United States Studies: 1865 to the Present Standard 5-3: The student will demonstrate an understanding of major domestic and foreign developments that contributed to the United States becoming a world power.
The Industrial Revolution, urbanization, and access to resources contributed to the United States becoming a world power in the early twentieth century. At the same time, discriminatory practices abounded.
5-3.2 Explain the practice of discrimination and the passage of discriminatory laws in the United States and their impact on the rights of African Americans, including the Jim Crow laws and the ruling in Plessy v. Ferguson.
It is essential for students to know:
Discriminatory laws known as Jim Crow laws were passed by all southern state governments. Like the slave codes of the antebellum period and the Black Codes of the early Reconstruction period, these laws were designed to keep the African American majority under control. Their aim was to maintain white supremacy by keeping the races socially separated and the African American in a position of social inferiority. Segregation had grown in the South since the removal of federal troops at the end of Reconstruction in 1877. Jim Crow laws called for separate facilities for African Americans in schools, neighborhoods, theaters, on trains and everywhere else mandatory. Not just segregation, but systematic disenfranchisement with tools such as the poll tax, literacy tests, and the grandfather clause. Poll taxes and voting were still seen to be a prerogative of the states based on a Supreme Court ruling in 1876, so states utilized this technique beginning in 1889 with a series of state conventions that ended in 1910 with Oklahoma that rewrote state constitutions with measures that systematically excluded African Americans from politics. These wrongs were eventfully corrected by the Twenty-fourth Amendment and the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Although these laws violated the equal protection clause of the fourteenth amendment, the Supreme Court ruled in the case of Plessy v. Ferguson  that separate facilities were legal so long as the facilities were equal. This “separate-but-equal” doctrine validated the Jim Crow laws in the South for the next six decades. The “separate” part of the phrase was enforced while the “equal” part was ignored.
Southern governments also passed a series of laws designed to limit the political rights of African Americans as guaranteed by the fifteenth amendment. State laws established a literacy test in order to vote that did not technically violate the language of the fifteenth amendment. All voters were supposed to be able to read selections from the Constitution; a policy first employed by the state of Connecticut in 1855 and followed by Massachusetts to discriminate against Irish-Catholic immigrants. This requirement was enforced for African American voters, but not for white voters. Literacy tests were first used by Mississippi in 1890 to disenfranchise African Americans.
A poll tax was imposed that was extremely difficult for poor farmers to pay, especially when it was collected months before the harvest. The other issue with the poll tax, with its average cost of between $1.00 and $1.50, was that it was grossly expensive and often cumulative due to the fact that you had to pay back taxes for the years you could have voted and did not vote. Poor white farmers were allowed to vote because of a ‘grandfather’ clause that said if their grandfather could vote, before 1870, regardless of literacy or tax qualification, then so could they. Most grandfathers of African Americans had not been allowed to vote so neither could they. By the end of the nineteenth century, few African Americans were able to vote in the South. Although African Americans protested their exclusion from public life; violence, intimidation, and lynchings by white terrorists effectively silenced most protests. Although Northern states did not pass such blatantly discriminatory laws, there was still discrimination practiced in their society. African Americans lived in racially segregated neighborhoods and were often the last hired and the first fired from jobs. Although they were able to vote, they had little political power because of their relatively small numbers until the Great Migration.
5-3.3 Summarize the significance of large-scale immigration to America, including the countries from which the people came, the opportunities and resistance they faced when they arrived, and the cultural and economic contributions they made to the United States.
It is essential for students to know:
Immigrants in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries came mainly from eastern and southern Europe. Prior to the 1890s, most immigrants came from northern and western Europe. The ‘old’ immigrants were from Anglo Saxon countries such as England, Ireland, and Germany. The ‘new’ immigrants were from Italy, the Slavic states of the Balkan Peninsula, and Russia. Many of the new immigrants were Catholics or Jews, whereas the old immigrants had been mostly Protestants. Immigration from China was significantly limited by the 1890s because of United States governmental restrictions that required that new immigrants prove that they had relatives already living in the United States. Immigration from Japan slowed because of an agreement between the United States government and the government of Japan in the early 1900s. Immigrants came to the United States because of both push and pull factors. Often they were pushed out of their home countries because of war, poverty, or discrimination. They were attracted or pulled to the United States because of promises of economic opportunity, religious freedom, and political and social equality.
In the new world, immigrants faced resistance from native-born Americans for a variety of reasons. Anti-Catholic prejudice was widespread among American Protestants who believed that since Catholics followed the authority of the Pope in religious matters, they would not be good American citizens. Americans also feared that city political bosses were manipulating the votes of their immigrant constituents and promoting corruption in city government. ‘Native-born’ Americans were prejudiced against the new immigrants because Americans believed that they were morally corrupt and associated them with drinking and radical labor politics. The anti-drinking temperance movement was largely directed against immigrants. Opposition to labor unions was, in part, the result of fear of foreign radicals. Native-born workers feared that new immigrants would take their jobs or drive down wages. Ideas such as Social Darwinism and Anglo-Saxon superiority also contributed to anti-immigrant prejudices and a movement to restrict immigration. Immigration from China was limited in the 1880s because native-born Americans did not want to compete with the Chinese for jobs. When the public schools in San Francisco set up a segregated school system for Japanese immigrant children, the resulting diplomatic confrontation with the Japanese government led to limitations on immigration from Japan imposed by the Japanese government [Gentleman’s Agreement]. Some reformers wanted to place restrictions on immigration by requiring a literacy test, just like Southerners were using to limit the political power of the African Americans. In the 1920s, immigration was restricted through a quota system that discriminated against immigrants who arrived after 1890 – the ‘new’ immigrants.
Despite this resistance, immigrants continued to find political, social, and economic opportunities in the United States. Immigrants found jobs in American factories and comfort in the ethnic neighborhoods that developed in the cities. Public schools had been established in the early 1800s as a means of assimilating immigrants into American democratic and social values. These schools provided educational opportunities for those immigrant children who did not have to work to help their families survive. Immigrants had the opportunity to vote and some were elected to political office due to the support of their immigrant communities. Others started their own businesses.
In turn, immigrants have made many contributions to the growth and development of the United States. The majority of workers who built the transcontinental railroads were Irish and Chinese immigrants. Some first generation immigrants were entrepreneurs who promoted economic growth such as Andrew Carnegie and Alexander Graham Bell from Scotland. Immigrants were actively recruited by the United States government because they supplied a great part of the labor force that helped to make the United States the world’s largest industrial power by the end of the nineteenth century. Second and third generation immigrants went to school and became doctors, lawyers, and businessmen. Immigrant groups also contributed to the political and cultural life of the nation. Immigrants turned out to vote in large numbers and exercised political influence through the political bosses and political clubs in ethnic neighborhoods. At first diversity provoked resistance from native-born Americans but eventually led to promoting tolerance and a more democratic society. Ethnic neighborhoods provided foods and customs, such as Santa Claus and pizza that gradually became part of the American culture.
5-3.4 Summarize the impact of industrialization, urbanization, and the rise of big business, including the development of monopolies; long hours, low wages, and unsafe working conditions on men, women, and children laborers; and resulting reform movements.
It is essential that the student should know: The growth of Big Business was both a cause and an effect of increased immigration. Big Business encouraged the United States government to continue an open immigration policy so that the workforce would be plentiful and cheap. Immigrants were attracted to jobs created by Big Business and enabled the businesses to grow bigger because they worked for low wages and therefore the businesses made greater profits. Big Business was also caused by the availability of natural resources (land), new inventions and technologies, capitol for investments, and the role of entrepreneurs. Men like Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller developed business practices that allowed them to create monopolies. Carnegie controlled the steel industry and Rockefeller controlled the oil industry. These monopolies kept wages low and kept labor unions from being effective.
As industries grew, the United States shifted from an agrarian economy based on agriculture to an industrial economy based on manufacturing. Farmers were able to produce more crops because of mechanization. As a result, the prices they got for their crops fell (supply and demand). Unable to pay mortgages on land and equipment because of low profits, many farmers lost their farms to foreclosure and moved to the cities in search of jobs in industry. In the late 1800s, many African American sharecroppers and tenant farmers left the South for cities in the Midwest and the Northeast in search of jobs in factories and to escape Jim Crow laws. By 1920, the majority of people in the United States lived in cities.
As cities grew due to the increase in immigration and movement from the farm, middle class Americans were concerned about the living conditions and the corruption of city governments. Crowded conditions led to problems providing sanitation. Issues related to water and housing contributed to opportunities for corruption among city officials who were often supported by their ethnic constituents. Middle class Americans lived in the cities too and paid taxes for city government. Progressive reformers advocated the establishment of city parks, beautification projects, safer housing, and sanitation. They also promoted teaching immigrants to adapt to their new country by establishing settlement houses where immigrants were taught social skills.
Progressives were also very concerned about unsafe conditions in factories and about the long hours that workers, particularly women and children, were expected to work. They did not support labor unions’ actions such as collective bargaining and strikes to address these issues. Instead they advocated the passage of laws. Conditions in the factories were publicized by the increasingly popular newspapers and magazines, illustrated with photographs showing the unsafe working conditions. Writers of exposes about corporate power and unsafe working conditions were called muckrakers, a term first used by President Teddy Roosevelt, because they exposed the corruption of the system. Reformers advocated restricting child labor and passing laws requiring that children attend school. This was in direct opposition to the wishes of many working class families who needed the income provided by their working children. Workers sometimes resented the interference of reformers in their lives. Some compulsory school attendance laws were passed at the state level, but a federal child labor law was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. The federal government did not successfully enforce child labor laws or minimum wage and maximum hours laws for workers until the New Deal reforms following the Great Depression.
Progressives were more successful at the federal level in addressing the problems associated with Big Business. Progressives feared that Big Business not only had too much control over the economy but also that trusts had too much influence over the American government. During the late nineteenth century, Congress passed a law declaring monopolies, or trusts in restraint of trade, to be unlawful [Sherman Anti-Trust Act, 1890]. However, this law did not end monopolies because the Supreme Court limited its effectiveness. When Theodore Roosevelt became president in 1901, there was an assertive progressive in the White House. The president was encouraged by muckraking writers such as Ida Tarbell, who exposed the oil trust, and Upton Sinclair, who exposed the meat-packing trust. Roosevelt began to use the old law to successfully break up trusts and earned the name “trust-buster.” Roosevelt also protected the rights of the consumer by pushing for the passage of the Meat Inspection Act and the Pure Food and Drug Act and he promoted the regulation of railroads. Presidents William Howard Taft and Woodrow Wilson continued this work and are known, along with Roosevelt, as the progressive presidents.
Progressives were also concerned about improving society by controlling the moral behavior of all Americans and particularly of the immigrants. The movement to limit the consumption of alcohol [the temperance movement] had been going on since the time of the American Revolution and got a popular boost as a result of the influx of immigrants in the late nineteenth century. Some states passed prohibition laws and others passed blue laws to limit the sale of alcohol. When World War I started, propaganda against the Germans, who were known for their beer drinking and the voluntary rationing of grain, helped progressives push through Congress a national prohibition amendment that was then ratified by the states. The eighteenth amendment outlawed the manufacture and sale of alcoholic beverages. However, it could not stop people from drinking thus promoting illegal activities such as bootlegging and speakeasies until repealed by the twenty-first amendment in the 1930s.