Explain the difference between Progressivism and the emerging Civil Rights movement.

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

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One of the fundamental differences between the rise of Progressivism and the emerging Civil Rights Movement was where each placed their emphasis.  For the Progressives, the need to reform social problems came about with a focus on economic and social unfairness that existed in the realm of commerce and the rights of the individual or consumer.  Progressives, like Roosevelt, saw the battle as one in which the power of economic giants had to be reigned in when compared to the relative powerlessness of the consumer.  The same premise is there in the emerging Civil Rights Movement, but the issue of economic power proved easier to understand that racial reconciliation or racial awareness.  For thinkers like Du Bois, the fundamental problem of the time period was the issue of color.  This was something that most of American society failed to comprehend in terms of being able to articulate it.  Socially, it proved to be much more difficult to fully understand the issue of race and racial identity.  It was easier to see the challenges of economic injustice or political power being abused.  It proved to be more challenging to understand the vocabulary of racial equality. It is here where I think that both movements sought to transform reality.  Yet, it proved to be politically and socially more feasible to advocate the premise of Progressivism than it did to advocate for the emerging construction of Civil Rights.

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