In what ways was the Progressive Era especially challenging for African Americans?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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One particular reason why African- Americans found the time period of Progressivism especially challenging was because so much of the goals of the era applied to their own predicament.  Naturally, the discussion between Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. DuBois was one area of challenge.  In the post- Civil War landscape of America, determining which path to take as outlined by both thinkers was especially challenging.  DuBois' staunch and austere path for equality collided with Washington's need to simply advance within the Status Quo.  This becomes a challenge.  Another level of challenge was that so much of the movement's focus on workers' rights and economic empowerment was applicable to the African- American.  If African- Americans were fortunate to find work, the same issues of exploitation and economic degradation were applicable, if not more, to their own condition.  The struggle to find unions that would support African- Americans' experience in the workplace was a part of this fight which would make their predicament challenging in the time period.  Additionally, I think that African- American women found challenge in that they were striving to see themselves as people of color, as women, and as people who faced economic challenges.  This makes their own sensibilities ones that would be embraced by so much of the time period.  The challenges African- Americans faced during the time period of Progressivism was driven by the fact that so much of the time period spoke to them.  Change was needed on so many fronts that it made the experience overwhelming.


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