The Struggles of America – History Essay
Since 1865, America has experience a tremendous amount of changes. Some changes were in America’s best interest and benefited the country, while other changes were just the opposite and only had in mind those who had the ability to pass or veto that particular change. Some changes affected us in unforeseen ways and left no
trace. Being born an African American, I found great interest in the “Civil Rights Movement”, the “Industrial Revolution”, and “Women Suffrage”.
The Civil Rights Movement, in my opinion, was the most significant event in the history of America. It influences the thoughts of many Americans today. The primary reasons for the Civil Rights Movement were to protect, liberate and ensure that all Americans were treated equally. It did not only apply to African Americans as many people assume; it includes the rights of every American that lives inside and outside of the United States. Without our Civil Rights Movement many Americans would face great hardships, and would be constantly taken advantage of by large corporations, people of power, and anyone else in a position of authority. Whenever the phrase Civil Rights Movement is mentioned, one automatically assumes it is referring to African Americans or minorities; however, it refers to every American, to include legal immigrants. The actions performed during the Civil Rights Movement formed a solid foundation many years ago that granted us privileges that we were not initially granted. According to Wikipedia Encyclopedia, “Civil Rights” are the protection and privileges of personal liberty given to all citizens by law. Civil Rights are distinguished from “human rights” or “natural rights”; civil rights are rights that persons do have, while natural or human rights are rights that scholars think that people should have.
Civil Rights Movement was proposed to the congress on January 31, 1865. Almost a year later it was ratified on December 6, 1865. Although ratified and recognized by Congress, many states did not adhere to the new legislation for decades to follow. Even though it was law, it was not enforced by the states or federal government until years later. According to Wikipedia Encyclopedia, Laws guaranteeing civil rights may be written, derived from custom, or implied. In the United States and most continental European countries, civil rights laws are most often written. [Wikipedia Encyclopedia]
Many Americans voluntarily took a great deal of interest Civil Rights Movement and strongly pushed the movement in southern states. States that played a significant role during this era was Alabama, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Georgia. These courageous individuals were later known as Civil Rights Leaders. Throughout the union there were many Civil Rights leaders of all nationalities, William Edward Burghardt, Medgar Evers, W.E.B. DuBois, and the well known, Dr. Martin Luther King were among the most influential.
W.E.B. DuBois was one of the most influential leaders during the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement. With his great intellect and great deal of knowledge, he quickly became a well known figure among African Americans and in the political arena. W.E.B. Dubois focused a lot of attention on segregation and politics, and tried to unite African Americans with a common goal. In 1909, W.E.B. Dubois helped founded the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and was the only African American to be a part of the organization at that time.
Medgar Evers another civil right activist was born in Decatur, Mississippi. Evers not only served African Americans, in 1943 he was drafted into the United States Army and he proudly served his country. He attended Alcorn State University, where he majored in Business Administration. He participated in several different athletic programs and also became the president of his junior class. Evers was employed by an insurance agency so that he could provide financial income for is family, however after a few years, he resigned, Evers decided to apply to the University of Mississippi, but due to the color of his skin, his application was rejected. After a series of unfortunate events, Evers decided to join forces with the NAACP and became a field officer. DuBois and Evers are just a few leaders that believed in implementing Civil Rights Movement. Civil Rights activists eventually began to make a progress and were starting to receive what they always wanted. In 1866 thru 1869, the 14th and 15th amendment was passed in various states, giving African America men the right to vote, however it did not include women.
The Civil Rights wasn’t the only political battle America was faced with. During the same time, America faced the challenge of Woman Suffrage. Women from all over country were beginning to create havoc concerning what they believed was rightfully theirs as American citizens. In 1869 the National Woman Suffrage Association was formed. After merging with the American Woman Suffrage Association, it was renamed National American Woman Suffrage Association. By the late 1800s, nearly fifty years of progress afforded women advancement in property rights, employment and educational opportunities, divorce and child custody laws, and increased social freedoms. The early 1900s saw a successful push for the right to vote through a coalition of suffragists, temperance groups, reform-minded politicians, and women’s social welfare organizations [www.Rochester.edu]. Even after the battles of the Civil Rights Movement, women still had to take the back seat and fight for what was rightfully theirs. It wasn’t until the mid 1900s that one could truly identify the results of what the National American Women Suffrage Association had fought for so vigorously almost a decade prior.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton headed much of the movement concerning women rights. She spent countless days working with her father and learning the laws, both locally and nationally. Doing all she knew and excelling well above and beyond of her brothers in daily chores, expectations, and in studies, she was still viewed as only another “lesser” when compared to men. Stanton believed that all men and women were created equal and should be treated as such. Faced with many struggles, and often ousted, Stanton continued to fight for liberties that were owed to women. Being very intellectual, Stanton spent the much of her time putting her thoughts on paper. She often wrote on topics such as divorce, birth control, and the rights that women should have. She was also the mother of seven children. She also had a great deal of help from Susan B. Anthony.
Susan B. Anthony and Stanton met in Seneca Falls, what could be viewed as the headquarters of many women historical events. It was there that a lifelong friendship between the two “alike” began. They shared many of the same views, even though there approach was a slightly different. Susan B. Anthony was not afraid confrontation, she was often known for her to say what she thought. On the other hand, Stanton was more of a thinker and could express herself better on paper or through her actions. Once they merged they were almost unstoppable. Together, with the help of other colleagues, they continued to eliminate women suffering. Both Stanton and Anthony strongly believed that women should and deserved the right to vote and should exercise that right. They traveled all over the United States expressing their beliefs and attempting to gain the support of men. However it was difficult for a woman to be taking serious because of popular beliefs and traditional doctrine. Most men, and even some women, believed that a woman’s place was to be subordinate to her husband or men in general. For these reason they had no say in politics and he would represent them as the head of the house. In the 1800’s until the late twentieth century, society always considered that a women place in the family structure was home with her children.
For that reason, politicians, businessmen, and other wealthy men did not believe that a woman input should be taken serious and should not be publicly voiced. Because she was always considered to be a subordinate to her husband, he would think and speak for her. Even though it took many long nights and decades of hard work, embarrassment, and ridicule, the Woman’s Suffrage movement slowly began to make process and put an end to inequality, well in some instances. Minuet in many ways, women were starting to be more than just a mother or wife, they were beginning to speak for themselves. New Zealand became the first country to allow woman to cast a vote in national elections. In 1870 the Fourteenth Amendment was ratified; allowing African American males the right to vote. However several females attempted to use this amendment to their advantage. Susan B. Anthony was later arrested for attempting to cast a vote for Ulysses S. Grant. Shortly thereafter, between 1918 and 1920, the United States granted woman the right to vote. It wasn’t until the 1920s that the Nineteenth Amendment was proposed and ratified; granting voting rights, regardless of sex, nationality, or religion. According research done through Austin Community College, more women entered the workforce as the new century dawned. Married women entered in larger numbers because the number of children they were having declined by 50%. These married women worked to gain new consumer goods, like sewing machines and washing machines, which they hoped would make their lives easier [Austin Community College].
Although Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton devoted 50 years to the Woman’s Suffrage movement, neither lived to see women gain the right to vote. But their work and that of many other suffragists contributed to the ultimate passage of the 19th amendment in 1920 [www.Rochester.edu].
During these two movements America, within itself, was faced with another challenge. This time it affected everyone, from Caucasians, African Americans, Hispanics, and immigrants. During the turn of the eighteenth century America was faced with Industrial Revolution. The Industrial Revolution took America buy storm. It brought forth many benefits, yet caused created so many losses. The introduction of the Industrial Revolution cause a significant change in what used to be America and what is America today! Industrial realized that business would be more effective and have lower cost if items were produced more quickly by machine. To do so, this replaced many hand tools with machinery; allowing factories to cut back their work force. As the expected, the machinery produced item faster then when they were hand made. Those employees that remained in the factories were made more effective by the machine, and the reduction in employers lowered the manufacturer’s cost. This caused many hardships for the working class of America and this was only the beginning of what America had yet to endure. Over the next decade many families would lose their jobs, causing a great deal of financial hardship that had spread to the middle and upper class families as well. Lower costs caused prices to drop, and family businessmen could not afford to compete with larger stores and chains and still expect to gain a decent profit. They were eventually bought out by their competitors or forced to close what once was considered to be a family-ran business. Larger corporations took over quickly and did not care about the individual. These stores would grow like mushrooms over the next decade. Pollution increased dramatically and small family communities became parking lots or highways. Business which used to be a social place to congregate with family and friends and be personally greeted were now turned into a lobby with long lines and a sign displaying a number, signifying who was next to be helped. Most factories not only benefited off the machinery, they also made a huge saving on hiring immigrants. Because wages was so low, most Americans refused to work and chose to be unemployed. Before the revolution, over ninety percent of America owned their own business, by the late 1900s it was the total opposite. What was once 95% owners, were now 95% workers.
By the earlier 1900s immigrants began to flourish like wild weeds. Most immigrants had no intentions on staying in America permanently, their goals was to make enough money to provide for their families. Once they felt they had made their quota they would return home. However, a great deal of immigrants began to like America and decided it would be best for them, as well as their families, just to remain in the United States. Because the immigrations laws were not as strictly enforced as they as today, many immigrants reside in the United States for quite some time. Many immigrants negotiated with businessmen to avoid deportation and other immigration laws. Businessmen knew they could pay immigrants a fraction of what they would have to pay American citizens. As immigrants had no legal status and could not insist on a minimum wage. Often businessmen would accept the negotiation because it also benefited him as well as his business. Over the years society would refer to this type of work “cheap Labor”.
Another innovation of the Industrial Revolution was the assembly line. Henry Ford was one of the first ones to successfully incorporate an assembly line. After building cars individually, Ford decided that it would be more profitable to mass produce them. He received much ridicule for his seemly strange idea, however, he continued on his quest to manufacture. It wasn’t until 1913 that Ford put into operation the first moving assembly line. His idea, once considered impossible, was now sky-rocketing. It was proven and copied by other industrialist. He sold over a million cars and at an affordable price. Because of his machinery, he was able to cut employees hours significantly. Ford ideas have forever changed the auto industry. Today America continues to revolutionize. Over the last five years, most groceries store has replaced cashiers with electronic scanners. Many companies have replaced personal phone tellers with automated phone service. Even though these changes are sometimes beneficiary, we continue to move to an impersonal society.
Since 1865 America has endured many changes. Due to our advance technology, the country sometimes seems to grow a lot faster than we humans do. So many significant events have affected us. Regardless of how it may have affected us personally, most Americans can all agree it not only made us much wiser, but it strengthened us as a country. The Civil Rights Movement played such a significant part in the lives of many Americans; I believe had we not had men and women of courage, many of us would be faced with unfair treatment to this very day. It would be foolish to assume that if our rights were not demanded and fought for, one day politicians would surprisingly feel guilty and granted them to us. The Civil Rights Movement sparked many flames; I believe it also helped ignite the Women Suffrage Movement. While the woman’s equality movement continues, it has achieved the 19th amendment and has lent creditability to women’s political views and opinions. We are still undergoing revolution, however I feel it is for the best. We purchase fast computers, fast cars, yet we still aren’t content, we live in a microwave society and no one seem to be extremely patient. In my closing I believe that the three events that I discussed are somewhat linked to the next. Being currently deployed to Mosul, Iraq, I have physically seen some things that are discussed in my history book. I am very grateful for the changes America has endured and I appreciate those that made it happen.