Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Variable Americans

Hey all, this is my history midterm for Hist. 152. The main prompt was, more or less, asking what changes there were to American citizenship after reconstruction until WW1. I analyzed the information, and came up with what I believe is a correct paper. I classified people by their race, their gender, and various other linking factors. Please do not consider that to be racist in nature, merely my best way to actually argue my points.
Please feel free to comment on it or use it as you see fit. Also, feel free to argue with it.

(ps, if you want my sources please let me know)

What does it mean to be American? This question, and those derived from it, has been argued over throughout American History. From the blocking of black voting rights, to the arresting union leaders, to the taking out of the commies, the definition of an American has been large-scale, long-term, evolution to what it is now. The blacks got a say, then promptly lost it. The women slowly gained the vote, state by state, region by region. The Chinese and the Irish had to fight to get any say what-so-ever. Union workers were killed and arrested, simply because they dared to question what it was to be American, what the American dream was, and were different. Throughout American history, people of various groups and races attempted to gain the same rights as other Americans; these people were struck down at each and every turn by other American citizens, including those who had just fought for their rights. The question, quite simply, becomes: what were these groups that tried to rise up, and how did fellow Americans fight back?

For almost a century, America had gone without having any person besides white men having a voice. Sure, there were the occasional woman who owned land, thus letting them vote, but the vast majority of women, and absolutely all blacks, were banned from politics in its entirety. America seemed to function decently well as a republic that had only a small portion of its people voting, and it seemed to be destined to remain on that course. The Civil War, in its existence and aftermath, abruptly changed this progression. Suddenly, blacks were humans – no longer a mere 3/5ths of onei – and they were given the right to vote. Congress acted swiftly, and with great force, passing various Amendments to the Constitution and making it so that this right was protectedii. It seemed as though blacks were to be given full rights of the laws.

For most of the country, this was an abrupt and unwelcome change. Most Americans considered the blacks to be below themselves, and thus they were outraged at their allowance into the voting ranks. There were riots, protests, and hundreds of lynchingsiii. Groups sprung up in the southiv to 'protect' the American ideals and to make sure that blacks knew their place. America was torn over the issue, with the north supporting it, the south opposing it, and the west just looking for cheap labor, no matter what the source. This overall struggle amongst the American people led to other social issues being brought up, and it caused several other larger problems.

The compromise of 1877v, which was enacted as Hayes took the executive office, just as quickly stripped rights away from blacks. Sure, they Constitutionally had the rights, but there was to be no enforcement of it. Jim Crow laws, named after a popular comicvi, appeared out of thin air to keep the blacks down. Grandfather clauses, literacy tests, and poll taxes were a legal means to grant the vote to whites only. The KKK, along with various other hate groups, formed to make sure that no blacks would dare challenge this issue, and to punish them if they tried. Blacks were scared into submission, and, again, deemed as second class citizens.

After blacks gained their voice, and then promptly lost it, their was a new challenge to the white male citizenship, that of the Chinese. Coming from their homeland in search of a job, and usually working on the railroadsvii, the Chinese were a force to be dealt with. This large block of people had a common bond, a common nationality, and a common goal. While they were not fighting for the right to vote, they were arguing that they deserved citizenship. They came here to unite the country rail-by-rail, and they wanted to make sure that they were justly rewarded. The Supreme Court, in various rulings, quickly gave them their citizenshipviii.

This change irked Americans more then the black issue had; blacks, at least, were natives of this country, the Chinese were not. Americans across the country were united against allowing Chinese citizenship, and they did not believe that it would be a good idea. In the north and south, where they were dealing with their own labor and foreign issues, they were more neutral to the idea. But in the mid-west, where the Chinese were working, and the west, where they were living, the people were greatly opposed to granting them citizenship. Why should people from another country, especially those who looked vastly different then us, be allowed to vote and get the benefits that are inherent in being American?

On the east coast, the populace was fighting with their own immigration problems. An influx of persons, most coming through Ellis Island, was making the entire seacoast a multi-cultural pot of stew. Irish, Italians, and Germans were all coming over for work. Once they came over, they quickly formed their own communities. With their own neighborhoods, their own restaurants, and there own newspapers, the immigrants were quickly isolating themselves from main-stream Americansix. While they were initially inclined to avoid our government and politics, these immigrants were quickly swept up in the political machine and were essential cogs for the Tammany Hall crowdx. This caused them to immediately get into the American political system as soon as they stepped off of the boat.

The American people did not like the new immigrants. Signs banning Irish from applying for jobs sprang up all around the country.xi The new people, usually speaking their own language and doing their home-country customs, scared the American populace. Plus, both the Irish and the Italians were Catholics, which directly attacked the protestant majority in the country. Americans, in general, did not like these changes. While the politicians were using the immigrants for their own gains, the majority of Americans were trying to kick them out. Groups that wanted temperance were fighting the immigrant simply because they perceived that alcohol was inherent in these persons. Just as it was with the Chinese in the west, the Immigrants in the east were dealing with social stigma and were rejected.

While most groups that wanted to be added into the American citizenry were easy to identify, either by a common language, a common race, or a common culture, there was one group that was made up by anybody and everybody: the unions. In the early 1900s, there were issues with the way that labor worked in America. The people wanted higher wages, a safer environment, and bosses who actually gave a damn. The unions realized that the only way to get what they wanted would be to form into groups and protest. These protests slowed down commerce, harmed the countries economy, and made most people hate the unions. While this caused a lot of backlash and hatred towards the unions, it was hard to tell who was a union member, or “red neckxii”, and who wasn't, as they shared no common bond.

Americans generally hate it when anybody effects their pocketbooks. They hate it when there is a group that harms the economy. They hate it when anything causes them extra stress. The unions did all of these, and so Americans really did not support themxiii. For obvious reasons, the capitalistic aspect of society also disliked the unions. Most Americans related unions to either the Irish or the Communists, often both. Using this dislike, many politicians started to charge communists and unionists with crimes. Anti-union police forces took down hundreds of strikes, and injured/killed hundredsxiv. This vast backlash showed that not only were unions not considered citizens, but that the Commies were not either.

America, throughout her history, has been filled with one group trying to gain rights and citizenship. When they attempted to rise in the social hierarchy, most of their fellow Americans would push them back down. This cycle was continuous, from the blacks, to the women, to all immigrants, to the unions, and then to the blacks again; America would not accept civil rights and citizenship unless there was a hard fight for them. This has caused many groups to back down, many groups to give up, and many groups to never get their rights. Until the start of WW1, most groups in America had little rights, and most Americans thought that only the WASPs should be citizens. While it did not change immediately, the years after WW1 slowly brought the change that was needed to the country, slowly the populace started to accept others. This process towards civil rights, and equal rights, was a long-term struggle, and one that is going on today. Any group that wishes to have their rights needs to remember this one thing from American history: you might get those rights, but it is going to be a long, tedious, and damn-hard fight to get them.


Ben said...

Looks like an A to me.

Barga said...

when I reread it I noticed that I missed women (who I had listed in my outline)... um, women already had the right... (shifty eyes)

I think B grade probably, my last one (which was on here) was only a 93

Ben said...

After reading that, I am convinced that no teacher/professor reads it all. There is no way they read everyones paper.

Barga said...


Barga said...

Ben, this is why it takes like two weeks to get out papers back

Also, got a 92


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