Progressivismrefers to social movement that encompasses civil rights, labormovement, women rights, environmentalism, animal rights and politicalsystems and their influence on social justice. In the early 20thcentury, progressivism was a reform movement that was sparked byamong other factors the modernization of the American society.Progressivism had a massive influence on the social, political andcultural aspects of the American society in the first half of the20th century, and thus the term the progressive era. Forexample, it influenced democracy, public administration, efficiencyin government and human rights (Eric and Tyler, 103).
Thegreat depression was an economic recession that affected the globaleconomy in the decade between 1929 and 1939. It is considered themost intensive and longest economic downtown in the western economy.Due to the fundamental economic changes, unemployment and low outputthat resulted from the great depression, it has an importantpolitical, cultural and social influence on the American society inthe period between 1900 and 1940 (Carter, 403).
Theflappers were a bred of elegant women that emerged after the FirstWorld War in the United States and other western countries. Theflappers wore mini skirts, bobbed their hair and engaged in casualsex. They also engaged in tobacco smoking, drinking and jazz musicwas the main source of entertainment. Although their emergence islinked to the social turbulence in the roaring twenties, theytransformed the view of a woman in the American society (Baker, 27).
Eugenicsis a movement that emerged in the early 20th century inthe United States and claimed to improve the features of the humanrace through genetics and selective breeding. The movement was basedon the common ideologies of the time that considered some individualssuperior and other inferior. The movement had a lot of influence onthe American society before the Second World War as a tool ofpromoting racism and nativism ideologies by preserving the dominantrace (Eric and Tyler, 203).
Thenew deal was a domestic policy adopted by President Franklin DRoosevelt in response to the devastating economic impacts of thegreat depression. It is considered a bold and historical socialprogram which had the aim of expanding economic opportunities andenables Americans live in better homes, prosper in business and inthe long run achieve the American dream. However, the implementationof the program was influenced by the racial stratification thatexisted in America in the 1930s. Due to the institutional and formalracial inequalities, African Americans were unable to benefit fromthe program. Although the New Deal proposed welfare payment for theblacks, it did not propose any plans to end racial segregation anddiscrimination in schools, hospitals, public places and employment(Garraty, 656).
Theconcept of womanhood in the American society changed significantly inthe first half of the 20th century due to changes in theroles and position of the dominant white woman in the society. In1920, the 19th amendment of the constitution allowed thewhite woman to vote after a long fight for political equality. Thepolitical rights also gave rise to feminism movement among the whitewomen who sought success in both career and family. This created agap between the modern women of the roaring 20s and the previousgeneration women. The First World War and the rapid industrialdevelopment, which was labor intensive, increased the demand forwomen workers in factories. Also, the young woman started a claim oftheir bodies which resulted into sexual liberation of the Americanwoman. The ideas emerged among the elite young women in New York butfast spread to other parts of the United States (Baker, 14).
Thereare numerous transformations that took place in the early 20thcentury. These dramatic changes resulted into massive economic,social and economic changes. The rapidly and massive political andsocial changes had an impact on the legal system in the United Stateswhich has an influence on the racial relations in America. The ideasabout race and racial segregation that emerged in the progressive erainfluenced racial relations throughout the 20th century todate. In a bid to promote democracy and their political ambitions,American leaders in the progressive era promoted racial segregationand the superiority of the white race. For the better part of theearly 20th century, African Americans were ignored bypolitical leaders and the political systems and environment favoredthe white race (Arnesen, 45). For example, President Wilson, due tothe strong influence of his southern origin, allowed the segregationof African Americans among working in public places and building.This was also motivated by among other factors the demand by thedemocrats from the south who promoted racial segregation. As a resultof these political ideologies against the people of color, the statusof the black and other minority races in the United States declinedsteadily in the first half of the twentieth century. It is importantto note that the early 20th century was a tragic momentfor the black Americans since the highest mob lynching by whiteextremists groups were recorded. Also, during that period there wasno strong African American leadership to champion their rights andmajority of them shared the general prejudice and considered lowtariffs laws more important than equality (Dray, 78).
Historianshave argued that the progressive era and the beginning of thetwentieth century was characterized by hardened institutional andlegal racial discrimination and prejudice especially among AfricanAmericans. Although initially the strong racial prejudices were morein the southern states, there were evident throughout the nation. Inthe post civil war America, which led to the abolishment of slavery,the racial stratification was informal and its systematic enforcementled to the hardening of the social order in the slavery era, whichconsidered the black as inferior humans. In the first half of the20th century, despite the voting rights and antislaverylaws, racial segregation and discriminatory legal structures such asgrandfather clause, poll taxes and repeated acts of terrorperpetrated by white extremists groups such as Ku Klux Klan were veryevident (Perman, 457). These formal and informal discriminationagainst the people of color resulted into disenfranchised AfricanAmerican society in the United States. The legal systems thatpromoted segregation of the blacks shaped both the federal and localpolitics. For example, some state politicians maintaineddiscriminatory state legislations that promoted discriminatorysupport for white and black schools. This impacted negatively on thequality of education among African American children. Also, politicaland social leaders facilitated the redistribution of financial andmaterial resources meant for the black schools to the white schools.These informal systems worsened the effects of the formal racialsegregation which characterized the first half of the 20thcentury. The civil right movements were very limited in the early20th century and did not mainly concentrates on endingformal discrimination the most notable African American lobby groupin the era was the National Association for the Advancement ofColored People which was founded in 1909 (Hornsby, 312).
Dueto the rampant racial discrimination and segregation and theemergency of white supremacist groups which terrorized the blackAmericans, the early 20th century is commonly referred toas the nadir of American race relations. As a result of the strongpolitical, legal and social views about African Americans as well asthe violence that characterized the racism in America, the elite inthe black society realized that it was influence the racists and thewhites had the power to end white supremacist. For example, in the1912 presidential elections, the black American society voted for asoutherner democratic candidate, Woodrow Wilson based on the beliefthat he was in the best position to influence the southerners to droptheir white supremacy ideas. This did not work since President Wilsonstrengthened the formal racial segregation and discriminated in thecountry. Some historians have argued that President Wilson was astrong supporter of the white extremist group Ku Klux Klan (Rayford,27). The early 20th century was also characterized by thegreat migration where thousands of black Americans migrated from thesouthern states to the northern states during and after the FirstWorld War (Scott, 4). It is estimated that at least one and halfmillion black Americans had moved to the northern states by 1930s,due to the rampant racial violence and segregation in the southernstates (Brown and Webb, 180).
Arnesen,Eric. Black Protest and the Great Migration: A Brief History withDocuments. Bedford: St. Martin`s Press. (2002). Print.
Baker,Jean H. Sisters: The Lives of America`s Suffragists. Hill andWang, New York, (2005). Print.
Brown,David and Webb, Clive. Race in the American South: From Slavery toCivil Rights. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. (2007).Print.
Carter,Susan B. et al. The Historical Statistics of the United States,Cambridge UP: MA, (2006). Print.
Dray,Philip. At the Hands of Persons Unknown: The Lynching of BlackAmerica, New York: Random House, (2002). Print.
EricBaker and Tyler Blik. American trademarks: a compendium, SanFrancisco: Chronicle, (2010). Print.
Garraty,John A. The American Nation: A History of the United States since1865. New York: Harper & Row, Publishers (1979). Print.
Hornsby,Alton, Jr., ed.. A Companion to African American History.Oxford: John Wiley & Sons. (2008). Print.
Perman,Michael Struggle for Mastery: Disfranchisement in the South,1888–1908. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.ISBN 080782593X. (2001). Print.
Rayford,Logan. The Betrayal of the Negro from Rutherford B. Hayes toWoodrow Wilson, New York: Da Capo Press, (1997). Print.
Scott,Emmett J. Negro Migration during the War. (1920). Print.