missiles, and the Crisis of American Confidence (2001)
Professor Thomas G. Paterson believes that President Kennedy, even though he moderated the American response and compromised in the end, helped precipitate the Cuban missile crisis by his support for both the failed Bay of Pigs invasion in April 1961 and the continued attempts by the CIA to assassinate Fidel Castro. Historian Robert Weisbrot argues that the new sources uncovered in the past 20 years portray Kennedy as a president who had not only absorbed the values of his time as an anti-Communist cold warrior but who nevertheless acted as a rational leader and was conciliatory toward the Soviet Union in resolving the Cuban missile crisis.
Issue 15. Did the Great Society Fail?
YES: Charles Murray, from "Losing Ground: American Social Policy, 1950-1980", Losing Ground: American Social Policy, 1950-1980 (1984)
NO: Joseph A. Califano, Jr., from "The Ship Sails On", Rowman & Littlefield Publishers (2003)
Charles Murray argues that the Great Society removed the stigma of poverty, blamed the system instead of the individual for being unemployed, and created a permanent underclass of inner-city African American welfare recipients. Joseph A. Califano, Jr. maintains that the Great Society programs brought about possible revolutionary changes in the areas of civil rights, education, health care, the environment, and consumer protection.
Issue 16. Did President Nixon Negotiate a "Peace With Honor" in Vietnam in 1973?
YES: Richard Nixon, from "The Vietnam Syndrome", Hachette Book Group USA (1980)
NO: Jeffrey Kimball, from "Debunking Nixon's Myths of Vietnam", New England Journal of History (2000)
Former President Richard Nixon believed that the South Vietnamese government would not have lost the war to North Vietnam in 1975 if Congress had not cut off aid. Jeffrey Kimball believes that the Nixon-Kissinger versions of the peace negotiations were designed to protect their reputations as diplomatic realists and misrepresented the truth that the failure to bomb North Vietnam into submission had produced a military stalemate by the middle of 1972 and political pressure from liberals and conservatives that forced the two men to negotiate the withdrawal of U.S. troops by early 1973.
Issue 17. Has the Women's Movement of the 1970s Failed to Liberate American Women?
YES: F. Carolyn Graglia, from "Domestic Tranquility", Domestic Tranquility: A Brief Against Feminism (1998)
NO: Gail Collins, from "Hillary and Sarah....", When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present (2009)
Writer and lecturer F. Carolyn Graglia argues that women should stay at home and practice the values of “true motherhood” because contemporary feminists have discredited marriage, devalued traditional homemaking, and encouraged sexual promiscuity. Gail Collins views the feminist movement as a work in progress that has not realized some of its more ambitious goals but which has produced a society in which women enjoy political, economic, and cultural opportunities that would have been largely unimaginable to women and men in the immediate post–World War II United States.