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For the most part, progressive whites in the early 20th century accepted the idea of racial segregation.
During this period, the vast majority of African Americans lived in the South. This did not change until World War I broke out. For this reason, African Americans were not particularly important to the progressives. The Progressive movement was mainly concentrated in the North. This meant that they were not particularly concerned with African American issues. Therefore, there was little or no interest in the plight of African Americans. The Progressives were much more interested in issues that had more of an impact on middle class whites.
The Progressive Movement was a reform movement that brought many changes to American society in the early 1900s. Child labor laws were passed to protect children. Many political reforms were passed to help get the average person more involved in the political process. The referendum, initiative, and recall are some examples of the attempt to get more regular citizens involved in the political process. Laws were passed to control big businesses and to help workers. The passage of worker compensation laws, the creation of the Federal Trade Commission, and the passage of the Clayton Antitrust Act are examples of actions to regulate big businesses and to help workers. Laws were passed to help protect consumers. The Meat Inspection Act and the Pure Food and Drug Act are examples of these laws. Many reforms were made during the Progressive Era.
One area of improvement that is significantly lacking in the Progressive Movement was the passage of laws or the taking of actions to deal with racial issues. The Jim Crow laws, which allowed segregation, remained in place. Lynching continued to be a common tactic used in the South. Economic and political opportunities remained limited for African-Americans. While much progress was made in improving society, one area where this did not occur was in the area of racial segregation. Racial segregation remained alive and well before, during, and after the Progressive Era.
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