Last Updated on June 1, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1382
The first chapter of the textbook is a review that covers early American history from the time of the early European explorers up through the development of the English colonies on the eastern coast of North America. The chapter is divided into three sections: The Atlantic World, European Colonization of the Americas, and Growth of the American Colonies
Section 1: The Atlantic World
- Three different cultures came together to create the Atlantic World: Native American culture, European culture, and West African culture.
- European exploration of the Americas brought these cultures together and reshaped them into something new.
Summary and Analysis
In the late fifteenth century, three distinct cultures collided to form what the authors refer to as the Atlantic World. The first culture comprised the Native Americans who inhabited the continent of North America. These native peoples had first arrived as part of a migration from Asia, most likely over the Bering Strait off Alaska’s west coast, and eventually worked their way across the continent and evolved into many different societies with distinct languages. Despite their differences, they also had many common characteristics, including their kinship or tribal structure, their animistic religious beliefs, and their concept of respect for the land, all of which would be at odds with the coming Europeans’ beliefs.
The Europeans who came across the ocean in search of riches had a very different culture. Europe was undergoing an unprecedented period of economic and population growth as farming methods increased food supplies. The Renaissance (a French word that means “rebirth”) had brought about a time of great creativity as Europeans strove for knowledge in every field. European social structure was based on wealth and power rather than on kinship relationships and had developed strong nation states that heavily competed with each other. Europeans carried those competitive values with them to their new lands in the West. They also brought with them Christianity and a strong sense of religious superiority. They believed that the Native Americans they encountered in the New World were inferior.
Also contributing to this new Atlantic World was the culture of West Africa. Based on kinship and tribal ties, the culture of West Africa differed significantly from that of Europe, but the two societies traded together peacefully for many years. Slavery, however, changed everything. Early on, slavery was an internal part of African culture. Africans captured other Africans in raids or wars. These captives became slaves and a part of their owners’ tribes. Eventually, some African slaves were sold to European traders. When the Europeans reached the New World and found that Native Americans were unsuited to the work of farming and mining, they insisted on having—and then took—more and more West Africans for slaves. The slave trade had begun.
First Columbus and then other explorers came to the new world. They were seeking a way to reach India, but they soon realized the value of the continent they had found instead. The Spanish, French, Portuguese, and Dutch all became involved in exploiting and settling this rich new land. European explorers brought not only their culture and values, but also their prejudices, diseases, wars, and weapons. Disease alone decimated the native populations, who had little or no resistance to European diseases. Because the native populations were sick and dying, they were not able to satisfy the Europeans enormous need for labor to mine for gold and to establish plantations. Thus the Spanish, and those after them, turned to West Africa for slaves to provide the labor.
Section 2: European Colonization of the Americas
- Several European countries established colonies, and each colony was very different.
- The French established fur trading posts in Canada.
- The Spanish carved out an empire based on mining and farming that brought them great wealth.
- The English established the largest and most populated colonies on the Eastern seaboard.
Summary and Analysis
Although there were several European countries that were competing for land in the new world, only a few made a large mark on the continent. The Portuguese settled and created a large colony in what is present-day Brazil. The French established fur trading posts and settlements in present-day Canada. And the Dutch settled in New Amsterdam, which would later become New York. The two main colonial powers—and constant enemies—were England and Spain.
The Spanish conquistadors carved out an empire in Mexico, Central America, South America, and on the islands of the Caribbean Sea. The Spanish were not as focused on settling their lands as they were on exploiting them for gold and crops. They tried to use Native Americans as slaves but found that they were not suitable; they began bringing in West Africans as slaves instead and so ignited the slave trade. Forts were built to help settle and defend Spanish territory in the New World, and missionaries for the Roman Catholic Church established missions throughout Spanish America.
While the Spanish focused on the southern and western areas of the New World, the English established successful colonies along the eastern seaboard. The first truly successful colony was Jamestown, which struggled for years but achieved success and stability with the development of tobacco as a cash crop. Also successful were the colonies planted in New England by the Puritans, beginning with Plymouth Colony and the Massachusetts Bay Colony. The Puritans were a splinter group of Protestants who left England to practice their ascetic version of Christianity freely. The Puritans’ belief in hard work and working for the common good paid off. By 1700, nearly 100,000 people lived in the Massachusetts, primarily around the growing city of Boston.
The English established other colonies, including New Jersey, Maryland, and the Carolinas. Many Englishmen came to the New World seeking religious tolerance like the Puritans. Maryland was founded by Catholics seeking relief from persecution in Protestant England. Pennsylvania was settled by the Quakers, also seeking freedom of religion. Rhode Island and Connecticut were founded by Puritans who were dissatisfied with conditions in Massachusetts.
Section 3: Growth of the American Colonies
- The English colonies developed diverse economies that resulted in a system of triangular trade.
- England gave colonies a great deal of self-rule.
- Tensions developed between the English colonists and the French traders and Indians.
Summary and Analysis
England gave colonies a great deal of freedom to govern themselves. The Pilgrims set the precedent with their Mayflower Compact, which provided a local government. By 1614, Virginia had a House of Burgesses, a legislative body that was in effect a limited form of self-government. England’s relationship with the colonies was based on the economic theory of mercantilism, which held that all countries were in competition for a limited amount of gold. England thus wanted colonies to provide raw materials, a market for finished goods, and loyal colonists. England found that she got what she wanted from her colonies by leaving them alone.
The differences in the geography of the northern and southern colonies saw the growth of divergent economies. Large plantation-style farming worked well in the South for growing rice, indigo, cotton, and tobacco. These labor-intensive crops also necessitated the introduction of slavery. The North’s small farms and more diverse economy were not as well suited for slave labor. By the late 1700s, there were approximately 400,000 African slaves in the southern states and only around 50,000 in the northern states. A system of triangular trade was developed as New England merchants brought finished products such as books and cloth to the West Indies, then brought sugar to New England where it was made into rum, and then finally brought the rum and firearms to the West Indies for more slaves.
By the 1700s, several issues were causing tension in the colonies. First, the colonies’ growing population was coming into conflict with French trappers and Native Americans along the western and northern frontiers. Second, preachers such as Jonathan Edwards and George Whitfield sparked a religious movement called “The Great Awakening,” which revived colonists’ religious convictions. This religious independence led to the formation of two new Christian denominations: Baptism and Methodism. Proponents of each claimed that individuals could act on their own faith and questioned the idea that some people are better than others because of birth or wealth. These new ideas would have grave consequences for the future of the colonies.
Last Updated on June 1, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1242
The second chapter is considered a review and covers key moments in the founding of the United States, the development of its government, and its early political growth up through the War of 1812. It is divided into three sections: The Road to Independence, the Constitution of the United States, and the Origins of American Politics.
Section 1: The Road to Independence
- Grievances against the British government, as well as Enlightenment philosophies of equality and self-government, led to the American Revolutionary War.
- Ideas put forth in the Declaration of Independence and the colonists’ eventual success in the Revolutionary War irrevocably changed the world.
Summary and Analysis
By 1754, there were already some tensions beginning to show in the American colonists’ relationship with Britain, France, and the Native Americans. This soon erupted into the French and Indian War, which lasted for nine years until 1763. Tempers flared as the British attempted to tax the colonies without representation to help pay for the cost of the war. The British Parliament enacted such legislation as the Stamp act, a tax on printed materials, and the Townsend Acts, a tax on tea and other products. The resulting hostility from the colonies sparked boycotts, the Boston Massacre (in which British soldiers killed five men), and the Boston Tea Party where colonial rebels dumped literally tons of tea into the harbor. Hostilities reached a decisive moment on April 18, 1775, when the British marched to Lexington and Concord and found armed militia waiting for them. The first shot of that battle has been justly called the “Shot Heard Round the World.” The American Revolutionary War had begun.
In 1774, the First Continental Congress tried to take unified action for the colonies, but the time was not yet right. In 1776, the Second Continental Congress gathered in Philadelphia. Taking inspiration from the incendiary work Common Sense by Thomas Paine, the Congress decided that it was time for the colonists to separate from England. Thomas Jefferson led the group of men who produced the Declaration of Independence. The document declared the colony’s freedom and defined the basic principles on which American society and government would be based.
The document was all well and good, but in order to give it true meaning, the new country would need to defeat the strongest army on earth. And in retrospect, the colonists had every chance of doing so: they had superb leadership under George Washington, intimate familiarity with the terrain, small and mobile forces that could disperse at will, and the help of the French. The war not only established American independence but inspired a great patriotism for the country and spread the ideal of liberty to Europe. Jefferson’s assertion that “all men are created equal” continues to change the world even to the present day.
Section 2: The Constitution of the United States
- America, a fledgling nation, needed a strong central government if it was going to survive.
- The Constitutional Convention drafted a new plan of government unlike any before on earth—the United States Constitution.
- The Constitution was ratified after the promise to add a Bill of Rights.
Summary and Analysis
Through the Revolutionary War and for a short time beyond, the country was governed under a document called the Articles of Confederation. Under the Articles, most of the political power in the nation belonged to the states. However, it was soon discovered that the document did not give enough power to the federal government; delegates of the Constitutional Convention were called upon to amend the Articles of Confederation. However, the members of the convention quickly discovered that an amendment was not what was needed. Instead, they created a new government incorporating the ideals of both a democracy and a republicin such an innovative and flexible manner that it still stands today.
The key delegate at the convention was James Madison, who took the lead in “deciding the fate of republican government” as the United States Constitution was shaped. None of the men present at the Convention was at all sure that they could succeed in creating a government acceptable to so many diverse states. Many compromises were made, including the Great Compromise that provided for a two-house legislature: the House of Representatives (with representation based on population) and the Senate (with equal representation from all states). The final document provided for the separation of powers with a checks and balance systemso no single branch of government—executive, legislative, or judicial—attained too much power.
The new Constitution had to be ratified by nine of the thirteen colonies to become law. After an intense battle between the Federalists (who were for the Constitution) and the Anti-Federalists (who were against the Constitution), the Constitution was ratified in 1788. A promised Bill of Rights was added in 1791. As expected, George Washington was unanimously elected as the first president, but such unilateral sentiment did not last long. Political parties with partisan interests quickly began forming before Washington left office.
Section 3: The Origins of American Politics
- Debates concerning the value of liberty versus the value of order led to the formation of political parties.
- The nation became more firmly established after power passed peacefully from one political power to another.
- The country expanded westward and went to war with Britain.
Summary and Analysis
Two political parties quickly established themselves once the universally loved George Washington left office. The first party, led by John Adams, supported a “loose construction” of the Constitution and believed that the Federal government was entitled to use the implied powers of the document. The opposing party, led by Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr, believed in a "strict construction" of the Constitution and thought the government should use implied powers only in moments of greatest need. Another disagreement between the two parties was Adams’ tendency to support and befriend Britain, while Jefferson leaned towards France. Strangely enough, because of early election rules, Adams was elected the second President of the United States with Jefferson as Vice President, and they spent four years disagreeing on everything.
Several difficulties during Adams’ term of office, including the infamous XYZ Affair and the passage of the Alien and Sedition Act, which limited free speech, hurt Adams’ chances for re-election. In 1801, Thomas Jefferson took office as the third President of the United States. The peaceful passage of power was key in establishing the strength of the Constitution.
During his term in office, Jefferson (the “strict constructionist”) used implied powers in at least one important instance. He completed the Louisiana Purchase from France, nearly doubling the size of the country. Jefferson’s term in office also saw the Supreme Court case of Marbury vs. Madison, which established the precedent of judicial review: federal courts were granted the power to review state laws and court decisions to see if they are Constitutional. Jefferson also indirectly led the country into the War of 1812 with his Embargo Act of 1807, which outlawed most trade with foreign countries.
The country entered the War of 1812 under James Madison, the fourth President of the United States. The war was another test of the new country’s strength and it held its own despite having a small army and navy. America and Britain eventually signed the Treaty of Ghent, ending a conflict that neither side had really wanted. After the war ended, new issues began to occupy the minds of many Americans, including an economic depressionand a bitter debate over slavery, which resulted in the Missouri Compromise of 1820.
Last Updated on June 1, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1408
This final review chapter covers social, economic, and religious life in the rapidly growing United States from 1783 to 1861. It focuses on how all aspects of American society contributed to increasing tension between the northern and southern regions of the country. The chapter is divided into four sections: Life in the New Nation, the Market Revolution, Religion and Reform, and the Coming of the Civil War.
Section 1: Life in the New Nation
- A rapidly growing and young population spurred tremendous territorial growth.
- Innovations in industry brought social change as the northeast became more urban and industrial.
- Religious reform resulted in distinctly American forms of worship.
Summary and Analysis
Daniel Boone became an early symbol of what constituted the ideal American: courage, practical wisdom, and bottomless determination. These characteristics were needed to settle the frontier, because in the early part of the nineteenth century Americans were rapidly on the move. The population was young, growing, and ambitious to own land. Between 1780 and 1830, the population of the United States grew from approximately 2.7 million people to 12 million people; the country also grew from thirteen to twenty-four states. Settlers poured west toward the Mississippi, south to Florida, southwest to Texas, and northwest to Oregon. Although many of those areas were not actually part of the United States at first, they eventually became U.S. territory by either conquest or purchase.
The Industrial Revolution also brought many changes. New machines such as textile mills, steamboats, combustion engines, and eventually the railroad forever affected American society. As settlers began to grow food in fertile Midwestern fields, the Northeast’s less fertile cities began to depend more and more on manufacturing as their economic base. The development of better transportation in the form of steamboats, canals, roads, and railroads made it easy for goods to be shipped all over the country.
The Second Great Awakening created new—and distinctly American—denominations, including the Baptists and Methodists, which had strong evangelical Christian beliefs. Other religious denominations such as Unitarianism and Mormonism also had their beginnings in this period. Even the African Methodist Episcopal Church flourished, numbering 86 churches by 1831.
Section 2: The Market Revolution
- In the early 1800s, manufacturing and banking expanded the U.S. economy.
- Economic diversity brought added tensions between the North and South.
- Despite these tensions, a sense of nationalism continued to grow.
Summary and Analysis
Improvements in technology sparked the Industrial Revolution, and improvements in banking helped to keep it growing. The new economy, referred to as the Market Revolution, was based on a free enterprise system where most ownership and investment in companies is by private individuals and success depends on the supply and demand of the market. To accommodate the flow of money that this capitalistic system needed, the banking industry grew and developed new forms of currency.
Industry began to dominate the economy of the Northeast. The industry standard was the Lowell textile mills, which used young, unmarried women who lived in dorms as workers. Abuses of the workers in this system led to the development of labor unions to protect their interests. The South was still dominated by a rural economy that was dependent on slave labor. The economic differences in the region led to tensions as Southerners felt that attacks on slavery were part of an economic attack on the South. Northerners could not understand the Southerners’ dependence on slaves nor their fear of Northern economic domination.
Despite these differences, there was an increase in national sentiment and solidarity as evidenced by several Supreme Court decisions. McCulloch v. Maryland increased the authority of the federal government. And in foreign policy, the Monroe doctrine essentially stated that the U.S. would not interfere in Europe’s affairs as long as Europe stays out of American affairs and refrains from any further colonization of the Western Hemisphere.
In the political realm, the formation of oppositional political parties continued throughout the terms of John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson. Jackson’s term in office included two important events. The first was the implementation of the Tariff of Abominations, which was intended to discourage foreign trade and benefit American manufactures. The second event was the forced removal of Native Americans in the southeast. Called the Trail of Tears, the relocation resulted in the deaths of 15,000 Native Americans and remains one of the nation’s darkest moments.
Section 3: Religion and Reform
- Powerful religious and reform movements transformed society and produced regional and ethnic tensions.
- Increased immigration also contributed to regional tensions.
Summary and Analysis
The early nineteenth century was a time of great reform movements coming from both religious and philosophical roots. Protestant revivalists under leaders such as Charles Finney and Lyman Beecher encouraged individuals to reform themselves. Other movements such as Transcendentalism, led by Ralph Waldo Emerson, had a more intellectual bent and were grounded in Enlightenment philosophy. These reform movements inspired men and women to take action in several different venues, some of which were interconnected. The temperance movement existed to eliminate the use of alcohol and had some significant successes. There was also a movement to provide more public education, led by education pioneer Horace Mann. Dorothea Dix spent her time reforming prisons, while others like Robert Owen spent their time and money founding utopian communities. All of these reforms took a back seat, however, to the abolitionist movement, which was devoted to eliminating slavery. Led by outspoken men (journalist William Lloyd Garrison and former slave Frederick Douglas) and equally outspoken women (the Grimke sisters, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Sojourner Truth), the abolitionists raised the ire of the South and deepened regional resentment. All of these reform movements were characterized by the intense involvement of women, so it is not surprising that many women went on to advocate for women’s rights. In 1848, the Seneca Falls Convention, led by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott, was the first official meeting of those concerned with obtaining rights and suffrage for women.
Increased immigration also triggered growing social divisions. A great influx of German and Irish immigrants flooded the cities and rural areas in the North and Midwest. This led to discrimination and turmoil in the North, but also created a large, inexpensive work force.
Section 4: The Coming of the Civil War
- The continuing expansion of the United States exacerbated the tensions between the North and South on the issue of slavery.
- The differences between the North and South ran deeper than just the issue of slavery.
- Although Congress tried in many ways to resolve the differences between the North and South, they failed and in 1861 several Southern states seceded from the Union, beginning the Civil War.
Summary and Analysis
Over the period between 1783 and 1861, the United States continued to add territory and settle it. Soon after the end of the Mexican War, with the Gadsden Purchase, which added what is now southern Arizona and New Mexico, the nation reached its present day boundaries. Expansion into the new territories brought both slave-owning settlers and abolitionists into conflict when these regions sought statehood. Would they be slave-holding states, or non-slave-holding states? The Missouri Compromise of 1820 had tried to solve this issue, but did not hold as settlers continued to move west. Congress then introduced the Compromise of 1850, which had five separate laws regulating slavery in the territories. In the Kansas-Nebraska Act, Congress ruled that territories could decide for themselves on the slavery issue. This led to terrible violence in "Bleeding Kansas" as the sides raided and attacked each other. Finally, the Dred Scott decision by the Supreme Court rendered all these laws null and void because it ruled that Congress had no power to ban slavery anywhere since slaves were personal property. Northerners were horrified.
The differences between North and South were deeper than slavery, however. The South believed that the North was trying to control the nation at the South’s expense. The North had a stronger economy based on industry, a larger more diverse population because most immigrants went to the North, and significantly more technology than the South. Southerners felt that their entire way of life was under attack.
The Nation had become very divided by 1861, and when Abraham Lincoln, a member of the newly formed Republican Party (formed by antislavery Northerners) won the Presidential elections, several of the Southern states had had enough. They formally withdrew from the Union, and the country waited to see what Lincoln would do. The Civil War had come.
Last Updated on June 1, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1338
This chapter focuses on the U.S. Civil War, a four-year conflict that almost tore the young nation apart. The chapter is divided into four sections: From Bull Run to Antietam, Life Behind the Lines, The Tide of the War Turns, and Devastation and New Freedom.
Section 1: From Bull Run to Antietam
- Bloody battles early in the war made it clear to both sides that the struggle would be a long and difficult one.
- The North had strong advantages in population, wealth, and transportation.
- The South had distinct advantages in military leadership and morale.
Summary and Analysis
Although both sides initially thought the war would be over in a very short time, events soon proved that it would take longer than expected. The first major battle of the war was the First Battle of Bull Run. Of the 35,000 troops involved on both sides, nearly 5,000 were killed or wounded during the battle. But much larger—and much bloodier—conflicts were to come.
As each side began preparing for a long war, they had to assess their strengths and weaknesses. The North had several advantages—a larger population, a better transportation system with railroads to move soldiers and supplies, and more factories to manufacture supplies. Perhaps most important, the North also had a fully functioning government. The South, however, had several advantages as well. First, they only had to fight a war of attrition, to wear the North down with losses; the North, on the other hand, would have to conquer and hold territory. The Southern army also had better morale; they were fighting to preserve their way of life and thus had much more at stake than the Northern soldiers did. Finally, because the great military academies were located in the South, most U.S. military officers fought on the side of the Confederates. For example, when the Union offered Robert E. Lee command of the Union forces, he chose to serve his home state of Virginia instead.
By the end of 1862, many in the North were truly discouraged. Weak leadership under George McClellan and John Pope had led to disheartening losses of time, land, and men. In September of 1862, the Northern army sent 75,000 soldiers against only 40,000 Confederates under Robert E. Lee at the Battle of Antietam. Although both sides suffered heavy losses, McClellan delayed sending his much larger army after Lee’s troops, which allowed the Confederates to escape to Virginia.
Section 2: Life Behind the Lines
- Both the Union and the Confederacy struggled to raise troops and support their armies.
- Both the Union and the Confederacy faced internal political struggles that affected their ability to wage war.
- The Emancipation Proclamation profoundly affected the Northern and Southern war efforts.
Summary and Analysis
Several political issues affected the South’s ability to pursue the war. One of the main principles the South was fighting for was states’ rights. The South believed that states had many rights the federal government should not regulate—the practice of slavery, in particular. Thus many Confederate states balked when the Confederate government tried to impose taxes to support the war or to establish a military draft to require men to serve as soldiers. This lack of cooperation hurt the Southern cause. A second political issue that hurt the South was its failure to gain official recognition as a nation from Europe. While many Europeans sympathized with the South, they also had strong objections to slavery.
In the North, the key political battle affecting the Union war effort was the upcoming presidential election in 1864. It was felt by many that if the North did not have some major victories, Lincoln and the Republicans would lose the election. The danger was that a new administration might be more inclined to settle with the South rather than continue a war that was so costly in both money and lives. The North also had to institute a draft and began to collect income taxes to support the war. Congress even created a national paper currency to make financing the war easier.
Although Lincoln did not feel that he had the legal right to abolish slavery, he came up with a compromise that satisfied the North without alienating the border states. The Emancipation Proclamation freed slaves in the rebellious territories, but not in the loyal border states. The Proclamation had an enormous effect on the war effort in both North and South. In the North, it gave a new moral imperative to the war and encouraged the formation of African-American regiments in the Union army. In the South, the measure encouraged slaves to leave their owners or to sabotage efforts to grow crops that supplied the Confederate army. As Northern armies approached Southern cities, slaves would escape to them in droves.
Section 3: The Tide of the War Turns
- As the war dragged on, the weaknesses of the South in terms of manpower and wealth began to take a toll on Confederate forces.
- The tide of the war turned against the South with Northern victories at Gettysburg and Vicksburg.
Summary and Analysis
At the beginning of the year 1863, the North had renewed enthusiasm for the war because of the Emancipation Proclamation, but was still suffering from weak leadership. Lee met the current Northern commander, General Ambrose Burnside, at Fredericksburg, Virginia, and decimated the Northern troops. The next Union general, Joseph Hooker, also experienced a demoralizing defeat at the hands of Lee during the Battle of Chancellorsville. Despite these victories, the tide of the war was about to turn against the South.
On July 1, the Confederates headed into Pennsylvania. They went to the town of Gettysburg, which supposedly had a supply of shoes greatly needed by Southern soldiers. They encountered a unit of Union cavalry, and over the next three days a major battle engulfed the small Pennsylvania town. Three days later, the bloodiest battle of the war ended with 23,000 casualties for the North and 28,000 for the South. The Confederates retreated back to Virginia, incapable of replacing such an enormous loss of men. Lincoln immortalized the Battle of Gettysburg with his famous Gettysburg Address at a ceremony to honor the Union soldiers who died in the battle.
In the western frontier, the Union also won a great victory as General Ulysses S. Grant took the city of Vicksburg, giving the North control of the Mississippi River. With these two victories, the tide of the war had changed. It was only a matter of time before the North’s superiority in numbers and wealth overcame the dwindling resources of the South.
Section 4: Devastation and New Freedom
- The North’s new commanding officers, Ulysses S. Grant and William T. Sherman, took the offensive, devastating the land to wear down the South.
- Demoralized, with much of its population killed or wounded, its fields aflame and cities destroyed, the South surrendered in 1865.
Summary and Analysis
After Grant’s victory at Vicksburg, he was made the commander of all Union forces. He left William T. Sherman in charge of the Union’s army in the west. The two men worked well together. Grant put pressure on the South with action at the Battle of the Wilderness, in Spotsylvania, and in Cold Harbor. Grant suffered tremendous casualties, but he could replace his men. Lee could not. Grant also took the Shenandoah Valley and devastated the land, burning homes and fields. Sherman followed suit, capturing Atlanta and beginning his famous "March to the Sea", burning everything along the way.
The victories of Grant and Sherman allowed Lincoln to win reelection. The war was nearly over. By April of 1865, the Confederate army consisted of 35,000 starving men. On April 9, Lee met with Grant at the Appomattox Courthouse and agreed to generous terms of surrender. Unfortunately, President Lincoln did not live to oversee the official end of the war. He was assassinated on April 14, 1865, by John Wilkes Booth, an actor and Southern sympathizer. The Civil War was over, but the country had no strong leader to guide it through the tricky path of Reconstruction.
Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1210
The period of Reconstruction stretched from the end of the Civil War in 1865 to the year 1877, when control of the South was put back into Southern hands. The chapter is divided into four sections: Presidential Reconstruction, Congressional Reconstruction, Birth of the “New South,” and the End of Reconstruction.
Section 1: Presidential Reconstruction
- The Reconstruction plans of Presidents Lincoln and Johnson made it easy for states to rejoin the Union.
- African Americans began to experience freedom under the protection of Reconstruction laws.
Summary and Analysis
The South was devastated by the Civil War. Much of its industry, farmland, livestock, and infrastructure had been destroyed. Worse yet, the South had lost one-fifth of its adult male population, and a significant portion of the survivors were handicapped by their injuries. Furthermore, the South would have to change its way of life, now that the slaves had been freed.
President Lincoln’s plan of Reconstruction included offering pardon to all Confederate soldiers who would take an oath of allegiance to the Union and accept federal policy on slavery. Once 10% of the population had signed the oath, the state could form a new constitution and reenter the union. After Lincoln’s death, President Andrew Johnson had an even more lenient policy, allowing states to rejoin the Union without the 10% requirement.
Meanwhile, African Americans were beginning to enjoy their newfound freedom. Many began to move across the country and attempt to buy land. African Americans also started schools and churches as well as thousands of other voluntary groups and societies. The Freedmen’s Bureau was established to help the newly freed slaves and in its short existence (1865–1869) gave out clothing, medical supplies, and millions of meals to Civil War refugees.
Section 2: Congressional Reconstruction
- After they reentered the Union, many states enacted laws to restrict African Americans’ liberties.
- As a result, Congress took over Reconstruction and passed laws to protect African Americans during a period called “Radical Reconstruction.”
- President Johnson becomes the first president in history to be impeached.
Summary and Analysis
As the states rejoined the Union under President Johnson’s reconstruction plan, they began to enact a series of laws, called black codes, to limit African Americans in movement, occupation, land ownership, and voting. In 1866, Congress passed the Fourteenth Amendment, which guaranteed citizenship and equal rights to African Americans. One major faction in Congress, known as the Radical Republicans, wanted to ensure that freed slaves achieved equality under the law. They became enraged upon hearing reports of violence against African Americans throughout the South.
President Johnson, a Democrat, did not support the Radical Republicans’ goals. In fact, he urged states not to ratify the Fourteenth Amendment. His actions set up a power struggle between himself and the Congress. Congress eventually passed the Reconstruction Act of 1867, which imposed military government on the South until its states ratified the Fourteenth Amendment and wrote new constitutions guaranteeing equal rights to all citizens. The Reconstruction Act also barred those who had supported the Confederacy from voting and required states to allow freed slaves to vote.
Politically motivated members of Congress impeached President Johnson, accusing him of wrongdoing in the firing of Edward Stanton, the secretary of war. Johnson avoided being convicted of wrongdoing by only one vote and thus held onto his presidency. The case set the precedent that only the most serious crimes, not partisan disagreements, could remove a president from office.
During this period, called Radical Reconstruction, freed slaves enjoyed nearly equal rights in the South. The Fifteenth Amendment guaranteed them the right to vote, and they voted in droves. African Americans were elected to many city, state, and even national positions. In 1874, Blanche K. Bruce became the first African American elected to the U.S. Senate.
Section 3: Birth of the “New South”
- The freeing of the slaves forced the South to develop new patterns of agricultural production.
- Expansion of cities and industry led to limited economic growth.
- Reconstruction funding led to government corruption.
Summary and Analysis
At the end of the war, Southern landowners had to rebuild its agricultural production without the use of slavery. Finding workers was initially a difficult task. Many landowners had barely hung on to their land and had no money to pay to workers. They certainly could not compete with other industries, such as the railroad or Northern factories. The planters had land but no workers; many of the freed slaves had the ability and desire to work but no land. From these two groups came the sharecropping system, which allows workers to earn a share of the crop. The system, however, greatly favored the planters, who often charged inordinate amounts for seed, food, and housing so that the workers were perpetually in debt.
Many of South’s cities learned a lesson from the North as they began rebuilding, introducing new industries, and improving transportation. By 1872, railroad lines had increased by 40%, and cotton mills began turning raw cotton into cloth. Although the South never approached the industrialization of the North, these improvements helped to diversify the economy.
Both Congress and state assemblies agreed with Southern businessmen that diversifying the economy of the South was a good idea, and as politicians often do, they threw money at the idea, figuring that with money would come progress. Unfortunately, the easily available money encouraged corruption. The Union Pacific Railroad, for example, defrauded the government of enormous sums.
Section 4: The End of Reconstruction
- Widespread corruption helped make the country wary of the Republicans and Reconstruction.
- Democrats returned to power, and Reconstruction ended with the Compromise of 1877.
Summary and Analysis
No amount of laws passed by the federal government could change some Southerners’ attitudes toward freed slaves. In 1867, former Confederate general Nathan Bedford Forrest became the leader of the Ku Klux Klan, a secret organization that terrorized African Americans throughout the South. They also sought to eliminate Republicans throughout the South. Although Northern outrage and its resulting laws put the Klan mostly out of business, discrimination resurfaced as federal troops were withdrawn from the South. Without federal protection, African Americans were virtually excluded from voting and public life.
Government corruption and an economic downturn in 1873 helped to bring the Democrats back into power in Congress during the 1870s. Furthermore, the Supreme Court, in several decisions during the 1870s, put the protection of civil rights into the hands of states rather than the federal government. By 1877, Reconstruction was in effect a dying issue. When the presidential election of 1877 was contested, Democrats and Republicans reached an agreement. The Democrats would support the election of Republican Rutherford B. Hayes, who had won in the Electoral College but lost the popular vote, if Hayes in return would remove federal troops from the South. The Compromise of 1877 ended the period of Reconstruction and left African Americans at the mercy of Southern state governments.
Reconstruction was successful in several areas. It did restore the Union and helped the South’s economy grow. It created the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments guaranteeing equal rights for all Americans. However, it failed to protect African Americans’ rights because it left enforcement in the hands of Southern government officials. By 1877, many freed slaves were still caught in an unfair sharecropping system that subjected them to an unending cycle of poverty.
Last Updated on June 1, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1238
This chapter focuses on the technological advances and new business practices that transformed American industry in the second half of the nineteenth century. The chapter is divided into four sections: A Technological Revolution, the Growth of Big Business, Industrialization and Workers, and the Great Strikes.
Section 1: A Technological Revolution
- Technological advances in energy, communication, transportation, and in the processing of steel revolutionized American industry.
Summary and Analysis
The second half of the nineteenth century was a period of great technological innovation. Between 1860 and 1890, over 500,000 patents were issued for new inventions. New forms of energy were developed, including oil, which was refined into kerosene and later gasoline. Thomas Edison, the century’s greatest inventor, developed light bulbs. Electricity was harnessed into power stations, which helped the productivity of businesses and transformed the workplace with cheap power. Electricity also transformed daily life as lights and refrigeration became available to American households. The rapidly growing clothing industry provided thousands of jobs for new immigrants.
In the area of transportation, the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad in 1869 connected the country from East to West. The change to steel rather from iron rails made train travel and shipping safer, and the development of time zones made it more efficient. Finally, railroads gave producers of goods a greater market to ship to and enabled the further growth of industry across the country. At the same time, the invention of the telegraph and telephone greatly improved communication.
Another major technological advance was in the steel industry itself. The Bessemer process greatly simplified the making of steel, so the mass production of steel became possible. Soon the building of large bridges and skyscrapers, such as the Brooklyn Bridge and the Chicago Reliance building, changed the face of American cities.
Section 2: The Growth of Big Business
- The growth of industry required large amounts of capital; new business practices were developed to acquire and handle capital.
- Big-business organizations created wealth as well as controversy and concern.
Summary and Analysis
The technological advances of the late nineteenth century brought a change in the nature of American business. Men like Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller created enormous national companies that comprised many smaller businesses. Two types of consolidation formed such large companies. The first was vertical consolidation, which controlled all phases of the production of one product (as exemplified by Carnegie Steel), and the second was horizontal consolidation, where companies simply bought up all the competitors in their field (as exemplified by Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Company).
Millionaires like Carnegie and Rockefeller forever altered American business. They believed in the theory of social Darwinism. Those who were “fit” for business would succeed, and those who were not “fit” would be weeded out of the business world. No longer were owners involved in every-day business operations, and no longer did they know their workers. Hired managers handled day-to-day operations, and workers were cogs in the machinery of the workplace. New accounting methods were developed to track the huge amounts of money changing hands.
Many Americans were distrustful of the new businesses and called the owners “robber barons,” implying that owners amassed their fortunes by stealing from the public. Many people were afraid that these large companies were interfering with free trade and competition. The government made some attempt to control big business with the Sherman Antitrust Act, but in general the government was afraid of alienating the powerful leaders of industry.
Section 3: Industrialization and the Workers
- Two major population shifts made a large labor force available. The first was European immigration, and the second was the movement of poorer Americans from rural to urban areas.
- Laborers usually held low-paying, unskilled jobs in unsafe conditions.
Summary and Analysis
Between 1860 and 1890, over 14 million immigrants came to the United States and most settled in the industrial centers of the country. Another 8 or 9 million Americans left rural areas during poor economic time to find work in the urban industrial centers. All of these new urban dwellers provided a low-cost labor force for the industrialists to use in their factories.
Factory work was long, poorly paid, unskilled, and often boring. Most factory laborers worked from 10 to 12 hours per day, often seven days per week. Workers were usually paid by the piece of product they completed rather than by an hourly wage, and the working conditions were often unsafe and uncomfortable. Factory owners were more concerned with efficiency than with the comfort and well-being of their employees. Workers were completely ruled by the time clock that told them when to start, when to quit, and when to take breaks. To make matters worse, factories often had poor lighting, poor ventilation, and incredibly loud machinery.
Factory jobs were so poorly paid that all family members usually had to work to afford to survive. Many children grew up working in the factories, even children as young as six or seven years old. Because poverty was considered a result of personal weakness, there was not much relief for the poor. When factories closed or workers were laid off, there was no public assistance available. People had only private charities to turn to for help.
Section 4: The Great Strikes
- By the end of the nineteenth century, a chasm existed between the rich and the poor.
- The horrible conditions of the poor led some people to become politically active; they brought about the rise of labor unions.
- While early labor unions had initial successes, their great strikes often led to violence, and the federal government intervened on behalf of the factories to limit the growth of unions for thirty years.
Summary and Analysis
The growing divide between rich and poor led some individuals to be drawn to the idea of socialism, an economic philosophy that calls for the public control of business for the benefit of all. Socialism was popularized by the radical pamphlet The Communist Manifesto written by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. Most Americans opposed socialism because it conflicted with the American ideals of private property, free enterprise, and individual liberty.
Although most workers did not embrace socialism, many of them wanted change because working conditions were frequently intolerable. Many turned to the new idea of labor unions to give them more leverage in negotiating for better pay and working conditions. Strong labor unions first appeared after the Civil War. These included the Knights of Labor(established in 1869), the American Federation of Labor (which only organized skilled labor), and The Industrial Workers of the World (which organized unskilled labor and included many socialists in its leadership). These unions used strikes and boycotts to try to force employers into collective bargaining with workers for better wages and conditions. Several prominent strikes attempted to make labor’s point during the last quarter of the nineteenth century, including the Great Railway Strike of 1877, the Haymarket Strike of 1886, the Homestead Strike of 1892,and the Pullman Strike of 1894.
Employers used many means to stop unions. First, they forbade union meetings, fired union organizers, and forced new employees to sign “yellow dog” contracts saying they would not join a union. When strikes did take place, employers often called on the federal government to put down the strike. National troops fired on strikers during the Great Railway Strike of 1877, and the Homestead Strike ended after militia involvement. The federal government did not recognize the unions as legally protected organizations and intervened on the side of business when called.
Last Updated on June 1, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1429
This chapter focuses on the latter part of the nineteenth century, when the western part of the United States went from being a scarcely populated frontier to a vibrant, growing area that greatly contributed to America’s economy. In order for this transformation to take place, settlers had to move West, and the Native Americans who had first occupied the land were forcibly “resettled.” The chapter is divided into four sections: Moving West, Conflict With Native Americans, Mining, Ranching, and Farming, and Populism.
Section 1: Moving West
- There were many factors that encouraged Americans to move West, including high land prices in the East and government incentives for those willing to move West.
- By the 1890s, the frontier as it had been known throughout the early 1800s was virtually gone.
Summary and Analysis
Despite the hardships they encountered (e.g., blinding blizzards, agonizing droughts, and stifling heat), many Americans continued to take up stakes and travel West throughout the latter nineteenth century. There were many reasons to make the journey. First, land prices in the East were very high as the population became larger. Many immigrants, freed slaves, and poorer whites could not achieve their dreams of owning land. The government enticed settlers by making land ownership available in the West through the Morrill Land Grant Act and the Homestead Act. This act granted 160 acres of land to anyone who “improved” the land by building a home on it and farming it for five years. The Homestead Act ultimately created 372,000 farms. By 1890, the West was dotted with settlements approximately every 10 miles. The western frontier was no more.
Section 2: Conflict With Native Americans
- Westward migration brought conflict with the Native Americans.
- American dealings with the Native Americans were fraught with dishonesty, corruption, and outright cruelty.
Summary and Analysis
Western settlement on a grand scale brought the settlers into conflict with the land’s original inhabitants, the Native Americans. Initially, the policy of the American government was to make treaties to restrict the movements of tribal people, but these treaties were frequently made with fraudulent intent. By the 1870s, even the government had realized the treaties were useless, so they began forcibly removing Native Americans from tribal lands in what amounted to an outright war. Although the Indians often had the advantage of surprise and knowledge of the land, they had a distinct disadvantage in numbers and resources. Several large battles—including the Sand Creek Massacre in 1864, in which hundreds of women and children were slaughtered—revealed the savagery the U.S. government resorted to in order to end the “Indian problem.” In the Southwest, the Navajo and Apache were forced onto reservations in the 1860s, but wars there did not end until Geronimo's capture in 1886. In the Northwest, the Nez Perce under Chief Joseph surrendered and were sent to Oklahoma in 1877. Despite the victory by Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse over George Custer at the Battle of Little Bighorn, the Plains way of life was also gasping its last breaths. The death of Sitting Bull at The Battle of Wounded Knee in 1890 was the final blow to Native American culture in the West.
Many whites who were sympathetic to the Native American cause still believed that the tribes had to change their way of life and assimilate. To that end, hundreds of Native American children were removed from their families and sent East to schools designed to make them “Americans.” Exiled to reservations, adult Native Americans were given reservation farms of 160 acres each by the Dawes Act, but much of the land was eventually sold to whites. Over two-thirds of Indian lands ended up in non-Indian hands.
By the end of the century, millions of Native American men, women, and children had died at the hands of American soldiers or of sickness and disease on squalid reservations.
Section 3: Mining, Ranching, and Farming
- Mining, ranching, and farming became the major economic activity of the West.
- These activities and their changing nature transformed the West.
Summary and Analysis
One of the earliest waves of westward movement had been instigated by the discovery of gold in California. Gold and silver were also found in many other locations in the West, including the Black Hills of North Dakota, and near Denver, Colorado. Mines were claimed all over the western territories. Although most mines were owned by individuals, the deeper veins of gold, silver, and copper brought in the money and sophisticated technology of larger companies.
The late 1800s were also the heyday of the American cowboy. Beef prices jumped in the 1870s and improvements in western cattle as well as the development of refrigerated railcars to transport meat spurred the ranching industry. Cattle was ranched mostly in Texas and then driven North on the Chisholm Trail to the railway centers on the Great Plains. As the cattle business grew, wealthy ranchers created huge operations that employed many people and ran like a large company. The great age of the cowboy ended in the 1880s, and although ranching continued, it was on a much smaller scale.
Most of the settlers who went West were farmers who wanted inexpensive land. The land might have been cheap, but farming it and holding it was not easy. The homesteaders who settled the Great Plains had to build houses out of dirt for a lack of wood. They survived long winters, dry summers, backbreaking labor, and invasions of insects just to make a meager living from their land. Often isolated, families had to do everything themselves, so even very young children contributed labor. As more settlers moved West, new farming techniques and technology helped ease the labor. The United States Department of Agriculture, created in 1862, kept farmers informed of new technologies and farming methods. Although some professionals created large-scale farms with hired help, the family farm prevailed in the West as mining and ranching declined.
By the end of the century, all that remained of the “Old West” were the legends. Historian Frederick Jackson Turner claimed in his Turner thesis that the frontier had played a key role in forming American ideals and characteristics. Now the frontier itself had been tamed.
Section 4: Populism
- Economic crises in the late 1800s led to organized protests by farmers seeking government relief.
- Economic relief and reform became an election issue leading to the rise of populism.
Summary and Analysis
American farmers were at the mercy of two elements: nature and the economy. Although the government had no control over nature, it could exercise some control over the economy. As farmers began to produce more food, prices steady decline, but the costs of producing food remained the same. Thus farmers were falling further and further in debt, and many homesteaders were losing their farms. The panics of 1873 and 1893 just worsened their plight. Farmers began to organize to support economic policies that would help them.
Some of the issues that concerned farmers were tariffs on foreign imports, which helped businessmen but hurt farmers. Tariffs limited competition from foreign markets and raised prices on necessary supplies like seed. Another key issue for the farmers was the issue of money supply. Farmers supported a “loose” monetary policy (i.e., the federal government’s plan for increasing the amount of money printed) because it would encourage inflation, or an increase in prices, making the amount they owed in debt worth less when paid than when borrowed. The opposite policy, a “tight” money policy, brought deflation, thus increasing the value of the dollar and making debt worth more when paid than when borrowed.
The earliest farm organization was called the Grange, which helped farmers organize into cooperatives so that they could buy goods in quantity at lower prices. In addition, a network of Farmers Alliances helped farmers unite around money, railroad, and relief issues. For example, farmers wanted to know why the federal government was unwilling to help them in times of catastrophe, such as during the Mississippi floods of 1882 and the 21-month drought in Texas in 1886. In 1891, the Farmer Alliances combined to form the Populist Party. They organized their platform on the following issues: increased circulation of money, the unlimited minting of silver, a progressive income tax,and government ownership of communication and transportation systems. In 1896, the Populist Party combined with the Democrats to nominate William Jennings Bryan to the presidency, but he lost to William McKinley. That loss and the discovery of gold in many parts of the world effectively ended the Populist Party, but many of their goals lived on in the progressive reformers of the early twentieth century.
Last Updated on June 1, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1309
This chapter discusses the period during which the United States emerged from Reconstruction by greatly increasing its industrial and agricultural production. Some Americans prospered, but many more remained trapped in a cycle of low wages and poor living conditions. The chapter is divided into four sections: Politics in the Gilded Age, People on the Move, the Challenge of the Cities, and Ideas for Reform.
Section 1: Politics in the Gilded Age
- National politics was dominated by issues of corruption and reform.
- Economic pressures also greatly affected the politics of the 1890s.
Summary and Analysis
During the late 1800s, government generally took a laissez-faire—or “hands off”—approach to economic matters. But not always. The government’s involvement in railroad building, for example, led to a scandal involving Union Pacific Railroadand Credit Mobilier. The government gave a subsidy to help Union Pacific with the Transcontinental Railroad, and most of the money from the subsidy lined the pockets of Credit Mobilier, who built the actual tracks of the railroad and overcharged for them. As many as thirty public officials, including a future president, took bribes from Credit Mobilier.
Corruption permeated the government because of its reliance on the spoils system, which allowed elected officials to dole out government jobs to unworthy candidates in return for their political support. Rutherford B. Hayes was the first to fight the spoils system by reforming the civil service. He angered his party so much with his reforms that he did not seek reelection. The spoils system played a role in the death of James Garfield. Elected president in 1880, Garfield was shot by a mentally unstable lawyer who had expected a job from Garfield under the spoils system. Garfield’s death put Chester A. Arthur in office, and as a result of Garfield’s assassination, he was able to pass the Pendleton Civil Service Act, which created classifications and fitness requirements for government jobs. It also stated that federal employees could not be required to contribute to political causes.
During the 1890s, economics became an important election issue. Benjamin Harrison won the 1888 election with his support of higher tariffs. Harrison’s greatest achievement as president was his signing of the Sherman Antitrust Act in 1890. Although not very effective at the time, it later gave government a weapon to use to curb big business. Grover Cleveland, who had lost to Harrison in 1888, became the first and only man to regain the presidency, in 1892. He was in for a difficult term of office as the Depression of 1893 hit and cost millions their jobs. His inaction in economic issues would eventually cost him his job as well. In 1896, Republican William McKinley won the election. The economy improved under McKinley, and he was reelected to office in 1900.
Section 2: People on the Move
- Millions of immigrants from different nations flooded the nation’s borders during the late 1800s to early 1900s.
Summary and Analysis
Between 1865 and 1920, over 20 million immigrants came to the shores of the United States. The first wave of immigrants came mostly from Northern Europe: Germany, Britain, and Ireland. The second wave came from central, eastern, and southern Europe and included Italians, Russians, Slavs, and Armenians. In addition, many immigrants came from China and Japan. The majority of immigrants arrived in New York and settled in urban areas. Many lived in ghettos, living with their countrymen in ethnic communities. Most immigrants worked in poorly paying factory jobs.
Some Americans were unhappy with the large influx of foreigners, particularly with the Asian immigrants, and as a result the Chinese Exclusion Act was passed in 1882. This was the first of many restrictions on immigration. During this period in the southwest, hundreds of thousands of Mexicans fled civil wars and violence in their country to come to the United States. By 1925, Los Angeles already had the largest Spanish-speaking population of any North American city outside of Mexico.
Section 3: The Challenge of the Cities
- Millions of people moved into America’s cities, creating enormous growth and new challenges.
Summary and Analysis
A public health study in New York City in the 1890s found 240,000 people living per square mile in the Lower East Side. This staggering number, however, was not uncommon in U.S. cities: Philadelphia, Chicago, St. Louis, and New Orleans all had a similar population density. In addition to the millions of immigrants settling in the city, over 11 million Americans abandoned the hard life of farming to seek a new life in the city. Cities grew larger in part because new transportation methods such as elevated trains, subways, and electric streetcars enabled middle-class families to move further from the city centers. Their residential areas in the city were then subdivided into smaller units and rented to poorer immigrants or other new comers. Many single-family dwellings were torn down and replaced with dark, poorly built tenements to house immigrant families.
Urban living conditions were nearly intolerable. Many apartments had inner rooms with no light or ventilation. Many windows opened only on dark, dank airshafts. With no indoor plumbing, residents had to share a water spigot outside. Fire was a constant danger, and contagious diseases such as cholera, malaria, tuberculosis, and typhoid thrived. Thousands died each year of what should have been preventable illnesses. When Jacob Riis published his book How the Other Half Lives, many were astounded at the poverty that existed in American cities.
The growth of cities also brought about the existence of the political machineto control city government and pad the pockets of machine members. Ruled by political bosses who encouraged graft(the use of one’s job to gain profit), the political machines traded favors for political support. They often gained the vote of immigrants because they were the only ones who ever did anything to ease their horrible living conditions.
Section 4: Ideas for Reform
- Immigration and poverty brought about several reforms, including movements to help the needy, restrict immigration, and restrict behaviors considered immoral.
Summary and Analysis
As the population at large became aware of the horrible conditions in which many immigrants lived, Americans turned to help them. Motivated by social consciousness or religious idealism, many middle-class women and men put their energy into fighting poverty and improving the unwholesome conditions of the tenements. These movements included the Charity Organization Society, which provided classes and other help to immigrants to help them become more American. The Social Gospel Movement was founded by urban churches and tried to focus on the gospel ideals of charity and justice. They helped the needy directly and also supported better living conditions and wages for factory workers. They felt that workers deserved a greater share in the wealth they helped produce. Another movement was that of the Settlement Houses, which allowed young middle-class people to set up centers in poor areas where help was needed most. Settlement houses led by Jane Addams’ Hull House and Lillian Wald’s Henry Street House established child-care centers, playgrounds, clubs, and summer camps for children.
Other movements that began at this time included nativism, which favored native-born Americans. Groups such as the Know-Nothing Party, American Protective Association, and the Immigration Restriction League supported bills such as the Chinese Exclusion Act discussed earlier. Targeting all immigrants, they secured the repeal of the Contract Labor Act, which allowed employers to make contracts with prospective immigrants. They also supported teaching only American culture and English in schools and vowed to hire only American Protestants for jobs. As the twentieth century progressed, nativist groups would gain even greater power.
Finally some reformers attacked what they saw as the moral ills of society. The temperance movement, begun before the Civil War, experienced a resurgence in the 1870s. The Woman’s Christian Temperance League supported prohibition because it saw alcohol as the cause of endless personal tragedies. Other groups worked to fight gambling, prostitution, and obscenity.
Last Updated on June 1, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1256
This chapter deals with several different social issues at the turn of the twentieth century, including education, entertainment, life for African Americans under Jim Crow laws, and the changing role of women. The chapter is split into four sections: The Expansion of Education, New Forms of Entertainment, The World of Jim Crow, The Changing Roles of Women.
Section 1: The Expansion of Education
- In the nineteenth century, education was out of reach for many Americans, but by the turn of the century more and more Americans were able to take advantage of educational opportunities.
- Educational opportunities were not available to all Americans on an equal basis. Women, African Americans, and Native Americans still faced significant discrimination.
Summary and Analysis
By the end of the nineteenth century, the vast majority of Americans attended at least a few years of public schooling in order to learn to read, write, and do basic arithmetic. Public schools not only provided education for immigrant children, but they also played a major role in assimilating immigrants, helping them become part of American culture. As more students completed high school, more opportunities developed for them to attend institutions of higher learning. Between the years 1880 and 1900, around 150 new colleges and universities opened their doors. By 1915, even some middle-class families were able to send their children to college. Women, too, began to have opportunities to receive a higher education as many colleges formed associated women’s schools. This wide availability of higher education would come to distinguish the United States from other industrialized nations.
Unfortunately this education was not equally available to everybody. African-American children generally attended separate schools that were very inferior to those of their white counterparts. Native American children could only attend schools if they left the reservation and their families to attend special boarding schools that forced them to give up their language, dress, customs, and culture.
As far as higher education went, there were few colleges and universities who would admit African Americans, yet there were many African Americans who wanted higher educational opportunities. Only a few institutions—Oberlin, Bates, and Bowdoin—accepted African-American students, and there were also several segregated African-American schools founded during Reconstruction, including Fisk University and Howard University. Booker T. Washington and W. E. B. Dubois represented two differing views on African-American education. Washington believed in vocational education that would provide African Americans with a way of making a living because they needed economic equality to gain social equality. W. E. B. Dubois did not agree. He argued that African Americans needed to gain social and political equality and civil rights through educated leaders who took pride in their heritage.
Section 2: New Forms of Entertainment
- From 1880 to 1915, Americans who had more money and leisure time began to flock to new forms of entertainment.
Summary and Analysis
With new forms of transportation and more leisure time and more money, many Americans began to look for new forms of entertainment to take them away from the dirty, crowded streets where they lived and work. These forms of entertainment included vaudeville shows and, sometime later, movies. They also included visits to the circus and tips to amusement parks. This was the grand era of amusement parks such as Coney Island’s Luna Park. Finally, sports provided people with another form of inexpensive entertainment, and fans flocked to baseball, football, and basketball games in particular.
Other more personal forms of entertainment included the reading of newspapers, magazines, and dime-store novels. Musical diversions included concerts, dances, or simply gathering around the piano at home. The invention of the player piano and the phonograph helped spread the development of new musical styles such as jazz and ragtime.
Section 3: The World of Jim Crow
- African Americans lost many of the rights they had gained during Reconstruction.
- In the South, Jim Crow laws were designed to keep African Americans subservient. In the North, there was less legal discrimination, but still not full equality in practice.
- African Americans began to band together to work for civil rights.
Summary and Analysis
After the end of Reconstruction, Southern whites began to introduce laws to keep freed slaves and other African Americans subservient in society. First, they restricted the voting rights of African Americans by requiring literacy tests or poll taxes that they knew African Americans could not pass or afford. Most Southern states also introduced Jim Crow laws to enforce segregation. These laws required the separation of African Americans and whites in schools, parks, public buildings, hospitals, and on transportation systems. Even public facilities such as bathrooms and water fountains were segregated. The Supreme Court held up this idea of segregation in the case of Plessy v. Ferguson, which stated that separate but equal facilities are Constitutional. Facilities, though, were hardly equal, which was difficult to prove in court. In the North, discrimination was less blatant but was still ever present, sometimes erupting in race riots. Violence was not unusual as African Americans were frequently attacked or—much worse—lynched.
As discrimination and violence became increasingly common, black leaders began to seek solutions for the race problems. In 1905, many black leaders met to discuss the problem at the Niagara Conference in Ontario, Canada. Out of this conference came the formation of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1909. The NAACP became a vital force in the fight for civil rights throughout the twentieth century. African Americans also began to form mutual-aid societies to help the advancement of their people. African-American intellectuals published scholarly articles and literature, African-American businesses sprang up everywhere, and Booker T. Washington established the national Negro Business League in 1900.
Section 4: The Changing Roles of Women
- With new inventions to make housework easier, women found their roles in society changing.
- These changes fueled a debate over the proper role of women in the workplace, in education, and in the public arena.
Summary and Analysis
At the turn of the century, there was wide debate throughout society on “the women question.” For many women, the question boiled down to a few demands: Women should be able to vote, control their own property and income, and obtain an education and professional job.
Women’s role in the home had changed. Although there was still necessary work, it no longer took as many hours to take care of a home and family. Few women needed to bake homemade bread or make their family’s clothes because ready-made items were less expensive and easily available. Even rural families could receive many ready-made articles with rural free delivery from the post office and mail order catalogues from Sears and Montgomery Wards.
Many women worked in factories, as domestic servants, or as teachers or nurses either because their families needed the funds or because they wanted to work. Most but not all women stopped working after marriage. The invention of the typewriter and telephones provided more work opportunities for women as secretaries or operators. Wealthier women put their energies into volunteer work to improve society. They joined clubs of common interest and worked for causes such as temperance and girl’s education. Women’s groups established libraries and helped each other in speaking, writing, and finance. The National Women’s Suffrage Organization began to strive toward gaining the vote for women in 1890 and would succeed thirty years later. Although many women disagreed with some of the ideas of the “New Women” and her dress, hairstyles, occupations, and pastimes, suffrage was the issue on which nearly all of them could unite.
Last Updated on June 1, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1565
This chapter focuses on the period between 1890 and 1915, when the United States became increasingly involved in international affairs, especially in Central America, the Caribbean, and in the Pacific Islands. The chapter is divided into four sections: The Pressure to Expand, the Spanish-American War, a New Foreign Policy, and Debating America’s New Role.
Section 1: The Pressure to Expand
- In the late 1800s, the United States found itself under pressure to extend American influence abroad.
Summary and Analysis
Beginning in the late 1800s, the United States found itself under increasing pressure to expand its influence into the world arena. There were several reasons for this pressure. First, the late nineteenth century was one of unprecedented expansion of European countries as they vied for colonial territories worldwide. European nations such as Great Britain, France, and Germany were seeking to increase their natural resources and to satisfy nationalistic goals by bringing their culture, religion, and values to those they saw as inferior to themselves. This European colonial expansion both threatened and challenged the United States. Secondly, many saw expansion as a way to develop new markets for American products. A third pressure to expand came from the navy, which claimed it needed a stronger force to protect American interests abroad. But by 1900, the United States had developed one of the most powerful navies in the world, which suggested to others that the U.S. had the willingness and ability to compete on the open sea. Finally, some American leaders felt that America needed a new “frontier” to keep the “American Spirit” of nationalism strong; others felt that American expansion was a noble pursuit that would bring Christianity and modern civilization to the “heathen” peoples around the world. Gradually, Americans began to accept expansion as necessary and right. The United States would soon find itself involved in many difficult foreign conflicts.
Section 2: The Spanish-American War
- The United States found itself drawn, against the will of many of its citizens, into the Spanish-American War, which resulted in the annexation of new territories.
- The U. S. also found itself increasingly involved in affairs of the Philippines, Hawaii, Samoa, and China.
Summary and Analysis
In general, the United States was concerned about the affairs of other Western Hemisphere nations, so it was natural for the U.S. to take an interest when Great Britain had a dispute with Venezuela in 1891. The United States insisted that the Monroe Doctrine called for the boundary dispute to be submitted for arbitration. After balking at first, Great Britain agreed. With the Monroe Doctrine strengthened, the U.S. also took an interest in the Cuban rebellion against its Spanish overlords in the late 1800s. In 1895, Spain imposed a military government that caused
the deaths of an estimated 200,000 Cubans from disease and starvation. Cuban exiles wanted America to become involved, but President Cleveland was reluctant.
The Cubans took action by bombing American sugar plantations in Cuba so that business owners would support the war. Newspapers in America also demanded U.S. intervention. Using sensational yellow journalism techniques, newspapermen such as William Randolph Hearst inspired a burst of national pride and a strong desire for an aggressive foreign policy, known as jingoism. Two other events—the insulting de Lome letter from the Spanish ambassador and the sinking of the U.S.S. Maine that killed more than 250 American sailors—made U.S. intervention in the rebellion inevitable
American forces easily defeated the Spanish in the brief Spanish-American War. In the Treaty of Paris signed in 1898, the Spanish government recognized Cuba’s independence and sold the island of Puerto Rico as well as the Pacific islands of Guam and the Philippines to the United States. The treaty was barely passed by Congress before many began worrying about how to handle these new territories. The Filipinos felt betrayed by America because they had fought the Spanish alongside American forces, and a three-year war in the Philippines resulted in the death of 4,000 American soldiers as well as many thousands of Filipinos. Cuba was freed but was nominally under American control. The Platt Amendment allowed Cubans self-government but limited Cuban ability to conduct its foreign affairs without American approval. Puerto Rico became an unincorporated territory of the United States.
In addition to the annexation of the Philippines and Guam in the Pacific, U. S. business interests deposed the queen of Hawaii, Liliuokalani, who opposed American control of the islands and established a republic requesting annexation. This was granted by President McKinley. The U.S. also gained the important harbor of Pago Pago in Samoa and pursued an open door policywith China.
Section 3: A New Foreign Policy
- After McKinley’s assassination in 1901, President Theodore Roosevelt, seeing the United States as a world power, pursued a vigorous and aggressive foreign policy.
- Presidents Taft and Wilson, while recognizing America’s status as a world power, toned down Roosevelt’s brash foreign policy and put their own mark on developing U.S. foreign policy.
Summary and Analysis
Theodore Roosevelt was a hero from the Spanish-American War when he became McKinley’s vice president. When McKinley was assassinated in 1901, Roosevelt became the country’s youngest president at 42 years old. He was a firm believer in a strong, aggressive foreign policy and immediately began to pursue such a policy. His first interest was in developing a quick link between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans by digging a canal through Panama. When negotiations with the government of Colombia who owned the land stalled, Roosevelt took action by sanctioning and supporting a Panamanian revolt against Colombia and making an agreement with the newly formed Panamanian Republic. The Panama Canal was completed in 1914, six months ahead of schedule. This heavy-handed action by the United States hurt relations with South and Central America. Roosevelt developed the Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine which claimed that the U.S. did not want to annex any territory in Central or South America but that if conditions there threatened American interests in any way, America would get involved. He demonstrated this when the island nation of Santo Domingo went bankrupt and European nations threatened military action to collect their debts. The U.S. stepped in, paid the debts, and took over the financial affairs of the island until the government was solvent.
Roosevelt also felt justified in getting involved in events in the Pacific to protect U.S. trade and interests there. He won a Nobel Peace Prize for negotiating peace between Russia and Japan and persuading Russia to give Manchuria back to China, thus keeping trade with China open to all nations. The U.S. had now firmly established its role as a world power.
Roosevelt’s handpicked successor, William Howard Taft, tried to continue Roosevelt’s strong foreign policy but was not as aggressive as Roosevelt. He believed in “dollar diplomacy,” using monetary rather than military persuasion to achieve his ends. This use of money to achieve goals also angered many in Latin American who resented U.S. efforts to buy everything it wanted. President Wilson differed from Roosevelt in a more fundamental way. Rather than using American interests to determine foreign policy, Wilson wanted to apply moral and legalistic standards to diplomacy. His use of these ideals to guide U.S. involvement in a Mexican Revolution had poor results as it soured relations between Mexico and the United States for decades.
Section 4: Debating America’s New Role
- After the Spanish-American War, there was intense debate in the U.S. about the wisdom of imperialism.
Summary and Analysis
Americans were greatly divided on the issue of imperialism. Those against imperialism established the Anti-Imperialist League and included politician William Jennings Bryant, novelist Mark Twain and reformer Jane Addams. They had several reasons to oppose the imperialistic policies of the United States. First, they believed imperialism went against the basic American ideal of “liberty for all.” They also felt that people in annexed territories deserved the basic rights guaranteed to all in the Constitution. Furthermore, they felt that imperialism threatened democracy at home because standing armies used in foreign conflicts could just as easily be used to put down dissent on American soil.
Some anti-imperialists also felt that imperialism itself was a form of racism and should not be promoted. Other opponents of imperialism actually were racist and were afraid that the annexation of foreign territories would encourage those of other races to come settle in the United States. A final arena of arguments was economic. Many felt it was too expensive to support an army and did not want increased taxation and compulsory military service.
One of the arguments used to support imperialism was that it helped to protect American economic interests abroad and helped to secure the borders of our nation. Supporters of imperialism also commended the increased nationalism that came with expansion.
The United States was quickly becoming so powerful that the other nations of the world were divided in their opinion of the country. On one hand, any nation who needed financial or military help began to turn to the Untied States for aid. On the other hand, many nations resented that aid even as they asked for it. They saw it as American intrusion and evidence of American power. America struggled with balancing national interests and its relationships with other nations. It is a dilemma that continues to plague American diplomacy to this day.
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This chapter explores the numerous reform movements of the Progressive Era. The chapter is divided into four sections: The Origins of Progressivism, Progressive Legislation, Progressivism Under Taft and Wilson, and Suffrage at Last.
Section 1: The Origins of Progressivism
- At the turn of the century, many of the problems caused by rapid industrialization and urbanization spurred the creation of reform movements that became known as progressivism.
- Many of the goals of Progressivism came from earlier reform movements.
Summary and Analysis
The Progressives were never a single, unified group. They came from many different backgrounds, including the rural populists, temperance workers, settlement workers, union organizers, and other groups committed to reform. In general, they had four basic beliefs about government: it should be accountable to its citizens, it should curb the power and influence of the wealthy, it should be active in improving the lives of its citizens, and it should be more efficient and less corrupt. In some way or other, all progressives worked toward these goals.
Some of those responsible for igniting the Progressives included writers such as Upton Sinclair with his book The Jungle, which exposed the evils of the meat industry; Edward Bellamy with Looking Backward, a utopian look at a future America without political corruption or poverty; and Henry George with Progress and Poverty. Other writers, often called muckrakersbecause they dug into the dirt of companies and their practices, also alerted the public to the scandalous behavior of city officials and companies like Standard Oil.
Those works exposing the wrongs of politicians and large companies spurred the reform movement. Membership in both labor unions and in the socialist party increased as a result. Though most Progressives were not socialists, they worked to reform corrupt government organizations and to guard the welfare of the working class and the poor. Many women were involved in Progressive reform. Female leaders such as Florence Kelly and Mother Jones came to the movement from vastly different backgrounds but worked tirelessly for change. Women believed that these issues were key to protecting their families. They felt that they needed to vote and be politically involved for their families’ sake.
Section 2: Progressive Legislation
- Progressive demands during the early 1900s resulted in a large amount of Progressive legislation at the city, state, and federal level.
- Theodore Roosevelt was a powerful voice for Progressive change.
- Progressive legislation affected all aspects of American society—from conditions in the workplace to prices on the railroad.
Summary and Analysis
Progressive activism was very successful in pressuring the government to make changes. Many of the earliest changes were at the municipal level as Progressives sought to free the cities from political bosses. Sometimes they succeeded in overturning the bosses; at other times, bosses simply succumbed to political pressure and cooperated with Progressive goals. The Triangle Shirtwaist Company fire in 1911, which resulted in the deaths of 146 women trapped on the roof of a building and the powerful response it engendered, forced Tammany Hall, the New York political machine, to begin regulating workplace safety and conditions. Cities also reformed their governments by taking control of utilities and providing some welfare services for their poorest citizens.
Reform also took place on a state level as voters were given the direct vote to elect their senatorial representatives. The referendum, ballot initiatives, and the recall election also gave voters more power to choose their elected officials. Wisconsin served as a model of reform under Governor Robert La Follette.
Theodore Roosevelt became a champion of Progressive reform at the federal level. He strengthened the power of the unions by refusing to use federal power to interfere in a strike and insisting that both sides submit to arbitration. He strengthened antitrust legislation by using the Sherman Antitrust Act to take legal action against monopolies that hurt the public good. He won passage of the Hepburn Act in 1906, which gave the Interstate Commerce Commission strong enforcement powers to regulate the railroads. He established the Department of Labor to regulate labor conditions and promote the welfare of workers. Finally, in an effort to preserve some of the nation’s natural resources for everyone, he created the National Forest Service and set aside more than 200 million acres for national use. Three Constitutional Amendments passed during his term. The Sixteenth Amendment established the federal income tax, the Seventeenth Amendment required the direct election of Senators, and the Eighteenth Amendment prohibited the production and sale of alcoholic beverages.
Section 3: Progressivism Under Taft and Wilson
- Although President Taft had a solid record of supporting reforms, he ran into difficulty and alienated Progressives.
- Progressives broke away from the Republican Party during the 1912 presidential election and began the Progressive Party with Theodore Roosevelt as their candidate.
- The split in the Republican Party allowed the Democratic candidate, Woodrow Wilson, to win the presidency. He continued Progressive reform until the nation became bogged down with concern over World War I.
Summary and Analysis
William Howard Taft, Roosevelt’s handpicked successor, could not fill Roosevelt’s large shoes. He did not have the strong personality needed to fight the powerful Republican Congressmen who opposed Progressive reforms. He gave into compromise measures such as the Payne Aldrich Tariff Act, which did not sufficiently lower tariffs to satisfy Progressive interests. He also got involved in a controversy by angering conservationists in supporting the sale of millions of acres of land in Alaska to business interests. Progressives caused turmoil in the Republican Party and when Teddy Roosevelt returned from a two-year African trip, he began to campaign against Taft. In 1912, the Progressives left the Republican Party to run their own candidate, former President Roosevelt, thereby creating a party Roosevelt christened the Bull Moose Party. With four candidates running for office and dividing voters: Roosevelt, Taft, Woodrow Wilson (Democrat), and Eugene Debs (Socialist), Wilson easily ran away with the election.
Wilson continued Roosevelt’s policy of supporting reform. He reduced tariffs with the Underwood Tariff Act. He continued to attack trusts by guiding Congress to pass the Clayton Antitrust Act, which defined illegal business activities with specificity. He supported the establishment of a Federal Reserve System that would help protect the economy by helping banks avoid panics. Finally, he made a strong Progressive statement with his appointment of Louis Brandies, a Jewish Progressive lawyer, to the Supreme Court in 1916.
Progressivism did not help all Americans. It gave little relief to African Americans in the South who still struggled to survive under Jim Crow laws and gave little relief to tenant and migrant farmers. However, the reforms of early-twentieth-century America had made broad changes in society, government, and business for the benefit of most Americans.
Section 4: Suffrage at Last
- Women finally gained the right to vote in 1920.
Summary and Analysis
The Progressive movement was largely on the wane after the U.S. entry into World War I in 1918, but one major reform was still to come: women’s suffrage. Although women had been actively pursuing the vote since the Seneca Falls Conference in 1848, the movement had stalled after 1896. Women such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony had fought the good fight but had died without seeing their goals achieved. Many women had participated in acts of civil disobedience and had even been arrested, yet the goal of suffrage still seemed unattainable. Suffragettes had used two different strategies to achieve their goal. One strategy was to agitate for a Constitutional Amendment allowing women the vote. The other was to attempt to gain suffrage state by state. This policy seemed to work best at first. Women gained the vote in several western states, where women’s influence and work was more valued.
In 1890, Susan B. Anthony joined with younger leaders in forming the National American Women Suffrage Association (NAWSA). New leaders, particularly Carrie Chapman Catt and Alice Paul, came to the forefront of the movement after 1910, revitalizing it. They developed a six-year plan with a red-hot campaign in every state. By 1917, NAWSA had 2 million members. U.S. entry into World War I had a great impact as women took over many previously male occupations to free up men for the military. In 1919, Congress finally proposed an amendment granting women suffrage. The Nineteenth Amendment was ratified by the thirty-sixth state necessary, Tennessee, in August of 1920. It was the last major reform of the Progressive era.
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This chapter discusses America’s involvement in World War I. The United States emerged from World War I as an unparalleled world power. The chapter is divided into five sections: The Road to War, the United States Declares War, Americans on the European Front, Americans on the Home Front, and Global Peacemaker.
Section 1: The Road to War
- World War I had several long- and short-term causes: imperialism, militarism, nationalism, and a tangled system of alliances that caused the war to expand quickly.
- The United States tried hard to remain neutral in the early years of the war.
Summary and Analysis
On June 28, 1914, Archduke Francis Ferdinand of Austria made a state visit to Sarajevo in Bosnia. He was assassinated, and his assassination ignited World War I, which was to be called by its participants The War to End All Wars. At the time of Ferdinand’s death, Europe was a powder keg waiting to explode. One of the reasons for this volatile situation was the imperialism of the late 1800s that had sent European nations vying against each other to gain colonies. Other causes included an increase in nationalism, the belief in the superiority of one’s nation or ethnic group; militarism, an increase in the interest and money spent on developing armies and weapons; and finally, alliances,a web of secret agreements between countries to come to each others aid in time of war.
Thus when the Archduke was assassinated and Serbia was threatened with war by Austria-Hungary, Russia came to her aid, mobilizing for war. In a domino effect, Germany declared war on Russia, and France and Great Britain declared war on Germany. Soon Italy, Bulgaria, and the Ottoman Empire were drawn into the war. Those uniting with Russia, France, and Great Britain were called the Allies. The Germans and Austrians were the main force of the Central Powers.
Although each side thought that victory would be swift, the war soon bogged down into a stalemate. New weapons and tactics made this war different from any pervious conflict. Machine guns, rapid-fire artillery, and poison gas could kill soldiers much more quickly and efficiently than men mounted on horseback with muskets or rifles ever could, so the war settled down into protective trenches on the edges of “no man’s lands.” The war became defensive in nature because offensive maneuvers were so deadly. On one day in the Battle of Somme in 1916, the British lost 20,000 men.
The United States wanted to remain neutral in the war, but even early on most Americans sympathized with the Allies for several reasons. Millions of Americans traced their roots to England and were also culturally connected to the British through language, literature, and culture. Others mistrusted Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany who was an autocratic ruler, suspicious to those who strongly believed in democracy. However they sympathized, most Americans wanted to remain neutral, but others wanted to be prepared for war, just in case, founding the National Security League to promote military readiness and patriotic sentiment. Some who were categorically against war founded a peace movement with groups such as the American Union Against Militarism.
Section 2: The United States Declares War
- German submarine warfare pushed American sentiment against Germany and brought the country into the World War I on the Allied side.
Summary and Analysis
The major factor that ended U.S. neutrality was the German use of submarine warfare. Submarines were a new weapon that could attack ships without warning. The Germans used their submarines, called U-boats, against any ship they thought might be helping the Allies, even passenger ships. On May 7, 1915, German U-boats torpedoed the Lusitania, a British passenger ship with 1,200 passengers. Among the dead passengers were 128 Americans. Their deaths caused outrage as the Germans were denounced as “barbarians.” In 1916, after much negotiating and broken promises, the Germans signed the Sussex pledge, promising to at least warn ships before attacking, giving them a chance to surrender. However, this pledge would soon be broken.
Another factor that helped to bring American sentiment to support the war was the Russian Revolution. Many Americans had been uncomfortable being allied with Russia, ruled by one of the most autocratic rulers on earth, so the early stages of the revolution were comforting to them. In addition, proof that Germany was strategizing against the United States came to national attention with the publication of the Zimmerman letter in which the Germans promised Mexico land in the southwest for attacking the United States. Nothing could have come of the offer because of Mexico’s poverty and internal warfare, but the note helped to sway public opinion. In April 1917, the United States formally declared war on Germany.
Section 3: Americans on the European Front
- America was not immediately prepared to send troops and supplies to Europe. It took a major mobilization effort to gather and train the necessary soldiers.
- When America troops finally arrived in full force, they turned the tide of the war against the Central Powers.
Summary and Analysis
At the time of its declaration of war, the United States was not prepared to send a full army to the Allies. Congress quickly passed the Selective Service Act, which authorized a draft of young men for military service. By November, more than 24 million men had registered for the draft and 3 million were picked by lottery. These men, other volunteers, and the National Guard forces made up the American Expeditionary Force (AEF). Next, the men had to be trained and then sent in convoys to Europe.
The leader of the AEF was General John J. Pershing, a veteran of the Spanish-American War. General Pershing separated American troops from European troops to keep up morale and to feel free to pursue an offensive war. When the American troops finally arrived in Europe, the Germans were a mere fifty miles from Paris. The Americans attacked in force, digging no trenches to fall back on and standing firm. Americans also brought with them a new weapon, called the tank, which could cross trenches and roll through barbed wire. Soon the Central Powers collapsed in the face of Allied attack. German commanders sued for peace, but the Allies wanted a total surrender first. This surrender came in the form of an armistice signed on November 11, 1918.
While many thousands were killed on the battlefield in the last months of the war, a terrible strain of influenza swept through Europe, America, and the world, killing an estimated 30 million people worldwide. The flu epidemic added greatly to the casualties of the war. The physical and mental toll of the war ran deep. American losses were tiny when compared to Europe, which had lost or wounded essentially a generation of her men. The sick and wounded outnumbered the dead, and many would never return to full health. Millions were homeless, and many died of starvation and disease. The deaths had not ended, however, as the Ottomans deported and killed Armenians whom they suspected of disloyalty. This killing of hundreds of thousands of Armenians is the first recognized case of genocide.
Section 4: Americans on the Home Front
- The war effort took the work and sacrifice of most Americans to succeed.
- The government took extraordinary steps to support the war effort.
Summary and Analysis
Mobilizing for war took most of America’s resources and many sacrifices. The war was financed in part through the sale of the Liberty bond, which was essentially borrowing money from the American citizens who would by the bonds at face value and then later turn them in for that value plus interest. Citizens were encouraged to “buy war bonds till it hurt.”
All American industries were asked to help in the effort by producing items for the war rather than for commercial sale. The War Industries Board controlled the natural resources and products that companies could use and make. The National War Labor Board worked to settle labor disputes so as not to disrupt the war effort, and the War Labor Policies Board set the working conditions in war industries. Many woman and African Americans contributed to the war effort by taking over the civilian jobs of departing soldiers.
All Americans were asked to contribute to the Home Front’s war effort by tightening their belts to save resources for the soldiers. They were asked to voluntarily ration their use of food, energy, and other material resources. Herbert Hoover, the head of the wartime Food Administration, hoped that appealing to the good will of Americans to make sacrifices would avoid the need of rationing food or other goods. Daylight Savings Time was instituted to save energy.
The war also increased American distrust of foreigners. Anti-German sentiment was high, and many Germans were harassed and some even lynched. Congress repressed civil liberties with the Espionage Act and the Sedition Act, which made it illegal to say anything disloyal against the United States. The Federal Government acted harshly against anyone it saw as impeding the war effort, including Socialists and other radicals.
Section 5: The Global Peacemaker
- At the end of the war, President Wilson pressed for a treaty that would bring lasting peace to the post-war world.
- Wilson failed to attain many of his goals because of a lack of support from his own country as well as Britain and France.
Summary and Analysis
Woodrow Wilson was probably the most powerful man in the world when he went to the Paris Peace Conference at the end of World War I. He had a Fourteen Point program that he believed would bring peace after the war. These points included the removal of trade barriers, the reduction of military forces, and the right of self-determination for ethnic groups. One of the most important points of Wilson’s program was a call for a League of Nations to ensure security and peace throughout the world.
Wilson did not achieve his goals at the conference. The French and British wanted to punish Germany for the war and called for large reparations, payments for damages during the war. Americans were afraid that Wilson’s League of Nations would get America involved in more foreign wars. The treaty that was finally put together included both the war reparations and the formation of the League of Nations. Wilson signed the Versailles Treaty, but his agreement had to be ratified by the U.S. Congress. He toured the country to win grass root support for the treaty, ruining his health to no avail. Congress did not ratify the treaty and made a separate peace with each of the Central Powers. Wilson had a stroke and ended his presidency as an invalid.
Because most European countries had been brought to the brink of destruction, America emerged from World War I with unprecedented power. However, most Americans merely wanted to go home and forget the war, although economic and social adjustment was difficult for both those who returned as well as for those who had changed their lives at home to support the war effort.
Last Updated on June 1, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1179
This chapter explores the effect of World War I on American politics and analyzes the beginnings of the Great Depression. The chapter is divided into three sections: a Republican Decade, a Business Boom, and the Economy in the Late 1920s.
Section 1: A Republican Decade
- Americans, heartily sick of war, wanted a “return to normalcy “ in the 1920s.
- One result of the First World War was to make Americans suspicious and mistrustful of all foreigners, sparking a Red Scare and restrictive immigration legislation.
- The Republican administrations of the 1920s pursued pro-business and isolationist policies.
By 1920, Americans were tired of war; they were tired of the arguments in Congress concerning the Treaty of Versailles. When Republican Warren G. Harding ran for president on the slogan “a return to normalcy,” voters gave him a landslide victory over the Democrats. Americans were spooked by their memories of the war and afraid of anything foreign. The Communist Revolution in Russia that created the Soviet Union, which had initially been supported by some Americans, soon sparked a "Red Scare"—fear of Communists in America. In fact, many Americans feared all foreigners, particularly Europeans. In the Supreme Court decisions Schenk v. U.S. and Gitlow v. New York, the Court infringed upon a person’s right to free speech and expanded the powers of the federal and state governments. The country was rocked by the arrests of thousands of suspected radicals in the Palmer Raids and the controversial trial of Sacco and Vanzetti, Italian immigrants accused of murder. Despite the weakness of the evidence against them, Sacco and Vanzetti were convicted and executed. Many felt they were accused and convicted only because of their political beliefs. They were anarchists, people who opposed any form of government rule or authority. The fear of Communism also led the U.S. government to crack down on labor unions, supposedly a hotbed of subversive, anti-American ideas. Government helped business in putting down strikes.
The Republican government led by Harding and later by Calvin Coolidge practiced a foreign policy called isolationism, thus avoiding any alliances with foreign nations. They also passed high tariffs to protect American businesses, a policy which infuriated the Europeans who were trying to repay war depts. During this period, America experienced a resurgence of nativism, a movement favoring native-born Americans over immigrants. This led to laws restricting immigration and establishing a quota system based on the population of 1890, virtually ending most immigration from southern, central, and eastern Europe. Just prior to President Harding’s death in August 1923, scandals began to break in the Harding Administration, the worst of which was the Teapot Dome Scandal. The completely respectable Calvin Coolidge restored lost prestige to the office when he became president later in 1923. He presided over the negotiation of the Kellogg-Briand pact in which 60 countries swore not to threaten each other with war, an empty promise at best because by 1941 many of these nations would be at war.
Section 2: A Business Boom
- During the 1920s, new products, new prosperity, and easy credit produced a decade of unprecedented business growth.
- Despite the economic upturn, many Americans still toiled in poverty and harsh working conditions.
Summary and Analysis
Americans in the 1920s were more prosperous than ever as incomes resumed their upward trend after the end of the war. This prosperity helped create a consumer economy, one that depends on a large amount of consumer spending. Although Americans were traditionally thrifty, new products, clever advertising, and easy credit encouraged them to buy new products on installment plans where they paid a little each month until the items were paid off. Installment plans helped Americans buy vacuum cleaners, electric refrigerators, new furniture, washing machines, and automobiles.
Henry Ford had begun producing affordable automobiles by revolutionizing the assembly line. In Ford’s system, each worker did only a little job as the car moved along the assembly line. The affordable car transformed the face of the nation: cities and states built roads for the cars to drive on, and thousands of new businesses grew to service travelers driving the roads, including gas stations, restaurants, and motels. The automobile industry also gave boosts to other important industries by using steel to build cars, rubber for tires, and glass for windshields. The automobile played a large role in the prosperity of the period.
Unfortunately, the increasing wealth of the 1920s was not enjoyed by everybody. Farmers, unskilled laborers, new immigrants, and African Americans did not get a portion of the new wealth. Farmers, heavily in debt from purchasing new equipment in the previous decades, were hurt greatly by falling prices. Thousands lost their farms and gave up life on the land; some simply struggled through. Other industries that expanded to meet wartime needs that were no longer as high also struggled. The railroad, cotton, and coal industries suffered from shrinking demand as well. Many factory workers still worked long hours for little money, and African Americans still struggled with discrimination.
Section 3: The Economy in the Late 1920s
- In the late 1920s, the economy seemed to be booming, and an increasing number of Americans became invested in the economy by buying stocks.
- Despite the strength and growth of the economy, there were disturbing signs of economic problems.
Summary and Analysis
In the late 1920s, the economy seemed to be rolling along. Business was still growing at a fantastic rate. The market value of stocks increased from $27 billion in 1925 to $87 billion in 1929. Businesses became more generous to their workers, believing that doing so could ward off unions and strikes. They began providing paid time off, shorter workdays, and recreation programs for their workers. This more reasonable approach to employee relations was called welfare capitalism. However, signs of economic danger did exist.
The first danger sign was the wide disparity of wealth. In 1929, only one-tenth of 1% of society held most of the wealth. These families earned over $100,000 a year compared to the 71% of all families who earned less than $2,500 a year. Another danger sign was that personal dept had grown tremendously as people used installment plans, putting many Americans in danger of financial ruin if incomes stopped growing. Another sign of trouble was increased speculation in the stock market as people made high-risk investments with little money down, a practice called buying on the margin. This speculation sent stock prices up artificially and made downturns in the stock market disastrous for investors. In addition, American companies continued to produce goods long after demand for them had slowed, building a stockpile of goods with no one to sell them to. Finally, difficulties in farming had caused significant economic upheaval in rural communities as farmers could not pay their debts and rural banks began to fail. Approximately 6,000 rural banks closed their doors; thousands of people lost their savings throughout the 1920s. This uneven distribution of wealth, increasing debt, stock speculation, overproduction, and the hardships of the farmers signaled that trouble was coming, and when it hit at the end of 1929, it sent America’s economy into a downward spiral that affected the whole world.
Last Updated on June 1, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1457
This chapter focuses on the stock market crash of October 29, 1929. The crash led to a worldwide economic depression that caused much suffering, especially in the United States as millions lost their jobs and homes. The chapter is divided into four sections: the Stock Market Crash, Social Effects of the Depression, Surviving the Great Depression, the Election of 1932.
Section 1: The Stock Market Crash
- Overspeculation in the stock market and the overproduction of goods resulted in panic selling that caused the U.S. stock market to crash, leading to severe economic depression in the United States.
- Because so many other countries depended on the United States for investments, loans, and as a marketplace for goods, the entire world economy was affected by the Great Depression.
Summary and Analysis
By 1929, the rising U.S. stock market dominated the news in America. By September 3, the Dow Jones Industrial Average, an average of the stock prices of major industries, had reached an all-time high. Prices were inflated well above the actual values of many stocks based on companies’ earnings and assets. After the peak in September, prices began slowly falling, and some brokers called in the loans of those who had bought on the margin. This began a panic as worried stockholders began to sell. On Tuesday, October 29, the panic climaxed when a record 16.4 million shares were sold. Black Tuesday, as it is called, saw a complete collapse of the stock market—now known as the Great Crash. By the end of the day, investors had lost over $30 billion.
Although the effects of the Great Crash were initially felt by the actual investors (some of whom lost everything), the effects soon rippled throughout the whole economy. First, banks began to fail. Banks depend on their investments—specifically, the interest they make on loans—to survive. When investors cannot repay the bank, the bank cannot survive. As banks began to close, there came another panic as worried customers went to withdraw their money and banks did not have the money to give them. Bank failures caused many Americans to lose their life savings at the very time they needed it. Secondly, because businesses could no longer borrow money to produce more goods, and few people had the money to buy them anyway, the production of goods slowed to a near stop. If companies were not producing goods, they could not pay salaries, and thus millions of people lost their jobs. Because fewer people had money, fewer goods were produced, resulting in even more job loss. Further, service industries such as restaurants, retail stores, and motels also lost customers and had to lay off workers or even shut down. Because the international economy was dependent on the United States for loans, investments, and a market place, the ripple effect of the Great Crash led to a worldwide economic depression.
Although the crash sparked the depression, there were several underlying causes. The first was an unstable economy where nearly all the wealth was held in a few families and not spread among farmers and workers. Second was the overspeculation in the stock market and investors borrowing heavily to cover their purchases. Third was the government regulation that cut interest rates to encourage speculation and then limited the supply of money to discourage lending at the first signs of trouble. Once the problems with the market were obvious, there was too little money in the economy to recover from the crash.
Section 2: Social Effects of the Depression
- By the early 1930s, growing unemployment as well as wage cuts for those still working brought widespread suffering across America.
Summary and Analysis
People at all levels of society found themselves in trouble during the depression as they lost their savings in bank failures, their jobs in company closures, and their homes because they could no longer pay rent or mortgages. Many of the homeless built shantytowns out of tar paper shacks or other scrap material. They called these makeshift towns “Hoovervilles” after President Hoover, who was blamed for not alleviating the crisis.
The situation for farmers, who had not seen prosperity during the 1920s and were already losing their farms, was made even worse by an environmental crisis. Years of drought and the disappearance of natural prairie grasses led to dust storms that blew away good topsoil, leaving nothing to farm. A large area of the Great Plains became known as the Dust Bowl. This caused about 60% of faming families to leave their land and hundreds of thousands to leave the area and migrate either to California or northern cities.
The Great Depression took an enormous physical and psychological toll on the nation. Many people suffered from an inadequate diet and lack of shelter. Some died because they could not afford food and medical treatment. Men suffered because they could not support their families. Many were ashamed for being out of work, and some even abandoned their families. The hard times increased discrimination against African Americans and other minorities.
Section 3: Surviving the Great Depression
- Americans survived the Great Depression by helping one another and by looking at a bad situation with humor and determination.
Summary and Analysis
Americans survived the Great Depression by sticking together. This can be seen very clearly in the penny auctions of the farmers. When a farmer was to lose his land to the bank for failure to pay his mortgage, other farmers would conspire to give the land back to its owner. They would bid mere pennies on the land and the machines auctioned by the bank and then give the land and machines back to the owner. The success of these auctions led some states to pass laws to give farmers more time to pay off debts.
Other Americans survived the depression by leaving home and riding the rails—stealing rides on trains and wandering the country looking for work and a place to start over. This solution was particularly favored by adolescents. By the mid-1930s, over 250,000 teenagers were living on the road.
By the early 1930s, there were some signs of change. Prohibition was repealed as a failed experiment. Jacob Raskob began the building of the Empire State Building, giving people in New York an opportunity to work. As the memory of the 1920s faded away, the nation’s distressed condition was symbolized by the tragic kidnapping and murder of the infant son of Charles and Ann Morrow Lindbergh.
Section 4: The Election of 1932
- As the depression worsened, many people blamed Hoover and his Republican party for making only limited attempts to help the economy.
- When Franklin Roosevelt offered the people a “New Deal” in his 1932 presidential campaign, they voted for him in droves.
Summary and Analysis
After the stock market crash, President Hoover insisted that the economy would recover if everyone had enough confidence. It didn’t. Hoover also refused to provide relief for the millions of unemployed and homeless, insisting that this was the job of private charities, not the government. He eventually did take measures to help suffering Americans, but they were too little. To protect domestic industries, he supported the Hawley-Smoot Tariff. In 1932, he set up the Reconstruction Finance Cooperation, which gave government credit to large industries, railroads, insurance companies, and banks. Congress passed the Home Loan Bank Act to help owners save their homes. The government also began to create jobs by building the Hoover Dam.
Despite these measures, Hoover’s unpopularity continued to grow. People saw him as cold and uncaring. In 1932, World War I veterans called the Bonus Army marched on Washington to get early payment of a pension bonus that had been promised them. Hoover refused and told them to leave. When they did not leave, he asked General Douglas MacArthur to make them leave. MacArthur decided to use force and drove the marchers, former members of the American armed forces, out of Washington with guns. The country was horrified, as was Hoover himself, and Hoover’s popularity plummeted even more.
The Democratic candidate for president in 1932 was Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR), a distant relative of Theodore Roosevelt. Like his relative, FDR had served as the assistant secretary of the Navy and as governor of New York. While running for president, FDR promised a “New Deal” for all Americans. Roosevelt was ready to experiment with government roles to provide relief. As governor of New York, he had worked boldly for relief, making New York the first state to provide monetary assistance for unemployment and to aid the poor during the Great Depression. Roosevelt won in a landslide victory, and as he stepped into office, he would bring sweeping change to the role of the federal government in people’s lives and to the presidency itself.
Last Updated on June 12, 2017, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1240
This chapter discusses Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal program, which had both successes and failures and drew both supporters and critics. The chapter is divided into three sections: Forging a New Deal, the New Deal’s Critics, and the Last Days of the New Deal.
Section 1: Forging a New Deal
- Roosevelt sought to end the depression through a series of government programs designed to bring relief to suffering Americans, to stimulate the economy, and to provide protection against future crashes.
- Many key players in New Deal programs were former members of the Progressive party. Roosevelt also appointed many African Americans to key positions.
Summary and Analysis
FDR came out of the gates running. His Inaugural Address was designed to encourage optimism and give the country hope: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” In his first Hundred Days in office, he pushed many programs through Congress to provide relief and create jobs. One of his first successes was the Emergency Banking Act, which stabilized the banking industry. The Glass-Steagall Banking Act created the Federal Deposit Insurance Cooperation (FDIC) to insure bank deposits so that people could never again lose their savings. Other early acts gave the federal government the power to regulate the stock market and created the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), which still regulates the market today.
In order to stimulate the economy and create jobs, Roosevelt created the Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA), which put federal money into local relief agencies and also into public work programs. The Civil Works Administration (CWA) provided 4 million people with jobs building roads, airports, and other facilities. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCO) gave more than 2.5 million young men jobs maintaining forests, beaches, and parks. The National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA) allowed government to regulate industry and set fair business practices. Homeowners were helped with the National Housing Act and the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), which still provides federally insured low cost loans today. Another program that still exists is the Tennessee Valley Authority, which brought electricity to rural areas with federal subsidies.
Some of the key players in Roosevelt’s administration were his wife, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Frances Perkins, the first woman cabinet member. He also assigned key positions to African Americans such as Mary McLeod Bethune.
FDR continued and expanded his programs with the Second New Deal. In 1935, he created the Works Progress Administration and the Rural Electrification Administration. He also supported the Social Security Act, which was designed to help those who could not support themselves. Not all of FDR’s programs worked the way he wanted them to, but Americans were happy that he was trying. He was reelected by an overwhelming majority in 1936, winning 523 to 8 in the electoral college.
Section 2: The New Deal’s Critics
- The New Deal was criticized by Democrats who felt it did not go far enough and by Republicans who felt that it went too far, complaining that it restricted individual freedom.
Summary and Analysis
While many Americans were happy with Roosevelt’s New Deal, some were not. The New Deal fell short of many people’s expectations. The New Deal’s labor acts and social security bill covered few African Americans or women. New Deal legislation did nothing to curb an alarming growth of violence against blacks as lynching increased significantly. Despite these faults, African Americans generally supported FDR. Eleanor Roosevelt made several stands to symbolically support African Americans. In protest of Jim Crow laws, she refused to sit with the whites at a meeting in Alabama; she sat in the aisle between the black and white sections of the hall. Later when the Daughters of the American Revolution refused to let Marian Anderson—a renowned African American concert singer—rent their Constitution Hall, Eleanor Roosevelt and others resigned from the group and arranged for Anderson to sing at the Lincoln Memorial.
Politically, many Republicans thought that the New Deal went too far and that many of its programs smacked of socialism. Conservatives also did not like the Social Security Act or the Revenue Act that increased taxes on the wealthy. Other political critics felt that FDR’s programs did not go far enough to end poverty. Some of FDR’s critics were demagogues, leaders who use propaganda to manipulate the truth to gain supporters. The first FDR opponent to attract large followings was the conservative radio personality Father Coughlin, whose weekly broadcasts attracted 10 million listeners. Coughlin was later taken off the air after praising Adolph Hitler. The second was Huey Long, a senator from Louisiana who thought FDR did too little to redistribute the wealth of the nation. FDR did make a serious mistake in 1937 when he tried to increase the number of Supreme Court justices so he could pack the court with those sympathetic to his cause. The huge public outcry forced him to withdraw the proposal.
Section 3: The Last Days of the New Deal
- The programs and legislation of the New Deal did not bring about the end of the Great Depression. They did alleviate some of the suffering, but the depression did not end until World War II created a new demand for industry.
- FDR and his New Deal had a profound effect on American life, changing the expectations people had of the federal government and the role it should play in their lives.
Summary and Analysis
The New Deal did not end the Great Depression. It brought relief and helped people with a huge influx of government money, much of which was borrowed. In 1937, even FDR was worried by the large national debt and wanted to balance the budget so that there would be no deficit (money spent that was not covered by revenue). In order to achieve a balanced budget, Roosevelt cut back on programs such as the WPA, but the country had another economic collapse and entered a recession. It became clear that government spending was only propping up the economy, not bringing about recovery.
The New Deal was, however, a boon to labor unions. The Wagner Act, passed in 1935, protected labor unions; membership rose from 3 million in 1933 to 10.5 million in 1941. Even unskilled workers were encouraged by John L. Lewis to join his new Congress of Industrial Organization (CIO), which staged a successful strike against General Motors. The New Deal also changed the face of American culture by getting government into the act of patronizing the arts. Government funds were used to support literature, radio, and movies. The WPA had projects to preserve folk music, provide free music lessons for children, and fund the painting of murals and other works of art. Writers such as Richard Wright and Saul Bellow received funds to support their writing. Many arts programs are still funded by the federal government.
The New Deal changed what Americans wanted from government and the president. The public now expected the president to take a proactive approach to solving problems and promoting legislation. People expected the government to help them in times of crisis and thus allowed for more government intervention in their lives.
Many New Deal programs still exist today—the FDIC, the Securities Exchange Commission, and social security. Many of the dams and roads built by the government during the Great Depression still function. It was not, however, New Deal legislation that ultimately brought an end to the depression. The nation did not recover economically until it entered World War II.
Last Updated on June 1, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1524
This chapter explores the origins of World War II and the United State’s entrance into the conflict. The chapter is divided into four sections: The Rise of Dictators, Europe Goes to War, Japan Builds an Empire, and From Isolationism to War.
Section 1: The Rise of Dictators
- Depression-era Europe was a fertile ground for the rise of dictatorships. Four dictators came to power between WWI and WWII: Stalin, Mussolini, Franco, and Hitler.
- WWII-era dictatorships were brutal and repressive governments that were only concerned with a desire for power.
Summary and Analysis
During the 1920s and ’30s, the discouraging economic condition of Europe as well as lingering resentments from the Versailles Treaty helped to create a situation in which four major powers fell prey to repressive totalitarian regimes led by dictators. The first of these was a direct legacy of World War I. In 1917, the Russian monarchy had fallen to a Communist regime lead by Lenin. However, Lenin passed away in 1924, and the reins of control were seized by Joseph Stalin. Stalin’s repressive government killed millions. He starved the peasants in order to take state control of the farms and even used purges to kill members of his own Communist party to stamp out any remnant of dissent to his rule.
The other three dictatorships were fascist. Fascism is a political philosophy that is based on the supposed superiority of a nation or ethnic group and the supreme authority of the leader. In Italy, fascism was led by Benito Mussolini, who had been an injured soldier in World War I. He was disillusioned that Italy did not receive additional land from the Versailles Treaty. Called “Il Duce,” he led Italy in the conquest of Ethiopia. Francisco Franco brought civil war to Spain, finally taking control in 1939 and remaining in power until 1975. In Germany, Adolph Hitler came to power and plunged Europe into another devastating war.
Hitler was also a veteran of World War I, and he felt that the Germans had suffered injustice from the harsh terms of the Versailles Treaty. Hitler joined the National Socialist Worker Party, also called the Nazi party, and quickly became its leader with his charismatic speaking abilities and his passionate love of Germany. Hitler was infuriated by the humiliating terms of the Versailles Treaty, which had demilitarized Germany and had given the country huge war reparations to repay. His message of German pride resonated with Germany’s working classes as did his message of anti-Semitism. In 1933, Hitler became the chancellor of Germany and began to rearm the country, giving a boost to its weak economy as well as to its pride. Hitler soon found out that Europeans were not interested in enforcing the Versailles Treaty, so he ignored it and began his expansion plans, taking control of Austria and parts of Czechoslovakia in 1938. France and Britain pursued a policy of appeasement, believing that if they gave Hitler what he wanted he would not go to war. Hitler also made alliances with Mussolini in Italy. Joined later by Japan, this alliance created the Axis Powers.
Section 2: Europe Goes to War
- Appeasement did not stop Hitler, and in 1939 he plunged Europe into the Second World War.
- Hitler astounded the world by conquering Denmark, Norway, Holland, Belgium, and France during a period of only three months. Only Britain was able to withstand Hitler’s attack.
Summary and Analysis
In the fall of 1939, Neville Chamberlain—Britain’s prime minister and a supporter of appeasement—met with Hitler and claimed that there would be “peace in our time.” Only a year later, on September 1, 1939, Hitler’s forces attacked Poland. Two days later, Britain and France declared war on Germany. One week before invading Poland, Hitler had signed a nonaggression pact with Stalin so that he would not have to fight a war on two fronts and could use all his forces against the west. Hitler’s forces overran Poland in less than a month as he unveiled his new war tactic called the blitzkrieg, which consisted of a fast-moving, surprise attack by air and land. After Poland fell, there was a lull for a few months while the French prepared their key defense along the German border called the Maginot Line. When the Germans finally attacked France, they defeated this defense by avoiding it and coming through Belgium.
In April of 1940, Hitler went on the attack by first invading Denmark and Norway, both of which fell to the blitzkrieg in a matter of days. Next he took Holland and then Belgium. Using Belgium as his door, he now turned his attention to France. Hitler’s armies moved so fast that they split the French troops from their English allies. French and British forces in the north were forced to retreat to Dunkirk on the coast. It seemed that the forces were stranded there when the British performed a heroic rescue with a makeshift fleet of fishing boats, tugboats, yachts, and other small private craft. Traveling back and forth across the channel, 900 private vessels rescued 340,000 British and French soldiers. By June 22, 1940, France had fallen and the puppet government of Vichy was set up in southern France. The Free French under Charles de Gaulle continued to fight from England. But now England stood alone. The Battle of Britain began with massive bombings in August of 1940 and continued until the end of 1941. The British stood firm. The small Royal Air Force protected the country as best it could, bringing down hundreds of German planes. The people of London and other cities suffered through countless bombing raids, but Britain persevered until the Soviet Union and America entered the war.
Section 3: Japan Builds an Empire
- Japan’s military took over the Japanese government and began to expand into China and Southeast Asia, threatening America’s Pacific territories.
Summary and Analysis
Japan entered the world stage during the late 1900s, but by the turn of the twentieth century, it had become a prominent power in the South Pacific, controlling Korea and having a great influence in the Chinese province of Manchuria.Japan had a constitutional government, but the emperor was still the titular head of the nation. During the 1920s and 1930s, Japan’s economy suffered recessions and then felt the effects of the Great Depression. These economic difficulties led to a rise in nationalism and a rejection of Western culture. Japan had also experienced an enormous population growth and had its eye on Manchuria, a sparsely populated Chinese province. In 1931, the Japanese army on its own initiative took Manchuria and made it an independent state with a puppet government under Japanese control. In July 1937, the Japanese went to war against China. The West, including the United States, condemned Japan’s actions. After the beginning of World War II, Japan began to eye European possessions in the Pacific. In September 1940, Japan allied with Germany and Italy. Then Japan signed a neutrality pact with the Soviet Union in 1941. Now Japan was ready to challenge both the European and American presence in the Pacific.
Section 4: From Isolationism to War
- The United States chose neutrality early in the war, but many in the country slowly came to support the Allies and began to give Britain material support.
- The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor brought the United States immediately into World War II with the full support of the American public.
Summary and Analysis
The painful memory of World War I and the still struggling economy of the late 1930s kept American attention turned to domestic rather than foreign affairs. However, most Americans sympathized with the victims of the totalitarian regimes that had come to power in Europe. When war broke out in 1939, although many Americans were sympathetic to the Allied cause (France, Britain, and Poland), they still wanted to remain neutral. Public sentiment for the Allies grew stronger as Hitler conquered nearly all of western Europe. Although Congress passed a series of Neutrality Acts, designed to keep the U.S. out of any conflicts, Roosevelt really wanted to aid the British people, who were bravely standing alone against Hitler. By 1940, Congress passed the Lend Lease Act to allow Roosevelt to help countries whose defense was necessary to American security. Because Roosevelt was convinced that Hitler would use all the resources of Europe to attack the U.S. if he was successful in Britain, the act enabled FDR to give aid to Britain. Many Americans were against getting involved in the war. The America First Committee, an isolationist organization, attracted over 800,000 members.
Opposition to the war disappeared, however, on December 7, 1941, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. While most of the country’s attention had been focused on Europe, Roosevelt had been aware of Japan’s aggressive actions in the Pacific and had limited Japan’s purchase of scrap metal and steel, materials that could be used to make weapons. The surprise attack on Pearl Harbor sank 18 ships, destroyed nearly 200 warplanes, and killed 2,400 Americans. The U.S. declared war on Japan the next day, and Germany and Italy declared war on the U.S. on December 11. Again the United States was involved in a worldwide conflict.
Last Updated on June 1, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1735
This chapter focuses on America’s involvement in World War II. The chapter is divided into five sections: Mobilization, Retaking Europe, the Holocaust, the War in the Pacific, and the Social Impact of the War.
Section 1: Mobilization
- The American government needed to quickly mobilize industry as well as the armed forces to fight the Axis Powers.
- The mobilization effort put Americans back to work and brought about economic recovery from the Great Depression.
Summary and Analysis
As early as December 1940, a full year before the U.S. officially entered WWI, President Roosevelt began to marshal the resources of the United States to prepare for a war he saw as inevitable. Congress authorized the first peace time draft with the Selective Service and Training Act, which began to bring over 16 million Americans into military training. America also increased its defense spending from $2 billion to $10 billion over the course of the year.
Just as in World War I, the U.S. government also regulated the economy to provide support and materials for the war. The War Production Board decided how natural resources would be used to best supply U.S. troops, and the Office of War Mobilizationoversaw the production of goods. War-related materials took precedence over consumer goods. Despite the efforts of the Office of Price Controls, prices rose significantly and there were shortages of many consumer products throughout the war. Many goods such as food products and gasoline were rationed. People all over the country contributed to the war effort with “Victory Gardens,” recycling drives, and blackout drills to test American readiness for possible bombing raids.
The government financed the war with increased tax revenues and by borrowing money. Government war-bond sales to American citizens raised over $186 billion. The national debt rose from $43 billion in 1940 to $259 billion in 1945.
Section 2: Retaking Europe
- The Allies waged war in the Atlantic, North Africa, the Soviet Union, and western Europe to defeat the Germans.
Summary and Analysis
When America joined the war in 1941, the outlook seemed bleak for the Allies. Hitler had taken control of nearly all of Europe, going as far as Stalingrad in the east to the edge of the Atlantic in the west. Hitler had also taken much of North Africa. In August of 1941, FDR and Winston Churchill, the British prime minister, made a joint pact of wartime principles known as the Atlantic Charter, which formed the basis of their wartime goals and later provided the basis of the foundation of the United Nations.
The first area of battle for Americans upon their entry into the war was with the German navy and U-boats in the Atlantic Ocean. The U.S. navy developed convoys, sonar, and submarine-hunting aircraft to greatly decrease the rate of German success on the high seas. The U.S. also began a campaign in North Africa against both Italian troops and the German forces under General Erwin Rommel. Although experiencing early difficulties, the Allies had the Axis forces in North Africa trapped by May of 1943. Churchill and Roosevelt then met at Casablanca in Morocco to plan out the rest of the war.
In July 1943, the Allies invaded Italy, finally breaking through German lines in May 1944. The German forces in northern Italy surrendered in April 1945. Meanwhile, in the Soviet Union, the German advance had finally been checked at Stalingrad along the Volga River as the Germans got bogged down in fierce house-to-house fighting and the incredibly cold Russian winter. The Russian front was the bloodiest battleground of the war. The Germans lost more than 330,000 men at Stalingrad alone. Russian casualties are unknown, but estimates put losses at over a million men. To take the pressure off Russia, Stalin had for some time been urging Britain and America to attack the Germans from the west. On June 6, 1944, the Allies invaded Normandy on what became known as D-Day. Although Allied losses were high, the invasion was successful and was the beginning of the end for Nazi Germany. Western forces finally met advancing Soviet forces on the Elbe River in Germany on April 25th. Hitler committed suicide on April 30th, and on May 8, 1945, German forces finally surrendered.
Section 3: The Holocaust
- During the course of the war, the Nazis murdered millions of people, primarily Jews, in death camps.
Summary and Analysis
European Jews had suffered from persecution for centuries, but legal discrimination against the Jews had been on the wane since the mid-nineteenth century. Hitler believed in the idea of Aryan superiority and felt that Jews were racially inferior and were to blame for the loss of World War I. From the time he came to power in 1933, he made anti-Semitism the official policy of Germany. Jews were excluded from much of the political and economic life of the country. Most Jews lost their jobs, Jewish children were expelled from public schools, and Jewish doctors and lawyers could only work for other Jews. The persecution got worse after Kristallnacht, or the “Night of the Broken Glass,” when Jewish synagogues, businesses, and homes were attacked. Soon Hitler began to round up the Jewish people into ghettos and send them to prison camps. Also sent to these camps were gypsies, homosexuals, and other “undesirables.” In 1942, Nazi officials met at the Wannsee Conference to plan the genocide of European Jews in special death camps in Poland. The death camps employed a gas called Zyklon B to murder millions of inmates. Although Roosevelt and Churchill new of the existence of the death camps as early as 1942, the world did little to help the victims. Allied soldiers liberating the camps in 1945 were shocked and horrified at the living skeletons they found struggling to survive as well as by the number of dead. Over six million Jews and millions of other “undesirables” were murdered in Hitler’s death camps. This horror was fully revealed in the Nuremburg Trials, which tried twenty-four Nazis for “crimes against humanity.” Twelve of them were sentenced to death. This was the first international trial for crimes against humanity.
Section 4: The War in the Pacific
- The battles of Midway and Guadalcanal turned the tide of the war against the Japanese in the Pacific.
- The fighting in the Pacific was fierce. Because of Japan’s reluctance to surrender even in the face of certain death, both sides experienced unusually heavy casualties.
- The dropping of the atomic bomb ended the war.
Summary and Analysis
During the early years of the war in the Pacific, the Japanese were on the offense as they took Hong Kong, Singapore, the Dutch West Indies, and drove the Americans out of the Philippines. Upon leaving the Philippines in 1942, General Douglas MacArthur uttered the famous words, “I shall return.”
Allied fighters received a moral boost from Colonel James Doolittle’s bombing raid on Tokyo, which shocked Japan. Soon the Allied forces turned the tide of the war with a great victory at the Battle of Midway. The island of Midway was vital to the defense of Hawaii, so Admiral Chester Nimitz used all his resources to defend it against the Japanese, destroying four Japanese carriers and 250 airplanes. It was a devastating loss for the Japanese navy. MacArthur made good on his promise and returned to the Philippines in 1944, liberating the islands after a year of fierce fighting with heavy casualties. A victory at the Battle of Guadalcanal and later victories at Iwo Jima and Okinawa placed American troops in the position to invade Japan itself. However, these battles had been costly in American lives. Japanese fighters fought fiercely, often refusing to surrender and fighting to the death. American forces suffered 50,000 casualties in the Battle of Okinawa alone.
It was partly because of the large numbers of casualties that President Harry Truman, who had taken office after FDR’s death, decided to use the atom bomb against Japan. The bomb had been developed by the Manhattan Project, created by FDR when he learned that the Germans were working on powerful weapon by splitting the atom. On July 16, 1945, the first atomic bomb was tested in New Mexico. On August 6th, a single plane, the Enola Gay, dropped the first atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. Nearly all of the city’s buildings were damaged or destroyed. The city center and its inhabitants were vaporized in an instant. Thousands upon thousands died from the attack or of radiation sickness afterward. A second bomb was dropped on the city of Nagasaki on August 9th. On August 14th, Japan surrendered unconditionally. The war was finally over.
Section 5: The Social Impact of the War
- The war brought about new opportunities for women, African Americans, and other ethnic minorities.
- The war also brought discrimination, internment, and financial ruin to many Americans of Japanese descent.
Summary and Analysis
The great need for workers as the country mobilized for war brought new opportunities to African Americans who pushed for economic equality. In 1941, FDR created the Fair Employment Practices Committee to hear grievances of minorities in the defense industries and the government. African-American soldiers also served in the war, but although they could die as well as whites, they still could not eat at restaurants with whites. The founding of the Congress of Racial Equality gave African Americans an organization that began to use nonviolent techniques such as sit-ins to end racism. Other minorities such as Mexicans and Native Americans also benefited from the war mobilization. Navajo Code Talkers developed an unbreakable code for the armed forces, and the Mexican Bracero program allowed Mexican farm laborers to work in the United States, greatly expanding the populations of Los Angeles and other Californian cities.
Women also had increased opportunities to work in nontraditional industrial positions during the war. Many women took jobs in industry despite wages that were less than men’s wages. After the war, some of these women returned home willingly, but others really wanted to maintain their jobs.
Japanese Americans suffered greatly during the war. Racial prejudice increased significantly after Pearl Harbor. In February 1942, the War Relocation Authority was formed to remove everyone of Japanese ancestry from the California coast. They were interned in camps for the duration of the war, and most lost their businesses, homes, and other valuable assets. Still more than 17,000 Japanese Americans served in World War II. In 1988, Congress admitted its error in the interment and awarded $20,000 to surviving internees. The U.S. government also officially apologized to Japanese Americans.
Last Updated on June 1, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1461
This chapter discusses the aftermath of World War II and the development of the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union. The chapter is divided into four sections: Origins of the Cold War, the Cold War Heats Up, the Korean War, and the Continuing Cold War.
Section 1: Origins of the Cold War
- The United States and the U.S.S.R. had differing goals at the end of the war. These differences led to increased hostility between the two countries.
- Joseph Stalin established satellite nations subject to Soviet rule, thus creating an “iron curtain” between Eastern and Western Europe.
Summary and Analysis
As World War II was coming to an end, it became clear that the United States and the Soviet Union had very different ideas of what the nature of postwar Europe should be. The Americans felt they had fought the war to preserve democracy and economic opportunity in European countries. On the other hand, the Soviets under Stalin wanted to protect themselves from another war and to spread Communism throughout the world. These differences brought conflict as early as the Allied conference at Yalta in early 1945 when FDR and Stalin disagreed about the future of Poland.
What all the countries could agree to at Yalta was the groundwork for the
United Nations (U.N.). Unfortunately, FDR did not live to see the founding of the U.N. He died suddenly on April 12, 1944, and was succeeded by his new vice president, Harry Truman. Truman’s first meeting with Stalin did not go any better than earlier meetings. Stalin demanded war reparations from Germany and still wanted control of Poland. By 1950, Stalin had created a network of satellite countries owing allegiance to the Soviet Union to provide a buffer zone against outside attacks. These satellite countries were taken over with or without the agreement of their citizens and included Poland, Albania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and Romania. The only countries to maintain their independence were Finland and Yugoslavia.
Truman led the Americans in a policy called containment. They would not try to help those Eastern European countries already under Soviet domination, but they would help any other countries threatened by Soviet domination. Truman also established the Truman Doctrine, which stated that the United States had an obligation to support the free peoples of the world to choose their own government. To that end, Truman sent aid to both Greece and Turkey to fend off Communist takeovers.
Section 2: The Cold War Heats Up
- The Cold War intensified as the United States focused on providing financial aid to rebuild Europe from the destruction of WWII.
- At home, the Cold War caused a new “Red Scare” as Americans feared Communist spies and sympathizers.
Summary and Analysis
One of the major causes of the Cold War, a war without any sustained military action, was the development of the atomic bomb. After seeing the effects of the atomic bomb in Japan, it became clear to world leaders that any “hot” war could lead to world devastation: war as a tool of foreign policy was not a realistic for anyone. Furthermore, the American and Western European governments did not want to repeat the disastrous mistakes made after World War I. American policy makers felt that helping the ailing economies of Western Europe would be an effective tool against Communist uprisings and so implemented the Marshall plan, which gave financial aid to countries recovering from the war. The Soviet Union and her satellites chose not to take part in that aid, seeing it as a capitalist plot.
There were several events that threatened to heat up the Cold War. The first was the Soviet blockade of Berlin, which led to the Berlin Airlift. Secondly, the formation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, in which twelve European and North American countries pledged mutual military assistance, also caused friction. The Soviets responded with a similar alliance called the Warsaw Pact. The threat of nuclear attack and the beginning of the arms race also heightened concerns about war.
On the home front, Americans were worried about Communist infiltration, and the Truman administration responded with the Loyalty Program (which investigated the backgrounds of government employees for suspicious activities) and the House Un-American Activities Committee (which looked at other cases of disloyalty, especially in Hollywood). The sensational trials that convicted spies Alger Hiss as well as Ethel and Julius Rosenberg also shook up Americans and made the Communist threat seem even more real.
Section 3: The Korean War
- While most Americans worried about Communism in Europe, it was in Southeast Asia that actual military actions took place. The Korean War, an undeclared war, was fought from 1950 to 1953.
- The Korean War brought about several economic and social changes to the United States.
Summary and Analysis
Communist expansion in Asia as well as the Japanese conquest of Korea prior to World War II were both factors in causing the Korean War. The Japanese had taken Korea at the end of World War I, and the Koreans hoped to get their freedom after the Japanese defeat in World War II. However, at the end of the war Korea was divided: Soviet forces accepted the Japanese surrender north of the 38th parallel, and U.S. troops accepted the surrender south of that line. Thus a democratic, pro-American government was set up in the south, and a Communist regime was set up in the north. Meanwhile, in 1949, Mao Zedong's Communist forces finally took power in China, exiling the democratic government to the island of Taiwan.
The Korean War broke out in 1950 when North Korean troops attacked South Korea to reunite the country by force. The United Nations, without the Soviet Union in attendance, called for a police action to protect South Korea and restore its original land boundaries. Truman sent Douglas MacArthur to lead the troops. Driving North Korean troops north of the 38th parallel and all the way to China, MacArthur thought the “police action” would be over by Christmas. Then the Chinese got involved by coming to the aid of North Korea and thus extending the war. MacArthur wanted the exiled Chinese government on Taiwan to intervene, but Truman disagreed, afraid of bringing the Soviets into the conflict. The disagreement led to MacArthur’s dismissal. The Korean War dragged on until 1953, and in the end the boundaries of North and South Korea were returned to almost the same boundaries as before the war.
The Korean War had several effects on Americans, who were dissatisfied with the results of a war that had killed or wounded over 150,000 soldiers. Warfare had changed because it needed to remain more limited to avoid nuclear involvement. Furthermore, the war had increased military spending and created strong ties between the military and industry. Eisenhower called this new dynamic the military-industrial complex. The Korean War also saw the integration of black and white troops in the same units.
Section 4: The Continuing Cold War
- In the Unites States, McCarthyism created an atmosphere of fear and distrust.
- During the 1950s, the Cold War continued to spread around the world.
Summary and Analysis
In the United States, fear and mistrust of suspected Communists continued as Senator Joseph McCarthy fanned the flames of fanaticism. McCarthy used smear tactics rather than facts to spread fear about the menace of Communism. First charging that the government was full of Communists and then that the armed forces were infiltrated by Communists, he created an hysteria that encroached upon Americans’ rights to free speech, free association, and freedom to dissent. His tactics became known as McCarthyism. When his tactics were exposed nationwide on television during his army hearings in 1954, most Americans were horrified at his intimidation tactics and false accusations. He soon lost his credibility and power.
On the world scene, the Cold War spread in Southeast Asia to Vietnam when the country was also divided into a Communist North and a Democratic South. It spread to the Middle East in the foundation of Israel and the Arab-Israeli wars of the 1950s. The Cold War also affected Latin America as the United States helped to overthrow the government of Guatemala in 1954 because it suspected that its leaders were sympathetic to Communism.
The arms race also continued throughout the decade, and weapons were developed that made the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs seem weak in comparison. The United States used the great fear of nuclear war to achieve its objectives with a policy called brinksmanship, making it clear that the U.S. would risk war if necessary. Along with the arms race, the Cold War extended to the skies and beyond as the Soviets launched Sputnik, the first artificial satellite. The space race between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. had begun.
Last Updated on June 1, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1030
This chapter explores the period of economic and social prosperity in the United States after World War II. The chapter is divided into three sections: the Postwar Economy, the Mood of the 1950s, and Domestic Politics and Policy.
Section 1: The Postwar Economy
- The country enjoyed an era of prosperity, and the “American Dream” became a reality for a large portion of the population.
Summary and Analysis
As businesses returned to making consumer goods, Americans flocked to buy them. Americans had a higher per capita income than ever before, and the Gross National Product more than doubled between 1945 and 1960. A few large firms came to dominate industry in the 1950s; corporations diversified their investments into different industries to lessen the risk of loss if one industry failed. Such conglomerates, companies made up of three or more businesses, are better able to handle the ups and downs of the economy. Another type of business that flourished in the 1950s was the franchise, a business that contracts with a larger company to provide products and services. From a single hamburger stand in California owned by the McDonald brothers, McDonalds became a national franchise and a household name.
Technology was also changing the way Americans lived. The television brought the world into the living rooms of more than 75% of American families by 1960. Television helped to further reduce regional differences between states and regions of the country. Automobiles and highways enabled more people to move to the suburbs. The application of assembly-line strategies to home building made it so more houses could be put up in less time and for less cost. Advances in the emerging computer industry, medicine, and the peacetime nuclear-power industry also began to change the way Americans lived. Automobiles brought about new businesses as restaurants, shopping centers, and gas stations were needed to accommodate more drivers. More Americans than ever before worked in white-collar jobs that were better paying and less tiring. Blue-collar workers also worked in better conditions than ever before as labor unions became increasingly powerful. Finally, consumer spending was enhanced with the development of credit cards, which allowed more people to buy now and pay later.
Section 2: The Mood of the 1950s
- The 1950s were a time when conformity was encouraged and rewarded.
- Although many Americans found comfort in conformity during the 1950s, others found it restrictive and became “Rebels Without a Cause.”
Summary and Analysis
After two decades of economic insecurity and war, Americans were glad to feel prosperous again. They wanted to be comfortable and secure. The youth culture of the time has been called the “silent generation.” They were more concerned with having fun than world events. More young people finished high school than ever before, and many married at a young age. In fact, half of all girls who married were only teens. Americans also became increasingly religious during the 1950s as preachers such as Billy Graham became popular. The words “under God” were added to the Pledge of Allegiance, and the phrase “In God We Trust” was printed on currency. Men and women also had very defined roles in postwar society. Women were supposed to stay home and take care of the children while men went into the world to earn a living.
There were, however, many who chafed under the expected conformity of the times. More married woman than ever before entered the work force, although most worked in traditionally female careers such as teaching and nursing. Young people also challenged the status quo as they felt alienated from their parents and rejected their values. The film Rebel Without a Cause gave voice to this alienation and propelled teen star James Dean into an idol. Rock and roll music also challenged the adult values of the 1950s. Performers like Chuck Berry and Elvis Presley titillated teens and shocked adults. Rebellion also expressed itself in the literature of the period as writers like Jack Kerouac wrote of escaping from the values of money and property. These beatniks, members of the "Beat Generation" gathered in coffee houses, shared poetry and music, and challenged traditional values with open sexuality and the use of illegal drugs.
Section 3: Domestic Politics and Policy
- Presidents Truman and Eisenhower had very different approaches to handling the problems of postwar America.
Summary and Analysis
In 1948, after only three years in the presidency, Truman seemed to be on the way out. A policy of reconversion to a peacetime society had been his first priority at the end of the war. He had most of the overseas troops home by 1946, an amazing feat. Truman also did battle with the labor unions, and Congress passed the Taft-Hartley Act, allowing the president to declare an 80-day cooling off period in strikes that affected the national interest. He ran into more trouble, however, with his Fair Deal initiatives that would have extended FDR’s New Deal policies. He asked for national health insurance and other initiatives that were resisted by both Republicans and more conservative members of his own party. Truman also began to support the civil rights movement of African Americans to gain equal rights under the law. In 1948, everyone thought Truman would lose the upcoming election. But he took his message directly to the American people, traveling the country by train, and won the election in an astounding upset. Truman, however, was not much more popular during his second term, and despite the new Constitutional Amendment limiting presidential terms, he could have run again but chose not to.
Tired of Democrats, the country elected the popular World War II general Dwight D. Eisenhower to the presidency in 1952. He had a much more laid-back style than Truman’s. His critics called it a lack of leadership, but the American people approved of him. As a Republican, Eisenhower wanted to limit the growth of the federal government and warned about the dangers of the growing power of the military-industrial complex. He challenged Americans to continue improving technology, and in 1958 he presided over the establishment of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Overall Eisenhower’s calm, genial manner helped Americans maintain a mood of stability despite the spreading Cold War.
Last Updated on June 1, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1645
This chapter explores the origins and development of the civil rights movement in the United States. The chapter is divided into five sections: Demands for Civil Rights, Leaders and Strategies, the Struggle Intensifies, the Political Response, and the Movement Takes a New Turn.
Section 1: Demands for Civil Rights/
- After World War II, many African Americans felt it was time to fight discrimination.
- Early leaders in the civil rights movement focused on desegregating schools and the transportation system.
Summary and Analysis
In the years following World War II, many African Americans felt the time was ripe to demand their civil rights. During the first half of the twentieth century, the African-American population of northern cities grew tremendously as blacks moved to escape the Jim Crow South. Out of these communities came educated, prominent African Americans who were able to form alliances and gain political influence. During the New Deal, African Americans were courted as voters and were given positions working in the government. During World War II, even more African Americans moved to northern cities, giving them power as a voting constituency. Furthermore, the horrors of the Holocaust in Germany demonstrated to many Americans, both black and white, the ugliness of racism. They felt that racism had no place in a country that called itself “the land of the free.”
The first sign that the racial status quo was about to change was the integration of major league baseball. Jackie Robinson's brave and dignified behavior fostered pride in Africans Americans and helped pave the way for the early civil rights movement.
One of the first issues pursued by civil rights leaders was the desegregation of public schools. African Americans scored a significant victory with the Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education, which stated that segregation of schools was unconstitutional. The decision set off a battle as schools across the South declared they would never desegregate. In the fall of 1957, nine African-American students enrolled in Little Rock High School, setting off a violent reaction. Their right to attend school had to be supported by the National Guard. The nationwide desegregation of schools had begun.
In Montgomery, Alabama, a new leader of civil rights was emerging. African Americans began boycotting city busses to have integrated seating. The Montgomery Bus Boycott, which started after the arrest of Rosa Parks for refusing to give up her seat to a white man, lasted a year before the bus company gave in and integrated their seating. It was during this boycott that the country first heard of a young black pastor named Martin Luther King.
Section 2: Leaders and Strategies
- Many different groups, each with its own strategy, worked to achieve the common goal of equal rights.
Summary and Analysis
Because the civil rights movement was a grass roots movement comprising ordinary citizens, there was no central organization leading the fight to end racial injustice. One of the first official organizations was the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) founded back in 1909. This was the group behind the case of Brown v. Board of Education. The NAACP appealed to mainly middle- and upper-class whites and blacks. Other groups working for civil rights included the National Urban League, which helped African Americans in the areas of jobs and housing. The Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) was also a biracial group that fought segregation in cities across the country.
It was during the Montgomery Bus Boycott that the nation got its first glimpse of Martin Luther King. King believed in the practice of civil disobedience and nonviolent protest. The Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) was based on the ideology that “nonviolent resistance transforms weakness into strength.” King became a national leader in the civil rights movement and won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. Nonviolence was also the hallmark of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) founded in 1960 for students active in the struggle for civil rights. Led by Robert Moses, the committee would become a powerful voice for change.
Section 3: The Struggle Intensifies
- The tactics of nonviolent protest brought change but also generated confrontations as nonviolent protesters were often violently attacked.
- Television coverage of these events horrified the nation and forced the federal government to become involved to protect the rights of African Americans.
Summary and Analysis
Nonviolent protests became increasingly popular in the early 1960s. One of the most prominent techniques was the sit-in, which was used effectively to desegregate restaurants and other public places. An interracial group of students would enter the area such as a lunch counter and sit down. If they were refused service, they would simply remain where they were. Although many sit-in participants were arrested, it was an effective technique and helped to integrate restaurants and other public places. Sometimes, however, the method led to violent confrontation as in the Freedom Rides of the early 1960s. After segregation was declared illegal on interstate buses, in waiting areas, and in other service areas for passengers such as restaurants, several students wanted to see if they could take advantage of these newly gained rights. Interracial groups boarded busses heading to the South. The ride became the occasion of violent conflict as the busses were attacked and even set on fire. The “freedom riders” were arrested before reaching their destination. The attacks were shown on national television, forcing President Kennedy to take action by sending federal marshals to ride on the busses and by threatening to sue local communities that did not comply with desegregation.
The nation also watched on television as angry white protesters sparked a violent confrontation in Mississippi when African-American student James Meredith wanted to attend the state university, and when authorities attacked peaceful protesters with high-pressure fire hoses and trained police dogs in Birmingham, Alabama. Scenes such as these appalled Americans and convinced many that a basic change in the attitudes of Americans toward racial injustice was long overdue.
Section 4: The Political Response
- The civil rights movement and the change in public opinion to support racial equality slowly pushed legislators to introduce civil rights legislation.
- Because of resistance from the South, it was difficult to get civil rights legislation passed.
Summary and Analysis
The scenes of violence against African-American protesters seen in living rooms across America turned the tide of public opinion in favor of civil rights. During his campaign, President Kennedy had shown strong support for the civil rights movement, but he was slow to act once he got in office. But he, like many Americans, was greatly disturbed by the scenes of violence against protesters shown in the media. Kennedy introduced a strong civil rights bill in July of 1963, but the bill stalled in Congress and did not pass until after Kennedy’s assassination. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 banned differing racial standards for voter registration; prohibited discrimination in public places; banned discrimination on the part of employers on the basis of race, sex, or religion; and allowed the federal government to withhold funds from any programs that practiced discrimination.
Now that protesters had the law on their side, they continued to push for change, particularly for voting rights. African Americans had long been denied their right to vote, and even the Civil Rights Act did not truly guarantee them that right. In the summer of 1964, black leaders began a movement to register African American voters in the South. This movement climaxed in the Selma March led by Martin Luther King in Selma, Alabama, which was seen across the nation. President Lyndon Johnson introduced the Voters Rights Act of 1965 (allowing the federal government to register voters when local officials refused) and the Twenty-Fourth Amendment (outlawing the poll tax that had been used to keep poor African Americans from voting).
Section 5: The Movement Takes a New Turn
- Although the civil rights movement had made significant progress, change still came too slowly for some African Americans.
- Those who were dissatisfied called for more radical action, rejecting the nonviolent protests of Martin Luther King.
- The violence culminated in the 1968 assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy.
Summary and Analysis
For many African Americans, the slow rate of change fueled their anger and moved them to more radical action. The leaders of this more radical movement included Malcolm X, a member of the Nation of Islam, a religious group that believed in Black Nationalism.After a visit to Mecca in 1964, Malcolm X began to alter his views on separatism, earning him enemies in the movement. He was assassinated in February 1965.
Malcolm X never had a chance to revise his message of black separatism, and it was picked up by a leader named Stokely Carmichael. SNCC members were moved by Carmichael’s ideas, and the group began to support his call for “black power,” a movement to recognize their heritage and build a sense of community within African-American culture. The idea of black power led to the formation of the Black Panthers, who used more violent methods to gain power, often sparking clashes with police. These more radical movements gave birth to the slogan “Black is Beautiful” and created a deep divide in the civil rights movement.
Urban ghettos were a fertile soil for more radical civil rights movements. Young African Americans in the ghetto saw white police as oppressors, and they felt mired in poverty while whites had opportunity and wealth. Their frustration boiled over, and the years between 1964 and 1968 were punctuated by riots in cities throughout the country, including the famous Watts Riot in Los Angeles that resulted in thirty-four deaths and over a thousand injuries. Finally, in 1968 Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy were silenced by assassins’ bullets.
Despite dissatisfaction with the slow rate of change, the civil rights movement helped to transform America, making it closer to the country envisioned by Thomas Jefferson, one “where all…are created equal.”
Last Updated on June 1, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1318
This chapter explores the main issues facing the United States during the presidencies of John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson: civil rights, the Cold War, nuclear warfare, and the beginning of the Vietnam War. The chapter is divided into three sections: the New Frontier, the Great Society, and Foreign Policy in the Early 1960s.
Section 1: The New Frontier
- John F. Kennedy won the presidency by only a narrow margin, and many of the new ideas he proposed thus stalled in Congress.
- Despite his difficulty in getting legislation passed, Kennedy’s energy and idealism created optimism throughout the country.
Summary and Analysis
John F. Kennedy was probably the first candidate to win an election as a result of television. Kennedy’s appearance in four televised debates with his opponent, Richard M. Nixon, transmitted his youthful enthusiasm and vigor into living rooms around the nation and contributed to his narrow victory. He was the youngest man to ever be elected president. He was also the only Roman Catholic to serve in the White House, but he exuded youthful energy as he promised America that he would “get America moving again,” after the slowing economy of the Eisenhower years.
This goal would be harder to achieve than he imagined. Because he had such a narrow victory, he did not have a strong mandate, or public endorsement, and many of his legislative initiatives got stuck in Congress. To strengthen the economy, he proposed tax cuts and other measures that the majority of Congress opposed. He also proposed legislation to help eradicate poverty and managed to pass the Housing Act of 1961, which provided funding for urban renewal and to increase the minimum wage. He also pushed the Twenty-Fourth Amendment to ban poll taxes through Congress, although he did not live to see its ratification. Many other initiatives were carried out by executive orders, including providing food to needy families, changing social security benefits, and the signing of the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. He supported NASA and the space program by challenging the nation to put a man on the moon, a goal that he never saw achieved.
Sadly, President Kennedy’s days in office were all too short. On November 22, 1963, during a visit to Dallas, Texas, Kennedy was assassinated as his car drove through the streets of the city. Lyndon Johnson was sworn in as president, and the nation mourned its loss. The touching image of Kennedy’s young son saluting his father’s casket as it is carried through the streets of Washington has been etched in our nation’s memory. The accused assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald,was gunned down days later on national television, leaving many questions about Kennedy’s killing unanswered.
Section 2: The Great Society
- Lyndon Johnson came to the presidency amid tragedy and began an ambitious program to improve the economy and to end poverty in America.
- These programs helped many Americans escape the chains of poverty. Some critics, however, argue that the programs created a welfare culture, while others argue that Johnson did not go far enough to really help the poor.
Summary and Analysis
Lyndon Johnson came to office in the midst of a national tragedy. He realized that he needed to take quick action to attempt to heal the nation, so he put of his energy and effort into getting legislation passed to make a number of sweeping domestic reforms. His reforms included Kennedy’s civil rights bill and his tax reductions, but went further than what Kennedy had envisioned. Johnson used the term “Great Society” to describe the America his initiatives were to produce. He supported a series of legislative initiatives that included poverty relief, subsidized health care, aid to schools, and urban renewal and development. After easily winning the 1964 election, Johnson pursued his policies with renewed vigor. His tax cut increased the GNP and did not cause the predicted budget deficit as taxes rose with increased incomes. The Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 gave poor people a voice in defining their own neighborhoods and created the Head Start program to help combat illiteracy. Johnson also supervised the creation of the Medicare and Medicaid programs, increased aid to schools, and improved immigration regulations. Johnson’s programs had great success in that the number of Americans living in poverty was cut in half by the early 1970s. Some critics, however, charge that he merely created a welfare society, while other critics feel he did not go far enough in alleviating poverty.
During Johnson’s term of office, the Supreme Court led by Chief Justice Earl Warren made several landmark decisions, including banning prayer in public schools and striking down legislation banning birth control. The court also made rulings that guarded the rights of individuals against the power of the government. These decisions included the ruling in Miranda v. Arizona that required that a suspect be told of his or her rights prior to questioning, called the Miranda Rule. The Warren Court ruled that state legislatures and districts had to be apportioned fairly so that “one man, one vote” was a reality in local elections. These often controversial decisions helped to shape modern America and are still being argued today.
Section 3: Foreign Policy in the Early 1960s
- Foreign policy in the early 1960s was shaped by the ever-intensifying Cold War as the U.S. strove to contain Communism.
Summary and Analysis
The main goal of federal foreign policy in the early 1960s was to remain strong in the face of communism without provoking a nuclear conflict. The United States grew increasingly concerned as Communism reached the Western Hemisphere with the take-over of Cuba by Fidel Castro in 1959. Worries intensified as Castro developed ties with the Soviet Union. President Kennedy began his term of office with a foreign affairs disaster in the failed Bay of Pigs attack on Cuba. This attempt by Kennedy to use U.S. backed Cuban nationals to retake the island for democracy hurt U.S. relations with all of South and Central America. A later showdown with Cuba had different results. In 1962, the Soviet Union began to build missile bases in Cuba, only 90 miles from Florida, sparking the Cuban Missile Crisis. Kennedy took a firm stand by beginning a “quarantine” (really a blockade) of the island and putting the nation on high military alert. Disaster was avoided by quick negotiations between Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev, the Soviet leader. The missile crisis is the closest the world has ever come to nuclear war and its inevitable destruction. The crisis brought about closer communication between the U.S. and U.S.S.R when a hotline was installed between the White house and the Kremlin. The crisis also led to the first nuclear treaty since the development of the atomic bomb. The Limited Test Ban Treaty was signed in 1963.
On the European front, Kennedy stood firm in his support of Berlin as the Soviets constructed the Berlin Wall to stem the flow of population from East to West Berlin. Kennedy also asked for a great increase in defense spending and doubled the number of men being drafted into the armed services. He felt America needed to make a show of military strength to the Soviets.
Another side of Kennedy’s foreign policy was the development of the Peace Corps, a volunteer organization dedicated to helping developing nations around the world. He also pressed for an Alliance for Progressin the Western hemisphere, but it did not live up to his expectations in helping developing countries in Central and South America.
After Kennedy’s death, President Johnson continued to support countries threatened with Communism, helping the Dominica Republicthrow off a Communist attack and develop an elected government. However, Johnson’s stand against Communism led him to get increasingly involved in Southeast Asia as he brought the United States to the aid of the tottering South Vietnamese government. Soon America would again be at war.
Last Updated on June 1, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1469
This chapter discusses the turbulent years of the 1960s and mid-1970s, a time of change and individualism that spurred a vibrant and creative counterculture in America. The chapter is divided into four sections: the Women’s Movement, Ethnic Minorities Seek Equality, the Counterculture, and the Environmental and Consumer Movements.
Section 1: The Women’s Movement
- Many women were unhappy with the 1950s stereotype of wife and mother and were ready to change this image.
- The civil rights movement gave women the inspiration and methods to bring about change.
Summary and Analysis
Many women did not fit into the 1950s stereotypical mold of woman as only housewife and mother. In fact, more women were working outside the home than ever before. By the early 1960s, 38% of all women worked in the public arena and over 25% had a college degree. Yet women still did not have many professional opportunities. They were often passed over for promotions and were paid less for the same work than men. The civil rights movement helped to inspire women and gave them the tools they needed to begin effecting change. The 1964 Civil Rights Act prohibited discrimination on the basis of race, religion, country of origin, and sex. It gave women a legal basis to challenge discrimination. In 1963, Betty Friedan published her landmark book, The Feminine Mystique, which described the frustration and dissatisfaction that many women faced despite having the so-called “American Dream.” In 1966, she and other professional women founded the National Organization of Women (NOW) to pressure the government to take discrimination on the basis of sex seriously.
Slowly women began to bring about change in American attitudes. Ms. magazine encouraged women in the workplace, and the publication of the book Our Bodies, Ourselves encouraged women to take control of their bodies and health. The Higher Education Act of 1972 prohibited discrimination in education, and more women than ever before began studying to enter fields such a medicine and law, which had previously been dominated by men. The National Women’s Political Caucus encouraged women to vote and to run for office. Shirley Chisholm from New York served in Congress and even entered the 1972 presidential primaries, gaining 152 delegates before she withdrew from the race. The Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade that prohibited the ban on early abortions gave women increased control over their own bodies and reproduction, although the controversial decision is still argued vehemently today.
The women’s movement, however, was not completely accepted by all women. The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) to the Constitution made it through Congress but was not ratified by enough states to pass. Some felt the movement went too far and campaigned against ERA. Still others felt that the movement devalued their contributions as housewives and mothers. Minority women often felt that the movement neglected them. However, the movement continued to promote change by bringing more opportunities for women, thus becoming a major element of activism during the period.
Section 2: Ethnic Minorities Seek Equality
- Also inspired by the civil rights movement, other ethnic minorities sought to end discrimination.
Summary and Analysis
African Americans were not the only minority to face discrimination in American culture. Latinos, Asians, and Native Americans also experienced discrimination in employment, education, and housing. During the 1960s and 1970s, a great wave of immigration from Latin America swept over the United States. Cuban refugees came in droves to Florida to escape Castro, and many Mexicans settled in the Southwest. Most early activism centered in the southwest where Mexicans and other Latinos were crowded into run down barrios with poor schools. Activists encouraged Latinos to value their cultural heritage in the face of Anglo discrimination and students began to organize protests to improve their educational opportunities. Many Latinos worked as migrant farm workers and were exploited by having to work long hours for low pay and little chance for education. Cesar Chavez worked tirelessly to change these conditions by organizing the United Farm Worker Union (UFW) to negotiate for better working conditions. Latinos began to exercise political power in their communities by voting and running for office.
Asian Americans also suffered terrible discrimination. They formed the Japanese American Citizens League to pressure the government to make reparations to those who had lost everything in the internments of World War II, getting monetary settlements as well as an official apology from the federal government in 1988. They also began to demand better job opportunities and equal pay for equal work. Their efforts were greatly helped by the addition of Hawaii as a state, which gave Asian Americans a voice in Congress.
Native Americans had different problems than other minority groups. They felt that their land had been stolen from them and that the American government had broken agreement after agreement with them. Further, the federal government had actively sought to erase their culture with forced boarding schools and forced moves. After World War II, the government had begun looking into the land claims of Native Americans, giving either land or money in compensation for prior acts. In 1968, Native American activists founded the American Indian Movement (AIM) to fight for treaty rights and better opportunities for Native Americans. In 1973, AIM forced a confrontation in the village of Wounded Knee, succeeding in getting the federal government to review hundreds of treaties. They also worked to pass the Indian Education Act of 1972 and the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act of 1975, which gave Native Americans autonomy on their land and a choice about how to educate their children and implement social programs provided by the federal government.
Section 3: The Counterculture
- Promoting freedom and challenging many societal norms, a vibrant youth culture flourished in the United States, ultimately changing the way Americans thought and lived.
Summary and Analysis
If conformity was the basis of the 1950s, individualism was the foundation of the 1960s. The youth who came of age during the ’60s often wanted to be as unlike the previous generation as possible. This “hippie” movement preached flower power and rejected the regimented life represented by large corporations. They were the largest generation in history and had an enormous influence on American culture. They experimented with drugs following Timothy Leary’s exhortation to “Tune in, turn on, drop out.” They dressed colorfully, wore their hair long, and created bold pop art to shock the art world. They listened to rock and folk music—everything from the Rolling Stones to Bob Dylan—and had freer attitudes about sex, rejecting traditional relationships and living together as couples without being married. Many lived in communal groups where they shared property and chores.
Although they shocked mainstream culture, they also affected it. Older adults began to emulate hippie styles in clothing. The counterculture sexual revolution opened up the issue to discussion in more mainstream media. The height of the hippie movement came at the Woodstock Festival, where nearly half a million people gathered to listen to some of the major musical groups of the era. When the counterculture collapsed in the late 1970s, many hippies fell back into the mainstream world but brought their freer attitudes and lifestyles with them, changing mainstream America forever.
Section 4: The Environmental and Consumer Movements
- Out of the activism of the 1960s came movements to protect the environment and to ensure the safety of the consumer.
Summary and Analysis
The landmark moment for the environmental movement was the publication of Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring. In the book, Carson showed how many of the products we used to improve our lives, particularly pesticides, were destroying the environment and killing the animals that share our environment. Carson, like many others, felt we had a duty to protect the environment and all creatures that live in it. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), created in 1974, helped to regulate the use of nuclear energy as a power source. On April 22, 1970, the U.S. celebrated the first Earth Day to increase awareness of environmental issues. Also in 1970, the federal government established the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to enforce environmental laws such as the Clean Air Act of 1970 and the Clean Water Act of 1972.
In the same way that Rachel Carson receives credit for beginning the environmental movement, Ralph Nader is recognized as the founder of the consumer movement. Nader discovered that automobile manufacturers were producing cars that were unsafe and that they knew the cars had unsafe features, such as the tendency to flip over, but continued to make the cars anyway. His book Unsafe at Any Speed: The Designed-In Dangers of the American Automobile was a sensation and put pressure on the government to regulate the industry by passing the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act. Nader then turned his attention to other industries, determined to protect Americans from companies that put profits ahead of lives.
Last Updated on June 1, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1499
This chapter discusses and analyzes the Vietnam War, one of the costliest, longest, and most divisive wars in U.S. history. The chapter is divided into four sections: the War Unfolds, Fighting the War, Political Divisions, and the End of the War.
Section 1: The War Unfolds
- Pursuing a policy of containment, the United States offered support to anti-Communist South Vietnam.
- By the time Lyndon Johnson assumed the presidency in 1963, it was clear that further U.S. involvement was needed if South Vietnam was to remain independent.
Summary and Analysis
After World War II, the U.S. government pursued a policy of containment in respect to Communism, which directly led to U.S. involvement in Vietnam. Eisenhower compared the situation in Vietnam to a game of dominos: if Vietnam fell to communism, then the surrounding nations—Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Burma—would also fall. This “domino theory” would play a pivotal role in U.S. policy in Vietnam.
Vietnam had been a French colony until 1954 when the Vietnamese League for Independence, the Vietminh, defeated the French forces. At this point, Vietnam was split into two nations: Communist North Vietnam led by Ho Chi Minh, and the Republican South led by President Ngo Dinh Diem. The United States provided military advisors and funding to help Diem stand against any advances of Northern Communists. By the time John F. Kennedy came to office, the U.S. had over 600 military advisors in Vietnam. Kennedy was also determined to prevent the spread of Communism, so he sent even more advisors to Vietnam. The Vietnamese people, however, did not support Diem’s government. An unpopular president, Diem was assassinated in 1963 just weeks before Kennedy himself was killed. President Johnson did not want to go to war in Vietnam, but he was determined not to let South Vietnam fall to Communism. The Gulf of Tonkin incident allowed Johnson to provide military support without declaring war. In August of 1964, it was announced that North Vietnamese ships had attacked U.S. destroyers in international waters. Johnson used the event, which may not have even happened, to get the U.S. Congress to pass the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution allowing him to “take all necessary measures to repel any armed attack against the forces of the United States and to prevent further aggression.” This act allowed Johnson to escalate the war in Vietnam without ever having to get an official declaration from Congress.
Section 2: Fighting the War
- Despite their superior weapons, American soldiers found it extremely difficult to fight against the guerilla warfare practiced by the Viet Cong.
- The war was devastating for both soldiers and civilians in Vietnam and America.
Summary and Analysis
When American soldiers arrived in Vietnam, they were often confused. Where was the enemy? Who were they fighting for? The North Vietnamese, or Viet Cong, avoided direct confrontation with Americans whenever possible. The Viet Cong instead employed guerilla warfare tactics—sneak attacks, sabotage, and booby traps—to kill or wound American soldiers. They also knew the landscape better than the Americans did and had large underground tunnels to hide in. Furthermore, they frequently had the support of the South Vietnamese people, who were disenchanted with the lackluster government. American soldiers thus never knew who was an enemy and who was a friend. This uncertainty was difficult for American soldiers and often led to the unnecessary killing of civilians, exemplified by the My Lai Massacre in 1968. Lieutenant William Calley, Jr., ordered his men to shoot down a village of women, children, and old men. Over 400 Vietnamese died before American chopper pilots bravely stopped the killing. Highly publicized, this event helped to turn public opinion in the U.S. against both the war and the soldiers who fought it.
Because of the difficulties of fighting the ground war, an air war in Vietnam was waged with a vengeance. American planes covered North Vietnam with bombs. Called saturation bombing, these raids devastated the North Vietnamese landscape and killed civilians in untold numbers. In an effort to expose Viet Cong hiding places, the United States dropped an herbicide called Agent Orange to kill the dense jungle landscape. Finally, the U.S. even used napalm,a sticky substance that burned upon impact, searing the flesh of anyone who was hit.
The war escalated through 1965, and over 150,000 American soldiers were sent to Vietnam by the end of the year. Between 1965 and 1967, the war was a stalemate with neither side gaining the upper hand. The turning point came in 1968 as the Viet Cong launched a series of coordinated attacks throughout Vietnam called the Tet Offensive, which was fought with uncommon brutality by the Viet Cong. The Tet Offensive was discouraging to Americans and intensified dissatisfaction with the war. Some Americans wanted the U.S. to pull out of Vietnam, while others felt the U.S. should go in with increased strength. President Johnson stood in the middle as both sided found fault with his leadership.
Section 3: Political Divisions
- The Vietnam War sparked nationwide protests that deeply divided the Democratic Party and the nation itself.
- The protests and the division within the Democratic Party led Johnson to withdraw from seeking reelection.
Summary and Analysis
During the early years of U.S. involvement in Vietnam, Americans in general supported the country’s fight against Communism. But as the war unfolded and the death toll of U.S. soldiers and Vietnamese civilians began to rise, many Americans began to question the morality of our involvement.
American colleges were the starting point for the growing protest against the Vietnam War. More American students were enrolled in college than ever before, and the culture of freethinking and protest was already strong there as students played a major role in the civil rights movement. Students in Michigan formed the Students for a Democratic Society, and The Free Speech Movement also encouraged student activists to speak out against the war. Some universities held teach-ins where professors taught night sessions in which concerns about the war could be discussed. Students and other young people also began to resist the draft by burning their draft cards and fleeing to Canada. Over 100,000 young people fled the U.S. rather than be drafted to serve in Vietnam.
The division caused by the war also split the Democratic Party. War critics such as Robert Kennedy joined the primary race against the incumbent, President Johnson. Sensing a tough fight, Johnson withdrew from the race and stated that he needed to spend time running the country rather than campaigning. Soon after Johnson’s withdrawal, the campaign turned ugly with Robert Kennedy’s tragic assassination in June of 1968. By the time of the Democratic National Convention, there was no clear winner because the party was so split. The convention, which took place in Chicago, sparked protests that turned to riots. The Democrats eventually nominated Hubert Humphrey, but the party had been torn apart. The presidency went to Republican Richard M. Nixon.
Section 4: The End of the War
- The end of the war was slow in coming because peace negotiations frequently stalled.
- The war was one of the costliest and least successful in U.S. history.
Summary and Analysis
As Nixon took power of the country, he changed the focus in Vietnam from winning the war to preparing the bargaining table to end the war. He even invaded Cambodia because he thought it would help at the bargaining table. Peace talks began in Paris in 1968 but failed to produce an agreement until late in 1972. Meanwhile, protests continued at home and began to turn violent. One group, called the Weathermen, rampaged the streets of Chicago, wielding pipes, rocks, and chains. A student protest at Kent Statein Ohio turned deadly when students burned down the ROTC building and broke windows. The National Guard was sent in, and when students threw rocks at the guardsmen, the troops opened fire, killing four students and wounding others.
Finally, at the end of 1972 a peace agreement was reached that called for the withdrawal of U.S. troops, the release of all prisoners of war, the end of military activities in Laos and Cambodia, and a return to the prewar division of Vietnam. The United States abided by this agreement, and its involvement in the war came to an end in 1973. However, South Vietnam as well as Cambodia and Laos fell to Communists in 1975, leading to the death of millions of Southeast Asians. Over a million more Southeast Asians fled their countries as refugees. The Vietnam War had cost over 58,000 American lives, cost at least $150 billion, and had accomplished virtually nothing. American soldiers who returned from the war received little or no help readjusting to civilian life and many suffered greatly as a result of their rejection by American society. It was not until the creation of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, carefully crafted by Maya Lin, that many Vietnam veterans began to heal from the mental and emotional wounds they had suffered during and after the war.
Last Updated on June 1, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1688
This chapter discusses the presidencies of Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, and Jimmy Carter. The chapter is divided into five sections: Nixon’s Domestic Policy, Nixon’s Foreign Policy, the Watergate Scandal, the Ford Administration, and the Carter Administration.
Section 1: Nixon’s Domestic Policy
- Nixon relied on White House staff rather than cabinet members for advice, thus insulating himself from any who disagreed with him.
- During his term of office, Nixon dealt with several domestic issues: inflation, an oil shortage, and the ballooning costs of Johnson’s social programs.
Summary and Analysis
Richard Nixon did not have the outgoing personality that many former presidents had. He was cold and lacked charisma, but he was an effective communicator. Also unlike most presidents, he did not use his appointed cabinet as his advisors; he preferred the advice of his White House Staff who were unswervingly loyal to him. His dependence on and support of them would eventually bring about his downfall.
The domestic issues Nixon faced were a severe recession and increasing unemployment. Although he did not generally support deficit spending, Nixon found he had to spend money to stimulate the economy and lower the unemployment rate. He also tried to impose freezes on wages and prices, but nothing seemed to be able to control spiraling inflation. In addition, the country was facing an oil crisis because U.S. support of Israel caused the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to ban the shipping of oil to the U.S. As Americans waited in gas lines around the country, inflation continued to rise. Nixon also had to make cuts in the social programs President Johnson had created. These programs were costing a fortune and not providing what they had promised. He turned many of the programs over to the state governments in a policy known as New Federalism. Nixon also had the unusual chance to pick four Supreme Court justices during his term, and he used these appointments to try to reshape the court to reflect his more conservative views. Finally, Nixon had the privilege of overseeing the fulfillment of Kennedy’s challenge to put men on the moon. The moon walk in July 1969 was the high point of Nixon’s domestic success; he failed to make a significant impact in slowing inflation.
Section 2: Nixon’s Foreign Policy
- Nixon’s practical foreign policy improved U.S. relations with China and the Soviet Union.
Summary and Analysis
While Nixon’s domestic policies stagnated, he made great achievements in foreign policy. Nixon’s main ally in attaining his foreign policy successes was Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. Both Nixon and Kissinger believed in the practice of realpolitik, making foreign affairs decisions based on practical politics, not moral principals. This practical politics led Nixon and Kissinger to improve relations with the Communist nations of China and the Soviet Union. Nixon eased tensions by publicly referring to the China as The People’s Republic of China, the first American official to call the country by its chosen name. He also allowed the United Nations to give the Chinese a seat in the United Nations and brought an end to the 21-year trade embargo of China. Finally, in a historic trip, Nixon actually visited China and met with the Chinese leader Mao Zedong.
After returning from his successful trip to China, Nixon turned his attention to the Soviet Union, traveling to Moscow for a series of meetings with Soviet Premier Leonid Brezhnev. During these talks, the two leaders eased trade limitations and negotiated a weapons pact. The first Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT I) limited the number of certain types of nuclear missiles to the numbers in existence in 1972. Although the agreement did not actually lower the number of nuclear weapons and just led both countries to pursue new weaponry not banned by the treaty, it was an important step because it eased tensions and it provided a basis for future talks. Unfortunately for Nixon, the great success of his foreign policy was to be overshadowed by his involvement in the Watergate scandal.
Section 3: The Watergate Scandal
- In order to assure Nixon’s reelection, some of his staff stooped to unethical and even illegal methods to discredit other candidates.
- After members of his staff were accused during the Watergate scandal, Nixon illegally acted to cover up their crimes, leading to his unprecedented resignation from office in 1974.
Summary and Analysis
In addition to being cold and remote, Nixon was also suspicious and secretive by nature. He surrounded himself with a circle of loyal supporters and trusted no one outside of this circle. His aide Charles Colson developed a list of people who did not support Nixon’s policies. This list included politicians, writers, and even entertainers. Nixon’s suspicion also led him to wiretap his own people as well as several newspaper reporters, and he created a special group called “The Plumbers” to find damaging information about those they felt leaked information to the press.
On June 17, 1972, five men were arrested breaking into the Democratic National Committee office in the Watergate Hotel. One of the men, James McCord, was an employee of Nixon’s reelection campaign. The arrest and subsequent investigation did not harm Nixon’s reelection. He won by a landslide of 520 to 17 electoral votes. However, the Watergate investigation continued. Two reporters for the Washington Post continued to probe the story, finding out about “hush money” paid to staff members to keep quiet and secret funds used to pay for unethical or even illegal campaign activities. It became clear that the president was involved in a cover-up of these activities. As the investigative hearings were televised, millions of Americans watched as John Dean,the White House’s legal advisor, testified that Nixon knew about the cover-up. The White House was asked to turn over the tapes of its wiretaps, but Nixon refused. After an order from the Supreme Court, the tapes were eventually turned over and although portions of the tapes had been removed, there was enough evidence that Nixon had ordered the cover-up. Facing impeachment, Nixon resigned on August 9, 1974. He was the first U.S. president to resign from office. Nixon’s actions damaged the prestige of the presidency and weakened the trust Americans had in their government.
Section 4: The Ford Administration
- Gerald Ford worked to reunite the country, although his pardon of Richard Nixon angered many Americans.
- Ford also faced economic challenges at home and foreign policy challenges with Vietnam and the Soviet Union.
Summary and Analysis
When Gerald Ford took the office of president upon Nixon’s resignation, he became the only U.S. president who was never elected by the people. Ford quickly declared that it was time for “communication, conciliation, compromise, and cooperation.” In this attitude of conciliation, he pardoned President Nixon for all crimes he might have committed. Much of the population did not agree and the Republican Party suffered, losing several congressional seats in the 1974 elections.
The main domestic challenge that Ford faced was the stalled economy. Massive inflation and high unemployment had affected both home building and the stock market. Ford attempted to take direct action by tightening the money supply to control inflation, but the country sunk further into a recession and employment rose to 8%. Economists called this combination of inflation and unemployment stagflation. On the world front, Ford worked with Henry Kissinger to develop relationships with African nations and became the first American president to visit Japan since World War II. He was unable to help South Vietnam resist a renewed Communist attack in 1975 because of the restrictions passed by Congress in the War Powers Act of 1973,limiting presidential ability to send troops abroad without congressional approval. Ford also worked with the Soviet Union and over 30 other countries to create the Helsinki Accordspledging to cooperate economically and respect each other’s borders.
Section 5: The Carter Administration
- Jimmy Carter’s greatest successes came in foreign policy, but the Iran Hostage Crisis damaged his reputation.
- Carter was unable to work effectively with Congress to get domestic legislation passed.
Summary and Analysis
Before the 1976 elections, Jimmy Carter was a virtual unknown on the national stage. As governor of Georgia, he had no national political experience. As a born again Baptist, Carter had firm religious beliefs but respected the beliefs of others. His honesty and down-home style were a relief to many after the dishonesty and secrecy of the Nixon administration. Carter’s lack of Washington connections helped him in the election, but it would hurt the implementation of his domestic policy.
Carter still had to deal with an unstable economy and growing inflation. He tried spending to stimulate the economy, but the resulting deficit raised interest rates and inflation soared to 10%. Carter also worked to lower prices by deregulation—the removal of government controls—in a number of industries including the oil and gas industries. Because of the OPEC embargo and the resulting shortages, Carter worked to decrease our need for oil and offered incentives for alternative energy.
In foreign policy, Carter made a tremendous impact by acting as peacemaker between Israel and Egypt in forming the Camp David Accords. Under this treaty, Egypt became the first country in the Middle East to formally recognize Israel as a nation. Carter, though, was not as successful in keeping the peace with the Soviet Union, because he took a firm moral stand on the issue of human rights and supported Soviet dissidents. The biggest disaster of Carter’s administration, however, was the Iran Hostage Crisis. The United States had supported the government of the Shah of Iran. When the Shah was overthrown by Muslim extremists, Carter allowed him to come to the U.S. for medical treatment. In retaliation, the followers of the Ayatollah Khomeini seized the American embassy and took 52 hostages, holding them for 444 days. The American public grew impatient with Carter’s inability to bring an end to the situation as well as with his inability to end inflation. In 1980, Republican Ronald Reagan won the election in a landslide. The hostages were released the day after Reagan took office.
Last Updated on June 1, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1561
This chapter explores the rise of the conservative movement that had been trying since the FDR administration to cut government growth and preserve traditional values. The chapter is divided into four sections: Roots of the New Conservatism, the Regan Revolution, Regan’s Second Term, and the George H. W. Bush Presidency.
Section 1: The Roots of the New Conservatism
- The conservative movement begun under FDR gained new strength in the 1970s and brought Ronald Reagan to the presidency in 1980.
Summary and Analysis
The election of Ronald Reagan marked a significant shift in American domestic policy, but the call for change did not develop overnight. Ever since the enactment of the New Deal by FDR, there had been those who opposed the expansion of government and the accompanying erosion of private-property rights. It was these conservatives who successfully opposed FDR’s attempt to pack the Supreme Court with new justices. However, conservative successes were few and far between. The Democrats held the presidency for twenty years, and Republican Dwight Eisenhower did nothing to control the growth of federal bureaucracy. When Barry Goldwater ran on a conservative platform in 1964, he lost in a landslide, but the 1960s and 1970s gave new life to the conservative movement. First it became clear that Johnson’s social programs were costing billions and not providing what they had promised. Further, social issues began to concern conservatives as many were troubled by the increased drug use in American society and the violence of student protests. The 1973 Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade that legalized abortion was a flash point for galvanizing conservatives to work together. Conservatives were also concerned with the growing divorce rate, which they blamed on the women’s movement and the decline of the traditional family. In addition, a backlash against affirmative action programs, which some Americans felt promoted reverse discrimination against white males, caused many blue-collar Democrats to support Reagan. These Reagan Democrats helped to bring about Reagan’s landslide victory in the 1980 presidential election. Reagan was also helped by the support of Christian televangelists who reached millions and by Carter’s inability to resolve the Iran Hostage Crisis. Reagan won the election by 489 electoral votes to Carter’s mere 49 electoral votes.
Section 2: The Reagan Revolution
- Reagan revolutionized federal economic policy by slashing taxes and eliminating unnecessary government programs.
- Reagan also increased defense spending, greatly increasing the strength of the American military.
Summary and Analysis
Reagan made three promises in his presidential campaign. He would increase the military strength of our country, he would get rid of expensive and unnecessary government programs, and he would slash taxes. Reagan believed that the way to revitalize the economy was to cut taxes so that individuals and companies would have both the money and incentive to expand production. This policy is called supply-side economics. Reagan oversaw a dramatic cut in taxes, cutting them over 25% in his first term and setting in motion the most sweeping tax reform in history during his second term. This reform closed loopholes that allowed some to avoid paying taxes and simplified the tax system. Reagan also cut government regulation of industry and challenged the power of labor unions. He tried to slow federal growth by attacking some of the programs of Johnson’s Great Society, reducing unemployment compensation, eliminating unnecessary federal jobs, lowering welfare benefits, and raising fees for Medicare patients. Still the cost of these programs grew each year as more Americans took advantage of them. Reagan also continued Nixon’s New Federalism policy of turning federal programs over to state control. During Reagan’s first two years in office, the economic troubles of the country continued, but as the recession’s higher interest rates slowed down inflation and Reagan’s tax cuts took effect, consumer spending increased and unemployment began to shrink. Unfortunately, the federal deficit continued to rise, reaching $221 billion in 1986.
In foreign policy, Reagan wanted to defend American interests in the Cold War. Calling the Soviet Union an “evil empire,” he wanted to strengthen the U.S. military. One of the main programs was the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI),the development of a massive satellite shield to intercept Soviet missiles. Reagan also dealt with the withdrawal of American peacekeeping troops in Lebanon after a terrorist attack killed 241 Americans. He bombed Libya for sponsoring terrorist attacks against the United States, and he supported forces against Communism in Latin America even when this meant aiding a repressive regime.
Section 3: Reagan’s Second Term
- A decisive reelection victory demonstrated the country’s support of Reagan’s conservative programs.
- Reagan improved relations between the United States and the Soviet Union.
Summary and Analysis
Reagan won his second term in a decisive victory against Walter Mondale and his running mate, Geraldine Ferraro, the first woman ever on a major party presidential ticket. He used his second term to increase Americans’ pride in their nation through such events as the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, the centennial of the Statue of Liberty, and the 200th anniversary of the Constitution. Reagan also oversaw a continuation of the social debates of the past decades, including debates on civil rights, women’s rights, and the rights of homosexuals. Reagan generally stood with conservatives on these issues and appointed conservative judges to federal courts as well as to the Supreme Court. His Supreme Court appointments included Sandra Day O’Connor, the first woman appointed to the Court.
The economy was undergoing great changes during the second half of the 1980s. First was a farm crisis caused by falling prices. Congress sought to ease the plight by buying surplus produce, but this was a temporary solution at best. A second change was a decline in heavy manufacturing as the economy shifted away from these industries. Thousands upon thousands of highly paid factory workers lost their jobs permanently and had to look for work in lower paying fields. Finally, America saw the most unequal distribution of wealth since the end of World War II. Wealthy Americans got wealthier at a huge rate while poorer Americans saw a much slower growth in income. In many families, both spouses needed to work in order to keep up with rising prices and stagnant wages. Although Reagan attempted to cut back government social spending, the payments for Medicaid and other programs continued to grow at an alarming rate.
Reagan’s strong relationship with Mikhail Gorbachev brought a great easing of tensions between the Soviet Union after 1985. They agreed on the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty in 1987 calling for the destruction of 2,500 nuclear missiles in Europe.
Section 4: The George H. W. Bush Presidency
Summary and Analysis
After a difficult election battle on domestic issues with Democratic Party candidate Michael Dukakis, George H. W. Bush oversaw the country through some of the most exciting foreign policy developments since World War II. First, he led the country through the end of the Cold War. Mikhail Gorbachev’s policies of glasnost (political openness) and perestroika (economic restructuring) were the beginning of the end of the Soviet Union. Poland broke free of the Communist yoke in 1988, and by 1989 the Berlin Wall had fallen, paving the way for the reunification of Germany within the year. By the end of 1991, Gorbachev resigned as the president of the Soviet Union and almost immediately the Union ceased to exist. Bush negotiated first with Gorbachev and later with Russia’s new president, Boris Yeltsin, for an end to the Cold War. This end was symbolized by agreements limiting military buildup and by the first Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty,which called for a dramatic reduction in each nation’s supply of nuclear arms.
The U.S. was now clearly the only world superpower. President Bush believed that this gave the United States a new responsibility to its allies and to the world. Several international events showed his strong response to this challenge. After the brutal attack on a student demonstration in The People’s Republic of China at Tiananmen Square, Bush chose to negotiate quietly rather than publicly attacking China in order to preserve international peace. This upset many who felt he did not care about human rights, but it maintained a good relationship with China. However, in the case of Panama and later in the Persian Gulf War, Bush showed stronger and more decisive action, first attacking Panama and its leader Manuel Noriega for smuggling cocaine into the United States. Noriega was captured and tried for drug trafficking in American courts. The Persian Gulf War began when Iraq’s Saddam Hussein invaded the neighboring country of Kuwait. President Bush worked through the United Nations to mobilize an international force to push Iraq out of Kuwait. “Operation Desert Storm” began in January 1991 and liberated Kuwait in only six weeks.
Despite these successes and a post Desert Storm approval rating of 89%, Bush could not address domestic problems in the United States. Bush caused a great deal of controversy by nominating conservative African American Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court. Accused of sexual misconduct, Thomas was eventually approved by the Senate, but the incident hurt Bush in the eyes of the public. The recession of the early 1990s, sparked by increasing energy costs after the Persian Gulf War and a cut in defense spending, also contributed to his unpopularity. These issues helped bring Bill Clinton to the presidency in 1992.
Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1341
This chapter explores the dramatic changes in America as the country approached the twenty-first century: the emergence of a global economy, the computer revolution, and the fear of terrorism. The chapter is divided into three sections: Politics in Recent Years, the United States in a New World, and Americans in the New Millennium.
Section 1: Politics in Recent Years
- Bill Clinton was a popular president with many successes, but scandal left a stain on his record.
- Recent presidential elections have been very close and contentious, reflecting a substantial split in the values of the nation.
Summary and Analysis
At the end of the Persian Gulf War, President Bush enjoyed a large approval rating from the voters, but the declining economy cost him a second term in office as Democrat Bill Clinton won the election. Ross Perot, a third-party candidate and a billionaire businessman running as an “outsider,” surprisingly won 19% of the popular vote, hurting Bush’s reelection effort. Although Clinton began his presidency with Democratic majorities in both the House of Republicans and the Senate, he did not get much of his legislation passed as easily as expected. To help the economy, he tried to reduce the deficit by raising taxes and to end the recession by increasing spending. His first budget passed by only two votes. He lost his battle to establish a national health care system. In the midterm elections of 1994, the Democrats lost control of both the Senate and the House of Representatives. However, despite the more hostile Congress, Clinton managed to come up with a program of welfare reform that was agreeable to all. This reform eliminated guarantees of federal assistance and gave states authority to run welfare as they saw fit with federal money. It also limited the amount of aid a family could receive. Clinton easily won a second term in office, but scandal soon overwhelmed his presidency. First, Clinton was charged with having been involved in some fraudulent land deals in Arkansas in the Whitewater affair. Another charge said the president had accepted illegal campaign donations, but Clinton was cleared on both counts. However, trouble continued to brew on the horizon when it was found during the Whitewater investigations that Clinton had had an affair with a White House intern. He lied about the affair under oath in a separate sexual harassment charge, thus committing the crime of perjury. Clinton was then impeached on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice. Although most of the country disapproved of Clinton’s actions, the majority thought impeachment went too far. Clinton avoided impeachment and remained popular as the economy continued to grow.
The election of 2000 proved to be one of the most contentious in the history of the country. Texas governor George W. Bush ran against Al Gore, Clinton’s vice president. The campaign mostly focused on domestic issues surrounding the federal tax surplus. Bush wanted to give it back to Americans, whereas Gore wanted to use it to shore up Social Security and pay down the national debt. The election was so close that although Gore had won the popular vote, a recount of Florida was necessary to determine the electoral vote. After a month of haggling about how many votes to recount, the Supreme Court stopped the recount and Bush won the presidency.
Section 2: The United States in a New World
- Despite the expectation of many that the end of the Cold War meant world peace and stability, tensions increased in many places and the world became more unstable.
- The threat of terrorism increased around the world as Muslim fundamentalists from the Middle East sponsored terrorist attacks in both Europe and the United States.
Summary and Analysis
With the collapse of the Soviet Union and Communism, the United States tried to promote democracy in the former Soviet countries and began to work with them on controlling the proliferation of nuclear weapons. South Africa gave the world a pleasing surprise as its government, reacting to worldwide economic sanctions against it, finally ended apartheid policies in the early 1990s, holding its first interracial elections in 1994. Despite fears of civil war, the transition was handled peacefully. China also began to work closely with the United States to normalize trade between the two countries. However, there were still armed conflicts around the world. In Somalia, U.N. armies were sent to stop the bloodshed. In Yugoslavia, ethnic wars broke out between the Serbs and the Muslim Albanians. There was also violence in Northern Ireland until the Irish and British came to a peace agreement. In the Middle East, violence increased after the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.
On September 11, 2001, the violence hit home when Muslim extremists led by Osama Bin Laden, a Saudi dissident, carried out terrorist attacks using airplanes to hit the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Another plane, headed for Washington, had its attack foiled by passengers who forced it down in Pennsylvania. The attack on the World Trade Center caused the collapse of the buildings and the deaths of nearly 3,000 people. This attack sparked the War on Terror, which led the United States to attack the country of Afghanistan for protecting terrorists, including bin Laden, and allowing them to train there. Later, the United States put together a peacekeeping force to stop the development of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq because Iraqi president Saddam Hussein’s refusal to cooperate with U.N. investigators. Saddam Hussein was captured in December 1993, but Iraq was immersed in an ongoing civil war. President Bush has faced much criticism for his handling of the war in Iraq. The War on Terror has affected Americans at home as well. President Bush created a new Office of Homeland Security, the largest reorganization of government departments since just after World War II. The new department is charged with preventing terrorist activities within the United States.
Section 3: Americans in the New Millennium
- Since the 1990s, Americans have experienced significant changes in population, technology, and the global economy.
Summary and Analysis
As the twenty-first century approached, it became clear that American demographics were changing. Over 80% of legal immigration during the twentieth century came from Asia and Latin America rather than Europe. The nation is now made up of a wide diversity of ethnicities and races. There has been heated debate over the issue of immigration because many Americans fear that continued immigration could hurt jobs and cost billions in social support programs. Immigration has also provoked debates about the best way to educate non-English speakers, with some states even outlawing bilingual education programs.
The country is also facing the challenge of keeping up with changing technology. In 1984, only 8% of all American households had computers; by 2003, over 60% owned computers. Computers have changed and continue to change the way we work, shop, learn, and use information. The rate of change is so fast that it is difficult to predict changes from one day to the next.
The new technology has also helped make the economy increasingly global. Countries around the world have been working to lower tariffs and create free trade zones. Over 25 European nations have put their resources together to establish the European Union and replace their individual monetary systems with a single currency called the euro. The United States encouraged greater cooperation in North America with the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1992 and with the formation of the World Trade Organization (WTO), which had power to negotiate trade agreements and resolve trade disputes between nations.
Many people complained that these organizations favor large, multinational companies, but the WTO officials say that labor and environmental standards can be improved though free trade. The U.S. economy saw huge gains through 2005, although the Bush tax cuts of 2003 as well as the cost of the war in Iraq and Hurricane Katrina did put a strain on the budget. The rate of change in our population and technology as well as the increasingly global economy will continue to provide new challenges as America heads further into the twenty-first century.
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