How did industrialization impact the lives of people of color, factory workers, and Midwestern farmers?

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Industrialization affected the lives of people of color in different ways. African Americans who lived in the South were generally unable to take advantage of the jobs that opened up in most of the new industries, particularly textile mills. Those that did were generally employed as custodians or other lower-paying...

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Industrialization affected the lives of people of color in different ways. African Americans who lived in the South were generally unable to take advantage of the jobs that opened up in most of the new industries, particularly textile mills. Those that did were generally employed as custodians or other lower-paying jobs (though millwork itself did not pay well). This eventually led African Americans to begin looking North for jobs in industries there. Many found similar discrimination there, and some labor unions explicitly barred them from membership. Other nonwhites, especially Mexican Americans, fared similarly, working on the margins of the new industrial economy. In fact, the prospect of competing with people of color, especially nonwhite immigrants, was a major impetus for the nativist sentiment that began to reemerge in the late nineteenth century.

As for factory workers themselves, industrialization tended to lead to increased regimentation in their work lives. As more and more jobs became increasingly mechanized, workers were stripped of their autonomy, governed by a clock rather than by their own productivity. While this was never true in all industries—industrialization also led to increased demand for mechanics and skilled workers—many jobs that once required intensive training and that carried with them a certain degree of freedom to work at one's own pace became more and more rationalized and regimented.

Midwestern farmers felt the effects of industrialization in highly conflicting ways. On the one hand, the urbanization that accompanied industrial growth created enormous demand for food. This, of course, was good for farmers, as was the development of new technologies—from the McCormick reaper to chemical fertilizers—that boosted output. On the other, farmers became increasingly tied to the railroads, which exploited them with impunity throughout the late nineteenth century. Farmers also watched as the nation's economic footing changed—the struggle over currency in the late nineteenth century convinced them that the nation's institutions were run for the benefit of manufacturers and their financiers rather than for farmers.

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