How did the Progressive movement affect minorities?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The Progressive movement did very little to help minorities.  The Progressives were interested in promoting the interests of middle class America, but their vision of middle class America was largely centered on whites.  This was due in part to the fact that Progressivism was mainly a Northern phenomenon whereas most minorities were living in the South at this time.

There were two major issues for African Americans (the main minority in the country at the time) during the Progressive era.  These were lynching and segregation.  Neither of these was a serious target of the Progressives.  The Progressives did nothing as Southern states made their system of segregation and racial discrimination more institutionalized and pervasive.  It is worth remembering that Plessy v. Ferguson only made segregation legal for the first time in 1896, a few years before what is seen as the start of the Progressive era.  Clearly, then, segregation and discrimination were being built up systematically in the South during the Progressive era.

There was somewhat more attention paid to lynching.  However, it was mainly due to African Americans such as Ida B. Wells, not any action by the Progressives.  No anti-lynching bills were passed by Congress during the Progressive era. 

For these reasons, it is very difficult to point to any good that minorities gained from the Progressive era.

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