U.S. History since 1877

AMH 2020-U.S. History since 1877 (ONLINE) SUMMER 2017 Professor: Mark J. Smith, Ph.D.

Course Schedule

Before beginning read pages 1-5 of this textbook and the Final Exam

Due Date Assignments Discussion
I. 1870s

to ca. 1900

R, 6/21* Assign m ent 1 Discussion 1
M, 6/25 Assignment 2 Discussion 2
II. ca. 1900

to 1929

R, 6/28 Assignment 3 Discussion 3
M, 7/2 Assignment 4 Discussion 4
III. 1929

to 1945

R, 7/5 Assignment 5 Discussion 5
M, 7/9 Assignment 6 Discussion 6
IV. 1945

to ca. 1970

R,7/12 Assignment 7 Discussion 7
M, 7/16 Assignment 8 Discussion 8
V. ca. 1970

to present

R, 7/19 Assignment 9 Discussion 9
M, 7/23 Assignment 10 Discussion 10
R, 7/26 Discussion 11
T, 7/31 Final Exam Due on Canvas by 11:59 pm

*You are required to submit one assigned task during the first week to remain enrolled in the class.

If you fail to do so, you will be withdrawn. If withdraw, re-enrollment will not be allowed.

PROLOGUE ESSAY: The essay below explains the general philosophy behind this class. You should read it carefully and be sure that you understand the nature of the class.

M.J. Smith, On Creating a Usable Past.

There’s an adage about history, that it’s just one damn thing after another. Lots of people think that history is a linear narrative of persons, places, events, and the like, the ‘knowing’ of which makes someone an expert in history. Historians, many believe, have a vast, encyclopedic knowledge of the past that they convey to students who are expected to ‘learn’ that information. But, as the philosopher of history R.G. Collingwood said in 1946, “Nothing capable of being memorized is history.” For our purposes, history is not a collection of information or “knowledge” about the past, but an intellectual tool that has value only to the extent that it is usable.

As with any tool, history requires a set of skills to be applied properly and effectively. In the words of the American Historical Association, history involves “the study of the human past as it is constructed and interpreted with human artifacts, written evidence, and oral traditions. It requires empathy for historical actors, respect for interpretive debate, and the skillful use of an evolving set of practices and tools.” In this class, you will be given the opportunity to develop those skills, methods, and habits of mind that will help you make use of the intellectual process, or discipline, that is history.

From its original Greek, the word history means to inquire. Writing in 1931, historian Carl Becker wrote that history is “an imaginative creation.” It is born in the mind, and it requires that we develop what Lendol Calder described in 2016 as “disciplined process of problem solving and supported by evidence.” The skills of historical inquiry can be used to solve problems, address issues, and develop ideas in your daily life. If done properly, you will be able to construct interpretations supported by evidence within a historical context.

In addition to the tools of inquiry, the course also calls for the development of empathy or historical perspective. As you study the experiences of people in the past you will need to understand them on their own terms, born of the historical context in which they lived. You should develop this ability to empathize with the people in the past not for their benefit, but for yours. Connecting with the people of the past helps you understand your place in the present. It gives you examples, experiences, and exemplars of how others have dealt with problems and took advantage of opportunities.

Thus, to create a usable past you need to develop skills: The ability to use evidence and reasoning to come to meaningful conclusions about historical problems. The ability to express understanding of the historical contexts from which the evidence is drawn. The ability to apply empathy to the people of the past. The ability to use the past to address contemporary issues.

At the end of the course, if you can do these things well, you will have a broader and stronger set of thinking skills. You will think more critically and effectively. You will have gone a long way toward creating a usable past. This will help you in all walks of life; it will make you a better citizen, family member, worker, and leader.


GUIDELINES FOR CHARACTERIZING CONTEXT. Making use of the past begins with understanding the context in which historical events, people, movements, ideas, institutions, cultures, etc. are positioned. Explaining historical context requires a clear statement of the broad nature and general contours of the period in question. This is its character and should encompass the entire period.

Learning Outcome addressed: Express Understanding of Historical Context.

How to Characterize Historical Context:

· 1. Write a two to four sentence statement that identifies and fully encompasses the period in question.

· 2. Express the nature and contours of the overall period. Don’t focus on one aspect.

· 3. Be scholarly, coherent, and show proper writing mechanics. Write in third person.

Exceeds Satisfactory:

· 4. Show complexity or thoughtfulness. Clearly suggest the distinctiveness of this period.

Example of a Characterization: The formative period for the United States began in antiquity and continued through the mid-1700s as the population and “American” culture took shape. Over this period indigenous peoples, Europeans, and Africans came to occupy the region that would become the United States. While Europeans were the dominant culture in the region, African slaves provided important and lasting elements of American life. The development of American culture and society in this period, a sense of American identity, was a necessary precursor for the movement for political independence that followed.

GUIDELINES FOR DESCRIBING FEATURES. You should be able to identify the most significant features of the period, those with the biggest impact. These are most impactful features, rather than specific details. Typically, there are five to seven such features.

Learning Outcome addressed: Express Understanding of Historical Context.

How to Describe the Most Significant Features: Use this list to check your work.

· 1. Describe the historical features of the period that had a broad impact, in two or three sentences each.

· 2. Be scholarly, coherent, and show proper writing mechanics. Write in third person.

Exceeds Satisfactory:

· 3. Show a sense of judgment about what is significant; don’t include unnecessary specifics or details.

Example of a Statement on a Significant Feature*: Development of the American colonies relied heavily on the use of indentured servitude and slave labor. Both added significant social and cultural elements to the country. But while slavery was a violent forced migration of Africans, indentured servants were mostly white Europeans.

*There are typically five to seven of these for each period.


Paragraphs and essays must begin with a concise statement that expresses your argument, interpretation, or claim about the issue in question. If it is clearly a factual statement, it is not a thesis. The thesis is what gives your work coherence, or holds it together. It is the controlling idea for the body of the work that follows. Without a thesis or with a weak thesis, the work is out of control; it is a ramble or a list. The thesis should be clear, focused, and complex. See the example below for a thesis for a paragraph.

Learning Outcome Addressed: (2) Develop and express a historical interpretation in a thesis.

How to write a thesis statement: Use this list to check your work.

· 1. Write a two to four original sentences thesis. Avoid using the terms of the question.

· 2. Identify the historical period in question within the thesis.

· 3. Focus fully and directly on the issue in question as reflected in the sources.

· 4. Be scholarly, coherent, and show proper writing mechanics. Write in third person.

Exceeds Satisfactory:

· 5. Be complex; address more than one aspect of the issue or idea. Reflect all of the sources.

· 6. Be thoughtful or insightful, rather than conventional, basic, or bland.

Example of a Thesis Statement:

Immigrants from Europe and Asia in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries faced derision and bigotry from the those who saw them as an economic and cultural threat. These new immigrants confronted the discrimination through activism and adaptation while maintaining their cultural heritage. They formed close-knit communities that helped them cope with life in their new homeland while providing a means to organize and advocate for their needs. While preserving their cultural heritage benefitted the immigrants, it fueled suspicion and distrust among the pre-existing population.


Paragraphs should be developed with evidence in the form of primary and secondary sources. Secondary sources are the accounts produced by historians or other scholars, generally long after the events have taken place. Primary sources are original letters, photographs, works of art, interviews, printed accounts, official records, statistics, or other material produced at the time to which they refer or by those who witnessed the events of the time.  You must clearly identify the sources you use as part of a sentence, integrated within your own prose, as shown in bold face in the example paragraph below.  Short quotations from sources, integrated carefully within your own sentences, make for good writing.

Learning Outcome Addressed: (3) Support the thesis with evidence.

How to use evidence: Use this list to check your work.

· 1. Write a point of two to four sentences.

· 2. Identify the source as part of a sentence.

· 3. Clearly support the thesis.

· 4. Cite sources in boldface by author, time reference, and type.

· 5. Incorporate at least one quotation from a primary source, not more than 15 words.

· 6. Be scholarly, coherent, and show proper writing mechanics. Write in third person.

Exceeds Satisfactory:

· 7. Fully develop the point without going over four sentences.

· 8. Uses the source and quotations very effectively to provide strong support for the thesis.

Example of a Point of Evidence:

In a 1902 magazine article, a Polish Jew named Sadie Frowne demonstrated her resolve to be a part of the American nation. Frowne recalled her arrival in America, the hardships of the voyage, and the joy she felt upon seeing the “Goddess of Liberty.” She lived in Jewish neighborhood in New York, but worked in the wider community where she had to fit in. She notes that she “can read quite well in English now and I look at the newspapers every day,” demonstrating her willingness to assimilate to her new nation.

GUIDELINES FOR DISCUSSION PARTICIPATION: Over the term you will discuss the experiences of people in the past. You should make direct reference to the source or sources by author, use some of the words from the sources, place the people in their historical context, and show understanding of the lived experiences of the people in the sources. Unlike other work in this class, discussion comments may be written in first person.

Learning Outcome addressed: (4) Show historical perspective or empathy.

Historical Perspective/Empathy:

By developing an appreciation of how others see, and saw, the world, we gain range, depth, and openness in our thinking. This is empathy, and it means to understand people in the past on the terms that come from the conditions in which they lived. You should be able to explain the lived experiences, decisions, and actions of people in a specific historical and social context. And you should be able to demonstrate understanding of how people in the past thought, felt, made decisions, acted, and faced consequences.

Empathy doesn’t mean sympathy; you don’t have to agree with historical actors. It means that you understand “where they are coming from” even if you find their ideas, words, and actions repugnant. As the writer Sisonke Msimang said recently, “We can’t afford to ignore the protagonists we don’t like.” The past includes many stories, and we can’t accept only those that confirm our world view. In the words of novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, “Many stories matter. Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign, but stories can also be used to empower and to humanize. Stories can break the dignity of a people, but stories can also repair that broken dignity.”

In 1964, the great American writer James Baldwin said, “You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was [writers of the past] who taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who ever had been alive. Only if we face these open wounds in ourselves can we understand them in other people.” Baldwin’s message applies clearly to reading history and the stories of the past. When we read the stories of people in the past we can see what they faced and home they coped. This is empathy.

How to Participate in Discussions: Use this list to check your work.

· 1. Post a coherent original comment of about 150 words for each discussion by the due date.

· 2. Show historical perspective or empathy as explained above.

· 3. Post thoughtful responses to two classmates’ posts in each discussion within a day or two of the due date.

Exceeds Satisfactory

· 4. Participate significantly more than required.

Example of a one-paragraph informal comment for discussion:

Immigrants had a difficult time when they came to America.  I can see that both Chinese and Jewish immigrants faced discrimination even though they came here to have a better life.  Mary Tape just wanted to send her kids to good schools, but when she did they were “hated.” And Jews came from Russia but said “they were safer from assault and insult in that country than they are on the streets of Chicago.” Maybe it was because they were both seen as “different” than the white, Anglo, Christian Americans who were already in America.  Both groups probably set themselves apart from society by living in neighborhoods where there were others like them. I can see that in the article by Jacob Riis. He showed how New York was divided up into these little communities of immigrants. That was probably more comfortable for them and gave them access to things that they might not find outside their own community, so it was understandable. Maybe that’s true for all of the United States at that time.

Example of an informal reply to a classmate:

You said in your post that immigrants should “mix-in” with the American community. My own grandparents came from Italy and had to make serious adjustments to life in America. They lived in the Italian neighborhood that helped them adjust. Maybe that’s why some people resented the immigrants; they were seen as different or people who set themselves apart from the “Americans.”

Part I (1870s to ca. 1900)

ASSIGNMENT 1: Answer the questions outside of Canvas. Save your responses. Submit on Canvas before the deadline on the Class Sc h edule.

1a. Write a statement characterizing this period based on the essay by Richard White below. Follow closely the Guidelines for Characterizing Context.

1b. Identify the five to seven most significant features of the period, based on White’s essay. Follow closely the Guidelines for Describing Features.

●  Richard White. “The Rise of Industrial America, 1877-1900.” The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History 49 W. 45th Street, 6th Floor · NYC, NY 10036 (646) 366-9666 © 2009–2014 All Rights Reserved. [https://www.gilderlehrman.org/]

When in 1873 Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner entitled their co-authored novel The Gilded Age, they gave the late nineteenth century its popular name. The term reflected the combination of outward wealth and dazzle with inner corruption and poverty. Given the period’s absence of powerful and charismatic presidents, its lack of a dominant central event, and its sometimes tawdry history, historians have often defined the period by negatives. They stress greed, scandals, and corruption of the Gilded Age.

Twain and Warner were not wrong about the era’s corruption, but the years between 1877 and 1900 were also some of the most momentous and dynamic in American history. They set in motion developments that would shape the country for generations—the reunification of the South and North, the integration of four million newly freed African Americans, westward expansion, immigration, industrialization, urbanization. It was also a period of reform, in which many Americans sought to regulate corporations and shape the changes taking place all around them.

The End of Reconstruction

Reforms in the South seemed unlikely in 1877 when Congress resolved the previous autumn’s disputed presidential election between Democrat Samuel Tilden and Republican Rutherford B. Hayes on the backs of the nation’s freed blacks. A compromise gave Hayes the presidency in return for the end of Reconstruction and the removal of federal military support for the remaining biracial Republican governments that had emerged in the former Confederacy. With that agreement, Congress abandoned one of the greatest reforms in American history: the attempt to incorporate ex-slaves into the republic with all the rights and privileges of citizens.

The United States thus accepted a developing system of repression and segregation in the South that would take the name Jim Crow and persist for nearly a century. The freed people in the South found their choices largely confined to sharecropping and low-paying wage labor, especially as domestic servants. Although attempts at interracial politics would prove briefly successful in Virginia and North Carolina, African American efforts to preserve the citizenship and rights promised to black men in the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the Constitution failed.

The West

Congress continued to pursue a version of reform in the West, however, as part of a Greater Reconstruction. The federal government sought to integrate the West into the country as a social and economic replica of the North. Land redistribution on a massive scale formed the centerpiece of reform. Through such measures as the Homestead and Railroad Acts of 1862, the government redistributed the vast majority of communal lands possessed by American Indian tribes to railroad corporations and white farmers.

To redistribute that land, the government had to subdue American Indians, and the winter of 1877 saw the culmination of the wars that had been raging on the Great Plains and elsewhere in the West since the end of the Civil War. Following the American defeat at the Battle of the Little Bighorn the previous fall, American soldiers drove the Lakota civil and spiritual leader Sitting Bull and his followers into Canada. They forced the war leader Crazy Horse to surrender and later killed him while he was held prisoner. Sitting Bull would eventually return to the United States, but he died in 1890 at the hands of the Indian police during the Wounded Knee crisis.

The defeat of the Lakotas and the utterly unnecessary Nez Perce War of 1877 ended the long era of Indian wars. There would be other small-scale conflicts in the West such as the Bannock War (1878) and the subjugation of the Apaches, which culminated with the surrender of Geronimo in 1886, but these were largely police actions. The slaughter of Lakota Ghost Dancers at Wounded Knee in 1890 did bring a major mobilization of American troops, but it was a kind of coda to the American conquest since the federal government had already effectively extended its power from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

The treaty system had officially ended in 1871, but Americans continued to negotiate agreements with the Indians. The goal of these agreements, and American land policy in general, was to create millions of new farms and ranches across the West. Not satisfied with already ceded lands, reformers—the so-called “Friends of the Indians” whose champion in Congress was Senator Henry Dawes—sought to divide reservations into individual farms for Indians and then open up most or all of the remaining land to whites. The Dawes Act of 1887 became their major tool, but the work of the Dawes Commission in 1893 extended allotment to the Creeks, Cherokees, Seminoles, Chickasaws, and Choctaws in Indian Territory, which became the core of the state of Oklahoma. Land allotment joined with the establishment of Indian schools and the suppression of native religions in a sweeping attempt to individualize Indians and integrate them one by one into American society. The policy would fail miserably. Indian population declined precipitously; the tribes lost much of their remaining land, and Indians became the poorest group in American society.


Between 1877 and 1900 immigrants prompted much more concern among native-born white Americans than did either black people or Indian peoples. During these years there was a net immigration of approximately 7,348,000 people into the United States. During roughly the same period, the population of the country increased by about 27 million people, from about 49 million in 1880 to 76 million in 1900. Before 1880 the immigrants came largely from Western Europe and China. Taking the period between 1860 and 1900 as a whole, Germans comprised 28 percent of American immigrants; the British comprised 18 percent, the Irish 15 percent, and Scandinavians 11 percent. Together they made up 72 percent of the total immigration. At the end of the century, the so-called “New Immigration” signaled the rise of southern and eastern Europe as the source of most immigrants to America. The influx worried many native-born Americans who still thought of the United States as a white Protestant republic. Many of the new immigrants did not, in the racial classifications of the day, count as white. As the century wore on, they were increasingly Catholic and Jewish.

Immigrants entered every section of the country in large numbers except for the South. They settled in northeastern and midwestern cities and on western and midwestern farms. The Pacific and mountain West contained the highest percentage of immigrants of any region in 1880 and 1890.

The immigrants forged networks that shaped how and where they migrated and the kinds of communities they established. Chain migrations linked migrants to prior migrants. Early arrivals wrote home to bring family, friends, and neighbors to the United States. Over large swaths of Minnesota, the Dakotas, and elsewhere German was the primary language of daily life. Tensions between immigrants and the native born over the language to be spoken in public schools, Sunday closures of businesses (sabbatarianism), and temperance reform often put cultural issues and practices at the center of local and state politics.

Taken together, immigration and the end of Reconstruction triggered an anti-democratic movement to restrict access to the ballot box. By the 1870s proponents of restricting suffrage, having defeated an early push for women’s suffrage, were calling democracy a mistake. They advocated restrictions on voting as a way to check corruption, elevate political culture, and marginalize those—they had in mind immigrants and blacks—whom they thought incapable of meeting the obligations of republican politics. They sought political changes that would make it far more difficult for the poor and immigrants to vote. Over time, through poll taxes, residence requirements, literacy requirements, and more, they would succeed. The mass politics and high voting rates characteristic of late nineteenth-century America would not outlive the era.

Attempts to restrict suffrage were part of a strong political and social backlash against immigrants that developed over the course of the century. The United States welcomed immigrants because they were essential to its growing economy, but nativists opposed immigrants as antithetical to American culture and society. They thought of immigrants as exotic and inassimilable. In certain situations, however, nativists had allies who were immigrants or the children of immigrants. Workers, both immigrant and native born, often feared that corporations were using contract labor—workers recruited abroad at lower wages than those paid American workers—to undermine American working conditions and the American family, which they defined as a working man whose wife maintained the home. They opposed certain kinds of immigration. One of the forgotten reforms of the period, the Foran Act of 1885, outlawed contract labor, but the law proved difficult to enforce.

Alliances of some native-born Americans with some immigrants against other immigrants proved most effective in the case of the Chinese. Roughly 180,000 Chinese immigrated to the United States between 1849 and 1882, and they became the personification of both the inassimilable immigrant and the contract worker. Although the Chinese came as free laborers, they were often branded as coolies: abject semi-slaves, whose low standard of living allowed them to thrive on wages that could not support white families.

Racists had previously claimed that superior Anglo-Saxons would inevitably replace “inferior” races. But in the West, while Sinophobes saw the Chinese as exotic and inferior, they also thought the Chinese would triumph over the supposedly superior white men because they were efficient workers. Immigrants and the native born formed mobs that attacked the Chinese at Rock Springs, Wyoming, in 1885 and expelled them from Tacoma, Washington, in 1885 and Seattle in 1886. Congress passed ten-year restrictions on Chinese immigration in 1882 and 1892 and a permanent exclusion act in 1902. Late in the nineteenth century, those who opposed immigration from Italy, Hungary, and elsewhere compared those groups to the Chinese.

Some immigrants could wrap themselves in the mantle of Americanism if they were “white” and Protestant. Protestant immigrants, particularly Scandinavians and Scots-Irish, joined the American Protective Association in 1887 to restrict Catholic immigration as it rode a larger wave of anti-Catholicism that swept over the country. Aimed initially at Irish and Catholic schools, anti-Catholicism increased its range as new Catholic immigrants began to arrive.

Agricultural, Commercial, and Industrial Development

Although not all of them intended to stay, most immigrants came to the United States for economic opportunity. Cheap land and relatively high wages, compared to their home countries, were available regardless of citizenship. The Homestead Act did not require that settlers filing for land be American citizens, and the railroads not only sold their land grants cheaply, they advertised widely in Europe.

The results of this distribution of fertile and largely accessible land were astonishing. Everything in the late nineteenth century seemed to move faster than ever before. Americans brought more land under cultivation between 1870 and 1900 (225 million acres) than they had since the English first appeared at Jamestown in 1607 (189 million acres). Farmers abandoned small, worn-out farms in the East and developed new, larger, and more fertile farms in the Midwest and West. They developed so much land because they farmed extensively, not intensively. In terms of yields per acre, American farmers ranked far below Europe. Maintaining fertility demanded labor, which was precisely what American farmers were bent on reducing. They invested not in labor but in technology, particularly improved plows, reapers, and threshers. With westward expansion onto the prairies, a single family with a reaper could increase acreage and thus production without large amounts of hired labor. Arable free lands grew scarcer during the 1880s, forcing more and more land seekers west into arid lands beyond the 98th meridian. In many years these lands lacked adequate rainfall to produce crops. “In God we trusted, in Kansas we busted” written on the side of a wagon cover by a family abandoning its homestead summed up the dangers of going too far out onto the semi-arid and arid plains.

The expansion of agricultural lands led to what superficially seems a paradox: the more farmers there were—and the more productive farmers became—the smaller was agriculture’s share of the economy. Farmers had the largest share of the dollar value of American economic output until 1880 when commerce’s 29 percent of the gross national product edged out their 28 percent. In 1890 manufacturing and mining at 30 percent share of the GNP both exceeded agriculture’s 19 percent share. During the same period, the percentage of workers employed in agriculture fell. A majority of the nation’s workers were farmers or farm laborers in 1860, but by 1900 the figure had declined to 40 percent.

Such statistics seemed to reflect a decline in the importance of farming, but in fact, they reflected its significance and efficiency. Farmers produced more than the country could consume with smaller and smaller percentages of its available labor. They exported the excess, and the children of farmers migrated to cities and towns. Where at the beginning of the century exports composed about 10 percent of farm income, they amounted to between 20 and 25 percent by the end of the century. What farmers sold abroad translated into savings and consumption at home that fueled the nation’s industry. Migration from rural to urban areas dwarfed both foreign migration and westward migration. American agricultural productivity allowed it to remain the world’s greatest agricultural economy while it became the world’s largest industrial producer.

The rise of industrial America, the dominance of wage labor, and the growth of cities represented perhaps the greatest changes of the period. Few Americans at the end of the Civil War had anticipated the rapid rise of American industry. For the first time in the nation’s history, wage earners had come to outnumber the self-employed, and by the 1880s these wage earners were becoming employees of larger and larger corporations. As the Massachusetts Bureau of Statistics and Labor declared in 1873, wage labor was universal: “a system more widely diffused than any form of religion, or of government, or indeed, of any language.”[1]

Skilled workers proved remarkably successful at maintaining their position through the 1880s, but they had to fight to do so. The relatively high wages for skilled workers led employers to seek ways to replace skilled with unskilled or semi-skilled workers. Mechanization provided the best tactic for deskilling work and lowering wages. Many of the bitterest strikes of the period were attempts to control working rules and to maintain rather than raise wages. Beginning with the Great Railroad Strike of 1877, through the Great Upheaval of 1886 that culminated in the slaughter at Haymarket Square, then through the Homestead Strike (1892), Pullman Strike (1894), and more, the largest confrontations often involved violence and the intervention by state or federal governments to repress the strikes.


Many of these strikes involved the railroads; the whole economy seemed to revolve around the railroads. At the end of the 1870s the railroads renewed their expansion. With a brief break in the 1880s, expansion continued at a reckless pace until 1890. At the end of 1890 more than 20 percent of the 161,000 miles of railroad in the United States had been constructed in the previous four years. By the end of the century the railroad corporations rivaled the United States government in size. In 1891 the Pennsylvania Railroad had 110,000 employees, almost three times the number of men in all the armed forces of the United States. Its capitalization of $842 million was only $150 million less than the national debt. Nationally, 418,957 people worked for railroads in 1880 and nearly 800,000 in 1890: about 3 percent of the entire work force of the nation. By 1900 roughly one-sixth of all capital investments in United States were in the railroads.

The railroads powered the industrial economy. They consumed the majority of iron and steel produced in the United States before 1890. As late as 1882, steel rails accounted for 90 percent of the steel production in the United States. They were the nation’s largest consumer of lumber and a major consumer of coal. They also distributed these commodities across the country.

At times, however, railroads threatened to haul the American economy into the abyss. Rail corporations overbuilt, borrowed recklessly, and were often atrociously managed. They ricocheted wildly between rate wars and the creation of pools to fix prices, and they encouraged other industries to follow. Wheat, silver, timber, cattle, and other commodities flooded the market, sent prices tumbling, and dragged many producers into bankruptcy. The signal of every economic collapse in the late nineteenth century was the descent of railroads and the banks associated with them into receivership.

The Economy

The railroads were typical of the economic contradictions of the era. Over the period as a whole, American industry advanced rapidly. By 1900 the United States had one half the world’s manufacturing capacity. At the end of the century, it had overtaken Great Britain both in iron and steel production and in coal production. The United States made such great gains because it was the fastest runner in a relatively slow race. The entire period from 1873 to the turn of the century became known as the Long Depression in western Europe. The United States grew faster than European economies, although no faster than nations with similar British colonial backgrounds—Australia and Canada. It actually grew more slowly than Argentina. None of these economies, however, were remotely as large.

The growth was not even. Periods of prosperity alternated with deep downturns in a boom/bust pattern. The economy came out of the depression following the Panic of 1873 at the end of that decade, lurched into a short, sharp depression in 1882–1883, and then fell into a much more severe depression from 1893 to 1897. Until the 1930s this was known as the Great Depression.

Such fluctuations in the American economy were linked to the larger world economy. Important sectors of the American economy globalized, putting American businesses and farmers in competition with other places in the world. One result was a steady downward pressure on prices. The Republican policy of maintaining tariff protection for American industry mitigated deflation on the domestic market, but the return to the gold standard with the Resumption Act of 1875, which later became a major political issue, created compensatory deflationary pressure that contributed to the general decline in prices. This benefitted workers only as long as they were able to maintain their wages.

Economic changes manifested themselves in rates of immigration (which rose during good times and declined during bad), urbanization, types of work, family organization, and more. Social and cultural patterns, in turn, affected the economy by determining who held certain jobs, how those jobs were valued, and where and how work took place. The cumulative effects of these changes were staggering, and many Americans worried that immigration, urbanization, wage labor, and the rise of large corporations undermined values that they thought defined the country itself.

Social Change

The Civil War had seemed to secure the triumph of a world of small producers and the values of free labor, individualism, and contract freedom. Many Americans desperately wanted to believe that those values survived and still ensured success within the new industrial society. Sometimes they attached the old values to new theories. Herbert Spencer, the British writer and philosopher, had many American disciples, of whom William Graham Sumner of Yale was probably the most prominent. Spencer and his disciples tried to understand human social change in terms of Darwinian evolution, utterly obfuscating the mechanisms of biological evolution in the process.

Other Americans simply tried to portray the new economy as essentially the same as the old. They believed that individual enterprise, hard work, and free competition in open markets still guaranteed success to those willing to work hard. An evolving mass print culture of cheap newspapers, magazines, and dime novels offered proselytizers of the old values new forms of communication. Horatio Alger, whose publishing career extended from the end of the Civil War to the end of the century, wrote juvenile novels that reconciled the new economy with the old values of individualism. In his novels, an individual’s fate was still in his hands.


Many other Americans did not think so. They formed a diffuse reform movement contemporaries referred to as antimonopolism. Antimonopolists, including farmers, small businessmen, and workers in the Knights of Labor and other organizations, agreed on the problem, but often differed on the solution. They lamented the rise of large corporations, which to them were synonymous with monopoly. They worried about the dependence on wage labor, the growth of unemployment, particularly during the frequent panics and depressions, the proliferation of tramps as the poor who wandered in search of work were known, and the decline of individual independence. In the 1870s Walt Whitman lamented the human casualties of the new economy. “If the United States, like the countries of the Old World, are also to grow vast crops of poor, desperate, dissatisfied, nomadic, miserably-waged populations such as we see looming upon us of late years—steadily, even if slowly, eating into us like a cancer of lungs or stomach—then our republican experiment, notwithstanding all its surface successes, is at heart an unhealthy failure.”[2]

Antimonopolists agreed that the purpose of a republican economy was to sustain independent and prosperous republican citizens, but how to restore the economy to that condition was the problem. Some, probably a majority in the 1870s, sought government intervention to restore competition. Others, who grew in numbers in the 1880s and 1890s, accepted the inevitability of large corporations but desired that they be more tightly regulated. By the 1890s, the Populists, an antimonopolist third party centered on the South and West, advocated government ownership of the railroads and the telegraphs.

In many ways the antimonopolists were successful. They comprised large factions within both the Democratic and Republican Parties and created new third parties from the Greenbackers (1874–1884) to the Populists of the 1890s. In 1896, the climactic election of the period pitted the antimonopolist William Jennings Bryan against the Republican William McKinley. Bryan lost, but many of the reforms antimonopolists advocated would be enacted over the next twenty years.

Many others were already in place. The inevitable compromises involved in passing legislation left a contradictory reform legacy. Some measures sought to restore competition by breaking up trusts or holding companies while others accepted the existence of large corporations but enforced regulations to restrain them. The Sherman Anti-Trust Act of 1890 initiated a movement to break up the largest trusts. State railroad commissions, the most effective of which were in Iowa and Texas, and the Interstate Commerce Commission created in 1887 represented attempts to regulate corporations.

Symbols of Their Age

Certain people became better known and better remembered than the presidents of the period because they came to represent both the economy itself and people’s ideological views of it. Thomas Edison emerged as perhaps the most admired American of the age because he seemed to represent the triumph of individualism in an industrial economy. He built his famous lab at Menlo Park, New Jersey, in 1876. The public regarded Edison as the “wizard of Menlo Park,” but it was ironically the lab—a cooperative enterprise—that produced the inventions from a workable electric light to the phonograph and more. And when in 1890 Edison merged his lab and other businesses into General Electric, the man who was a symbol of economic individualism became the head of a large corporation. That the corporate form captured Edison was not surprising because large corporations that first arose with the railroads before the Civil War were coming to dominate the American economy during the Great Merger movement of the 1890s.

John D. Rockefeller symbolized the darker view of the economy. His Standard Oil became the best-known and the best-hated corporation of the day. Rockefeller ruthlessly consolidated a competitive oil industry, absorbing rivals or driving them out of business. He was unapologetic, and he had only disdain for those who still thought of the economy as depending on individualism and competition. Organization and consolidation was the future. “The day of the combination is here to stay,” he proclaimed. “Individualism has gone never to return.”[3]

What was also gone was the United States as a purely continental nation. In many ways, the American acquisition of an overseas empire was a continuation of its continental expansion at the expense of American Indian peoples. But with the annexation of Hawaii (1898) and the subsequent annexation of the Philippines and Puerto Rico following the Spanish American War (1898), the United States extended its military and governmental reach beyond its continental boundaries. The war, like so many things, marked the vast changes that took place in a neglected era.

[1] Quoted in Amy Dru Stanley, From Bondage to Contract: Wage Labor, Marriage, and the Market in the Age of Slave Emancipation (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 62.

[2] Walt Whitman, Specimen Days and Collect (Philadelphia: David McKay, 1883), 330.

[3] Allan Nevins, John D. Rockefeller [1959], 1:622.

Richard White is the Margaret Byrne Professor of American History at Stanford University and a past president of the Organization of American Historians. His books include It’s Your Misfortune and None of My Own: A New History of the American West (1991), The Middle Ground: Indians, Empires, and Republics in the Great Lakes Region, 1650–1815 (1991), which won the Parkman Prize, and most recently Railroaded: The Transcontinentals and the Making of Modern America (2011)


DISCUSSION 1: Comment on the letter by the German immigrant. Follow the guidelines and instructions for Discussion Participation. Post original comments and replies to the Discussion Board on Canvas by the deadline shown on the Class Schedule.

●  This 1882 letter was written by a thirty-eight-year-old German immigrant to the United States. He writes to medical writer and sexologist Dr. Richard von Krafft-Ebing in response to Krafft-Ebling’s article “Perversion of the Sexual Instinct? Report of Cases.”

Until I was twenty-eight years old I had no suspicion that there were others constituted like myself. One evening in the castle garden at [X?], where, as I subsequently found, those constituted like myself were accustomed to seek and find each other, I met a man who powerfully excited my sexual feelings, so much so that I had a seminal emission. With that I lost my better manhood and came often to the park and sought similar places in other cities.

You will readily conceive that with the knowledge thus acquired there came a sort of comfort—the satisfaction of association and the sense of no longer being alone and singular. The oppressive thought, that I was not as others were, left me. The love affairs which now followed gave life a certain zest which I had never known before. But I was only hurrying to my fate. I had formed an intimate acquaintance with a young man. He was eccentric, romantic and frivolous in the extreme and without means. He obtained complete control over me and held me as if I were his legal wife. I was obliged to take him into business. Scenes of jealousy which are scarcely conceivable took place in my house. He repeatedly made attempts at suicide with poison and it was with difficulty that I saved his life. I suffered terribly by reason of his jealousy, tyranny, obstinacy and brutality. When jealous he would beat me and threaten to betray my secret to the authorities. I was kept in constant suspense lest he should do so. Again and again I was obliged to rid my house of this openly insane lover by making large pecuniary sacrifices. His passion for me and his shameless avarice drove him back to me. I was often in utter despair and yet could confide my troubles to no one. After he had cost me 10,000 francs, and a new attempt at extortion had failed, he denounced me to the police. I was arrested and charged with having sexual relations with my accuser, who was as guilty as myself! I was condemned to imprisonment. My social position was totally destroyed, my family brought to sorrow and shame, and the friends who had heretofore held me in high esteem now abandoned me with horror and disgust. That was a terrible time! And yet I had to say to myself ‘You have sinned, yes, grievously sinned against the common-ideas of morality, but not against nature.’ A thousand times no! part of the blame at least should fall upon the antiquated law which would confound with depraved criminals those who are forced by nature to follow the inclinations of a diseased and perverted instinct…

I know of a case in Geneva where an admirable attachment between two men like myself has existed for seven years. If it were possible to have a pledge of such a love they might well make pretensions to marriage . . .One thing is true. Our loves bear as fair and noble flowers incite to as praiseworthy efforts as does the love of man for the woman of his affections. There are the same sacrifices, the same joy in abnegation even to the laying down of life, the same pain, the same joy, sorrow, happiness, as with men of ordinary natures. . . .

In consequence of the disgrace which came upon me in my fatherland I am obliged to reside in America. Even now I am in constant anxiety lest what befell me at home should be discovered here and thus deprive me of the respect of my fellow-men.

May the time soon come when science shall educate the people so that they shall rightly judge our unfortunate class, but before that time can come there will be many victims.

ASSIGNMENT 2: Answer the questions outside of Canvas. Save your responses. Submit on Canvas before the deadline on the Class Schedule.

2a. How was the United States divided on matters of race and gender in the late-nineteenth century? What did this mean for the country? Following closely the Guidelines for Thesis Writingwrite a thesis for an essay that could be written for this question, based on the sources provided below.

2b. Following closely the Guidelines on Evidencewrite four separate points of evidence to support the thesis you wrote in ‘a’ above, drawn from the sources below.

SOURCES FOR QUESTIONS 2a and 2b (Eight sources)

John Solomon Lewis, article, Boston Traveller, June 10, 1879

John Solomon Lewis of Leavenworth, Kansas, wrote this letter on June 10, 1879. Lewis and his family were among thousands of African Americans known as “Exodusters” who escaped the harsh economic and racial realties of the Reconstruction South. The journey was difficult and many suffered hardships. Their exodus to Kansas mirrored earlier ideas about escape to Canada during slavery.

You see, I was in debt, and the man I rented land from said every year I must rent again to pay the other year, and so I rents and rents, and each year I gets deeper and deeper in debt. In a fit of madness I one day said to the man I rented from: ‘It’s no use, I works hard and raises big crops and you sells it and keeps the money, and brings me more and more in debt, so I will go somewhere else and try to make headway like white working-men.’ “He got very mad and said to me: ‘If you try that job, you will get your head shot away.’ So I told my wife, and she says: ‘Let us take to the woods in the night time.’ Well we took [to] the woods, my wife and four children, and we was three weeks living in the woods waiting for a boat. Then a great many more black people came and we was all together at the landing. Boats came along, but they would not stop, but before long the Grand Tower hove up and we got on board.

Says the captain, ‘Where’s you going?’ Says I, ‘Kansas.’ Says he, ‘You can’t go on this boat.’ Says I, ‘I do; you know who I am. I am a man who was a United States soldier and I know my rights, and if I and my family gets put off, I will go in the United States Court and sue for damages.’ Says the Captain to another boat officer, ‘Better take that nigger or he will make trouble.’

When I landed on the soil, I looked on the ground and I says this is free ground. Then I looked on the heavens, and I says them is free and beautiful heavens. Then I looked within my heart, and I says to myself I wonder why I never was free before? When I knew I had all my family in a free land, I said let us hold a little prayer meeting; so we held a little meeting on the river bank. It was raining but the drops fell from heaven on a free family, and the meeting was just as good as sunshine. We was thankful to God for ourselves and we prayed for those who could not come. I asked my wife did she know the ground she stands on. She said, ‘No!’ I said it is free ground; and she cried like a child for joy.

Frederick Douglass, excerpts, “The Negro Exodus from the Gulf States,” Frank Leslie’s Popular Monthly, 1880

Former slave Frederick Douglass was an abolitionist, social reformer, and writer who led the efforts on African American to gain civil and political rights through the 1880s.

Necessity often compels men to migrate, to leave their old homes and seek new ones, to sever old ties and create new ones; but to do this the necessity should be obvious and imperative. It should be a last resort, and only adopted after carefully considering what is against the measure, as well as what is in favor of it. There are prodigal sons everywhere, who are ready to demand the portion of goods that would fall to them, and betake themselves to a strange country. Something is ever lost in the process of migration, and much is sacrificed at home for what is gained abroad. A world of wisdom is in the saying of Mr. Emerson, that “those who made Rome worth going to see, stayed there.” Five moves from house to house are said to be worse than a fire. That a rolling stone gathers no moss, has passed into the world’s wisdom.

The colored people of the South, just beginning to accumulate a little property, and to lay the foundation of family, should not be in haste to sell that little and be off to the banks of the Mississippi. The habit of roaming from place to place in pursuit of better conditions of existence is by no means a good one. A man should never leave his home for a new one till he has earnestly endeavored to make his immediate surroundings accord with his wishes. The time and energy expended in wandering about from place to place, if employed in making him a comfortable home where he is, will in nine cases out of ten, prove the best investment. No people ever did much for themselves or for the world without the sense and inspiration of native land, of a fixed home, of familiar neighborhood and common associations. The fact of being to the manor born has an elevating power upon the mind and heart of a man. It is a more cheerful thing to be able to say: I was born here, and know all the people, than to say: I am a stranger here, and know none of the people.

It cannot be doubted that in so far as this exodus tends to promote restlessness in the colored people of the South, to unsettle their feeling of home and to sacrifice positive advantages where they are for fancied ones in Kansas or elsewhere, it is an evil. Some have sold their little homes, their chickens, mules and pigs, at a sacrifice, to follow the exodus. Let it be understood that you are going, and you advertise the fact that your mule has lost half his value — for your staying with him makes half his value. Let the colored people of Georgia offer their six millions’ worth of property for sale, with the purpose to leave Georgia, and they will not realize half its value. Land is not worth much where there are no people to occupy it, and a mule is not worth much where there is no one to drive him.

Then, again, is there to be no stopping-place for the negro? Suppose that, by-and-by, some “Sand-lot orator” shall arise in Kansas, as in California, and take it into his head to stir up the mob against the negro, as he stirred up the mob against the Chinese? What then? Must the negro have another exodus? Does not one exodus invite another? and in advocating one, do we not sustain the demand for another?

Not only is the South the best locality for the negro, on the ground of his political powers and possibilities, but it is best for him as a field of labor. He is there, as he is nowhere else, an absolute necessity. He has a monopoly of the labor market. His labor is the only labor which can successfully offer itself for sale in that market. This fact, with a little wisdom and firmness, will enable him to sell his labor there, on terms more favorable to himself than he can elsewhere. As there are no competitors or substitutes, he can demand living prices with the certainty that the demand will be complied with. Exodus would deprive him of this advantage. It would take him from a country where the landowners and planters must have his labor, or allow their fields to go untilled and their purses unsupplied with cash, to a country where the landowners are able and proud to do their own work, and do not need to hire hands, except for limited periods, at certain seasons of the year. The effect of this will be to send the negro to the towns and cities to compete with white labor. With what result, let the past tell. They will be crowded into lanes and alleys, cellars and garrets, poorly provided with the necessaries of life, and will gradually die out.

The negro, as already intimated, is pre-eminently a Southern man. He is so both in constitution and habits, in body as well as mind. He will not only take with him to the North Southern modes of labor, but Southern modes of life. The careless and improvident habits of the South cannot be set aside in a generation. If they are adhered to in the North, in the fierce winds and snows of Kansas and Nebraska, the emigration must be large to keep up their numbers.

It would appear, therefore, that neither the laws of politics, labor nor climate favor this exodus. It does not conform to the laws of healthy emigration, which proceeds not from south to north, not from heat to cold, but from east to west, and in climates to which the emigrants are more or less adapted and accustomed.

Thus far, and to this extent, any man may be an emigrationist; and thus far, and to this extent, I certainly am an emigrationist. In no case must the negro be “bottled up” or “caged up.” He must be left free, like every other American citizen, to choose his own local habitation, and to go where he shall like. Though it may not be for his interest to leave the South, his right and power to leave it may be the best means of making it possible for him to stay there in peace.

●  Senator Benjamin R. Tillman, “Speech before Congress,”1900

The author was a Democratic Senator from South Carolina.

. . . And he [Senator John C. Spooner, of Wisconsin] said we had taken [blacks] rights away from them. He asked me was it right to murder them in order to carry the elections. I never saw one murdered. I never saw one shot at an election. It was the riots before the elections precipitated by their own hot-headedness in attempting to hold the government, that brought on conflicts between the races and caused the shotgun to be used. That is what I meant by saying we used the shotgun.

I want to call the Senator’s attention to one fact. He said that the Republican party gave the negroes the ballot in order to protect themselves against the indignities and wrongs that were attempted to be heaped upon them by the enactment of the black code. I say it was because the Republicans of that day, led by Thad Stevens, wanted to put white necks under black heels and to get revenge. There is a difference of opinion. You have your opinion about it, and I have mine, and we can never agree.

I want to ask the Senator this proposition in arithmetic: In my State there were 135,000 negro voters, or negroes of voting age, and some 90,000 or 95,000 white voters. General Canby set up a carpetbag government there and turned our State over to this majority. Now, I want to ask you, with a free vote and a fair count, how are you going to beat 135,000 by 95,000? How are you going to do it? You had set us an impossible task. You had handcuffed us and thrown away the key, and you propped your carpetbag negro government with bayonets. Whenever it was necessary to sustain the government you held it up by the Army.

Mr. President, I have not the facts and figures here, but I want the country to get the full view of the Southern side of this question and the justification for anything we did. We were sorry we had the necessity forced upon us, but we could not help it, and as white men we are not sorry for it, and we do not propose to apologize for anything we have done in connection with it. We took the government away from them in 1876. We did take it. If no other Senator has come here previous to this time who would acknowledge it, more is the pity. We have had no fraud in our elections in South Carolina since 1884. There has been no organized Republican party in the State.

We did not disfranchise the negroes until 1895. Then we had a constitutional convention convened which took the matter up calmly, deliberately, and avowedly with the purpose of disfranchising as many of them as we could under the fourteenth and fifteenth amendments. We adopted the educational qualification as the only means left to us, and the negro is as contented and as prosperous and as well protected in South Carolina to-day as in any State of the Union south of the Potomac. He is not meddling with politics, for he found that the more he meddled with them the worse off he got. As to his “rights”—I will not discuss them now. We of the South have never recognized the right of the negro to govern white men, and we never will. We have never believed him to be equal to the white man, and we will not submit to his gratifying his lust on our wives and daughters without lynching him. I would to God the last one of them was in Africa and that none of them had ever been brought to our shores. But I will not pursue the subject further.

●  W.E.B. DuBois, Niagara Movement Speech, 1905

The author was a historian and activist. He was a founder of the NAACP.

The men of the Niagara Movement coming from the toil of the year’s hard work and pausing a moment from the earning of their daily bread turn toward the nation and again ask in the name of ten million the privilege of a hearing. In the past year the work of the Negro hater has flourished in the land. Step by step the defenders of the rights of American citizens have retreated. The work of stealing the black man’s ballot has progressed and the fifty and more representatives of stolen votes still sit in the nation’s capital. Discrimination in travel and public accommodation has so spread that some of our weaker brethren are actually afraid to thunder against color discrimination as such and are simply whispering for ordinary decencies.

Against this the Niagara Movement eternally protests. We will not be satisfied to take one jot or tittle less than our full manhood rights. We claim for ourselves every single right that belongs to a freeborn American, political, civil and social; and until we get these rights we will never cease to protest and assail the ears of America. The battle we wage is not for ourselves alone but for all true Americans. It is a fight for ideals, lest this, our common fatherland, false to its founding, become in truth the land of the thief and the home of the Slave–a by-word and a hissing among the nations for its sounding pretensions and pitiful accomplishment. Never before in the modern age has a great and civilized folk threatened to adopt so cowardly a creed in the treatment of its fellow-citizens born and bred on its soil. Stripped of verbiage and subterfuge and in its naked nastiness the new American creed says: Fear to let black men even try to rise lest they become the equals of the white. And this is the land that professes to follow Jesus Christ. The blasphemy of such a course is only matched by its cowardice.

In detail our demands are clear and unequivocal. First, we would vote; with the right to vote goes everything: Freedom, manhood, the honor of your wives, the chastity of your daughters, the right to work, and the chance to rise, and let no man listen to those who deny this.

We want full manhood suffrage, and we want it now, henceforth and forever.

Second. We want discrimination in public accommodation to cease. Separation in railway and street cars, based simply on race and color, is un-American, un-democratic, and silly. We protest against all such discrimination.

Third. We claim the right of freemen to walk, talk, and be with them that wish to be with us. No man has a right to choose another man’s friends, and to attempt to do so is an impudent interference with the most fundamental human privilege.

Fourth. We want the laws enforced against rich as well as poor; against Capitalist as well as Laborer; against white as well as black. We are not more lawless than the white race, we are more often arrested, convicted, and mobbed. We want justice even for criminals and outlaws. We want the Constitution of the country enforced. We want Congress to take charge of Congressional elections. We want the Fourteenth amendment carried out to the letter and every State disfranchised in Congress which attempts to disfranchise its rightful voters. We want the Fifteenth amendment enforced and No State allowed to base its franchise simply on color.

The failure of the Republican Party in Congress at the session just closed to redeem its pledge of 1904 with reference to suffrage conditions at the South seems a plain, deliberate, and premeditated breach of promise, and stamps that party as guilty of obtaining votes under false pretense.

Fifth, We want our children educated. The school system in the country districts of the South is a disgrace and in few towns and cities are Negro schools what they ought to be. We want the national government to step in and wipe out illiteracy in the South. Either the United States will destroy ignorance or ignorance will destroy the United States.

And when we call for education we mean real education. We believe in work. We ourselves are workers, but work is not necessarily education. Education is the development of power and ideal. We want our children trained as intelligent human beings should be, and we will fight for all time against any proposal to educate black boys and girls simply as servants and underlings, or simply for the use of other people. They have a right to know, to think, to aspire.

These are some of the chief things which we want. How shall we get them? By voting where we may vote, by persistent, unceasing agitation; by hammering at the truth, by sacrifice and work.

We do not believe in violence, neither in the despised violence of the raid nor the lauded violence of the soldier, nor the barbarous violence of the mob, but we do believe in John Brown, in that incarnate spirit of justice, that hatred of a lie, that willingness to sacrifice money, reputation, and life itself on the altar of right. And here on the scene of John Brown’s martyrdom we reconsecrate ourselves, our honor, our property to the final emancipation of the race which John Brown died to make free.

Our enemies, triumphant for the present, are fighting the stars in their courses. Justice and humanity must prevail. We live to tell these dark brothers of ours–scattered in counsel, wavering and weak–that no bribe of money or notoriety, no promise of wealth or fame, is worth the surrender of a people’s manhood or the loss of a man’s self-respect. We refuse to surrender the leadership of this race to cowards and trucklers. We are men; we will be treated as men. On this rock we have planted our banners. We will never give up, though the trump of doom finds us still fighting.

And we shall win. The past promised it, the present foretells it. Thank God for John Brown! Thank God for Garrison and Douglass! Sumner and Phillips, Nat Turner and Robert Gould Shaw, and all the hallowed dead who died for freedom! Thank God for all those to-day, few though their voices be, who have not forgotten the divine brotherhood of all men white and black, rich and poor, fortunate and unfortunate.

We appeal to the young men and women of this nation, to those whose nostrils are not yet befouled by greed and snobbery and racial narrowness: Stand up for the right, prove yourselves worthy of your heritage and whether born north or south dare to treat men as men. Cannot the nation that has absorbed ten million foreigners into its political life without catastrophe absorb ten million Negro Americans into that same political life at less cost than their unjust and illegal exclusion will involve?

Courage brothers! The battle for humanity is not lost or losing. All across the skies sit signs of promise. The Slav is raising in his might, the yellow millions are tasting liberty, the black Africans are writhing toward the light, and everywhere the laborer, with ballot in his hand, is voting open the gates of Opportunity and Peace. The morning breaks over blood-stained hills. We must not falter, we may not shrink. Above are the everlasting stars.

Susan B. Anthony, speech, 1872

By the law of every state in this Union to-day, North as well as South, the married woman has no right to the custody and control of her person. The wife belongs to her husband; and if the refuses obedience to his will, he may use moderate correction, and if she doesn’t like his moderate correction, and attempts to leave his “bed and board,” the husband may use moderate coercion to bring her back. The little word “moderate,” you see, is the saving clause for the wife, and would doubtless be overstepped should offended husband administer his correction with the “cat-o’-nine-tails,” or accomplish his coercion with blood-hounds.

In many of the states there has been special legislation, giving to married women the right to property inherited, or received by bequest, or earned by the pursuit of any avocation outside of the home; also, giving her the right to sue and be sued in matters pertaining to such separate property; but not a single state of this Union has eve secured the wife in the enjoyment of her right to the joint ownership of the joint earnings of the marriage copartnership. And since, in the nature of things, the vast majority of married women never earn a dollar, by work outside of their families, nor inherit a dollar from their fathers, it follows that from the day of their marriage to the day of the death of their husbands, not one of them ever has a dollar, except it shall please her husband to let her have it.

In some of the states, also, there have been laws passed giving to the mother a joint right with the father in the guardianship of the children. But twenty years ago, when our woman’s rights movement commenced, by the laws of the State of New York, and all the states, the father had the sole custody and control of the children. No matter if he were a brutal, drunken libertine, he had the legal right, without the mother’s consent, to apprentice her sons to rumsellers, or her daughters to brothel keepers. He could even will away an unborn child, to some other person than the mother. And in many of the states the law still prevails, and the mothers are still utterly powerless under the common law.

I doubt if there is, to-day, a State in this Union where a married woman can sue or be sued for slander of character, and until quite recently there was not one in which she could sue or be sued for injury of person. However damaging to the wife’s reputation any slander may be, she is wholly powerless to institute legal proceedings against her accuser, unless her husband shall join with her; and how often have we hard of the husband conspiring with some outside barbarian to blast the good name of his wife? A married woman cannot testify in courts in cases of joint interest with her husband. A good farmer’s wife near Earlville, Ill., who had all the rights she wanted, went to a dentist of the village and had a full set of false teeth, both upper and under. The dentist pronounced them an admirable fit, and the wife declared they gave her fits to wear them; that she could neither chew nor talk with them in her mouth. The dentist sued the husband; his counsel brought the wife as witness; the judge ruled her off the stand; saying “a married woman cannot be a witness in matters of joint interest between herself and her husband.” Think of it, ye good wives, the false teeth in your mouths are joint interest with your husbands, about which you are legally incompetent to speak!! If in our frequent and shocking railroad accidents a married woman is injured in her person, in nearly all of the States, it is her husband who must sue the company, and it is to her husband that the damages, if there are any, will be awarded. In Ashfield, Mass., supposed to be the most advanced of any State in the Union in all things, humanitarian as well as intellectual, a married woman was severely injured by a defective sidewalk. Her husband sued the corporation and recovered $13,000 damages. And those $13,000 belong to him bona fide; and whenever that unfortunate wife wishes a dollar of it to supply her needs she must ask her husband for it; and if the man be of a narrow, selfish, nighardly nature, she will have to hear him say, every time, “What have you done, my dear, with the twenty-five cents I gave you yesterday?” Isn’t such a position, ask you, humiliating enough to be called “servitude?” That husband, as would any other husband, in nearly every State of this Union, sued and obtained damages for the loss of the services of his wife, precisely as the master, under the old slave regime, would have done, had his slave been thus injured, and precisely as he himself would have done had it been his ox, cow or horse instead of his wife.

There is an old saying that “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” and I submit it the deprivation by law of the ownership of one’s own person, wages, property, children, the denial of the right as an individual, to sue and be sued, and to testify in the courts, is not a condition of servitude most bitter and absolute, though under the sacred name of marriage?

Does any lawyer doubt my statement of the legal status of married women? I will remind him of the fact that the old common law of England prevails in every State in this Union, except where the Legislature has enacted special laws annulling it. And I am ashamed that not one State has yet blotted from its statue books the old common law of marriage, by which Blackstone, summed up in the fewest words possible, is made to say, “husband and wife are one, and that one is the husband.”

Thomas E. Hill, “Hill’s Manual of Social and Business Forms,” 1888 The Wife’s Duty.

Never should a wife display her best conduct, her accomplishments, her smiles, and her best nature, exclusively away from home. Be careful in your purchases. Let your husband know what you buy, and that you have wisely expended your money. Let no wife devote a large portion of her time to society work which shall keep her away from home daytimes and evenings, without the full concurrence of her husband. Beware of entrusting the confidence of your household to outside par- ties. The moment you discuss the faults of your husband with another, that moment an element of discord has been admitted which will one day rend your family circle. If in moderate circumstances, do not be over ambitious to make an expensive display in your rooms. With your own work you can embellish at a cheap price, and yet very handsomely, if you have taste. Let the adornings of your private rooms be largely the work of your own hands. Beware of bickering about little things. Your husband returns from his labors with his mind absorbed in business. In his dealings with his employees, he is in the habit of giving commands and of being obeyed. In his absent-mindedness, he does not realize, possibly, the change from his business to his home, and the same dictatorial spirit may possess him in the domestic circle. Should such be the case, avoid all disputes. What matters it where a picture hangs, or a flower-vase may sit. Make the home so charming and so wisely-ordered that your husband will gladly be relieved of its care, and will willingly yield up its entire management to yourself. Be always very careful of your conduct and language. A husband is largely restrained by the chastity, purity and refinement of his wife. A lowering- of dignity, a looseness of expression and vulgarity of words, may greatly lower the standard of the husband’s purity of speech and morals. Whatever may have been the cares of the day, greet your husband with a smile when he returns. Make your personal appearance just as beau- tiful as possible. Your dress may be made of calico, but it should be neat Let him enter rooms so attractive and sunny that all the recollections of his home, when away from the same, shall attract him back. Be careful that you do not estimate your husband solely by his ability to make display. The nature of his employment, in comparison with others, may not be favorable for fine show, but that should matter not. The superior qualities of mind and heart alone will bring permanent happiness. To have a cheerful, pleasant home awaiting the husband, is not all. He may bring- a guest whom he desires to favorably impress, and upon you will devolve the duty of entertaining the visitor so agreeably that the husband shall take pride in you. A man does not alone require that his wife be a good housekeeper. She must be more; in conversational talent and general accomplishment she must be a companion.

The Husband’s Duty.

A very grave responsibility has the man assumed in his marriage. Doting parents have confided to his care the welfare of a loved daughter, and a trusting woman has risked all her future happiness in his keeping. Largely will it depend upon him whether her pathway shall be strewn with thorns or roses. Let your wife understand fully your business. In nearly every case she will be found a most valuable adviser when she understands all your circumstances. Do not be dictatorial in the family circle. The home is the wife’s province. It is her natural field of labor. It is her right to govern and direct its interior management You would not expect her to come to your shop, your office, your store or your farm, to give orders how your work should be conducted; neither should you interfere with the duties which legitimately belong to her. If a dispute arises, dismiss the subject with a kind word, and do not seek to carry your point by discussion. It is a glorious achievement to master one’s own temper. You may discover that you are in error, and if your wife is wrong, she will gladly, in her cooler moments, acknowledge the fault. Having confided to the wife all your business affairs, determine with her what your income will be in the coming year. Afterwards ascertain what your household expenses will necessarily be, and then set aside a weekly sum, which should regularly and invariably be paid the wife at a stated time. Let this sum be even more than enough, so that the wife can pay all bills, and have the satisfaction besides of accumulating 1 a fund of her own, with which she can exercise a spirit of independence in the bestowal of charity, the purchase of a gift, or any article she may desire. You may be sure that the wife will very seldom use the money unwisely, if the husband gives her his entire confidence. Your wife, possibly, is inexperienced; perhaps she is delicate in health, also, and matters that would be of little concern to you may weigh heavily upon her. She needs, therefore, your tenderest approval, your sympathy and gentle advice. When her efforts are crowned with suc- cess, be sure that you give her praise. Few husbands realize how happy the wife is made by the knowledge that her efforts and her merits are appreciated. There are times, also, when the wife’s variable condition of health will be likely to make her cross and petulant ; the husband must overlook all this, even if the wife is at times unreasonable. Endeavor to so regulate your household affairs that all the faculties of the mind shall have due cultivation. There should be a time for labor, and a time for recreation. There should be cultivation of the social nature, and there should be attention given to the spiritual. The wife should not be required to lead a life of drudgery. Matters should be so regulated that she may early finish her labors of the day; and the good husband will so control his business that he may be able to accompany his wife to various places of amusement and entertainment. Thus the intellectual will be provided for, and the social qualities be kept continually exercised.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton, “The Solitude of Self” The Woman’s Column, January 1882

Elizabeth Cady Stanton served for twenty years as the president of national organizations for woman suffrage. In 1892, she resigned at age 77. Below is her resignation speech that was subsequently published.

The point I wish plainly to bring before you on this occasion is the individuality of each human soul; our Protestant idea, the right of individual conscience and judgment; our republican idea, individual citizenship. In discussing the rights of woman, we are to consider, first, what belongs to her as an individual, in a world of her own, the arbiter of her own destiny, an imaginary Robinson Crusoe, with her woman, Friday, on a solitary island. Her rights under such circumstances are to use all her faculties for her own safety and happiness.

Secondly, if we consider her as a citizen, as a member of a great nation, she must have the same rights as all others members, according to the fundamental principles of our Government.

Thirdly, viewed as a woman, an equal factor in civilization, her rights and duties are still the same—individual happiness and development.

Fourthly, it is only the incidental relations of life, such as mother, wife, sister, daughter, which may involve some special duties and training. . . .

The strongest reason for giving woman all the opportunities for higher education, for the full development of her faculties, her forces of mind and body; for giving her the most enlarged freedom of thought and action; a complete emancipation from all forms of bondage, of custom, dependence, superstition; from all the crippling influences of fear—is the solitude and personal responsibility of her own individual life. The strongest reason why we ask for woman a voice in the government under which she lives; in the religion she is asked to believe; equality in social life, where she is the chief factor; a place in the trades and professions, where she may earn her bread, is because of her birthright to self-sovereignty; because, as an individual, she must rely on herself. No matter how much women prefer to lean, to be protected and supported, nor how much men desire to have them do so, they must make the voyage of life alone, and for safety in an emergency, they must know something of the laws of navigation. To guide our own craft, we must be captain, pilot, engineer; with chart and compass to stand at the wheel; to watch the winds and waves, and know when to take in the sail, and to read the signs in the firmament over all. It matters not whether the solitary voyager is man or woman; nature, having endowed them equally, leaves them to their own skill and judgment in the hour of danger, and, if not equal to the occasion, alike they perish.

To appreciate the importance of fitting every human soul for independent action, think for a moment of the immeasurable solitude of self. We come into the world alone, unlike all who have gone before us, we leave it alone, under circumstances peculiar to ourselves. No mortal ever has been, no mortal ever will be like the soul just launched on the sea of life. There can never again be just such a combination of prenatal influences; never again just such environments as make up the infancy, youth and manhood of this one. Nature never repeats herself, and the possibilities of one human soul will never be found in another. No one has ever found two blades of ribbon grass alike, and no one will ever find two human beings alike. Seeing, then, what must be the infinite diversity in human character, we can in a measure appreciate the loss to a nation when any class of the people is uneducated and unrepresented in the government.

We ask for the complete development of every individual, first, for his own benefit and happiness. In fitting out an army, we give each soldier his own knapsack, arms, powder, his blanket, cup, knife, fork and spoon. We provide alike for all their individual necessities; then each man bears his own burden.

Again, we ask complete individual development for the general good; for the consensus of the competent on the whole round of human interests, on all questions of national life; and here each man must bear his share of the general burden. It is sad to see how soon friendless children are left to bear their own burdens, before they can analyze their feelings; before they can even tell their joys and sorrows, they are thrown on their own resources. The great lesson that nature seems to teach us at all ages in self-dependence, self-protection, self-support. . . .

In youth our most bitter disappointments, our brightest hopes and ambitions, are known only to ourselves. Even our friendship and love we never fully share with another; there is something of every passion, in every situation, we conceal. Even so in our triumphs and our defeats. . . .

We ask no sympathy from others in the anxiety and agony of a broken friendship or shattered love. When death sunders our nearest ties, alone we sit in the shadow of our affliction. Alike amid the greatest triumphs and darkest tragedies of life, we walk alone. On the divine heights of human attainment, eulogized and worshipped as a hero or saint, we stand alone. In ignorance, poverty and vice, as a pauper or criminal, alone we starve or steal; alone we suffer the sneers and rebuffs of our fellows; alone we are hunted and hounded through dark courts and alleys, in by-ways and high-ways; alone we stand in the judgment seat; alone in the prison cell we lament our crimes and misfortunes; alone we expiate them on the gallows. In hours like these we realize the awful solitude of individual life, its pains, its penalties, its responsibilities, hours in which the youngest and most helpless are thrown on their own resources for guidance and consolation. Seeing, then, that life must ever be a march and a battle that each soldier must be equipped for his own protection, it is the height of cruelty to rob the individual of a single natural right.

To throw obstacles in the way of a complete education is like putting out the eyes; to deny the rights of property is like cutting off the hands. To refuse political equality is to rob the ostracized of all self-respect; of credit in the market place; of recompense in the world of work, of a voice in choosing those who make and administer the law, a choice in the jury before whom they are tried, and in the judge who decides their punishment. Think of . . . woman’s position! Robbed of her natural rights, handicapped by law and custom at every turn, yet compelled to fight her own battles, and in the emergencies of life to fall back on herself for protection. . . .

The young wife and mother, at the head of some establishment, with a kind husband to shield her from the adverse winds of life, with wealth, fortune and position, has a certain harbor of safety, secure against the ordinary ills of life. But to manage a household, have a desirable influence in society, keep her friends and the affections of her husband, train her children and servants well, she must have rare common sense, wisdom, diplomacy, and a knowledge of human nature. To do all this, she needs the cardinal virtues and the strong points of character that the most successful statesman possesses. An uneducated woman trained to dependence, with no resources in herself, must make a failure of any position in life. But society says women do not need a knowledge of the world, the liberal training that experience in public life must give, all the advantages of collegiate education; but when for the lack of all this, the woman’s happiness is wrecked, alone she bears her humiliation; and the solitude of the weak and the ignorant is indeed pitiable. In the wild chase for the prizes of life, they are ground to powder.

In age, when the pleasures of youth are passed, children grown up, married and gone, the hurry and bustle of life in a measure over, when the hands are weary of active service, when the old arm chair and the fireside are the chosen resorts, then men and women alike must fall hack on their own resources. If they cannot find companionship in books, if they have no interest in the vital questions of the hour, no interest in watching the consummation of reforms with which they might have been identified, they soon pass into their dotage. The more fully the faculties of the mind are developed and kept in use, the longer the period of vigor and active interest in all around us continues. If, from a life-long participation in public affairs, a woman feels responsible for the laws regulating our system of education, the discipline of our jails and prisons, the sanitary condition of our private homes, public buildings and thoroughfares, an interest in commerce, finance, our foreign relations, in any or all these questions, her solitude will at least be respectable, and she will not be driven to gossip or scandal for entertainment.

The chief reason for opening to every soul the doors to the whole round of human duties and pleasures is the individual development thus attained, the resources thus provided under all circumstances to mitigate the solitude that at times must come to everyone. . . .

Inasmuch, then, as woman shares equally the joys and sorrows of time and eternity, is it not the height of presumption in man to propose to represent her at the ballot box and the throne of grace, to do her voting in the state, her praying in the church, and to assume the position of high priest at the family altar?

Nothing strengthens the judgment and quickens the conscience like individual responsibility. Nothing adds such dignity to character as the recognition of one’s self-sovereignty; the right to an equal place, everywhere conceded—a place earned by personal merit, not an artificial attainment by inheritance, wealth, family and position. Conceding, then, that the responsibilities of life rest equally on man and woman, that their destiny is the same, they need the same preparation for time and eternity. The talk of sheltering woman from the fierce storms of life is the sheerest mockery, for they beat on her from every point of the compass, just as they do on man, and with more fatal results, for he has been trained to protect himself, to resist, and to conquer. Such are the facts in human experience, the responsibilities of individual sovereignty. Rich and poor, intelligent and ignorant, wise and foolish, virtuous and vicious, man and woman; it is ever the same, each soul must depend wholly on itself.

Whatever the theories may be of woman’s dependence on man, in the supreme moments of her life, he cannot bear her burdens. Alone she goes to the gates of death to give life to every man that is born into the world; no one can share her fears, no one can mitigate her pangs; and if her sorrow is greater than she can bear, alone she passes beyond the gates into the vast unknown.

From the mountain-tops of Judea long ago, a heavenly voice bade his disciples, “Bear ye one another’s burdens”; but humanity has not yet risen to that point of self-sacrifice; and if ever so willing, how few the burdens are that one soul can bear for another! . . .

So it ever must be in the conflicting scenes of life, in the long, weary march, each one walks alone. We may have many friends, love, kindness, sympathy and charity, to smooth our pathway in everyday life, but in the tragedies and triumphs of human experience, each mortal stands alone.

But when all artificial trammels are removed, and women are recognized as individuals, responsible for their own environments, thoroughly educated for all positions in life they may be called to fill; with all the resources in themselves that liberal thought and broad culture can give; guided by their own conscience and judgment, trained to self-protection, by a healthy development of the muscular system, and skill in the use of weapons and defence; and stimulated to self-support by a knowledge of the business world and the pleasure that pecuniary independence must ever give; when women are trained in this way, they will in a measure be fitted for those hours of solitude that come alike to all, whether prepared or otherwise. As in our extremity we must depend on ourselves, the dictates of wisdom point to complete individual development.

In talking of education, how shallow the argument that each class must be educated for the special work it proposes to do, and that all those faculties not needed in this special work must lie dormant and utterly wither for want of use, when, perhaps, these will be the very faculties needed in life’s greatest emergencies! Some say, “Where is the use of drilling girls in the languages, the sciences, in law, medicine, theology. As wives, mothers, housekeepers, cooks, they need a different curriculum from boys who are to fill all positions. The chief cooks in our great hotels and ocean steamers are men. In our large cities, men run the bakeries; they make our bread, cake and pies. They manage the laundries; they are now considered our best milliners and dressmakers. Because some men fill these departments of usefulness, shall we regulate the curriculum in Harvard and Yale to their present necessities? If not, why this talk in our best colleges of a curriculum for girls who are crowding into the trades and professions, teachers in all our public schools, rapidly filling many lucrative and honorable positions in life?”. . .

Women are already the equals of men in the whole realm of thought, in art, science, literature and government. . . . The poetry and novels of the century are theirs, and they have touched the keynote of reform, in religion, politics and social life. They fill the editor’s and professor’s chair, plead at the bar of justice, walk the wards of the hospital, speak from the pulpit and the platform. Such is the type of womanhood that an enlightened public sentiment welcomes to-day, and such the triumph of the facts of life over the false theories of the past.

Is it, then, consistent to hold the developed woman of this day within the same narrow political limits as the dame with the spinning wheel and knitting needle occupied in the past? No, no! Machinery has taken the labors of woman as well as man on its tireless shoulders; the loom and the spinning wheel are but dreams of the past; the pen, the brush, the easel, the chisel, have taken their places, while the hopes and ambitions of women are essentially changed.

We see reason sufficient in the outer conditions of human beings for individual liberty and development, but when we consider the self-dependence of every human soul, we see the need of courage, judgment and the exercise of every faculty of mind and body, strengthened and developed by use, in woman as well as man.

Whatever may be said of man’s protecting power in ordinary conditions, amid all the terrible disasters by land and sea, in the supreme moments of danger, alone woman must ever meet the horrors of the situation. The Angel of Death even makes no royal pathway for her. Man’s love and sympathy enter only into the sunshine of our lives. In that solemn solitude of self, that links us with the immeasurable and the eternal, each soul lives alone forever. A recent writer says: “I remember once, in crossing the Atlantic, to have gone upon the deck of the ship at midnight, when a dense black cloud enveloped the sky, and the great deep was roaring madly under the lashes of demoniac winds. My feeling was not of danger or fear (which is a base surrender of the immortal soul) but of utter desolation and loneliness; a little speck of life shut in by a tremendous darkness. . . .”

And yet, there is a solitude which each and every one of us has always carried with him, more inaccessible than the ice-cold mountains, more profound than the midnight sea; the solitude of self. Our inner being which we call ourself, no eye nor touch of man or angel has ever pierced. It is more hidden than the caves of the gnome; the sacred adytum of the oracle; the hidden chamber of Eleusinian mystery, for to it only omniscience is permitted to enter.

Such is individual life. Who, I ask you, can take, dare take on himself the rights, the duties, the responsibilities of another human soul?

Senator George G. Vest (Democrat, Missouri), Congressional Record, 48th Congress, 2d Session (25 January 1887).

The Senator gave this speech on the floor of the U.S. Senate during debate on whether voting rights should be granted to women.

If this Government, which is based on the intelligence of the people, shall ever be destroyed it will be by injudicious, immature, or corrupt suffrage. If the ship of state launched by our fathers shall ever be destroyed, it will be by striking the rock of universal, unprepared suffrage. . . .

The Senator who last spoke on this question refers to the successful experiment in regard to woman suffrage in the Territories of Wyoming and Washington. Mr. President, it is not upon the plains of the sparsely settled Territories of the West that woman suffrage can be tested. Suffrage in the rural districts and sparsely settled regions of this country must from the very nature of things remain pure when corrupt everywhere else. The danger of corrupt suffrage is in the cities, and those masses of population to which civilization tends everywhere in all history. Whilst the country has been pure and patriotic, cities have been the first cancers to appear upon the body-politic in all ages of the world.

Wyoming Territory! Washington Territory! Where are their large cities? Where are the localities in those Territories where the strain upon popular government must come? The Senator from New Hampshire [Henry W. Blair—Ed.],who is so conspicuous in this movement, appalled the country some months since by his ghastly array of illiteracy in the Southern States. . . . That Senator proposes now to double, and more than double, that illiteracy. He proposes now to give the negro women of the South this right of suffrage, utterly unprepared as they are for it.

In a convention some two years and a half ago in the city of Louisville an intelligent negro from the South said the negro men could not vote the Democratic ticket because the women would not live with them if they did. The negro men go out in the hotels and upon the railroad cars. They go to the cities and by attrition they wear away the prejudice of race; but the women remain at home, and their emotional natures aggregate and compound the race-prejudice, and when suffrage is given them what must be the result? . . .

I pity the man who can consider any question affecting the influence of woman with the cold, dry logic of business. What man can, without aversion, turn from the blessed memory of that dear old grandmother, or the gentle words and caressing hand of that dear blessed mother gone to the unknown world, to face in its stead the idea of a female justice of the peace or township constable? For my part I want when I go to my home—when I turn from the arena where man contends with man for what we call the prizes of this paltry world—I want to go back, not to be received in the masculine embrace of some female ward politician, but to the earnest, loving look and touch of a true woman. I want to go back to the jurisdiction of the wife, the mother; and instead of a lecture upon finance or the tariff, or upon the construction of the Constitution, I want those blessed, loving details of domestic life and domestic love. . . .

I speak now respecting women as a sex. I believe that they are better than men, but I do not believe they are adapted to the political work of this world. I do not believe that the Great Intelligence ever intended them to invade the sphere of work given to men, tearing down and destroying all the best influences for which God has intended them.

The great evil in this country to-day is in emotional suffrage. The great danger to-day is in excitable suffrage. If the voters of this country could think always coolly, and if they could deliberate, if they could go by judgment and not by passion, our institutions would survive forever, eternal as the foundations of the continent itself; but massed together, subject to the excitements of mobs and of these terrible political contests that come upon us from year to year under the autonomy of our Government, what would be the result if suffrage were given to the women of the United States?

Women are essentially emotional. It is no disparagement to them they are so. It is no more insulting to say that women are emotional than to say that they are delicately constructed physically and unfitted to become soldiers or workmen under the sterner, harder pursuits of life.

What we want in this country is to avoid emotional suffrage, and what we need is to put more logic into public affairs and less feeling. There are spheres in which feeling should be paramount. There are kingdoms in which the heart should reign supreme. That kingdom belongs to woman. The realm of sentiment, the realm of love, the realm of the gentler and the holier and kindlier attributes that make the name of wife, mother, and sister next to that of God himself.

I would not, and I say it deliberately, degrade woman by giving her the right of suffrage. I mean the word in its full signification, because I believe that woman as she is to-day, the queen of the home and of hearts, is above the political collisions of this world, and should always be kept above them. . . .

It is said that the suffrage is to be given to enlarge the sphere of woman’s influence. Mr. President, it would destroy her influence. It would take her down from that pedestal where she is today, influencing as a mother the minds of her offspring, influencing by her gentle and kindly caress the action of her husband toward the good and pure.

DISCUSSION 2: Comment on the four sources on social classes in the Gilded Age. Follow the guidelines and instructions for Discussion Participation. Post original comments and replies to the Discussion Board on Canvas by the deadline shown on the Class Schedule.

●  Article excerpt, Chicago Tribune, 1892

Darkest Chicago was as hot and sultry and uninviting yesterday as ever Darkest Africa dared be. The ill-kept streets radiated the heat from the pavements, the gutters and garbage-boxes steamed and sizzled until the air was filled with noxious odors, and with every gust of hot wind came a cloud of stifling dust to choke and blind the thousands of unfortunate human beings who fought for a miserable existence from early dawn until the sun went down. In a damp, slimy area on O’Brien street, near Jefferson, were five or six half starved little girls. Each had a puny, half naked baby to care far, which they did by depositing the little sufferers in a damp corner of the area. They had procured a piece of wilted watermelon and were having a feast. The eldest one was master of ceremonies and passed the melon from mouth to mouth, and each in turn took a bite with evident enjoyment. And they were happy despite the heat.

●  Illinois Bureau of Statistics, “The Conditions of Families, Laborer,” Third Biennial Report, 1884.

EARNINGS: Of Father, $320; of Wife, $100. CONDITION: Family numbers 8—parents and six children, four girls, twins three months, one two and one three years, two boys, one five and the other seven. Lives in a house containing 4 rooms, and pay $11 per month rent. House very poorly furnished, and a miserable affair altogether. FOOD—Breakfast: Bread, meat, and coffee. Dinner: Bread, vegetables, and coffee. Supper: Bread and coffee, etc. COST OF LIVING—Rent: $132, Fuel: $33, Meat and groceries: $165, Clothing, boots and shoes, and dry goods: $65. Sundries: $25. TOTAL: $420.

●  Article Excerpt, Newport Daily News, 1891

Chateau sur mer, the residence of ex Govenor and Mrs George Peabody Wetmore was a blaze of glory last night upon the occasion of the ball given in honor of Miss Maude Wetmore. Mrs. Wetmore, in a pale mauve silk with lace and pearls received and was assisted by her daughter, who was in white. The principal favors were miniature coronets set with colored stones for the ladies and fleur de lys pins to match for the gentlemen and long sashes of ribbons, bonbons and Parisian novelties were given out in abundance. It is a room worthy of the title Grand Salon, and with the delicate decorations by the floral artist, was made especially charming. The room is decorated in Louis XV style with panels in pale lavender and green, and its unusual height made some very striking floral effects possible, and the various delicately tinted flowers used harmonized perfectly with the permanent decoration

●  Article Excerpt, Newport Daily News, 1889

Dinner at Chateau sur mer. A creamy sauce velouté was whisked and coddled to the perfect consistency. Chilled, it became a sauce chaud-froid to coat a ham or a boned and stuffed fowl, which was elaborately decorated with artistic cutouts from vegetables. One of the girls probably labored for hours over the kitchen mortar and pestle grinding chicken meat to a fine paste for quenelles. The quenelles also required making a panade, a pastry-like mixture into which eggs were thoroughly beaten, by hand in this case. The combined paste and panade was seasoned, then carefully formed into small ovals and gently poached. Another sauce would be prepared for the quenelles, then the last step before serving was to carefully glaze the finished dishes with a red-hot salamander. A delicate sponge paste would be prepared to make ladyfingers for an architecturally composed Charlotte for dessert. The soft dough had to be carefully piped onto sheets and baked to a delicate, pale gold color.

Part II (ca. 1900 to 1929)

ASSIGNMENT 3: Answer the questions outside of Canvas. Save your responses. Submit on Canvas before the deadline on the Class Schedule.

3a. Write a statement characterizing this period based on the essay by Daniel Rodgers below. Follow closely the Guidelines for Characterizing Context.

3b. Identify the five to seven most significant features of the period, based on Rodgers’s essay. Follow closely the Guidelines for Describing Features.

●  Daniel Rodgers, “The Progressive Era to the New Era, 1900-1929,” The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History 49 W. 45th Street, 6th Floor · NYC, NY 10036 (646) 366-9666 © 2009–2014 All Rights Reserved. [https://www.gilderlehrman.org/]

We should not accept social life as it has “trickled down to us,” the young journalist Walter Lippmann wrote soon after the twentieth century began. “We have to deal with it deliberately, devise its social organization, . . . educate and control it.” The ambition to harness and organize the energies of modern life of which Lippmann spoke cut through American economy, politics, and society in many different, sometimes contradictory ways between 1900 and 1929, but it left virtually none of its major institutions unchanged. The modern business corporation, modern politics, the modern presidency, a modern vision of the international order, and modern consumer capitalism were all born in these years.

More than in most eras, Americans in the first years of the twentieth century felt the newness of their place in history. Looking back on the late nineteenth century, they stressed its chaos: the boom-and-bust cycles of the economy, the violent and exploitative aspects of its economy and social life, the gulf between its ostentatious new wealth and the lot of its urban poor and hard-pressed farmers, and the inefficiency of American politics in a world of great nations.

A Revolution in Organization

The pioneers in the reorganization of social life on more deliberate and systematic lines were the architects of the modern business corporation. In the aftermath of the 1890s depression, they undertook to supplant the unstable partnership and credit systems of the past with the forms of the modern corporation: broadly capitalized, more intensely managed, and national in scope and market. The reorganization of Andrew Carnegie’s iron and steel empire by the J. P. Morgan banking house into the mammoth US Steel Corporation in 1901 was a sign of the trends to come. By the 1920s, corporate giants in production, communications, finance, life insurance, and entertainment dominated the economy; the two hundred largest corporations in 1929 owned nearly half the nation’s total corporate wealth.

The new scale of economic enterprise demanded much more systematic organization. On the shop and office floor the systematization of work routines was intense, from the elaborate organization of clerical labor at Metropolitan Life to the subdivision of automobile making at Ford in 1913 into tasks that workers could repeat over and over as an assembly line dragged their work past them. In the showcases of “welfare capitalism,” a new cadre of personnel managers undertook to smooth out the radically unstable hiring and firing practices of the past, creating seniority systems and benefits for stable employees. By the 1920s the corporate elite was heralding a “new era” for capitalism, freed of the cyclical instabilities of the past. Its watchwords now were efficiency, permanence, welfare, and service.

With similar ambition to escape the turbulence of late nineteenth-century economy and society, progressive reformers undertook to expand the capacities of governments to deal with the worst effects of barely regulated capitalism. Their projects met far more resistance than those of the corporate managers. But between 1900 and 1929 they succeeded in bringing most of the characteristics of the modern administrative state into being. More professionalized corps of state factory inspectors endeavored to safeguard workers from dangerous working conditions, physically exhausting hours, and industrial diseases. Public utility commissions endeavored to pull the pricing of railroad shipping, streetcar fares, and city gas and water supplies out of the turmoil of politics and put them in the hands of expert-staffed commissions charged with setting fair terms of service and fair return on capital. New zoning boards, city planning commissions, and public health bureaus sprang into being to try to bring more conscious public order out of chaotic land markets, slum housing, poisoned food, polluted water supplies, and contagious diseases.

Progressive Politics

The energy of the new progressive politics was most intense at the state and local levels where civic reform associations of all sorts sprang up to thrust the new economic and social issues into politics. Women’s leagues, labor federations, businessmen’s good government lobbies, social welfare associations, and investigative journalists led the way, borrowing on each other’s techniques and successes.

Despite the more sharply defined constitutional limitations on federal power in this period, visions of more active government filtered up into national politics as well. Theodore Roosevelt set the mold for a much more active, issue-driven presidency than any since the Civil War. Roosevelt brought an anti-trust rhetoric and a powerful interest in environmental conservation into politics. In the national railroad strike of 1894, President Cleveland had dispatched federal troops to break the strike; now in the national coal strike of 1902, Roosevelt offered the White House as a venue for mediation. Pushed by its farm and labor constituencies, the Democratic Party, too, moved toward more active and effective governance. The era’s impetus for the creation of a more centralized banking system to stabilize the nation’s credit system had come first from elite bankers. Woodrow Wilson and the Democratic Congress incorporated their plan for a central bank into the Federal Reserve Act of 1913, sliding a publicly appointed board of governors over the bankers’ plan for self-regulation. Congress took its first steps toward nation-wide child labor restriction, though the Supreme Court struck down the act on a narrow reading of the Constitution’s “commerce clause.”

The relationship of these progressive reforms to democracy was complex. To break what they saw as the corrupt alliance between business wealth and political party bosses, progressive reformers succeeded in moving the election of US Senators from the state legislatures to the general electorate and, in some states, instituting new systems of popular referenda, initiative, and recall. They championed votes for women, bringing the last states holding out against women’s suffrage into line in the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920. But they also tightened up voting registration systems to curb immigrant voters, and they acquiesced in disfranchisement measures to strike African Americans off the voting rolls that had swept through southern states between 1890 and 1908.


The immigrant-filled cities were a focal point for the progressives’ mixed feelings about mass democracy. Between 1900 and the outbreak of war in Europe in 1914, more than thirteen million immigrants arrived in the United States, pouring into industrial cities largely from the rural regions of central and southern Europe. The new economy, in which six out of every ten industrial workers in 1914 was born abroad, was built on their cheap labor. Out of this new urban working class sprang not only new forms of poverty and overcrowded, tenement living but also powerful political machines, vigorous labor unions, and a socialist party that on the eve of the First World War rivaled any outside of Germany. Middle-class progressives sometimes took the urban masses as political allies. More often, however, the progressives saw the urban poor as objects of social concerns: as populations to be assimilated, improved, and protected from the employers, landlords, and political bosses who exploited them. Progressives inclined less toward talk of class justice than toward faith in a unitary public good; they thought less in terms of protected rights than of mediation and efficient management. They may have placed too much trust in experts, science, and the idea of the common good, but they brought into being the capacities of the modern state to push back against accidents of social fate and the excesses of private capital.

The International Stage

In all these state-building endeavors, early twentieth-century Americans moved in step with their counterparts in other industrial nations. That meant increasing the capacity of the nation to project its interests more forcefully abroad. In the Philippines, seized as a collateral asset in the war to free Cuba from Spanish rule in 1898, a commission led by William Howard Taft undertook to establish an American-style model of imperial governance. In Latin America, where American economic interests were about to eclipse Britain’s, US muscle flexing became routine. On a dozen different occasions between 1906 and 1929, US administrations dispatched troops to Mexico and the Caribbean to seize customs houses, reorganize finances, or attempt to control the outcome of an internal revolution.

The outbreak of war in Europe in 1914 brought these state-building ambitions to a peak. Once the Wilson administration’s efforts to trade neutrally with all the belligerents collapsed in 1917, the administration entered the war determined to turn the nation into an efficient social machine for its promotion. Manpower was recruited through a wartime draft. Funds were raised through income tax levies and a public crusade for war bond sales, orchestrated with the best techniques that advertisers and psychological experts could muster. The nation’s railroads were temporarily nationalized to coordinate transportation; farmers were organized for war production; the War Industries Board undertook to coordinate industrial production; labor representation rights were granted to boost production and morale; and social workers and psychologists undertook to sort out and ease the transition into war for the almost three million new military recruits. It was only thirteen months between the arrival of US troops in France in October 1917 and the Armistice, but the war gave Americans a model for the efficient mobilization of resources in a common cause that early New Dealers, in particular, would remember.

The First World War gave Americans their first vision of a more effectively managed international order as well. The idea of reorganizing the world for the more efficient management of international disputes had many sources in this period. “Wilsonianism,” as it has come to be called, was not uniquely Woodrow Wilson’s idea, though he pushed more strongly for it than any of the other great power leaders who met at the peace conference at Versailles in 1919. When the Senate failed to muster the two-thirds necessary to ratify US entry in the new League of Nations, the defeat came as a major blow to progressives. But the application of the label “isolationist” to the period disguises the heightened role that the United States actually played in the organization of international affairs in the 1920s. The nation cooperated with the other great powers in the era’s arms-limitation agreements. American banker Charles Dawes won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1925 for engineering a more sustainable international plan for German war reparations payments, soon further eased by the US government’s orchestration of new loans to German borrowers. Although the United States was not a participant in the new World Court created under the terms of the peace treaty, an American jurist served on its panel of eleven judges.

Postwar America

Domestically, the break between the prewar and postwar years seemed much sharper than on the international stage. The year 1919, in which the war economic machine ground suddenly to a halt, was one of the most volatile years of the twentieth century. Demobilization unloosed a wave of labor strikes unprecedented in their scale and the radical character of their demands. Workers tried to expand their wartime gains against employers who were determined to drive back unions and reassert management’s prerogatives of control. Fearful of revolution abroad and at home, the Justice Department rounded up and deported hundreds of aliens whom it judged, without trial, to be radical and disloyal. Violence erupted along race lines as white mobs in more than twenty cities poured into African American neighborhoods to attack homes and persons. A new Ku Klux Klan emerged in both the North and South with the goal of intimidating not only blacks but also Catholics, immigrants, and radicals. In the aftermath of 1919’s turmoil, Calvin Coolidge, a Republican presidential candidate committed to returning the nation to “normalcy,” swept the election in a landslide.

Still, many of the managerial ambitions of the earlier years survived into the “new era.” Coolidge was no friend of energetic government, but his commerce secretary and successor, the engineer Herbert Hoover, held much more ambitious ideas of the role of government in promoting business and public ends than he is generally credited with. The massive Hoover Dam public works project was a product of the Coolidge and Hoover administrations; the most important Depression-era agency for financial restabilization, the Reconstruction Finance Administration, began as a Hoover initiative. The drive to prohibit the production and sale of alcohol for consumption undertaken in 1919 and the shuttering of the borders to new European immigration in 1921 were driven in part by moral conservatives’ recoil against the mores of the urban, immigrant city. But there were progressives who saw in both measures the promise of a better-organized society, deliberately managing its population movements and curbing the wasteful effects of drunkenness on labor efficiency and on abused wives and children.

The changes that marked the 1900–1929 period were very unevenly spread across the nation’s regions and peoples. Southern leaders were not immune to progressive political ambitions. Southern farmers lobbied hard for federal credit systems to supplement private lenders in the cash-strapped South. They turned the system of federally supported agriculture extension agents into a far-flung network of scientific advice, crop marketing assistance, and lobbying help in Congress. But southern progressive reform had its limits. Efforts to enfranchise women, or effectively ban the employment of twelve- and thirteen-year-old children in the textile mills, or enact national anti-lynching legislation met with major resistance. Although there were islands of exception, the South was visibly poorer than the rest of country, much less urbanized, farther from the new consumer society being built elsewhere, and intractably committed to cotton, low-wage labor, and management of its own racial matters.

The most striking change in the South was the massive wartime exodus to the North of African Americans, breaking the ties that had bound most former slaves to agricultural poverty and tenancy since the end of the Civil War. Animosity toward African Americans did not change in the North in this period, where racial pseudo-science flourished in both elite and popular forms, but the labor shortages of the First World War shattered northern employers’ bans against African American workers, and the strenuous efforts of southern landlords to keep black labor from fleeing north were not enough to blunt the effects. Almost a half million African Americans fled between 1914 and 1920. Most were rural folk for whom the sharply defined housing ghettoes and racially segregated labor markets of the urban North still seemed a major step up from sharecropping and the codes of southern racial subordination. They were joined by aspiring poets, entrepreneurs, jazz musicians, and rights advocates who helped to make Chicago’s South Side and New York City’s Harlem magnets for a newly self-conscious, urban, and assertive black politics and culture. New racially segregated labor patterns changed the American Southwest as well, as expanding jobs in the farms, mines, and railroads drew hundreds of thousands of workers across the border with Mexico.

Women experienced the era’s changes in more complex ways than men. Northern middle-class women had played a defining role in advancing many of the progressive social reforms of the day. Even before they gained the vote, they had established themselves as important politics actors. Working out from woman-dominated social spaces in the settlement houses, women’s clubs and colleges, the social-gospel churches, and the social work professions, they undertook to demonstrate women’s higher moral sensibilities and their greater sense of responsibility for the larger “civic household.” The campaign for political equality for women both altered and undermined those premises. By the 1920s, the settlement-house worker was a far less visible presence in the culture than the bobbed-hair, flapper-clad “new woman”—more independent, more athletic, more eager to compete with men, and more drawn to men’s company.

Consumer Culture

These new women were both the objects and the subjects of the last major domains of society to be reorganized in this period, the industries of entertainment and consumption. Both grew dramatically between 1900 and 1929. It was one of the most important discoveries of the age that even pleasure could be engineered. Moviemakers like D. W. Griffith learned not simply to film a gripping story, but, through new techniques of scene cutting, to pace and manipulate the very emotions of their audiences. Psychology moved into advertisements as goods and pleasures were made to sell themselves by their brands and slogans. Music halls, chain-managed vaudeville, amusement parks, dance clubs, the glittering movie palaces of the 1910s and 1920s, and, finally, radio transformed entertainment in this period, particularly for urban Americans. By the 1920s they lived in a culture much more cosmopolitan—with its African American jazz and dance music, Yiddish comedy, and screen idols who showcased their foreignness—more sexualized, more commercial, and more deliberately organized than any before it.

Together with the new forms of pleasure, a new flood of goods poured out of the early twentieth-century economy as production emphases shifted to mass-marketed goods and household consumers. Canned foods, refrigerators and other electric appliances, factory-made shirtwaists, celluloid collars, and chemically made rayon, cigarettes and soft drinks, snap-shot cameras and phonograph records, together with hundreds of other consumer goods brought the reorganization of capital, production, and advertising into daily life. The most revolutionary of the era’s new goods was the automobile, no longer a toy of the elites but a democratic commodity, thanks in part to Henry Ford’s determination to make cars so efficiently and to pay his workers enough that even factory workers could own one. By 1929 there was one automobile for every five persons in the United States. Already the automobile’s effects on the patterns of suburban living, recreation, status, rural isolation, and even sex were being acutely sensed.

By the end of the era, to be outside the new world of mass-marketed goods—as millions of poor and rural Americans continued to be—was for the first time to be an outsider in one’s own nation. Almost no one in the fall of 1929 thought that the bounty might be at its end.

Daniel Rodgers , the Henry Charles Lea Professor of History at Princeton University, is the author of The Work Ethic in Industrial America, 1850–1920 (1978), winner of the Frederick Jackson Turner Prize; Contested Truths: Keywords in American Politics since Independence (1987); Atlantic Crossings: Social Politics in a Progressive Age (1998); and Age of Fracture (2011).

DISCUSSION 3: Comment on the sources by the Vice Commission of Chicago, Irving D. Steinhardt, and Havelock Ellis. Follow the guidelines and instructions for Discussion Participation. Post original comments and replies to the Discussion Board on Canvas by the deadline shown on the Class Schedule.

● Vice Commission of Chicago, The Social Evil in Chicago: A Study of Existing Conditions with Recommendations, 1911.

The Commission’s investigator was, of course, unable to gain entrance into those circles of the very well-to-do, which are engaged in these practices, nor did he concern himself with the lowest stratum of society, which is the class most observable in our courts. Nor did he gain any information about the much more occasional cases among women, of which the Commission heard something from other sources. He most readily, however, became acquainted with whole groups and colonies of these men who are sex perverts, but who do not fall in the hands of the police on account of their practices, and who are not known in their true character to any extent by physicians because of the fact that their habits do not, as a rule, produce bodily disease. It is noteworthy that the details of information gained from a police officer, who was once detailed on this work, and from a young professional student, who himself, for a time, has been partially engaged in this practice, were completely substantiated by the Commission’s investigator.

It appears that in this community there is a large number of men . . . who mostly affect the carriage, mannerisms, and speech of women; who are fond of many articles ordinarily dear to the feminine heart; who are often people of a good deal of talent; who lean to the fantastic in dress and other modes of expression, and who have a definite cult with regard to sexual life. They preach the value of non-association with women from various standpoints and yet with one another have practices which are nauseous and repulsive. Many of them speak of themselves or each other with the adoption of feminine terms, and go by girls’ names or fantastic application of women’s titles. They have a vocabulary and signs of recognition of their own, which serve as an introduction into their own society. The cult has produced some literature, much of which is uncomprehensible to one who cannot read between the lines, and there is considerable distribution among them of pernicious photographs.

In one of the large music halls recently, a much applauded act was that of a man who by facial expression and bodily contortion represented sex perversion, a most disgusting performance. It was evidently not at all understood by many of the audience, but others wildly applauded. Then, one of the songs recently ruled off the stage by the police department was inoffensive to innocent ears, but was really written by a member of the cult, and replete with suggestiveness to those who understood the language of this group.

Some of these men impersonate women on the cheap vaudeville stage, in connection with disorderly saloons. Their disguise is so perfect, they are enabled to sit at tables with men between the acts, and solicit for drinks the same as prostitutes.

Two of these “female impersonators” . . . afterwards invited the men to rooms over the saloon for pervert practices.

● Irving D. Steinhardt, Ten Sex Talks to Girls, 14 Years and Older , 1914

Avoid girls who are too affectionate and demonstrative in their manner of talking and acting with you; who are inclined to admire your figure and breast development; who are inclined to be just a little too familiar in their actions toward you; who are inclined to be rather free and careless in the display of themselves in your presence; who press upon you too earnestly invitations to remain at their homes all night, and to occupy the same bed they do. When sleeping in the same bed with another girl, old or young, avoid “snuggling up” close together. Avoid the touching of sexual parts, including the breasts, and, in fact, I might say avoid contact of any parts of the body at all. Keep your night robe about you so that you are as well protected from outside contact as its size will permit, and let your conversation be of other topics than sexuality. Do not lie in each other’s arms when awake or falling asleep; and, after going to bed, if you are sleeping alone or with others, just bear in mind that beds are sleeping places. When you go to bed, go to sleep just as quickly as you can. If possible, avoid sleeping with anyone else. It is more healthful and sanitary to sleep in a separate bed . . . certain diseases, both those affecting the genital organs and others, are often conveyed through contaminated bed clothes, body contact, the breath, etc. You can see for yourselves, therefore, that separate beds are good for more reasons than one. . . .

Some girls are low enough to accept pay for bringing about the moral ruin of members of their sex; . . . they are to be found everywhere, in the smallest village as well as in the largest town. Girls who have become discontented with their lot are easily influenced by the sweet, honeyed lies of these vile creatures. Beware of strange women, as well as of strange men, who seek to shower favors and other things upon you for no apparent reason except that they are strangely attracted to you. If you do not, you will live to regret it. Thousands of your sex already have, and lie in nameless graves away from home, most likely in a pauper’s burying-ground, because they had become so degraded in name and fact as to be lost to “the old folks at home.”

● Havelock Ellis, Sexual Inversion, 1915

As regards the prevalence of homosexuality in the United States, I may quote from a well-informed American correspondent:—

“The great prevalence of sexual inversion in American cities is shown by the wide knowledge of its existence. Ninety-nine normal men out of a hundred have been accosted on the streets by inverts, or have among their acquaintances men whom they know to be sexually inverted. Everyone has seen inverts and knows what they are. The public attitude toward them is generally a negative one—indifference, amusement, contempt.

“The world of sexual inverts is, indeed, a large one in any American city, and it is a community distinctly organized—words, customs, traditions of its own; and every city has its numerous meeting-places: certain churches whereinverts congregate; certain cafes well known for the inverted character of their patrons; certain streets where, at night, every fifth man is an invert. The inverts have their own ‘clubs,’ with nightly meetings. These ‘clubs’ are, really, dance halls, attached to saloons, and presided over by the proprietor of the saloon, himself almost invariably an invert, as are all the waiters and musicians. The frequenters of these places are male sexual inverts (usually ranging from 17 to 30 years of age); sightseers find no difficulty in gaining entrance; truly, they are welcomed for the drinks they buy for the company—and other reasons. Singing and dancing turns by certain favorite performers are the features of these gatherings, With much gossip and drinking at the small tables ranged along the four walls of the room. The habitues of these places are, generally, inverts of the most pronounced type, i.e., the completely feminine in voice and manners, with the characteristic hip motion in their walk; though I have never seen any approach to feminine dress there, doubtless the desire for it is not wanting and only police regulations relegate it to other occasions and places. You will rightly infer that the police know of these places and endure their existence for a consideration; it is not unusual for the inquiring stranger to be directed there by a policeman.” . . .

It is notable that of recent years there has been a fashion for a red tie to be adopted by inverts as their badge. This is especially marked among the “fairies” (as a fellator is there termed ) in New York. “It is red,” writes an American correspondent, himself inverted, “that has become almost a synonym for sexual inversion, not only in the minds of inverts themselves, but in the popular mind. To wear a red necktie on the street is to invite remarks from newsboys and others—remarks that have the practices of inverts for their theme. A friend told me once that when a group of street-boys caught sight of the red necktie he was wearing they sucked their fingers in imitation of fellatio. Male prostitutes who walk the streets of Philadelphia and New York almost invariably wear red neckties. It is the badge of all their tribe. The rooms of many of my inverted friends have red as the prevailing color in decorations. Among my classmates, at the medical school, few ever had the courage to wear a red tie; those who did never repeated the experiment.”

ASSIGNMENT 4: Answer the questions outside of Canvas. Save your responses. Submit on Canvas before the deadline on the Class Schedule.

4a. In what sense was there a conflict between traditional roles for women and the effort to improve their status and conditions of life in the early-twentieth century? Following closely the Guidelines for Thesis Writingwrite a thesis for an essay that could be written for this question, based on the Sources for 4a below.

4b. How did the problems and concerns of African Americans differ in World War I and the following peacetime of the 1920s? Following closely the Guidelines for Thesis Writingwrite a thesis for an essay you might write for this question, based on the Sources for 4b below.

4c. Following closely the Guidelines on Evidencewrite two points separate of evidence to support the thesis you wrote on African Americans in ‘b’above, drawn from Sources for 4b. One point of evidence should deal with World War I and one with the 1920s.

SOURCES FOR 4a (Four sources)

Miriam Cohen, “Women and the Progressive Movement,” History Now (Winter 2012) The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History 49 W. 45th Street, 6th Floor · NYC, NY 10036 (646) 366-9666 © 2009–2014 All Rights Reserved. [https://www.gilderlehrman.org/]

At the end of the nineteenth century, American politicians, journalists, professionals, and volunteers mobilized on behalf of reforms meant to deal with a variety of social problems associated with industrialization. Women activists, mainly from middling and prosperous social backgrounds, emphasized the special contribution that women could make in tackling these problems. With issues of public health and safety, child labor, and women’s work under dangerous conditions so prominent, who better than women to address them? Focusing on issues that appealed to women as wives and mothers, and promoting the notion that women were particularly good at addressing such concerns, the female activists practiced what women’s historians call maternalist politics. By emphasizing traditional traits, female social reformers between 1890 and World War I created new spaces for themselves in local and then national government even before they had the right to vote. They carved out new opportunities for paid labor in professions like social work and public health. Maternalists also stressed the special needs of poor women and children in order to build support for America’s early welfare state.[1]

Regardless of sex, activists did not always value the same reforms, nor did they always agree on the nature of the problems, but as part of the progressive movement, their concerns shared some basic characteristics. Historian Daniel Rodgers argues that progressives drew on three “distinct clusters of ideas.” One was the deep distrust of growing corporate monopoly, the second involved the increasing conviction that in order to progress as a society, the commitment to individualism had to be tempered with an appreciation of our social bonds. Progressives also believed that modern techniques of social planning and efficiency would offer solutions to the social problems at hand. Their ideas did not add up to a coherent ideology, but, as Rodgers notes, “they tended to focus discontent on unregulated individual power.”[2] As the nineteenth century closed, periodic economic downturns served as wake-up calls to the dangers of relying solely on the workings of the free market to ensure the general prosperity.

Concerns about social problems were not new for women. Since the antebellum era, middle-class white and black women engaged in various forms of civic activity related to the social and moral welfare of those less fortunate. Temperance, abolition, and moral reform activities dominated women’s politics before the Civil War. By the 1870s, women were broadening their influence, working in national organizations such as the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) and the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA), which helped single women in America’s cities. During the Progressive era, a moral-reform agenda motivated many women; such organizations as the WCTU, for example, intensified their activities on behalf of a national ban on alcohol and against prostitution.

But it was after 1890 that the issues surrounding social welfare took on their greatest urgency. The Panic of 1893, along with the increasing concerns about industrialization—the growing slums across American cities, the influx of new immigrants from southern and eastern Europe, the increase in labor strife—contributed to that sense of urgency.

Within a decade, vast networks of middle-class and wealthy women were energetically addressing how these social programs affected women and children. Encouraged by the national General Federation of Women’s Clubs (GFWC), local women’s clubs turned to learning about and then addressing the crises of the urbanizing society. Excluded by the GFWC, hundreds of African American women’s clubs affiliated with the National Association of Colored Women (NACW) focused on family welfare among black Americans who were dealing with both poverty and racism. The National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW), dominated by prosperous German-Jewish women, sprang into action in the 1890s as well, to work with the newly arrived eastern European Jewish community. The National Congress of Mothers (later the Parent Teacher Association) emerged in 1897 to address the needs of the American family and the mother’s crucial role in fulfilling those needs. Activist women throughout the country, from Boston in the east, to Seattle in the west, and Memphis in the south, focused on improving public schools, especially in poor neighborhoods.[3]

Responding to the problems associated with urban industrial life, American women reformers looked to their counterparts in Europe who were struggling with similar issues. One such initiative, which caught on with American women who visited England in the 1880s, was Toynbee Hall, a settlement house located in London’s poverty-stricken East End. The efforts of the men at Toynbee to reach across the class divide inspired Jane Addams, who founded Chicago’s Hull House in 1889, as well as a group of Smith College graduates who founded the College Settlement House in New York around the same time.[4]

The settlement house movement soon took hold throughout the country. Located in urban, poor, often immigrant communities, the houses were residences for young middle-class and prosperous women, and some men, who wished not merely to minister to the poor and then go home, but to live among them, to be their neighbors, to participate with them in bettering their communities. Their poorer neighbors did not live in the settlement houses but spent time there, participating in various clubs and classes, including kindergarten and day nurseries for children. Settlement houses also sent volunteers out into the community. Truly pioneers in the area of public health, their visiting nurses taught hygiene and health care to poor immigrant households. Settlement house workers and other women reformers also campaigned for public milk stations in an effort to reduce infant mortality.

Most settlement houses identified themselves with Protestant Christianity, and indeed, in response, Catholic and Jewish activists founded their own institutions. However, both Lillian Wald, head of the famous Henry Street Settlement in New York, and Addams, among others, ran secular institutions.

Taking up residence in settlement houses attracted women who wished to carve out non-traditional lifestyles, where they could be among their close companions and devote themselves to what they saw as meaningful lives. By the mid-1890s, the core community of Hull House consisted of Jane Addams, the most celebrated female social reformer of her day; Florence Kelley, Illinois’s first State Factory Investigator, who would later move to New York to become the head of the National Consumers League (NCL); Dr. Alice Hamilton, America’s founder of industrial medicine; and Julia Lathrop, a pioneer in the field of child welfare who was to become the first woman to head a federal agency when she became director of the newly founded US Children’s Bureau in 1912. Historian Kathryn Sklar writes of the Hull House community that the women “found what others could not provide for them, dear friendship, livelihood, contact with the real world, and a chance to change it.”[5] Only a small group of women actually took up residence at the settlement house, but many women in cities and towns throughout the country worked as volunteers for these establishments, including the young Eleanor Roosevelt, who worked at the Riverside Settlement in New York City before her marriage to Franklin.

Beyond the settlement houses, women worked hard on a variety of social initiatives. One of the most important involved efforts to improve working conditions in America’s factories, particularly in those trades, such as garments and textiles, that employed so much immigrant labor at low wages. The National Consumers League and the National Child Labor Committee (NCLC), both dominated by women, launched campaigns across the country, calling on state governments to institute protective labor laws that would end very long work hours for women and the labor of children and young adolescents. They also demanded that state government provide factory inspectors to see that the new laws were enforced.

Some progressive women believed that rather than campaigning on behalf of poor women, they could best offer help by encouraging the efforts of working women to empower themselves through collective bargaining. Unionizing women was an especially difficult challenge because the larger society viewed them as marginal workers, rather than critical breadwinners who needed to support themselves or help support their families. The National Women’s Trade Union League (WTUL), with branches in a number of cities, was an organization of wealthy and working-class women who came together to aid the efforts of women who were already working with their male co-workers in the garment and textile unions.

While many did philanthropic work on behalf of poor families, in this new era women also called for state participation in granting financial relief to the needy. To help one group of poor families—single mothers forced to raise children without male incomes—they campaigned on behalf of state aid to widowed mothers. Given the high male mortality due to work accidents and poor job conditions, the growing numbers of young, very poor widowed mothers was a major social problem. By the early twentieth century, many family welfare experts were convinced that if at all possible, poor children of widowed mothers should be kept at home, rather than placed in orphanages, which had been the custom in the nineteenth century. In the second decade of the twentieth century, mothers’ pension leagues campaigning across the country were remarkably successful. By 1920, the vast majority of states had enacted some sort of mothers’ pension program. These state-funded initiatives were the precursors to the Aid to Dependent Children Program, which became federal law during the New Deal as part of the Social Security Act.

Mothers’ pension campaigns exemplify how advocates for expanding social welfare appealed to the maternalist sensibilities of middle-class audiences. In writing in 1916 about the activities of their Propaganda Committee, Sophia Loeb of the Allegheny County Mothers’ Pension League, campaigning for mothers’ pensions in the Greater Pittsburgh area, reported on the first-ever public celebration of Mother’s Day in the United States, noting that the gathering of 1,100 “was unique in the fact that not only was tribute paid to Motherhood in speech and flower, but Mother was honored in a more practical way by trying to assist the mothers less fortunate, in their struggle to help her children under her own roof.”[6]

Reforming the juvenile justice system was another way to limit the institutionalization of poor children. Prior to the Progressive era, children arrested for a whole host of crimes, including truancy and shoplifting, could end up tried as adults and placed in adult jails. Yet, increasingly, middle-class and prosperous Americans were adopting the view that children, including poor children, should be viewed not as miniature adults, but as human beings who needed proper teaching and nurturing in order to grow into responsible adults; such nurturing would preferably be done by parents, not outside institutions. In 1899, Hull House reformers such as Julia Lathrop and Louise DeKoven Bowen persuaded Illinois lawmakers to institute the first juvenile court; unlike the adult courts, it could exercise greater flexibility in sentencing and it could concentrate on rehabilitation rather than punishment. Soon after, such courts were instituted in cities across the United States.[7]

Whether campaigning for mothers’ pensions, protective labor legislation, public health programs, or the establishment of the juvenile justice system, progressive maternalists stressed that these initiatives would help women become better mothers. They advocated specific programs because of their traditional convictions regarding gender roles and family life, with men as successful breadwinners and women proper domestic caretakers, but their approach was also strategic. Women knew that their participation in the political arena flew in the face of conventional norms; concentrating on issues already associated with women’s traditional roles lessened the impact of their challenge.

Some women activists, however, did challenge aspects of traditional gender norms. The writer and renowned lecturer Charlotte Perkins Gilman also believed in women’s special attributes, but she questioned the very organization of society based on the private household, arguing that both housekeeping and childcare could be done better in collective settings, which would free women to pursue other occupations. Other activists, unlike the social progressives, promoted a new embrace of women’s sexuality, some advocating free love. Margaret Sanger campaigned for access to safe, inexpensive contraception in order that women could assert more control over their health and the way they chose to mother.

Because Gilman, Sanger, and the free-love advocates promoted women’s autonomy, we often associate them with the emerging feminist movement that was to become so important later in the twentieth century. But scholars have recently argued that the progressive social reformers can also be named feminists, specifically social feminists, because they were committed to increasing women’s social and political rights even as they used arguments about women’s special needs and attributes to achieve their goals. Thus, the progressive women promoted women’s suffrage; many worked vigorously on behalf of the cause and belonged to the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA), the dominant pro-suffrage organization of the day. In arguing for women’s suffrage in the Ladies’ Home Journal in 1910, Jane Addams appealed to her middle-class readers by pointing out that women in modern society no longer performed the functions of producing for their families all the goods that they would consume at home; if they cared about the health and safety of their own families—the food they ate, the water they drank, the diseases they might catch—they ought to care about the conditions all around them, and they ought to want the ability to vote on these public concerns.[8] Moreover, social feminists did not always emphasize women’s special role as mothers when arguing on behalf of the vote. As pragmatic activists, they adopted more than one strategy to achieve reforms. Like men, their politics were multifaceted and were shaped by a variety of concerns. To achieve their ends, they worked with various reform coalitions and they often tailored their rhetoric to strengthen those coalitions.

And though they believed that women had a special affinity for social welfare work, progressive women did not rely on the notion that women had a natural sympathy for the poor. Tackling the social problems of the day, they believed, required hardheaded research. “A colony of efficient and intelligent women,” Florence Kelley wrote of her colleagues at Hull House in 1892.[9] Three years later, the women of Hull House published the famous detailed survey of social conditions in Chicago, Hull House Maps and Papers, now considered a major work in the early history of American social science. Women conducted detailed social investigations as part of their campaigns on behalf of protective labor legislation. And at the Children’s Bureau, Lathrop campaigned on behalf of public health initiatives for infant and maternal care and against child labor by first launching major investigations of the conditions that she wanted government to address.

A conviction that knowledge about social conditions would lead to social change, implemented through modern “scientific” methods, was a hallmark of progressive social reformers, both male and female, but for women researchers, the determination to study social problems opened up new opportunities to forge a place in the emerging social sciences. Women often founded and developed the first graduate schools of social work. In turn, the professionalization of social work provided women with a number of professional opportunities, not only as teachers in graduate training programs. As the new fields of child and family welfare were taken up by local, state, and ultimately, the national government, social feminists argued successfully that women ought to perform these jobs. In 1919, the Children’s Bureau under Lathrop employed 150 women and only 19 men.[10] Women also took jobs in the US Women’s Bureau, founded in the aftermath of World War I to attend to the needs of working women. In 1914, Congress funded educational extension programs in rural areas, which included home economics. Working for the United States Department of Agriculture as home economists, women provided information on new household technologies and worked to spread the new home economics education out to the countryside.[11]

In rendering “professional” advice to poor mothers, advocating the use of modern housekeeping and nutritional and medical practices, and promoting the supervision of families in the juvenile court, the progressive women surely exhibited class biases. Progressive reformers were often too sure they knew what was best for the poor. But more so than most reformers of the day, women like Lathrop, Kelley, and Adams had an appreciation for the real problems faced by the poor; Lathrop, specifically, had a special respect for the hard work of mothers, especially poor mothers. Convinced that poverty and inadequate services, not character defects, were responsible for disease, malnutrition, delinquency, and premature death among poor families, Lathrop and her staff at the Children’s Bureau worked tirelessly to prove it to others.

The genuine efforts of social feminists to reach across class lines were born of their belief that shared experiences among women, and shared ideals, could erase class differences. Yet immigrant women, living with families that were often struggling just to make ends meet, often had priorities that differed from the more prosperous women seeking to help them. As a labor activist from the working class, Leonora O’Reilly worked with elite women in a variety of reform organizations, formed close friendships with wealthy women, and was a founder of the New York WTUL, yet at various times she complained about upper-class condescension.[12] The class divide existed among women within minority groups as well. Newly arrived Russian Jewish women often resented what they perceived to be condescension on the part of the women of the NCJW, even though the wealthier women did provide critical help for immigrants. Similarly, the commitment to uplift on the part of black women in the NACW meant providing essential social services to their poorer sisters, but the more prosperous women often had difficulty understanding and appreciating some of the concerns of poorer women.

If class prevented women from uniting, reaching across racial lines was even more problematic. While white women could be patronizing when it came to immigrants, their attitude toward African American mothers could be even more troubling, and steeped in assumptions about the superiority of all European cultures. Many progressive women assumed that European immigrants could learn modern values regarding good mothers, but most believed black Americans could not. Since settlement houses were largely segregated, black women could not and did not rely on white settlement houses, founding their own, such as the Frederick Douglass Center in Chicago, developed by the activists Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Fannie Williams, and white reformer Celia Parker Woolley. In 1897, Victoria Earl Matthews established New York City’s White Rose Mission, the first black settlement run exclusively by African Americans.[13] Black women, like their white counterparts, also pushed women’s suffrage, only to find that the suffrage organizations such as NAWSA were at best indifferent regarding the issue of black access to suffrage and at worst, hostile.

Most white reformers were limited by the prejudices of their day, but some of the most prominent stood out for their broader vision of equal rights. Florence Kelley and Jane Addams were strong supporters of African American suffrage; although they both had been active members of NAWSA, they publicly protested the organization’s endorsement of a states’ rights position on the question of whether or not black Americans should be given equal access to the ballot box. Kelley, Adams, and Lathrop were early and active members of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

The decade that followed World War I saw the demobilization of most progressive initiatives. Efforts to enhance government responsibility for social welfare took a back seat to nativist campaigns and moves to decrease the power of trade unions while increasing the ability of American corporations to operate unimpeded by government regulations. By the middle of the 1920s most of the progressive women’s organizations and their members were facing well-publicized accusations that they were part of a vast radical conspiracy that was determined to bring a communist government to the United States, just as the Bolsheviks had recently done in Russia.

Yet the achievements of the earlier decades had long-term effects that outlasted the postwar backlash. A younger generation of women remained employed in government agencies such as the Children’s Bureau and the Women’s Bureau. In 1933, three years into America’s greatest economic depression, the issues of social welfare moved front and center on the national agenda. When Franklin Roosevelt assumed the presidency that March, progressive women who had actively supported his candidacy and worked hard to get out the vote were in a position to demand they be given even greater roles in the federal government. The appointment of Frances Perkins as Secretary of Labor, the first woman to head a federal cabinet department, was evidence of their political power. A former head of the New York Consumers League, former industrial commissioner for New York State, and former state labor commissioner for New York Governor Franklin Roosevelt, Perkins, and the progressive women around her and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, would now work successfully to implement national legislation on child labor, income supports for needy Americans, and a whole host of issues that had long been at the heart of their political agenda.

[1] See Molly Ladd-Taylor, Mother Work: Women, Child Welfare, and the State, 1890–1933 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1994); Robyn Muncy, Creating a Female Dominion in American Reform, 1890–1935 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991).

[2] Daniel Rodgers, “In Search of Progressivism,” Reviews in American History 10, no. 4 (December 1982), 123.

[3] Maureen A. Flanagan, America Reformed: Progressives and Progressivisms, 1890–1920s (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007), 46.

[4] Nancy Woloch, Women and the American Experience, 5th ed. (New York: McGraw Hill, 2011), 257.

[5] Kathryn Kish Sklar, Florence Kelley and the Nation’s Work: The Rise of Women’s Political Culture, 1830–1900 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995), 186.

[6] “Report of the Propaganda Committee,” Report of the Mothers’ Pension League of Allegheny County, 1915–1916 (Pittsburgh, PA), n.p.

[7] Maureen A. Flanagan, America Reformed, 45–46Michael Willrich, City of Courts: Socializing Justice in Progressive Era Chicago (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003).

[8] “Why Women Should Vote,” Ladies’ Home Journal 27 (January 1910), 1–22.

[9] Sklar, Florence Kelley and the Nation’s Work, 194.

[10] Muncy, Creating a Female Dominion, 51.

[11] Woloch, Women and the American Experience, 289.

[12] Lara Vapnek, Breadwinners: Working Women and Economic Independence, 1865–1920 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2009), 75.

[13] Cheryl D. Hicks, Talk With You Like a Woman: African American Women, Justice, and Reform in New York, 1890–1925 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2010), 100.

Miriam Cohen is the Evalyn Clark Professor of History at Vassar and author of Workshop to Office: Two Generations of Italian Women in New York City (1993). She is the author of numerous articles on the history of American social welfare and is currently working on a biography of Julia Lathrop, forthcoming from Westview Press.

●  Jane Addams, speech, 1908.

WE have been accustomed for many generations to think of woman’s place as being entirely within the walls of her own household, and it is indeed impossible to imagine the time when her duty there shall be ended or to forecast any social change which shall ever release her from that paramount obligation. There is no doubt, however, that many women to-day are failing properly to discharge their duties to their own families and households simply because they fail to see that as society grows more complicated it is necessary that woman shall extend her sense of responsibility to many things outside of her own home, if only in order to preserve the home in its entirety.

One could illustrate in many ways. A woman’s simplest duty, one would say, is to keep her house clean and wholesome and to feed her children properly. Yet, if she lives in a tenement house, as so many of my neighbors do, she can not fulfill these simple obligations by her own efforts because she is utterly dependent upon the city administration for the conditions which render decent living possible. Her basement will not be dry, her stairways will not be fireproof, her house will not be provided with sufficient windows to give her light and air, nor will it be equipped with sanitary plumbing unless the Public Works Department shall send inspectors who constantly insist that these elementary decencies be provided. These same women who now live in tenements, when they lived in the country, swept their own dooryards and either fed the refuse of the table to a flock of chickens or allowed it innocently to decay in the open air and sunshine; now, however, if the street is not cleaned by the city authorities, no amount of private sweeping will keep the tenant free from grime; if the garbage is not properly collected and destroyed, she may see her children sicken and die of diseases from which she alone is powerless to shield them, although her tenderness and devotion are unbounded; she can not even secure clean milk for her children, she can not provide them with fruit which is untainted, unless the milk has been properly taken care of by the City Health Department, and the decayed fruit, which is so often placed upon sale in the tenement districts, shall have been promptly destroyed in the interest of public health. In short, if woman would keep on with her old business of caring for her house and rearing her children, she will have to have some conscience in regard to public affairs lying quite outside of her immediate household. The individual conscience and devotion are no longer effective. In the tenement quarters of Chicago, I am sorry to say that last spring we had a spreading contagion of scarlet fever just at the time that the school nurses had been discontinued, because it was supposed that they were no longer necessary. If the women who sent their children to these schools had been sufficiently public-spirited they would have insisted that the schools be supplied with nurses in order that their own children might be protected from contagion. So I could go on with a dozen other illustrations. Women are pushed outside of the home in order that they may preserve the home. If they would effectively continue their old avocations, they must take part in the movements looking toward social amelioration.

On the other hand, this contention may be equally well illustrated by women who take no part in public affairs in order that they may give themselves exclusively to their own families, sometimes going so far as to despise their neighbors and their ways, and even to take a certain pride in being separate from them. Our own neighborhood was at one time suffering from a typhoid epidemic. Although the Nineteenth Ward had but one thirty-sixth of the population of Chicago, it had one-sixth of all the deaths in the city occurring from typhoid. A careful investigation was made by which we were able to establish a very close connection between the typhoid and a mode of plumbing which made it most probable that the infection had been carried by flies. Among the people who had been exposed to the infection was a widow who had lived in the ward for a number of years, in a comfortable little house which she owned. Although the Italian immigrants were closing in all around her, she was not willing to sell her property and to move away until she had finished the education of her children, because she considered that her paramount duty. In the meantime she held herself quite aloof from her Italian neighbors and their affairs. Her two daughters were sent to an Eastern college; one had graduated, the other had still two years before she took her degree, when they came home to the spotless little house and to their self-sacrificing mother for the summer’s holiday. They both fell ill, not because their own home was not clean, not because their mother was not devoted, but because next door to them and also in the rear were wretched tenements and because the mother’s utmost efforts could not keep the infection out of her own house. One daughter died, and one recovered, but was an invalid for two years following. This, is, perhaps, a fair illustration of the futility of the individual conscience when woman insists upon isolating her family from the rest of the community and its interests. The result is sure to be a pitiful failure.

In the process of socialization of their affairs, women might have received many suggestions from the changes in the organization of industry which have been going on for the last century. Ever since steam power has been applied to the processes of spinning and weaving, woman’s old traditional work has been slowly but inevitably slipping out of the household into the factory. The clothing is not only spun and woven but largely sewed by machinery; the household linen, the preparation of grains, the butter and cheese have also passed into the factory, and, necessarily, a certain number of women have been obliged to follow their work there, although it is doubtful, in spite of the large number of factory girls, whether women now are doing as large a proportion of the world’s work as they used to do. If we contemplate the many thousands of them who enter industry and who are working in factories and shops, we at once recognize the great necessity there is that older women should feel interested in the conditions of industry. According to the census reports, there are in the United States more than five million self-supporting women. Most of them are between the ages of sixteen and twenty-four, so that when we say working-women we really mean working-girls. It is the first time in history that such numbers of young girls have been permitted to walk unattended on city streets and to work under alien roofs. The very fact that these girls are not going to remain in industry permanently makes it more important that some one should see to it that they shall not be incapacitated for their future family life because they work for exhausting hours and under unsanitary conditions. One would imagine that as our grandmothers guarded the health and morals of the young women who spun and wove and sewed in their house-hold, so the women of to-day would feel equally responsible for the young girls who are doing the same work under changed conditions. This would be true if women’s sense of obligation had modified and enlarged as the social conditions changed, so that she might naturally and almost imperceptibly have inaugurated the movements for social amelioration in the line of factory legislation and shop sanitation. That she has not done so is doubtless due to the fact that her conscience is slow to recognize any obligation outside of her own family circle and because she was so absorbed in her own affairs that she failed to see what the conditions outside actually were. As one industry after another has slipped from the household; as the education of her children has been more and more transferred to the school, so that now children of four years old begin to go to the kindergarten the woman has been left in a household of constantly narrowing interests.

Possibly the first step towards restoration is publicity as to industrial affairs, for we are all able to see only those things to which we bring the “informing mind.” Perhaps you will permit me to illustrate from a group of home-keeping women who became interested in the problem of child labor. I was at one time a member of the Industrial Committee of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs, which is, as you know, an association of women’s clubs from all parts of the United States. We were very much interested in finding out how much child labor prevailed in the various States in which no legislation had been passed for the protection of children. We sent out questionnaires to all the women’s clubs, and among others we received a very interesting reply from a woman’s club in Florida. We had asked that the club members count all of the children under fourteen who were at work in the factories and mills in the club vicinities. The Florida women sent back the reply that they had found three thousand children in the sugar factories, and they added that they were very sorry that we had not asked them about child labor earlier, because their Legislature would not convene for two years and there would be no chance until then to secure protective legislation. They evidently thought that it was very remiss on the part of the committee that they had not earlier called their attention to child labor conditions. The whole incident is a good illustration of the point we would make. These women had lived in the same place for years. The children had doubtless gone to work back and forth right under their windows, but they had never looked, in order to count them and did not even know they were there. The Industrial Committee sent out a questionnaire which said, in effect, “Please look out of your windows and count the working-children.” The club women suddenly waked up and bestirred themselves to protect the children they had thus discovered. Something of that sort goes on in every community. We see those things to which our attention has been drawn, we feel responsibility for those things which are brought to us as matters of responsibility. In what direction, then, should women at the present moment look towards a more effective amelioration for the many social ills which are all about us?

If they follow only the lines of their traditional activities, there are certainly three primary duties which we would all admit belong to even the most conservative women and which no one woman or group of women can adequately discharge, unless they join the more general movements looking toward social amelioration.

The first of these is a responsibility for the members of her own household, that they may be properly fed and clothed and surrounded by hygienic conditions.

The second is responsibility for the education of children, that they may be provided with good schools, or kept free from vicious influences on the streets, and as a natural result of this concern, that when they first go to work that they shall be protected from dangerous machinery and from exhausting hours.

The third is responsibility for the social standards of the community, implying some comprehension of the difficulties and perplexities of the newly arrived immigrant, and adequate provision for the cultivation of music and other art sources which the community may contain.

We have already touched upon the first line of obligation and the difficulty of securing pure food without the help of pure food laws on the part of State and federal authorities and the impossibility of keeping the tenement family in sanitary surroundings without the constant regulation on the part of city officials. If the public authorities are indifferent to wretched conditions, as they often are, the only effective way to secure their reform is by a concerted effort on the part of the women who are responsible for the households. Perhaps you will permit me to illustrate from the Hull House Woman’s Club: One summer, fifteen years ago, we discovered the death rate in our ward for children under five years of age was far above the average, rating second highest of any ward in town. An investigation disclosed that, among other things, the refuse was not properly collected. The woman’s club divided the ward into sections, and three times every week certain women went through each section in order to find out what could be done to make the territory clean. Of course it is not very pleasant to go up and down the alleys and get into trouble with people about garbage conditions; it takes a good deal of moral vigor and civic determination to do it effectively. Yet the members of the club did this day after day until they were able to gather sufficient material to dismiss three inspectors from office and finally to secure the appointment of a competent inspector. When the ward became cleaner, when the death rate fell month by month, and each health bulletin was read in the Woman’s Club, all the members listened with breathless interest. I shall never forget the day, three years later, when the club broke into applause because the death rate of our ward had fallen to the average. They felt that they had been responsible in securing this result, that the neighborhood had been brought into a reasonable condition through their initiative and concerted effort. Of course, the household of each woman profited by the result, but it could not have been secured through the unaided effort of any one household. One might use, by way of illustration, the impossibility of knowing the sanitary conditions under which clothing is produced, unless women join together into an association like the Consumers’ League, which supports officers whose business it is to inform the members of the league as to garments which are made in sweatshops and to indicate by a label those which are produced under sanitary conditions. Country doctors testify as to the outbreak of scarlet fever in remote neighborhoods each autumn, after the children have begun to wear the winter cloaks and overcoats which have been sent from infected city sweatshops. That their mothers mend their stockings and guard them from “taking cold” is not a sufficient protection when the tailoring of the family is done in a distant city under conditions which the mother can not possibly control. Sweatshop legislation and the organization of consumers’ leagues are the most obvious lines of amelioration of those glaring social evils which directly affect family life.

The duty of the mother towards schools which her children attend is so obvious that it is not necessary to dwell upon it, but even this simple obligation can not be effectively carried out without some form of social organization, as the mothers’ school clubs and mothers’ congresses testify. But women are also beginning to realize that children need attention outside of school hours; that much of the petty vice in cities is merely the love of pleasure one wrong, the over-restrained boy or girl seeking improper recreation and excitement. In Chicago a map has recently been made demonstrating that juvenile crime is decreasing in the territory surrounding the finely equipped playgrounds and athletic fields which the South Park Board three years ago placed in thirteen small parks. We know in Chicago, from ten years’ experience in a juvenile court, that many boys are arrested from sheer excess of animal spirits, because they do not know what to do with themselves after school. The most daring thing the leader of a gang of boys can do is to break into an empty house, steal the plumbing fixtures and sell them for money with which to treat the gang. Of course that sort of thing gets a boy into very serious trouble, and is almost sure to land him in the reform school. It is obvious that a little collective study of the needs of the boys, a sympathetic understanding of the conditions under which they go astray, might save hundreds of them. Women traditionally have had an opportunity to observe the plays of children and the needs of growing boys, and yet they have done singularly little in this vexed problem of juvenile delinquency until they helped to inaugurate the juvenile court movement a dozen years ago; since then they have done valiant service, and they are at last trying to minimize some of the dangers of city life which boys and girls encounter; they are beginning to see the relation between public recreation and social morality. The women of Chicago are studying the effect of these recreational centers provided by the South Park Committee upon the social life of the older people who use them. One thing they have done is enormously to decrease the patronage of the neighboring saloons. Before we had these park houses, the saloon hall was hired for weddings and christenings, or any sort of an event which in the foreign mind is associated with general feasting, because the only places for hire were the public halls attached to the saloons. As you know, the saloon hall is rented free, with the understanding that a certain amount of money be paid across the bar; that is, the rent must be made up in other ways. The park hall, of course, is under no such temptation and, therefore, drinking has almost ceased at the parties held in the parks. If a man must go two or three blocks to get an alcoholic drink, and can step down-stairs to secure other refreshments, it goes without saying that in most cases he [end page 52] does the latter. The park halls close promptly at eleven o’clock. The city is, therefore, approaching the temperance problem from the point of view of substitution, which appears to some of us more reasonable than the solely restrictive method. Many of the larger movements towards social amelioration in which women are active have taken their rise from the interest the women felt in the affairs of the juvenile court, and yet this does not mean that collective effort minimizes individual concern. On the other hand, we often see a woman stirred to individual effort only after she has been brought into contact with the general movement. I recall a woman in the Hull House neighborhood who, although she had a large family of her own, took charge every evening of a boy whose mother scrubbed offices down-town every day from five o’clock in the afternoon until eleven at night. This kindly woman gave the boy his supper with her own children, saw that he got into no difficulty during the evening, and allowed him to sleep on the lounge in her sitting-room until his mother came by in the evening and took him home. After she had been doing this for about six months, I spoke to her about it one day and congratulated her on her success with the boy, who had formerly been a ward of the juvenile court. She replied that she had undertaken to help the boy because the juvenile court officer had spoken to her about him and had said that he thought she might be willing to help because he had observed her interest in juvenile court matters. Although the boy’s mother was a neighbor of hers, she had not apparently seen her obligation to the lad until it had been brought home to her in this somewhat remote way. It is another illustration of our inability to see the duty “next to hand” until we have become alert through our knowledge of conditions in connection with the larger duties. We would all agree that social amelioration must come about through the efforts of many people who are moved thereto by the compunction and stirring of the individual conscience, but we are only beginning to understand that the individual conscience will respond to the special challenge and will heed the call largely in proportion as the individual is able to see the social conditions and intelligently to understand the larger need. Therefore, careful investigation and mutual discussion is perhaps the first step in securing the legal enactment and civic amelioration of obvious social ills.

The third line of effort which every community needs to have carried on if it would obtain a social life in any real sense, I may perhaps illustrate from experiments at Hull House, not because they have been especially successful, but because an attempt has there been made to develop the social resources of an immigrant community.

If an historian, one hundred years from now, should write the social history of America, he would probably say that one of the marked characteristics of our time was the arrival of immigrants at the rate of a million a year and the fact that the American people had little social connection with them. If the historian a hundred years hence used the same phrases which the psychologists now use perhaps they will get over them by that time he would say that our minds seem to be “inhibited” by certain mental concepts which apparently prevented us from forming social relations with immigrants. What are these mental concepts, this state of mind which keeps us apart from the immigrant populations? The difference in language, in religion, in history and tradition always makes social intercourse difficult, and yet every year people go to Europe, for the very purpose of overcoming that difference and of seeing the life of other nations. They discover that people may differ in language and education and still possess similar interests. We would say that a person who went to Europe and returned without that point of view had made rather a failure of his trip. In the midst of American cities there are various colonies of immigrants who represent European life and conditions, and that we who stay at home know so little about them is only because we do not make the adequate effort. We have in the neighborhood of Hull House a colony of about five thousand Greeks, who once produced in the Hull House theater the classic play of “Ajax,” written by Sophocles. The Greeks were very much surprised when the professors came from the various universities in order to follow the play in the Greek text from books which they brought with them. The Greeks were surprised, because they did not know there were so many people in Chicago who cared for ancient Greece. The professors in turn were astonished to know that the modern Greeks were able to give such a charming interpretation of Sophocles. It was a mutual revelation on both sides. On one side the Greeks felt more nearly a part of America, and on the other side the professors felt that perhaps the traditions had not been so wholly broken in the case of Greece as they had been led to believe. It would have been difficult for the Greeks to have made for themselves all the preliminary arrangements for this play; they needed some people to act as ambassador, as it were, and yet they themselves possessed this tradition, the historic background, this beauty of classic form, which our American cities so sadly need and which they were able to supply.

We may illustrate from Italy, if you please, the very word which charms us so completely when we hear it on the other side of the Atlantic, and yet it means so little to us in our own country. These colonies of Italians might yield to our American life something very valuable if their resources were intelligently studied and developed. They have all sorts of artistic susceptibility, and even trained craftsmanship, which is never recovered for use here. I tell the story sometimes of an Italian who was threatened with arrest by his landlord because he had ornamented the doorpost of his tenement with a piece of beautiful wood carving. The Italian was very much astonished at this result of his attempt to make his home more beautiful. He could not understand why his landlord did not like it; he said that he had carved a reredos in a church in Naples, which Americans came to look at and which they thought was very beautiful; the man was naturally bewildered by the contrast between the appreciation of his work in Naples and Chicago. And yet we need nothing more in America than that same tendency to make beautiful the surroundings of our common life. The man’s skill was a very precious thing, and ought to have been conserved and utilized in our American life. The Italians in our neighborhood occasionally agitate for the erection of a public wash-house. They do not like to wash in their own tenements; they have never seen a washing tub until they came to America, and find it very difficult to use it in the restricted space of their little kitchens and to hang the clothes within the house to dry. They say that in Italy washing clothes is a pleasant task. In the villages the women all go to the stream together; in the towns, to the public wash-house, and washing, instead of being lonely and disagreeable, is made pleasant by cheerful conversation. It is asking a great deal of these women to change suddenly all their habits of living, and their contention that the tenement house kitchen is too small for laundry work is well taken. If women in Chicago knew the needs of the Italian colony and were conversant with their living in Italy, they, too, would agitate for the erection of public wash-houses for the use of Italian women. Anything that would bring cleanliness and fresh clothing into the Italian households would be a very sensible and hygienic measure. It is, perhaps, asking a great deal that the members of the city council should understand this, but surely a comprehension of the needs of these women and efforts towards ameliorating their lot might be regarded as a matter of conscientious duty on the part of American women.

One constantly sees also, in the Italian colony, that sad break between the customs of the older people and their children, who, because they have learned English and certain American ways, come to be half ashamed of their parents. It does not make for good Americans that the children should thus cut themselves away from the European past. If the reverse could be brought about; if the children, by some understanding of the past, could assist their parents in making the transition to American habits and customs, it would be most valuable from both points of view. An Italian girl who has gone to the public school and has had lessons in cooking and the household arts, will help her mother much more and connect the entire family with American foods and household habits more easily, if she understands her mother’s Italian experiences. That the mother has never baked bread in Italy only mixed it in her own house, and then taken it out to the village oven makes it all the more necessary that her daughter should understand the complication of a cooking stove and introduce her to its mysteries. At the same time, the daughter and her American teacher could get something of the historic sense and background in the long line of woman’s household work by knowing this primitive woman and learning from her some of the old recipes and methods which have been preserved among the simplest people because of their worth. Take the girl who learns to sew in the public school, whose Italian mother is able to spin with the old stick spindle, reaching back to the period of Homer and David; who knows how to weave and to make her own loom; such a girl’s mother could bring a most valuable background into a schoolroom over-filled with machine-made products, often shoddy and meaningless. As the old crafts may be recovered from a foreign colony and used for the edification of our newer cities, so it is possible to recover something of the arts. We have in Hull House a music school in which some of the foreign-born children have been pupils for twelve years. These children often discover in the neighboring foreign colonies old folk songs which have never been reduced to writing. The music school reproduces these songs and invites the older people to hear them; their pleasure at such a concert is quite touching as they hear the familiar melodies connecting them with their earliest experiences; reminiscent perhaps of their parents and grandparents.

After all, what is the function of art but to preserve in permanent and beautiful form those emotions and solaces which cheer life, make it kindlier and more comprehensible, lift the mind of the worker from the harshness of his task, and, by connecting him with what has gone before, free him from a sense of isolation and hardship? Many American women of education are beginning to feel a sense of obligation for work of this sort. If women have been responsible in any sense for that gentler side of life which softens and blurs some of the conditions of life, then certainly they have a duty to perform in the large foreign colonies which make up so large a part of the American cities. I am sure illustrations occur to all of you as to what might be done in this third line of responsibility, for, whatever we think as to a woman’s fitness to secure betterment through legal enactment, we must agree that responsibility for social standards has always been hers.

In closing, may I recapitulate that if woman would fulfill her traditional responsibility to her own children; if she would educate and protect from danger the children in the community, who now work in factories although they formerly worked in households; if she would in any sense meet the difficulties which modern immigration has brought us; then she must be concerned to push her conscience into the general movements for social amelioration.

● Anonymous, Letter to Margaret Sanger, 1920s

This was one of many letters sent to Margaret Sanger by women in the 1920s.

I am a woman thirty-one years of age and the mother of four children, three girls and one boy. The oldest child is nine years and youngest five months. I am small in stature, weighing only ninety-two pounds while my husband is large, weighing 192 pounds at present time. We feel we simply cannot afford to have any more children. Am sure if we raise and educate our four children we are doing our share. It costs a great deal to feed and clothe and educate children. I think it a great sin to bring them into the world to just grow up any old way, as so many children do. I feel that I cannot train and mould more than four little lives as I do all my own work, washing, ironing, etc. I do not have much extra time to be with my children. As you see we are poor people.

The question is worrying me how to keep from becoming pregnant.

When my first three children were born I got along very well in confinement but five months ago when my last baby came I had a horrible time. The baby was so large I could not give enough and it came very near being the end for us both; as it is he is partially paralyzed in his left shoulder caused from the doctor pulling so hard on his neck and stretching the nerve in his shoulder from the pressure.

It seems to me I cannot risk going through it again. I cannot afford to go to the hospital at such times and am afraid it will sooner or later kill me. As you know there are harmless remedies[;] how much better it would be for me to know how to care for myself so that I might live to see my children grown. Can’t you tell me what to do to keep from becoming pregnant?

● Margaret Sanger, excerpt from The Woman Rebel. No Gods No Masters, March 1914.

This is an excerpt from an essay in Sanger’s magazine.

Is there any reason why women should not receive clean, harmless, scientific knowledge on how to prevent conception? Everybody is aware that the old, stupid fallacy that such knowledge will cause a girl to enter into prostitution has long been shattered. Seldom does a prostitute become pregnant. Seldom does the girl practicing promiscuity become pregnant. The woman of the upper middle class have all available knowledge and implements to prevent conception. The woman of the lower middle class is struggling for this knowledge. She tries various methods of prevention, and after a few years of experience plus medical advice succeeds in discovering some method suitable to her individual self. The woman of the people is the only one left in ignorance of this information. Her neighbors, relatives and friends tell her stories of special devices and the success of them all. They tell her also of the blood-sucking men with M. D. after their names who perform operations for the price of so-and-so. But the working woman’s purse is thin. Its far cheaper to have a baby, “though God knows what it will do after it gets here.” Then, too, all other classes of women live in places where there is at least a semblance of privacy and sanitation. It is easier for them to care for themselves whereas the large majority of the women of the people have no bathing or sanitary conveniences. This accounts too for the fact that the higher the standard of living, the more care can be taken and fewer children result. No plagues, famine or wars could ever frighten the capitalist class so much as the universal practice of the prevention of conception. On the other hand no better method could be utilized for increasing the wages of the workers.

SOURCES FOR 4b (Five sources)

●  Maurice Jackson, “Fighting for Democracy in World War I—Overseas and Over Here,” History Now 46 (Fall 2016), The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History 49 W. 45th Street, 6th Floor · NYC, NY 10036 (646) 366-9666 © 2009–2013 All Rights Reserved

The United States invaded Haiti, its southern neighbor, in 1915—effectively making it a US protectorate—citing concern over the influence of Germany and France, the financial and political instability of the country, and the “safety” of the newly opened Panama Canal. Yet as war loomed over Europe the US did not declare war with Germany right away, first breaking diplomatic relations on February 3, 1917. On April 2, 1917, President Wilson went before a joint session of Congress to request that war be declared. The Senate voted on April 4 and the House on April 6 to support his appeal.

War plans had been in the making, and “more than a month before the United States declared war, the First Separate Battalion (Colored) of the Washington, D.C., National Guard was mustered into federal service.” [1] The regiment had at first been assigned to guard the buildings of the Federal Enclave, including the “White House, the Capitol, and other federal buildings, and facilities such as bridges and water supply, against possible enemy sabotage.”[2] A source of pride to blacks in Washington, there was white resistance to the battalion’s mobilization and deployment overseas. None was more verbal than Kentucky congressman Robert Y. Thomas, who said, “I know that a nigger knows nothing about patriotism, love of country, or morality . . . they are going to make trouble wherever they go.”[3] Racist propaganda insisted that blacks could never be men of valor and were not to be trusted on the battlefield. Yet as the war preparations continued, black troops were needed and proved invaluable, just as in the Civil War.

Soon W. E. B. Du Bois caused a stir with his “Close Ranks” essay published in The Crisis in July 1918. The second paragraph of the essay reads:

We of the colored race have no ordinary interest in the outcome. That which the German power represents today spells death to the aspirations of Negroes and all darker races for equality, freedom and democracy. Let us not hesitate. Let us, while this war lasts, forget our special grievances and close our ranks shoulder to shoulder with our own white fellow citizens and the allied nations that are fighting for democracy. We make no ordinary sacrifice, but we make it gladly and willingly with our eyes lifted to the hills.[4]

Immediately the black press, including Du Bois’s allies, took up verbal arms against his seeming acquiescence. The Pittsburgh Courier editorial was swift and cutting: “The learned Dr. Du Bois has seldom packed more error into a single sentence.”[5]

Chad L. Williams has pointed out that “the War Department implicitly acknowledged the military and political impossibility of assigning every African American draftee for labor duties and thus began floating various ideas for establishing combat units composed of black men procured through the Selective Service System.”[6] Emmett J. Scott was assigned to be the Special Adjutant to the Secretary of War Newton D. Baker.[7] As Baker’s confidential adviser, Scott held “the highest government position ever achieved by a Black.”[8] Scott wrote that blacks should not view him as being able to “effectively abolish overnight all racial discriminations and injustices.”[9] He could not.

African Americans were organized into four regiments under the 93rd infantry division. The four units were the 369th (New York, already sent to France), the 370th (Illinois, which had black officers), the 371st (draftees), and the 372nd. The 372nd regiment was composed of six National Guard units from Washington DC, and the First Battalion Companies A-D, from Maryland, Tennessee, Massachusetts, Ohio, and Connecticut. At first two of the three battalions were led by black officers, but that quickly changed by order of Secretary of War Baker.[10]

The 372nd was first led by a notoriously bigoted white officer, Colonel Glendie Young, instead of its ranking African American, Charles Young, who Du Bois had hoped “might be given his chance here but nothing came of this.”[11] Although racially insensitive officers led the regular Army, the National Guard unit’s leadership, which was led under individual state authority, was far worse.

According to Gail Buckley, “by July 5, 1917, more than 700,000 blacks were registered; less than 10% of the U.S. population, they made up 13% of all U.S. draftees. Of the 367,000 black draftees who ultimately served, 89% were assigned to labor, supply, and service units. Only 11 percent of all black military forces would see combat—the National Guard, and a few southern draftee units.”[12] Gerald Astor writes that of the “404,308 African Americans in the Army . . . around 42,000 could be listed as combat soldiers with 90 percent of them serving in the two infantry divisions.”[13] By January 1919, most had been assigned to segregated units and about 20 percent fought in two specially created all-black combat units.

About 160,000 of the 200,000 blacks sent to France served in SOS [service] units. Roughly 20 percent of the black soldiers or about 40,000 men who were in combat were in the 92nd and 93rd Infantry Divisions. The 372nd division was sent to Alsace, where they fought with the 157th French Division. The men of the 372nd were led by senior white and junior black officers. They arrived in France in early summer of 1918 and joined the French 157th Red Hand Division.[14] The French commanding general paid tribute, stating “[t]he ‘Red Hand’ sign of the Division, thanks to you [black soldiers], became a bloody hand . . . You have well avenged our glorious dead.”[15]

As African Americans began to arrive on French shores in 1918, most under British or French command, they were exploited and often degraded by white officers. For some, “the French experience became decisive in the development of a new sense of solidarity,” among themselves and some of the African units.[16] The French people did not have the problems that the American whites had in recognizing the heroics of black Americans. Some white officers were able to overcome the racism. Said one: “I’d take my chance of going anywhere with these black soldiers at my back. So would any of the rest of the officers.”[17] In total, during the war the 93rd Division suffered 584 men killed and 2,852 wounded.[18] Of the 400,000 black soldiers, about “20 percent served in combat roles.”[19] The men of the 372nd suffered more than 600 casualties. The French government awarded the regiment the Croix de Guerre with Palm. Three of its officers were honored with the French Legion of Honor, 123 men personally won the Croix de Guerre, and twenty-six were awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.[20] The “First Separate Battalion” also received the Croix de Guerre.[21]

The most famous unit was the 369th Infantry known as the Harlem Hellfighters because they were a New York African American regiment. The US Army would not allow them to serve alongside white soldiers, so they were merged into the French military and were supplied with French supplies, were based in French camps, and fought in France. Many are buried near the Argonne Forests and others near the trenches of Aisne-Marne. Black soldiers had longed to go home from the war and some sang the verses:

I ain’t got no business in Germany And I don’t want to go to France Lawd, I want to go home, I want to go home.[22]

Some returning soldiers later were lynched while still in their military uniforms. Sadly it was not until June 2, 2015—when President Barack Obama posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor to Private Henry Johnson, a member of the famed Harlem Hellfighters—that those African Americans who served received due recognition for their service.[23] One of Johnson’s compatriots said of the French appreciation of Johnson and his fellow Bronze fighters,

France has wept over them—wept the tears of gratitude and love. France had sung and danced and cried to their music. France had given its first war medal for an American private to one of their number. France had given them the collective citation of flying the Croix de Guerre streamers at the peak of its colors. France had kissed those colored soldiers—kissed them with reverence and in honor, first upon the right cheek and then upon the left.[24]

Other soldiers came home with renewed hope, military discipline, and knowledge of weapons. W. E. B. Du Bois wrote of their bravery in war, and of the racism they came home to, in his article “Returning Soldiers”:

We return. We return from fighting. We return fighting.

Make way for Democracy! We saved it in France, and by the Great Jehovah, we will save it in the United States of America, or know the reason why.[25]

[1] Arthur E. Barbeau and Florette Henri, The Unknown Soldiers: Black American Troops in World War I (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1974), 19.

[2] Barbeau and Henri, The Unknown Soldiers, 19–20.

[3] Quoted in Barbeau and Henri, The Unknown Soldiers, 78.

[4] W. E. B. Du Bois, “Close Ranks,” in David Levering Lewis, ed., W. E. B. Du Bois: A Reader (New York: Henry Holt and Co., 1995), 697.

[5] Pittsburgh Courier, July 20, 1918, quoted in David Levering Lewis, W. E. B. Du Bois: Biography of a Race, 1868–1919 (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1994), 556.

[6] Chad L. Williams, Torchbearers of Democracy: African American Soldiers in the World War I Era (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2010), 67.

[7] Emmett J. Scott, “The Participation of Negroes in World War I: An Introductory Statement,” Journal of Negro Education 12 (1943), 288–297.

[8] Gail Buckley, American Patriots: The Story of Blacks in the Military from the Revolution to Desert Storm (New York: Random House, 2001), 178–179.

[9] Emmett J. Scott, Official History of the American Negro in the World War (1919), quoted in Buckley, American Patriots, 179.

[10] Barbeau and Henri, The Unknown Soldiers, 79.

[11] W. E. B. Du Bois, “An Essay toward a History of the Black Man in the Great War” in Lewis, ed., W. E. B. Du Bois: A Reader, 711.

[12] Buckley, American Patriots, 165.

[13] Gerald Astor, The Right to Fight: A History of African Americans in the Military (Novato CA: Presidio Press, 1998), 110.

[14] Lt. Col. [Ret.] Michael Lee Lanning, The African-American Soldier: From Crispus Attucks to Colin Powell (Secaucus NJ: Carol Publishing Group, 1999), 145.

[15] The Record of the 372nd, Chapter XVII, http://net.lib.byu.edu/estu/wwi/comment/scott/SCh17.htm. In French units there were about 500,000 African soldiers. While Africans who fought for France were given French citizenship, black Americans were not even given equal American citizenship.

[16] Dick van Galen Last with Ralf Futselaar, Black Shame: African Soldiers in Europe, 1914–1922 (London: Bloomsbury, 2015), 84.

[17] Quoted in Chester D. Heywood, Negro Combat Troops in the World War (Worcester MA: Commonwealth Press, 1928), 10.

[18] Monroe Mason and Arthur Furr, The American Negro with the Red Hand of France (Boston: Cornwill, 1920), 43–44. Upon arriving in France, the 372nd Infantry was immediately assigned to the 157th Infantry of the French Army—the renowned Red Hand Division—to help fight in the famous Meuse-Argonne offensive.

[19] Jeffrey B. Ferguson, The Harlem Renaissance: A Brief History with Documents (Boston: Bedford/ St. Martin’s, 2008), 5.

[20] Jami Bryan, “Fighting for Respect: African-American Soldiers in WWI” (2003), http://www.militaryhistoryonline.com/wwi/articles/fightingforrespect.aspx.

[21] Barbeau and Henri, The Unknown Soldiers, 131.

[22] James Weldon Johnson, Black Manhattan (1930; repr. New York, 1968), 232–233; Barbeau and Henri, Unknown Soldiers, 204.

[23] See Michael E. Ruane, “Harlem Hellfighters: In WWI, we were good enough to go anyplace,” Washington Post, June 1, 2015, and Sarah Kaplan, “WWI ‘Harlem Hellfighter,’ relegated by racism, to receive Medal of Honor,” Washington Post, May 15, 2015. The campaign to honor Henry Johnson was led by US senator Charles E. Schumer (D-New York). On May 5, 2015, Senator Schumer issued a press release entitled “An American Hero Will Finally Get the Medal He Deserves.”

[24] Quoted in van Galen Last and Futselaar, Black Shame, 85.

[25] W. E. B. Du Bois, “Returning Soldiers,” The Crisis 18 (May 1919): 13–14.

Maurice Jackson is Associate Professor of History and African American Studies at Georgetown University. He is the author of Let This Voice Be Heard: Anthony Benezet, Father of Atlantic Abolitionism (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2009), and the co-editor of African Americans and the Haitian Revolution (Routledge, 2009) and Quakers and Their Allies in the Abolitionist Cause, 1754–1808 (Routledge, 2015).

● James W. Alston, letter, “James W. Alston to H. H. Brimley,” Nov. 1, 1918.

James William Alston was born in Wake County, NC on January 16, 1876. In 1907, he started working as a janitor and messenger for the State Museum. During the war, Alston wrote several letters to H. H. Brimley, who was white. Brimley was a curator and the first director of the State Museum. Alston was one of the first officers to be trained at the newly created African American officer’s training school created at Fort Dodge, Iowa in the spring of 1917. He served as a First Lieutenant in the 372nd Infantry, an all-black regiment, during World War I. Alston From: Digital Public Library of America, Courtesy of North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources via North Carolina Digital Heritage Center.

My Dear Mr. Brimley: You will probably think that I am a long time getting back to the front, but the [illegible] here is the boss and won’t let me go, but promised this morning that I could go in about ten days. My wound is all healed and with the exception of a very little stiffness I am as good as ever. There is so much talk of peace I want to get back and have another try at Fritz before the finish. I think I have pretty well evened the score with him but I want to give him some more for good measure. Fritz can fight like the very devil when he is under cover and has the most men, but can’t stand the Yankee steel and these Yankees, white and black sure love to use their bayonet whenever they can get near enough to him. I am in the southern part of France in the town of Vichy and quartered in one of the best hotels in the town. There are about one hundred officers at the hotel and I the only colored one so you know I am lonesome. I was as hungry as a dog the first night that I was here but walking in the dinning room seeing about one hundred white officer and no colored officers I lost my appetite – but it came back by morning and has stayed with since. I am treated fine by all the officers but most of them say I am a damn fool for wanting to get back to the front. I met Mr Thos. F Ryan’s son he is a Sgt. in the Medical Corps he is sure one fine man, and is crazy to go to the front but the Col. won’t let him. I wish you would send me Mr Garland Jones, and Bob’s address so if any time I am near their outfit I can look them up. I see lots of people from the state but none from Raleigh but prehaps [sic] I will have luck enough to see some one before I come [crossed out in MS: go] back to the good old U.S.A. There is no news except Fritz is catching the very devil. My best regards to Mrs Brimley, Mr & Mrs Adickes [?] and all friends

Yours very respectfully James W Alston 372 R. I. U. S. S.P. 179 France

●  Kathryn Johnson and Addie Hunton, from Two Colored Women with the American Expeditionary Forces, Brooklyn Eagle Press, 1920.

Kathryn Magnolia Johnson (1878–1955), a high school teacher, worked for the NAACP as a field agent from 1913 to 1916, establishing branches in the Midwest and South. Addie Waites Hunton (1866–1943), a fellow teacher, worked as a NAACP field organizer from 1921 to 1924 and helped arrange the 1927 Pan-African Congress. In 1918 Johnson and Hunton sailed for France as YMCA workers to aid black troops. They wrote about their experience in, Two Colored Women with the American Expeditionary Forces, excerpts of which are below.

–Introduction from the Library of Congress.

While there is very little exception to the rule that the colored soldiers were generally and wonderfully helped by the colored secretaries, and while the official heads of the Y. M. C. A. at Paris were in every way considerate and courteous to its colored constituency, still there is no doubt that the attitude of many of the white secretaries in the field was to be deplored. They came from all parts of the United States, North, South, East and West, and brought their native prejudices with them. Our soldiers often told us of signs on Y. M. C. A. huts which read, “No Negroes Allowed”; and sometimes other signs would designate the hours when colored men could be served; we remember seeing such instructions written in crayon on a bulletin board at one of the huts at Camp I, St. Nazaire; signs prohibiting the entrance of colored men were frequently seen during the beginning of the work in that section; but always, when the matter was brought to the attention of Mr. W. S. Wallace, the regional secretary, he would immediately see that they were removed.

Sometimes, even, when there were no such signs, services to colored soldiers would be refused. One such soldier came to the Leave Area, and one day, whereupon the sergeant, still smarting under the insult of the day before, unceremoniously ejected him from the building.

One secretary had a colored band come to his hut to entertain his men. Several colored soldiers followed the band into the hut. The secretary got up and announced that no colored men would be admitted. The leader of the band, a white man, by the way, immediately informed his men that they need not play; whereupon all departed and there was no entertainment. Some huts would permit colored men to come in and purchase supplies at the canteen, but would not let them sit down and write, while others received them without any discrimination whatever.

Quite a deal of unpleasantness was experienced on the boats coming home. One secretary in charge of a party sailing from Bordeaux, attempted to put all the colored men in the steerage. They rebelled and left the ship; whereupon arrangements were made to give them the same accommodations as the others.

On another boat there were nineteen colored welfare workers; all the women were placed on a floor below the white women, and the entire colored party was placed in an obscure, poorly ventilated section of the dining-room, entirely separated from the other workers by a long table of Dutch civilians. The writer immediately protested; the reply was made that southern white workers on board the ship would be insulted if the colored workers ate in the same section of the dining-room with them, and, at any rate, the colored people need not expect any such treatment as had been given them by the French.

But Y. M. C. A. secretaries were not always responsible for discriminations that occurred in the Y. M. C. A. huts. In some places, commanding officers would order signs put up. On another page is a picture of a hut located at Camp Guthrie, near St. Nazaire. The small sign just on the right of the picture says, “Colored Soldiers Only.” The hut secretary here was a colored man, the Rev. T. A. Griffith, formerly of Des Moines, Iowa, and Topeka, Kan. To this hut came many white soldiers to listen to his sermons, and to get into the ice cream line at the canteen. At the same time many of the colored soldiers went to the other hut, where there was a white secretary, to be served in the ice cream line. In time these boys were told that they must get out of the line and be served at their own hut. Simultaneously Rev. Griffith was told to keep the white men out of his line, and let them be served where there were white secretaries. Rev. Griffith did not do this, but left the order to be enforced by the colonel who had made it. When the colonel saw that his order was not being recognized at the colored hut, he had the sign put up as shown in the picture. Rev. Griffith made a number of efforts to get the sign removed, but to no avail.

But there were splendid men among both secretaries and army officials, who honestly and actively opposed discrimination. Mention already has been made of our personal knowledge of Mr. W. S. Wallace at St. Nazaire, who was always on the alert to see that the colored soldiers had a square deal; while at Brest we found an equally fine spirit in the person of Major Roberts, the army welfare officer.

While welfare organizations other than the Y. M. C. A. did not employ colored workers, still, we had the opportunity of observing the attitude they assumed toward the colored troops. It was a part of the multiplicity of the duties of colored Y women to visit the hospitals; here they found colored soldiers placed indiscriminately in wards with white soldiers, while officers were accorded the same treatment as were their white comrades. However, we learned that in some places, colored officers would be placed in wards with private soldiers, instead of being given private rooms, as was their military right; and one soldier tells how, after being twice wounded in the Argonne drive, he was taken to Base Hospital No. 56; here he, and others, waited three days before they could secure the attention of either a doctor or a nurse; but when these attendants finally came, the colored soldiers were taken from the hospital beds and placed on cots which were shoved into one end of the room where there was no heat; they then received medical attention, always after the others had been well attended, and were given the food that remained after the others had been served.

There was one notable incident of discrimination on the part of the Knights of Columbus. It occurred at Camp Romagne, where there were about 9,000 colored soldiers engaged in the heartbreaking task of reburying the dead. The white soldiers here were acting as clerks, and doing the less arduous tasks. The Knights of Columbus erected a tent here and placed thereon a signs to keep colored soldiers away. The colored soldiers, heartsore because they, of all the soldiers, German prisoners, etc., that there were in France, should alone be forced to do this terrible task of moving the dead from where they had been temporarily buried to a permanent resting place, immediately resented the outrage and razed the tent to the ground. The officers became frightened lest there should be mutiny, mounted a machine gun to keep order, and commanded the four colored women who were doing service there to proceed at once to Paris.

The Y. W. C. A. was another welfare organization with overseas workers; their field of service was among the women welfare workers of other organizations, and the French war brides who were waiting to come to America with their American soldier husbands. No colored representative of this organization was sent over, as the number of colored women was so small that she would have had no field in which to operate. Few, if any, of the white Y. W. C. A. workers gave any attention to this little colored group, notwithstanding the fact that they were women, and Americans, just like the others. One, however, remembers a greeting of much insulting superiority and snobbishness, by one of its representatives whom she met on the street. After that she always felt it necessary to keep in places where they were not to be seen. Of course, all of them were not of this type, but there was no way of being sure of those who were not. As an organization there is no doubt that much good was accomplished by them, especially in furnishing reasonable and comfortable hotel accommodations for women welfare workers in Paris, and also in caring for the wives of soldiers who were waiting to come home, in the crowded seaport cities.

The largest Y. M. C. A. hut in France was one built at Camp Lusitania, St. Nazaire, for the use of colored soldiers. It was the first hut built for our boys, and for its longest period of service was under the supervision of Rev. D. Leroy Ferguson, of Louisville, Ky. It reached its highest state of efficiency and cleanliness under Mr. J. C. Croom, of Goldsboro, N. C. It did service for 9,000 men, and had, in addition to the dry canteen, a library of 1,500 volumes, a money-order department which sometimes sent out as much as $2,000 a day to the home folks; a school room where 1,100 illiterates were taught to read and write; a large lobby for writing letters and playing games; and towards the close of the work, a wet canteen, which served hot chocolate, lemonade and cakes to the soldiers.

To this hut one of us was assigned, and served there for nearly nine months. The work was pleasant and profitable to all concerned, and no woman could have received better treatment anywhere than was received at the hands of these 9,000 who helped to fight the battle of St. Nazaire by unloading the great ships that came into the harbor. Among the duties found there were to assist in religious work; to equip a library with books, chairs, tables, decorations, etc., and establish a system of lending books; to write letters for the soldiers; to report allotments that had not been paid; to establish a money order system; to search for lost relatives at home; to do shopping for the boys whose time was too limited to do it themselves; to teach illiterates to read and write; to spend a social hour with those who wanted to tell her their stories of joy or sorrow.

All of this kept one woman so busy that she found no time to think of anything else, not even to take the ten days’ vacation which was allowed her every four months. In a hut of similar size among white soldiers, there would have been at least six women, and perhaps eight men. Here the only woman had from two to five male associates. Colored workers everywhere were so limited that one person found it necessary to do the work of three or four.

Just on the suburbs of St. Nazaire, about two miles from Camp Lusitania, was another hut, the second oldest for colored men in France. Here the other one of the writers spent six months of thrilling, all-absorbing service; while about six miles out, in the little town of Montoir, where thousands of labor troops and engineers had permanent headquarters, the third of the colored women to come to this section ran a large canteen, supplying chocolate, doughnuts, pie and sometimes ice cream to the grateful soldiers. This hut was far too small for the number of soldiers it had to entertain, but it was made large in its hospitality by the genial, good-natured, energetic Mr. William Stevenson, its first hut secretary, now Y. M. C. A. secretary, Washington, D. C. He started the work in a tent, and built it up to a veritable thriving beehive of activity.

There were several other localities in the neighborhood of St. Nazaire, where one colored secretary would be utilized to reach an isolated set. They usually worked in tents. Other places where Y. M. C. A. buildings, huts or tents for colored soldiers were located, were Bordeaux, Brest, Le Mans, Challes-les-Eaux, Chambery, Marseilles, Joinville, Belleau Wood, Fere-en-Tardenois, Orly, Is-sur-Tille, Remacourt, Chaumont, and Camp Romagne near Verdun.

Rolling canteens ran out from some places, reaching points where the soldiers had no Y. M. C. A. conveniences. This was a small automobile truck, equipped with material for serving chocolate and doughnuts, and operated by a chauffeur, and a Y woman who dispensed smiles and sunshine to the ofttimes homesick boys, along with whatever she had to tempt their appetites.

The last, and perhaps the most difficult piece of constructive work done by the colored workers, was at Camp Pontanezen, Brest. It has been told in another chapter how one of the writers received Brest as her first appointment, and how she was immediately informed upon her arrival that because of the roughness of the colored men, she would not be allowed to serve them. That woman went away with the determination to return to Brest, and serve the colored men there, if there was any way to make an opening; so after finishing her work in the Leave Area, she and her co-worker, who had been relieved from duty at Camp Ramagne, were finally permitted to go there, as has been previously explained.

Upon their arrival, they were told that they would be assigned to Camp President Lincoln, where there were about 12,000 S. O. S. troops. Here there were several secretaries and chaplains, and the need was greater at Camp Pontanezen, where there were 40,000 men, and only one colored secretary. The writers requested that they be located there. The appointment was held up for one day, and finally they became located at Soldiers’ Rest Hut, in the desired camp.

They were told that they must retain a room in the city, as the woman’s dormitory at Camp Pontanezen was filled to its capacity. But they contended that to do so would take them away from the soldiers at a time in the evening when they could be of the greatest service. Finally, it was arranged for them to stay in the hut, much to the dissatisfaction of the white secretary in charge.

The next morning before they left their room, a message was received, telling them that transportation would be at the door at any moment they desired, to take them back to Brest; that Major Roberts, the Camp Welfare Officer, had said that they must not stay in the hut. Upon investigation by Mr. B. F. Lee, Jr., the lone colored secretary at this tremendous camp, it was learned that Major Roberts had been told that the women were uncomfortable, and did not wish to stay.

Mr. Lee explained that such was not true. The Welfare Officer then visited the hut, talked with the women, recognized the situation, gave his consent to their staying, and assured them that he was willing and ready to do anything in his power to make them comfortable, and assist in equipping the hut. The white secretary, seeing that the women were going to stay, acquiesced in the situation, instead of moving out, and did everything he could to assist.

After this there was no difficulty experienced at Camp Pontanezen. The camp secretary and his staff put every means at our disposal to assist us in the work, while the head of the women’s work was at all times helpful and sympathetic. From the time she received us at Brest, until our departure, she showed us every consideration and courtesy due Y. M. C. A. secretaries.

During the nearly seven weeks there, the chief of the women’s work for France paid the city a visit, in order that she might, among other things, visit the colored work.

The two women remained in the same hut about two weeks, when Major Roberts gave one of the most beautiful huts in the camp to the colored soldiers. It had been occupied by the 106th Engineers, and had been built for their own private use. It contained a beautiful stage; a large auditorium, seating 1,100 people, with a balcony and boxes for officers. It also had a beautiful library and reading room, as well as a wet canteen. To this hut came Mr. B. F. Lee, Jr., and one of the women, while the other remained at Soldiers’ Rest Hut, and became its hut secretary. To join them came two other women from Paris, one of whom was placed in each hut, making the total number of women secretaries, four.

The new hut was quickly gotten in order, sleeping quarters being arranged, a new library built, and a game room made by removing partitions from under the balcony.

There were several other large huts at Camp Pontanezen, that were used for long periods exclusively by colored soldiers; but in the absence of colored women, white women, sometimes as many as five in a hut, gave a service that was necessarily perfunctory, because their prejudices would not permit them to spend a social hour with a homesick colored boy, or even to sew on a service stripe, were they asked to do so. But the very fact that they were there showed a change in the policy from a year previous, when a colored woman even was not permitted to serve them.

In nearly all the Y. M. C. A. huts, in every section of France, moving pictures would be operated every afternoon and evening. Many times before the movies, some kind of an entertainment would be furnished by the entertainment department of the Y. M. C. A. There were shows furnished by French or American dramatists; concert parties by singers and musicians of all nationalities, and frequently a lecture on health and morals. The movies and shows were the most popular forms of entertainment, and on these occasions the huts would always be crowded, as all entertainments given by the Y. M. C. A. were free.

The organization also did much to promote clean morals among the men, by the free distribution of booklets, tracts, and wholesome pictures. This literature would be placed in literature cases, and the men would select their own material, while the pictures would be placed in parts of the hut where they would be easily visible. Some of the booklets which were unusually popular among the men were “Nurse and Knight,” “Out of the Fog,“ “When a Man’s Alone,” “The Spirit of a Soldier,“and ”A Square Deal”; while quantities of other stories with sharply drawn morals were distributed by the thousands and thousands of copies.

All told, the Y. M. C. A., with a tremendous army of workers, many of whom were untrained, did a colossal piece of welfare work overseas. The last hut for the colored Americans in France was closed at Camp Pontanezen, Brest, on August 3, 1919, by one of the writers; the two of them having given the longest period of active service of any of the colored women who went overseas.

From Addie W. Hunton and Kathryn M. Johnson,Two Colored Women With The American Expeditionary Forces, (Brooklyn, NY: Brooklyn-Eagle Press, 1920), pp. 26–39, 53–54.

● George Schuyler, “The Negro Art Hokum,” The Nation, June 16, 1926

The author was an African American journalist and social commentator.

Negro art “made in America” is as non-existent as the widely advertised profundity of Cal Coolidge, the “seven years of progress” of Mayor Hylan, or the reported sophistication of New Yorkers. Negro art there has been, is, and will be among the numerous black nations of Africa; but to suggest the possibility of any such development among the ten million colored people in this republic is self-evident foolishness. Eager apostles from Greenwich Village, Harlem, and environs proclaimed a great renaissance of Negro art just around the corner waiting to be ushered on the scene by those whose hobby is taking races, nations, peoples, and movements under their wing. New art forms expressing the “peculiar” psychology of the Negro were about to flood the market. In short, the art of Homo Africanus was about to electrify the waiting world. Skeptics patiently waited. They still wait.

True, from dark-skinned sources have come those slave songs based on Protestant hymns and Biblical texts known as the spirituals, work songs and secular songs of sorrow and tough luck known as the blues, that outgrowth of ragtime known as jazz (in the development of which whites have assisted), and the Charleston, an eccentric dance invented by the gamins around the public market-place in Charleston, S. C. No one can or does deny this. But these are contributions of a caste in a certain section of the country. They are foreign to Northern Negroes, West Indian Negroes, and African Negroes. They are no more expressive or characteristic of the Negro race than the music and dancing of the Appalachian highlanders or the Dalmatian peasantry are expressive or characteristic of the Caucasian race. If one wishes to speak of the musical contributions of the peasantry of the south, very well. Any group under similar circumstances would have produced something similar. It is merely a coincidence that this peasant class happens to be of a darker hue than the other inhabitants of the land. One recalls the remarkable likeness of the minor strains of the Russian mujiks to those of the Southern Negro.

As for the literature, painting, and sculpture of Aframericans—such as there is—it is identical in kind with the literature, painting, and sculpture of white Americans: that is, it shows more or less evidence of European influence. In the field of drama little of any merit has been written by and about Negroes that could not have been written by whites. The dean of the Aframerican literati written by and about Negroes that could not have been written by whites. The dean of the Aframerican literati is W. E. B. Du Bois, a product of Harvard and German universities; the foremost Aframerican sculptor is Meta Warwick Fuller, a graduate of leading American art schools and former student of Rodin; while the most noted Aframerican painter, Henry Ossawa Tanner, is dean of American painters in Paris and has been decorated by the French Government. Now the work of these artists is no more “expressive of the Negro soul”—as the gushers put it—than are the scribblings of Octavus Cohen or Hugh Wiley.

This, of course, is easily understood if one stops to realize that the Aframerican is merely a lampblacked Anglo-Saxon. If the European immigrant after two or three generations of exposure to our schools, politics, advertising, moral crusades, and restaurants becomes indistinguishable from the mass of Americans of the older stock (despite the influence of the foreign-language press), how much truer must it be of the sons of Ham who have been subjected to what the uplifters call Americanism for the last three hundred years. Aside from his color, which ranges from very dark brown to pink, your American Negro is just plain American. Negroes and whites from the same localities in this country talk, think, and act about the same. Because a few writers with a paucity of themes have seized upon imbecilities of the Negro rustics and clowns and palmed them off as authentic and characteristic Aframerican behavior, the common notion that the black American is so “different” from his white neighbor has gained wide currency. The mere mention of the word “Negro” conjures up in the average white American’s mind a composite stereotype of Bert Williams, Aunt Jemima, Uncle Tom, Jack Johnson, Florian Slappey, and the various monstrosities scrawled by the cartoonists. Your average Aframerican no more resembles this stereotype than the average American resembles a composite of Andy Gump, Jim Jeffries, and a cartoon by Rube Goldberg.

Again, the Aframerican is subject to the same economic and social forces that mold the actions and thoughts of the white Americans. He is not living in a different world as some whites and a few Negroes would have me believe. When the jangling of his Connecticut alarm clock gets him out of his Grand Rapids bed to a breakfast similar to that eaten by his white brother across the street; when he toils at the same or similar work in mills, mines, factories, and commerce alongside the descendants of Spartacus, Robin Hood, and Erik the Red; when he wears similar clothing and speaks the same language with the same degree of perfection; when he reads the same Bible and belongs to the Baptist, Methodist, Episcopal, or Catholic church; when his fraternal affiliations also include the Elks, Masons, and Knights of Pythias; when he gets the same or similar schooling, lives in the same kind of houses, owns the same Hollywood version of life on the screen; when he smokes the same brands of tobacco and avidly peruses the same puerile periodicals; in short, when he responds to the same political, social, moral, and economic stimuli in precisely the same manner as his white neighbor, it is sheer nonsense to talk about “racial differences” as between the American black man and the American white man. Glance over a Negro newspaper (it is printed in good Americanese) and you will find the usual quota or crime news, scandal, personals, and uplift to be found in the average white newspaper—which, by the way, is more widely read by the Negroes than is the Negro press. In order to satisfy the cravings of an inferiority complex engendered by the colorphobia of the mob, the readers of the Negro newspapers are given a slight dash of racialistic seasoning. In the homes of the black and white Americans of the same cultural and economic level one finds similar furniture, literature, and conversation. How, then, can the black American be expected to produce art and literature dissimilar to that of the white American?

Consider Coleridge-Taylor, Edward Wilmot Blyden, and Claude McKay, the Englishmen; Pushkin, the Russian; Bridgewater, the Pole; Antar, the Arabian; Latino, the Spaniard; Dumas, père and fils,the Frenchmen; and Paul Laurence Dunbar, Charles W. Chestnut, and James Weldon Johnson, the Americans. All Negroes; yet their work shows the impress of nationality rather than race. They all reveal the psychology and culture of their environment—their color is incidental. Why should Negro artists of America vary from the national artistic norm when Negro artists in other countries have not done so? If we can foresee what kind of white citizens will inhabit this neck of the woods in the next generation by studying the sort of education and environment the children are exposed to now, it should not be difficult to reason that the adults of today are what they are because of the education and environment they were exposed to a generation ago. And that education and environment were about the same for blacks and whites. One contemplates the popularity of the Negro-art hokum and murmurs, “How-come?”

This nonsense is probably the last stand or the old myth palmed off by Negrophobists for all these many years, and recently rehashed by the sainted Harding, that there are “fundamental, eternal, and inescapable differences” between white and black Americans. That there are Negroes who will lend this myth a helping hand need occasion no surprise. It has been broadcast all over the world by the vociferous scions of slaveholders, “scientists” like Madison Grant and Lothrop Stoddard, and the patriots who flood the treasure of the Ku Klux Klan; and is believed, even today, by the majority of free, white citizens. On this baseless premise, so flattering to the white mob, that the blackamoor is inferior and fundamentally different, is erected the postulate that he must needs be peculiar; and when he attempts to portray life through the medium of art, it must of necessity be a peculiar art. While such reasoning may seem conclusive to the majority of Americans, it must be rejected with a loud guffaw by intelligent people.

● Langston Hughes, “The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain,” The Nation, June 26, 1926

The author was an African American poet, novelist, playwright, and social activist.

One of the most promising of the young Negro poets said to me once, “I want to be a poet__not a Negro poet,” meaning, I believe, “I want to write like a white poet”; meaning subconsciously, “I would like to be a white poet”; meaning behind that, “I would like to be white.” And I was sorry the young man said that, for no great poet has ever been afraid of being himself. And I doubted then that, with his desire to run away spiritually from his race, this boy would ever be a great poet. But this is the mountain standing in the way of any true Negro art in America__this urge within the race toward whiteness, the desire to pour racial individuality into the mold of American standardization, and to be as little Negro and as much American as possible.

But let us look at the immediate background of this young poet. His family is of what I suppose one would call the Negro middle class: people who are by no means rich yet never uncomfortable nor hungry__smug, contented, respectable folk, members of the Baptist church. The father goes to work every morning. He is the chief steward at a large white club. The mother sometimes does fancy sewing or supervises parties for the rich families of the town. The children go to a mixed school. In the home they read white papers and magazines. And the mother often says, “Don’t be like niggers” when the children are bad. A frequent phrase from the father is, “Look how well a white man does things.” And so the word white comes to be unconsciously a symbol of all the virtues. It holds for the children beauty, morality, and money. The whisper of “I want to be white” runs silently through their minds. This young poet’s home is, I believe, a fairly typical home of the colored middle class. One sees immediately how difficult it would be for an artist born in such a home to interest himself in interpreting the beauty of his own people. He is never taught to see that beauty. He is taught rather not to see it, or if he does, to be ashamed of it when it is not according to Caucasian patterns.

For racial culture the home of a self-styled “high-class” Negro has nothing better to offer. Instead there will be perhaps more aping of things white than in a less cultured or less wealthy home. The father is perhaps a doctor, lawyer, landowner, or politician. The mother may be a social worker, or a teacher, or she may do nothing and have a maid. Father is often dark but he has usually married the lightest woman he could find. The family attend a fashionable church where few really colored faces are to be found. And they themselves draw a color line. In the North they go to white theaters and white movies. And in the South they have at least two cars and a house “like white folks.” Nordic manners, Nordic faces, Nordic hair, Nordic art (if any), and an Episcopal heaven. A very high mountain indeed for the would-be racial artist to climb in order to discover himself and his people.

But then there are the low-down folks, the so-called common element, and they are the majority__may the Lord be praised! The people who have their nip of gin on Saturday nights and are not too important to themselves or the community, or too well fed, or too learned to watch the lazy world go round. They live on Seventh Street in Washington or State Street in Chicago and they do not particularly care whether they are like white folks or anybody else. Their joy runs, bang! into ecstasy. Their religion soars to a shout. Work maybe a little today, rest a little tomorrow. Play awhile. Sing awhile. O, let’s dance! These common people are not afraid of spirituals, as for a long time their more intellectual brethren were, and jazz is their child. They furnish a wealth of colorful, distinctive material for any artist because they still hold their own individuality in the face of American standardization. And perhaps these common people will give to the world its truly great Negro artist, the one who is not afraid to be himself. Whereas the better-class Negro would tell the artist what to do, the people at least let him alone when he does appear. And they are not ashamed of him__if they know he exists at all. And they accept what beauty is their own without question.

Certainly there is, for the American Negro artist who can escape the restrictions the more advanced among his own group would put upon him, a great field of unused material ready for his art. Without going outside his race, and even among the better classes with their “white” culture and conscious American manners, but still Negro enough to be different, there is sufficient material to furnish a black artist with a lifetime of creative work. And when he chooses to touch on the relations between Negroes and whites in this country with their innumerable overtones and undertones, surely, and especially for literature and the drama, there is an inexhaustible supply of themes at hand. To these the Negro artist can give his racial individuality, his heritage of rhythm and warmth, and his incongruous humor that so often, as in the Blues, becomes ironic laughter mixed with tears. But let us look again at the mountain.

A prominent Negro clubwoman in Philadelphia paid eleven dollars to hear Raquel Meller sing Andalusian popular songs. But she told me a few weeks before she would not think of going to hear “that woman.” Clara Smith, a great black artist, sing Negro folk songs. And many an upper-class Negro church, even now, would not dream of employing a spiritual in its services. The drab melodies in white folks’ hymnbooks are much to be preferred. “We want to worship the Lord correctly and quietly. We don’t believe in ‘shouting.’ Let’s be dull like the Nordics,” they say, in effect.

The road for the serious black artist, then, who would produce a racial art is most certainly rocky and the mountain is high. Until recently he received almost no encouragement for his work from either white or colored people. The fine novels of Chestnutt go out of print with neither race noticing their passing. The quaint charm and humor of Dunbar’s dialect verse brought to him, in his day, largely the same kind of encouragement one would give a sideshow freak (A colored man writing poetry! How odd!) or a clown (How amusing!).

The present vogue in things Negro, although it may do as much harm as good for the budding colored artist, has at least done this: it has brought him forcibly to the attention of his own people among whom for so long, unless the other race had noticed him beforehand, he was a prophet with little honor. I understand that Charles Gilpin acted for years in Negro theaters without any special acclaim from his own, but when Broadway gave him eight curtain calls, Negroes, too, began to beat a tin pan in his honor. I know a young colored writer, a manual worker by day, who had been writing well for the colored magazines for some years, but it was not until he recently broke into the white publications and his first book was accepted by a prominent New York publisher that the “best” Negroes in his city took the trouble to discover that he lived there. Then almost immediately they decided to give a grand dinner for him. But the society ladies were careful to whisper to his mother that perhaps she’d better not come. They were not sure she would have an evening gown.

The Negro artist works against an undertow of sharp criticism and misunderstanding from his own group and unintentional bribes from the whites. “O, be respectable, write about nice people, show how good we are,” say the Negroes. “Be stereotyped, don’t go too far, don’t shatter our illusions about you, don’t amuse us too seriously. We will pay you,” say the whites. Both would have told Jean Toomer not to write “Crane.” The colored people did not praise it. The white people did not buy it. Most of the colored people who did read “Cane” hated it. They are afraid of it. Although the critics gave it good reviews the public remained indifferent. Yet (excepting the work of Du Bois) “Cane” contains the finest prose written by a Negro in America. And like the singing of Robeson, it is truly racial.

But in spite of the Nordicized Negro intelligentsia and the desires of some white editors we have an honest American Negro literature already with us. Now I await the rise of the Negro theater. Our folk music, having achieved world-wide fame, offers itself to the genius of the great individual American Negro composer who is to come. And within the next decade I expect to see the work of a growing school of colored artists who paint and model the beauty of dark faces and create with new technique the expressions of their own soul-world. And the Negro dancers who will dance like flame and the singers who will continue to carry our songs to all who listen__they will be with us in even greater numbers tomorrow.

Most of my own poems are racial in theme and treatment, derived from the life I know. In many of them I try to grasp and hold some of the meanings and rhythms of jazz. I am sincere as I know how to be in these poems and yet after every reading I answer questions like these from my own people: Do you think Negroes should always write about Negroes? I wish you wouldn’t read some of your poems to white folks. How do you find any thing interesting in a place like a cabaret? Why do you write about black people? You aren’t black. What makes you do so many jazz poems?

But jazz to me is one of the inherent expressions of Negro life in America: the eternal tom-tom beating in the Negro soul__the tom-tom of revolt against weariness in a white world, a world of subway trains, and work, work, work; the tom-tom of joy and laughter, and pain swallowed in a smile. Yet the Philadelphia clubwoman is ashamed to say that her race created it and she does not like me to write about it. The old subconscious “white is best” runs through her mind. Years of study under white teachers, a lifetime of white books, pictures, and papers, and white manners, morals, and Puritan standards made her dislike the spirituals. And now she turns up her nose at jazz and all its manifestations__likewise almost everything else distinctly racial. She doesn’t care for the Winold Reiss portraits of Negroes because they are “too Negro.” She does not want a true picture of herself from anybody. She wants the artist to flatter her, to make the white world believe that all Negroes are as smug and as near white in soul as she wants to be. But, to my mind, it is the duty of the younger Negro artist, if he accepts any duties at all from outsiders, to change through the force of his art that old whispering “I want to be white,” hidden in the aspirations of his people, to “Why should I want to be white? I am a Negro__and beautiful!”

So I am ashamed for the black poet who says, “I want to be a poet, not a Negro poet,” as though his own racial world were not as interesting as any other world. I am ashamed, too, for the colored artist who runs from the painting of Negro faces to the painting of sunsets after the manner of the academicians because he fears the strange un-whiteness of his own features. An artist must be free to choose what he does, certainly, but he must also never be afraid too what he might choose.

Let the blare of Negro jazz bands and the bellowing voice of Bessie Smith singing Blues penetrate the closed ears of the colored near-intellectuals until they listen and perhaps understand. Let Paul Robeson singing Water Boy, and Rudolph Fisher writing about the streets of Harlem, and Jean Toomer holding the heart of Georgia in his hands, and Aaron Douglas drawing strange black fantasies cause the smug Negro middle class to turn from their white, respectable, ordinary books and papers to catch a glimmer of their own beauty. We younger Negro artists who create now intend to express our individual dark-skinned selves without fear or shame. If white people are pleased we are glad. If they are not, it doesn’t matter. We know we are beautiful. And ugly too. The tom-tom cries and the tom-tom laughs. If colored people are pleased we are glad. If they are not, their displeasure doesn’t matter either. We build our temples for tomorrow, strong as we know how, and we stand on top of the mountain, free within ourselves.

DISCUSSION 4: Comment on the sources by Deml and Brocke. Follow the guidelines and instructions for Discussion Participation. Post original comments and replies to the Discussion Board on Canvas by the deadline shown on the Class Schedule.

Background: When the United States went to war against Germany in 1917, German-American immigrants faced questions about their loyalty. Both men recount their experiences during this period.

Statement of John Deml.

Deml was a German-American farmer in Wisconsin.

About half-past twelve (continuing for more than an hour) Sunday morning October 20th, my wife awaked me, saying, that there were a large number of men on the front porch, pounding and rapping on the door, besides talking in a loud tone of voice. I was upstairs; then I came downstairs and went to the front door, where they were, and I asked them, who was there! Several answered at once, “The Council of Defense.” I then asked them, “What do you want?” and they replied, “We want you to sign up.” I replied, “I have done my share.”And they asked me when, and I replied, “I did my share in the spring.”(That is, I meant to say I had done my share in the third loan, when I subscribed for $450 in bonds.) To make it plain, on the 28th of September, at the opening of the fourth drive, I was notified by letter that my bond assessment would be $800. When Henry Baumann came to see me, I told him I could not possibly take $500 now but would take some, meaning a substantial amount, that is all I could afford; and he replied, “My orders are you must take $500 or nothing.”

After I had replied that I had done my share in the spring, they demanded that I open the door and let them in. I told them I didn’t have to open the door; then they undertook to force the door open, and went so far as to tear the screen door open; then they threatened to break down the door, and I said, “Come on then, boys.” Then they appeared to be planning, and while they were doing that, I took the time to put my shoes on. By that time they were at the kitchen door, and they made a demand that I let them in through that door; then I went to the kitchen door and opened it and found a crowd of men (much larger than I expected) around the door, and then reaching out two by two around towards the front of the house. I left the door and walked to the front porch to see if they had done any painting (as they had previously painted a neighbor’s mail-box); I walked to the road to see if they had painted my mail-box. And then I turned around to return to the house when they all at one time closed in on me like a vise; some grabbing my fingers or wrist, others my legs, and several of them were shouting, holding a paper before me, “Sign up.” I said, “I will not sign up at this time of night.” Then a man shouted, “Get the rope!” The first I knew was when the rope was about my neck and around my body under my arms. Someone then gave a sharp jerk at the rope and forced me to my knees and hands; at the same time some of them jumped on my back, and while bent over someone struck me in the face, making me bleed; then a man (whom I recognized) said, “Boys, you are going to far”; and then, as they got me away from them a little, I heard a man say, “You can’t scare him.” I answered,“I am not afraid of the entire city of Appleton.” Then a man (whom I knew) got me to one side, and he said, “Let’s go into the house and talk between ourselves.” Then two men (whom I knew) went with me into the house, and we sat or stood around the table, and they still demanded that I sign up. I said, “I will not sign up for any man after being abused like this.” Then a man (whom I knew) told me I would have to go with them, or, if I didn’t go with them, would have to come to town that Sunday morning at 10 o’clock to see Mr. Keller.

Recollection of Frank Brocke.

Brocke was the son of a German-American farmer and, later, a bank president.

Well, you’re a farmer and the only thing that you suffered for was, I would say you suffered more for the fact if you were of German descent more than anything else. That was the hardest part we had to play with it. My mother, German, my dad being German, and of course, there was a lot of propaganda against the German people. And we had to be so careful. That was the hardest thing we put up with in World War I. And the only thing I can, my mother and her sister used to talk over telephone and they’d talk in German. And of course, that would ire the English or the other people, they didn’t like it and they’d slam the receivers down. But they overcame it after two or three years it all straightened out. And everybody was associating again. But it was strictly propaganda…. It was just that there was a lot of hatred against the Germans and if you were German, you were a little bit tinted, I guess. But, as I say, minded your own business, you didn’t go lookin’ for trouble, that was the atmosphere on our place. We had no particular argument with anybody and of course, you got along.

Part III (1929 to 1945)

ASSIGNMENT 5: Answer the questions outside of Canvas. Save your responses. Submit on Canvas before the deadline on the Class Schedule.

5a. Write a statement characterizing this period based on the essay by David M. Kennedy below. Follow closely the Guidelines for Characterizing Context.

5b. Identify the five to seven most significant features of the period, based on Kennedy’s essay. Follow closely the Guidelines for Describing Features.

David M. Kennedy, “The Great Depression and World War II, 1929-1945,” The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History 49 W. 45th Street, 6th Floor · NYC, NY 10036 (646) 366-9666 © 2009–2013 All Rights Reserved

Across the long arc of American history, three moments in particular have disproportionately determined the course of the Republic’s development. Each respectively distilled the experience and defined the historical legacy of a century. Each embraced a pair of episodes with lastingly transformative impacts. From 1776 to 1789 the Revolutionary War and the adoption of the Constitution brought national independence and established the basic political framework within which the nation would be governed ever after. From 1861 to 1877 the Civil War and Reconstruction affirmed the integrity of the Union, ended slavery, and generated three constitutional amendments that at least laid the foundation for honoring the Declaration’s promise that “all men are created equal.” And between 1929 and 1945 the Great Depression and World War II utterly redefined the role of government in American society and catapulted the United States from an isolated, peripheral state into the world’s hegemonic superpower. To understand the logic and the consequences of those three moments is to understand much about the essence and the trajectory of all of American history.

To a much greater degree than in the earlier cases, the changes set in motion by the Great Depression and World War II had their origins outside the United States—a reminder of the increasing interdependency among nations that was such a salient feature of the twentieth century. The Great Depression was a worldwide catastrophe whose causes and consequences alike were global in character. “The primary cause of the Great Depression,” reads the first sentence of President Herbert Hoover’s Memoirs, “was the war of 1914–1918.” And that so-called Great War, along with the Depression it spawned, was the driver that eventually produced the even greater catastrophe of World War II.

Economists and historians continue to this day to debate the proximate causes of the Great Depression. But even after due allowance has been made for the effects of the American stock market’s “Great Crash” in 1929 and for the policies of the United States Federal Reserve System, there can be little doubt that the deepest roots of the crisis lay in the several chronic infirmities that World War I had inflicted on the international political and economic order. The war exacted a cruel economic and human toll from the core societies of the advanced industrialized world, including conspicuously Britain, France, and Germany. The lingering distortions in trade, capital flows, and exchange rates occasioned by the punitive Treaty of Versailles, as the economist John Maynard Keynes observed at the time, managed to perpetuate in peacetime the economic disruptions that had wrought so much hardship in wartime. What was more, memories of the war’s bitter fighting and vengeful conclusion rendered the postwar international atmosphere toxic. To those abundant physical and institutional ills might be added a rigidly doctrinaire faith in laissez-faire, balanced national budgets, and the gold standard. All of this added up to a witches’ brew of economic illness, ideological paralysis, and consequent political incapacity as the Depression relentlessly enveloped the globe.

The United States had participated only marginally in the First World War, but the experience was sufficiently costly that Americans turned their country decidedly inward in the 1920s. They disarmed their military forces and swiftly dismantled the nation’s war machinery. The United States Senate refused to ratify the Treaty of Versailles and rejected membership in the nascent League of Nations. Congress in 1922effectively closed the American market to foreign vendors with the Fordney-McCumber Tariff, among the highest in United States history, and the Smoot-Hawley Tariff eight years later. Washington also insisted that the Europeans repay the entirety of the loans extended to them by the US Treasury during the war. And in 1924 the republic for the first time in its history imposed a strict limit on the number of immigrants who could annually enter the country. Among those eventually excluded (though none could yet know it) were thousands of Jewish would-be fugitives from Nazi persecution. Militarily, diplomatically, commercially, financially, even morally, Americans thus turned their backs on the outside world.

American prosperity in the 1920s was real enough, but it was not nearly as pervasive as legend has portrayed. The millions of immigrants who had swarmed into the nation’s teeming industrial cities in the preceding decades remained culturally parochial and economically precarious in gritty ethnic ghettoes. The overwhelming majority of black Americans still dwelled in the eleven states of the old Confederacy, the poorest and most disadvantaged people in America’s poorest and most backward region. And well before the Great Depression, almost as soon as the Great War concluded in 1918, a severe economic crisis had beset the farm-belt. It did not entirely lift until the next world war, more than twenty years later. The long-suffering countryside was home to nearly half of all Americans in the 1920s; one out of every five workers toiled on the nation’s fields and farms. Virtually none enjoyed such common urban amenities as electricity and indoor plumbing.

Other maladies began to appear, faintly at first, but with mounting urgency as the Depression began to unfold. A ramshackle, woefully under-regulated private banking system, a legacy of Andrew Jackson’s long-ago war on central banking, had managed to wobble its dysfunctional way into the modern era. Some twenty-five thousand banks, most of them highly fragile “unitary” institutions with tiny service areas, little or no diversification of clients or assets, and microscopic capitalization, constituted the astonishingly vulnerable foundation of the national credit. As for government—public spending at all levels, including towns, cities, counties, states, and the federal government itself, amounted only to about 15 percent of the gross domestic product in the 1920s, one-fifth of which was federal expenditures. Ideology aside, its very size made the federal government in the 1920s a kind of ninety-pound weakling in the fight against the looming depression.

Yet for most of the 1920s the mood of much of the country, impervious to news of accumulating international dangers and buoyed by wildly ascending stock prices as well as the congenital optimism long claimed as every American’s birthright, remained remarkably upbeat. Then in the autumn of 1929, the bubble burst. The Great Crash in October sent stock prices plummeting and all but froze the international flow of credit. Banks failed by the thousands. Businesses collapsed by the tens of thousands. Millions—nobody knew at first how many, so primitive were the government’s fact-finding organs—went unemployed. Herbert Hoover, elected just months earlier amid lavish testimonials to his peerless competence, saw his presidency shattered and his reputation forever shredded because of his inability to tame the depression monster—though, again contrary to legend, he toiled valiantly, using what tools he had and even inventing some new ones, as he struggled to get the upper hand.

By 1932, some thirteen million Americans were out of work, one out of every four able and willing workers in the country. Even those horrendous numbers could not begin to take the full measure of the human misery that unemployment entailed. Given the demography of the labor force and prevailing cultural norms that kept most women—and virtually all married women—out of the wage-paying economy, a 25 percent unemployment rate meant that, for all practical purposes, every fourth household in America had no breadwinner. Many Americans came to believe that they were witnessing not just another downswing of the business cycle, but the collapse of a historic economic, political, and social order, perhaps even the end of the American way of life. Yet curiously, as many observers noted, most Americans remained inexplicably docile, even passive, in the face of this unprecedented calamity.

Among those who were perplexed by the apparent submissiveness of the American people as the Depression descended was Franklin Delano Roosevelt. “There had never been a time, the Civil War alone excepted,” an associate recollected Roosevelt saying during the 1932 presidential campaign, “when our institutions had been in such jeopardy. Repeatedly he spoke of this, saying that it was enormously puzzling to him that the ordeal of the past three years had been endured so peaceably.”[1] That peculiar psychology, rooted in deep cultural attitudes of individualism and self-reliance, strongly impeded any thought of collective—i.e., political—response to the crisis. Those elusive but deep-seated and powerful American cultural characteristics go a long way toward explaining the challenge that faced any leader seeking to broaden the powers of government to combat the Depression.

FDR and the New Deal

Elected to the presidency in 1932 on a platform that promised “a new deal for the American people,” Franklin Roosevelt now took up that challenge. He faced a task of compound difficulty: he had to find ways to counter-punch to the Depression crisis, put in place reforms that would make future such crises less likely, and convince his countrymen of the legitimacy of his precedent-shattering initiatives.

FDR was destined to hold office for more than a dozen years. He was thrice re-elected, a record matched by no previous incumbent and forbidden to all future presidents by the passage of the Twenty-second Amendment to the Constitution in 1951. FDR was then and has remained ever since a surpassingly enigmatic figure. His personality perplexed his contemporaries and has challenged his biographers ever since. His long-serving secretary of labor, Frances Perkins, called him “the most complicated human being I ever knew.”[2] Yet for all the opacity of his innermost character, he clearly brought with him to the presidency one simple and supremely important belief. It is appropriate to call it a vision: that American life could be made more secure.

Roosevelt, like Hoover before him, never did find a remedy for the Great Depression. It hung heavily over the land for nearly a dozen years of suffering and anxiety without equal in the history of the republic. Before World War II wiped out the Depression at a stroke, none of FDR’s exertions managed to wrestle the unemployment rate below 14 percent. For the decade of the 1930s as a whole, it averaged 17 percent. Some critics mistakenly blame the economy’s stubborn inability to recover on Roosevelt’s own allegedly anti-business policies.

Yet while Hoover’s failure to restore the economy led to his political ruin, Roosevelt seized upon the enduring economic crisis as a matchless opportunity to achieve objectives whose scope far transcended the immediate woes of the Depression decade. FDR used the Depression crisis to break the untamed bronco of let-’er-rip, buccaneering, laissez-faire capitalism that had gone unbridled since the dawn of the industrial revolution in America more than a century earlier. He and his fellow New Dealers invented new governmental institutions like the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to bring stability to the historically shaky banks, the casino-like stock exchanges, and the often violently tumultuous world of labor relations. They gave birth to other institutions as well, including the Federal Housing Authority (FHA) and the Federal National Mortgage Association (“Fannie Mae”) to make mortgage lending more secure, thereby unleashing the money and the energy that made a majority of Americans homeowners and built the suburbs of the Sunbelt after World War II. They passed the Fair Labor Standards Act, abolishing at last the scourge of child labor and establishing minimum wage guarantees. Most famously, with the Social Security Act of 1935 they erected a comprehensive system of unemployment and old-age insurance to protect laid-off workers and the elderly against what FDR called “the hazards and vicissitudes of life.”

These were on the whole market-enhancing, not market-encroaching initiatives. They sought not to nationalize core industries (as commonly occurred in European states), nor even to attempt central direction of the national economy, but rather to use federal power in artful ways to make the private economy function more efficiently and less riskily as well as more fairly.

Achieving security was ever the prime value and always the dominant motif of the New Deal’s many innovations. Americans lived for generations thereafter in a world rendered more predictable, less volatile, safer—and for those reasons more prosperous and probably also more just—than they would have enjoyed, or endured, without FDR’s achievements.

The New Deal serves to this day as a political talisman, invoked variously by Left or Right to promote or denounce activist government or an enlarged public sphere. So by what historical standard should the New Deal be judged? If appraised on grounds of swiftly achieving economic recovery, despite some modest success, the New Deal must be declared a failure. But Roosevelt’s greatest ambitions and highest priorities were not simply to get back to business as usual. His highest aim was to do nothing less than rewrite the nation’s historic social contract. And on those grounds the New Deal can be said to have succeeded handsomely.

Roosevelt most explicitly acknowledged that larger ambition in his second Inaugural Address in 1937, when he boasted that “our progress out of the depression is obvious,” but then added the startling observation that “such symptoms of prosperity may become portents of disaster.” To say the least, that’s an exceedingly rare sentence in the annals of presidential pronouncements. What could Roosevelt have meant when he linked economic recovery with political disaster?[3]

A clue may be found in the passage that immediately followed on that Inaugural Day. “Here is the challenge to our democracy,” he said: “One-third of a nation ill-housed, ill-clad, ill-nourished.” The context makes clear that he was not then speaking about the victims of the transient Depression, which he believed to be lifting. He was talking, rather, about those farmers and immigrants and African Americans who had long languished on the margins of American life and whom he hoped to usher into its main stream. “We are going to make a country,” he once remarked to Frances Perkins, “in which no one is left out.” The ironic truth is that it was precisely FDR’s failure to end the Depression that provided him with the necessary political space to enlarge the sphere of American democracy by enacting lasting reforms like the Securities and Exchange Act, the Federal Housing Authority Act, the Social Security Act, the National Labor Relations Act, and the Fair Labor Standards Act.[4]

One test of the logic of this argument might be to ask: If FDR had somehow found the solution to the Depression by, say, the end of the fabled but in the last analysis scarcely consequential Hundred Days in 1933, would there have been a New Deal as we know it? Save only FDIC, all the reforms mentioned above date from 1934 and thereafter. If the economy had been immediately restored to full health, it is at least arguable that business as usual would have meant politics as usual, and the United States would have missed what FDR called its “Rendezvous with Destiny”—that is, its chance to tame at last the volatile and destructive demon of no-holds-barred industrial capitalism whose unchecked gyrations had ravaged lives—and fortunes—for nearly a century before the 1930s.

World War II

The world the American people had tried to exclude after the First World War could not forever be kept at bay. Adolf Hitler and Franklin Roosevelt came to power within weeks of one another. Hitler was installed as the German chancellor on January 30, 1933; Roosevelt was inaugurated as President of the United States just thirty-three days later, on March 4. The entire history of Roosevelt’s presidency unfolded under the shadow of Hitler’s chancellorship and eventually the swelling belligerency of Japanese militarists. The challenges of the Great Depression and the accomplishments and shortcomings of the New Deal, and of FDR, cannot be understood outside of that framework. And just as the story of the Great Depression is not simply the story of the American people in a moment pregnant with both danger and opportunity, the story of World War II is a tale of peoples around the world violently swept up in its frightful cataclysm—though the Americans, as it happened, were uniquely spared the worst of the war’s ravages.

The Japanese attack on the US naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on December 7, 1941, brought the United States into the war as a formal belligerent—more than two years after the war had begun with the German invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939. Yet while it has become a commonplace to note that the Pearl Harbor attack dramatically extinguished American isolationism, the fact is that traditional isolationist sentiment was by that time already markedly diminished—and that anxieties about its possible revival animated American leaders throughout the conflict and well into the postwar period.

At the outset of his presidency, Franklin Roosevelt had not challenged the isolationist mood of his countrymen, declaring in his first Inaugural Address that “our international trade relations, though vastly important, are in point of time and necessity secondary to the establishment of a sound national economy.” But as the international environment grew more perilous, FDR worked ever harder to disabuse Americans of the view that the world’s problems were none of their concern. He chafed increasingly under the restrictions of the several “Neutrality Laws” that Congress passed between 1935 and 1939, and succeeded at last in securing passage of the Lend-Lease Act in March 1941, committing the vast economic resources of the United States to the war against the so-called Axis Powers of Germany, Japan, and Italy. Hitler, correctly, deemed the Lend-Lease Act tantamount to a declaration of war. With an initial appropriation of some $7 billion (nearly equal to the entire average annual federal budget in the 1930s, and reaching nearly $50 million by war’s end) Lend-Lease aimed to make the United States into what Roosevelt called “the great arsenal of democracy.”

With some qualifications, the “arsenal of democracy” concept remained at the core of American grand strategy throughout the war. To be sure, the United States took nearly sixteen million men (and several thousand women) into uniform, fielded a ninety-division ground force, floated a two-ocean navy, built a gigantic strategic bomber fleet, and suffered 405,399 military deaths. Yet the greatest American contribution to the war effort was neither manpower nor heroism, but cash and weapons. As the Soviet leader Joseph Stalin cynically but accurately observed, the United States adhered to a policy of fighting with American money, and American machines, and Russian men. Some eight million Soviet troops died fighting Hitler’s Wehrmacht, while as many as sixteen million Soviet civilians perished. In a war with the dubious historical distinction that it inflicted more civilian than military deaths, the American toll of civilian deaths attributable to enemy action in the forty-eight continental states was six—a young woman and five schoolchildren killed together by a crude Japanese balloon-borne fire bomb that exploded in south-central Oregon on May 5, 1945.

Thus if the response to the question “who won World War II?” is determined by who paid the greatest price for the ultimate victory, the answer is unambiguously the Soviet Union. Yet if one means which country most benefited from victory, the equally unambiguous answer is the United States. Not only were American war deaths, proportionate to population, about one-sixtieth those in the Soviet Union, and one-fourth those in Great Britain, but among all the major belligerents, the United States alone managed to grow its civilian economy even while producing prodigious quantities of armaments and other supplies for itself and its allies. The civilian economies of both the Soviet Union and Great Britain shrank by nearly one-third during war time. In the United States civilian consumption expanded by nearly 15 percent. The war forever banished the Depression and ignited the economic after-burners that propelled the American economy to unprecedented heights of prosperity in the postwar decades.

How did the Americans manage to fight a war so different from the war that so horribly punished so many other peoples? Geography—or, more precisely, the conjunction of geography with the technologies available in the mid-twentieth century—is surely part of the answer. The two-ocean moat that for centuries had shielded the New World from the Old World continued to insulate the United States in World War II—though the advent of America’s own long-range, ocean-spanning strategic bombers clearly signaled the end of the republic’s long era of “free security.”

But American grand strategy in World War II was built upon more than the accidents of geography. Like any leader in a comparable situation, Roosevelt sought what economists call a “least-cost pathway” to victory, shrewdly employing his country’s peculiar assets and capabilities to maximum advantage at minimum cost—and doing so in ways that would be least likely to reawaken the isolationist sentiment that Roosevelt had battled throughout the prewar decade.

Four great principles lay at the core of that grand strategy: to focus on Germany, not Japan, as the primary strategic foe (as Roosevelt said, the defeat of Germany would mean the defeat of Japan, but the defeat of Japan would not mean the defeat of Germany); to rely principally on the novel doctrine of strategic bombing, aiming not at the enemy’s forces in the field, but at his civilian heartland; to keep the ground force as small as possible, leaving millions of men to work on the home-front industrial production lines; and to delay as long as feasible the great amphibious invasion of northwest Europe—the battle eventually known as “D-Day.” The Soviet victory at Stalingrad in February 1943 ratified the viability of all those principles by reassuring Roosevelt and his British ally, Winston Churchill, that the Russians would stay in the war and bear the brunt of the fighting. The much-debated “unconditional surrender” formula that FDR announced at Casablanca in January 1943 was primarily intended to reassure the Soviets that the Americans and British, too, were committed to seeing the war through to the extinction of the Nazi regime, which eventually came on May 8, 1945.

The war against Japan, originally conceived as a purely defensive affair to hold the Japanese at bay in the mid-Pacific until Germany was defeated, took an unexpected turn in June 1942 when the Imperial Japanese Navy lost four aircraft carriers at the Battle of Midway. Though the war against Germany still had the higher priority, the door now opened for American offensive actions in the Pacific. US forces relentlessly closed in on the Japanese home islands, culminating in months of intensive firebombing raids against Japan and ultimately the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945, which clinched the Japanese decision to surrender.

In that same month Winston Churchill declared that the triumphantly victorious United States, restored to economic health, flush with energy, morally and politically self-confident, stood “at the summit of the world.”[5] For a nation that just half a decade earlier had lain economically prostrate at the distant margins of the international order, that was a remarkable accomplishment and one that would shape the character of the remainder of the twentieth century, abroad as well as at home.

[1] Rexford Tugwell, The Brains Trust (New York: Viking, 1968), 295.

[2] Frances Perkins, The Roosevelt I Knew (New York: Viking, 1946), 3.

[3] Franklin D. Roosevelt, Second Inaugural Address, January 20, 1937 http://avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_century/froos2.asp

[4] Perkins, The Roosevelt I Knew, 113.

[5] David Cannadine, ed., Blood, Toil, Tears and Sweat: The Speeches of Winston Churchill (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1989), 282.

David Kennedy  is Donald J. McLachlan Professor of History, Emeritus at Stanford University. Among his books are Over Here: The First World War and American Society (1980) and the Pulitzer Prize–winning Freedom from Fear: The American People in Depression and War (1999),which recounts the history of the United States in the two great crises of the Great Depression and World War II.

DISCUSSION 5: Comment on the letters to Eleanor Roosevelt, the wife of the President, written during the Great Depression. Follow the guidelines and instructions for Discussion Participation. Post original comments and replies to the Discussion Board on Canvas by the deadline shown on the Class Schedule.

Dear Mis. Roosevelt

I am a girl 14 yrs. old I am asking a favor of you & a big one to. Will you please send me some cloths or some money for some If you can. My girl friend wrote to. we both don’t have any cloths. The kids at school all make fun of you if you can’t dress just so please let me here from you & please dont publish this letter or us girls shall get a terriable beaten. May god bless you

My dear Lady,

I am a little girl 9 years of age, I have a mother, and father, and two smaller sisters. About four months now, my father opened a small grocery store . . . It isn’t easy for him to pay all of his bills, because his money is very little. Nobody seems to help us. And sometimes my mother cryes because maybe we’ll loose the store. I’m always sorry because I’m still young and I can’t help much. I was thinking of You, because I always see You in the paper with a smile in Your face. And I know that You have a kind heart. I thought if I wrote to You, maybe You would help us, with a little money and then with Your help I can help my father.

Dear Mrs. Roosevelt,

I heard that you have been very good to the poor, and I am writing this letter to see if you can help me. I had to leave school because I didn’t have any clothes to wear. I will be very thankfull to you if you can gather some clothes sizes 18 or 20.

I am 17 years of age and was in my 3rd year of high school when I have to leave. My height is 5 ft. 41/2 in. and weigh 1351/2 Ibs.

My father is working and making a little money but we are barely living. He has 3 children besides myself to support. I’ve looked for work every day but I don’t seem to have any luck. I am still wearing my summer coat and have a very bad cold.

All I am asking for is a few dresses and a winter coat.

Thanking you for any thing you can do

Dear Friend:

Well I don’t suppose you know who I am. But I’m a 16 year old motherless girl that has to work hard for all she gets. I have a brother & a sister & daddy We are working at day labor for a living and don’t get much of that to do. In the winter I could piece quilts if I had any scraps. We are trying to keep off the relief this winter so we are keeping every penny we can to buy groceries this winter, Whether we have sufficient clothes or not. We haven’t even enough furniture. We haven’t any bedsteads, a stove, or cabinet. some of our Neighbors are letting us use their stove, cabinet, & one bedstead. I thought you might have some old clothes, coats, and shoes. or any kind of clothing you could send to us. I have read so much about your kindness I know if you have any you will send them. I would send some money for postage but haven’t any. Address to your loving friend Miss D. H.

Dear Mrs. Roosevelt:

I am a boy of 17, I quit school 2 years ago in order to find a job. Since my dad died 3 years ago we haven’t been able to do so good. We stretched his insurance money so far as it would go, but now we have to face it. We are behind 2 months in our rent and the 3rd falling due this Wednes¬day, the 13th. We pay $15 a month for 4 rooms. There are 5 of us, mother, 3 boys and myself. I really wouldn’t be writing this, but I can’t see our¬selves evicted from our house. We’ve got till Wednesday to get either all or at least a half of our rent paid up. It would be all right if it was only me because I could take care of myself one way or another. My mother can’t get work because she just recovered from tuberculosis and must rest. I am afraid that if nothing comes up I will turn to crime as a means of getting financial help.

My little brothers are shoeshiners. They go out at night and shine shoes. They go mostly in beer gardens. Their little money even helps. You might say, why don’t we go on relief, well you just can’t convince my mother on that. She said she would rather starve than get relief.

I am working as a grocery store clerk at $8.00 a week. We could get along on this in summer but not in winter on account of the coal problem. I was wondering that maybe you could loan us about $35.00 or more, we could get on our feet again and once again hold up our heads. We will greatly appreciate this second start in life with all our hearts.

Will you please be so kind as to answer this letter in some way. And will you please congratulate your husband for us for winning the election. I read all about how angry Hoover and all the rest were about not letting your husband have a 3rd term. The reason for that is because they weren’t even good enough to be re elected for a second term and are angry. We all have faith in our president.

Thanks Ever So Much


ASSIGNMENT 6: Answer the questions outside of Canvas. Save your responses. Submit on Canvas before the deadline on the Class Schedule.

6a. How did Women and African Americans differ in their experiences in and responses to the Great Depression? Following closely the Guidelines for Thesis Writing, write a thesis for an essay that could be written for this question, based on Sources for 6a and 6b.

6b. Following closely the Guidelines on Evidence, write two points of evidence to support the thesis you wrote on the Great Depression in ‘a’ above, drawn from Sources for 6a and 6b.

6c. How did African Americans respond to World War II? Following closely the Guidelines for Thesis Writing, write a thesis for an essay that could be written for this question, based on the Sources for 6c.

6dHow did Women respond to World War II and what did they gain or lose by the experience? Following closely the Guidelines for Thesis Writing, write a thesis for an essay that could be written for this question, based on the Sources for 6d.

SOURCES FOR 6a and 6b (Seven sources)

● Susan Ware, “Women and the Great Depression,” History Now (Spring 2009.) The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History 49 W. 45th Street, 6th Floor · NYC, NY 10036 (646) 366-9666

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In 1933 Eleanor Roosevelt’s It’s Up to the Women exhorted American women to help pull the country through its current economic crisis, the gravest it had ever faced: “The women know that life must go on and that the needs of life must be met and it is their courage and determination which, time and again, have pulled us through worse crises than the present one.” While women as a group could not end the depression (mobilization for World War II deserves that credit), the country could never have survived the crisis without women’s contributions.

“We didn’t go hungry, but we lived lean.” That expression sums up the experiences of many American families during the 1930s: they avoided stark deprivation but still struggled to get by. The typical woman in the 1930s had a husband who was still employed, although he had probably taken a pay cut to keep his job; if the man lost his job, the family often had enough resources to survive without going on relief or losing all its possessions. Still, Eleanor Roosevelt noted, “Practically every woman, whether she is rich or poor, is facing today a reduction of income.” In 1935-1936 the median family income was $1160, which translated into $20-25 a week to cover all their expenses, including food, shelter, clothing, and perhaps an occasional treat like going to the movies. Women “made do” by substituting their own labor for something that previously had been bought with cash or practicing petty economies like buying day-old bread or warming several dishes in the oven to save gas. Living so close to the edge, women prayed that no catastrophic accident or illness would swamp their tight budgets. “We had no choice,” remembered one housewife. “We just did what had to be done one day at a time.”

In many ways men and women experienced the depression differently. Men were socialized to think of themselves as breadwinners; when they lost their jobs or saw their incomes reduced, they felt like failures because they couldn’t take care of their families. Women, on the other hand, saw their roles in the household enhanced as they juggled to make ends meet. Sociologists Robert and Helen Lynd noticed this trend in a study of Muncie, Indiana published in 1937: “The men, cut adrift from their usual routine, lost much of their sense of time and dawdled helplessly and dully about the streets; while in the homes the women’s world remained largely intact and the round of cooking, housecleaning, and mending became if anything more absorbing.” To put it another way, no housewife lost her job in the depression.

Those traditional gender roles assumed that all women were members of families with a male breadwinner at its head, but that description did not always match reality. Women who were widowed or divorced, or whose husbands had deserted them, struggled to keep their families afloat; single women had to fend for themselves. These women were truly on the margins, practically invisible. The iconic image of the depression is “The Forgotten Man”: the newly poor, downwardly mobile unemployed worker, often standing in a breadline or selling apples on a street corner. Women who found themselves in similar dire straits rarely turned up in public spaces like breadlines or street corners; instead they often tried to cope quietly on their own. “I’ve lived in cities for many months broke, without help, too timid to get in breadlines,” remembered the writer Meridel LeSueur. “I’ve known many women to live like this until they simply faint on the street from privations, without saying a word to anyone. A woman will shut herself up in a room until it is taken away from her, and eat a cracker a day and be as quiet as a mouse.”

Women who sought relief or paid employment risked public scorn or worse for supposedly taking jobs and money away from more deserving men. When Norman Cousins realized that the number of gainfully employed women in 1939 roughly equaled the national unemployment total, he offered this flippant remedy: “Simply fire the women, who shouldn’t be working anyway, and hire the men. Presto! No unemployment. No relief rolls. No depression.” Yet this attempt to make women scapegoats for the depression rested on shaky grounds. Many women had no choice but to work, providing the sole source of support for themselves or their families. Plus, given the segmentation of the workforce by gender, it was not so simple – or even desired – for men to move into women’s jobs, as a sociologist realized: “Few of the people who opposed married women’s employment seem to realize that a coal miner or steel worker cannot very well fill the jobs of nursemaids, cleaning women, or the factory and clerical jobs now filled by women.” Since traditionally male fields like heavy industry and manufacturing were the hardest hit by the depression, while clerical and sales fields populated by women were somewhat less affected, this division of labor gave women workers a slight edge. Unfortunately it came with a price: reinforcing traditional stereotypes of what constituted women’s work. Still, even the terrible economic crisis could not derail the overarching twentieth-century trend of women increasingly working for pay outside the home. According to census figures, the percentage of employed women fourteen and older actually rose during the depression from 24.3 percent in 1930 to 25.4 percent in 1940, a gain of two million jobs. Even more dramatically, the number of married women working doubled during the decade.

When talking about women as a group, it is always important to ask “which women?” when generalizations are offered. Women experienced the depression differently based on their age, marital status, geographical location, race and ethnicity, and a host of other factors. For example, the 1930s urban housewife had access to electricity and running water, while her rural equivalent usually struggled with the burdens of domesticity without such modern conveniences. (Only one in ten farm families in 1935 had electricity.) Farm families also struggled with declining agricultural prices, foreclosures, and in the Midwest, a terrible drought that contributed to the Dust Bowl migrations of that decade.

African Americans, long subject to discrimination and prejudice, often viewed the depression differently from whites. Times had always been hard, and suddenly they just got a lot harder. The novelist and poet Maya Angelou, who grew up in Stamps, Arkansas, recalled, “The country had been in the throes of the Depression for two years before the Negroes in Stamps knew it. I think that everyone thought the Depression, like everything else, was for the white folks.” In 1930 nine out of ten African American women worked in agriculture or domestic service, both areas hard hit by the depression. Housewives who previously hired servants began to do their own housework; sometimes white women competed for jobs previously abandoned as too undesirable to black women. In the South and West Mexican-American women on the bottom rung of the economic ladder faced similar conditions, but with an added dimension: the threat of deportation back to Mexico because of fears about competition for jobs and relief. In the depths of the depression, perhaps one-third of the Mexican-American population returned to Mexico, straining family ties and causing extreme financial hardship.

Herbert Hoover’s initial response to the onset of the depression in 1929 had been to turn to business, private charity, and state and local welfare councils to address the problem, but those resources quickly proved inadequate. When Franklin Roosevelt took office in 1933, his New Deal forged new ground in expanding the presence of the federal government in the economy and making concrete connections between federal programs and the lives of everyday citizens.

And yet women struggled to be treated as equal citizens when trying to qualify for these new federal programs. One-quarter of National Recovery Administration codes set lower minimum wages for women than men performing the same jobs, and New Deal agencies like the Civil Works Administration and Civilian Conservation Corps gave jobs almost exclusively to men. Not considered suitable for heavy construction jobs, women on relief were shunted into sewing rooms; black and Mexican-American women faced racial discrimination as well. The Social Security Act and the Fair Labor Standards Acts did not initially cover major areas of women’s employment such as agricultural work or domestic service. Furthermore, social security benefits were structured around a traditional model of a male breadwinner and dependent female housewife, which disadvantaged women who didn’t fit that profile and implied that women deserved economic rights only in relation to men. The Wagner Act of 1935 fueled a dramatic growth in organized labor, and women workers participated in major CIO strikes and union organizing drives, but few women held leadership positions.

The needs of women might have been forgotten entirely were it not for the efforts of an informal network of women administrators who held important positions in the New Deal. Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins, the first woman in the cabinet, oversaw many of the social welfare initiatives and Ellen Sullivan Woodward supervised women’s relief projects for the Works Progress Administration, while Molly Dewson promoted an issue-oriented reform agenda from her position at the Democratic National Committee. Their effectiveness was dramatically enhanced by access to Eleanor Roosevelt, who used her position as First Lady to advance the causes of women, blacks, and other marginalized groups. Besides serving as a symbol of public-spirited womanhood in a time of national crisis, Eleanor Roosevelt served as the conscience of the New Deal.

According to writer Caroline Bird, the depression left “an invisible scar” on those who lived through it, including the nation’s women. Forced to take on even more important roles in their homes and families, women played often unrecognized roles in helping the country through the Great Depression. Hard times worked to reinforce traditional gender roles, not subvert them. Ironically, women’s depression-era contributions and strong identification with home and family may have helped lay the foundation for the so-called feminine mystique of the 1950s. Susan Ware served as editor of volume five Notable American Women at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University. She has published books on women in the New Deal and the 1930s; biographies of Molly Dewson, Amelia Earhart, and Mary Margaret McBride; and a women’s history anthology.

● Works Progress Administration, “The Beuschers,” 1939

During the Depression the federal government launched a series of federal employment programs, part of the initiative known as the New Deal. The large-scale Works Progress Administration (WPA), not only provided jobs but also undertook many important studies of the depression’s human toll. One such study, published by the WPA Division of Research in 1939, included interviews by WPA workers with families in Dubuque, Iowa.

–The Beuschers. The Beushchers were a white family.

At home: Mr. Beuscher 62; Mrs. Beuscher 60; Paul 13; Katherine 17; Jeannette 19; Bob 21

Married and away from home: Charles 23; Celia 25; Butch 26; Eileen 28; Helen 30; Caroline 32

Interviewing completed December 13, 1937

Mr. Beuscher, 62 years old, had been working for 29 years for the Dubuque railroad shops when they closed in 1931. He was recalled to work at the shops after he had been unemployed for 4 years. Tall, gangling, weather-beaten, he stoops forward when he talks so that he may follow the conversation with greater ease, for he is more than a little deaf. He expresses opinions decisively and vigorously, his black eyes gleaming from under bushy black brows.

Mrs. Beuscher is 2 years younger than her husband. She is the mother of 11 children, but has found time to make dresses and coats and suits, not only for her own family, but also for customers outside the home. A genial, mild-mannered woman, she is earnest in her speech, but always ready to laugh at her own and other people’s foibles. Her eyes, merry but tired, are protected with spectacles that slide down on the bridge of her nose when she bends over reading or sewing and that are pushed up on her forehead when she raises her head to talk or to listen to an especially amusing radio program.

As they “look back on it,” Mr. and Mrs. Beuscher scarcely know how they did manage to get along during the time that he had no regular work. The irregular income from Mrs. Beuscher’s sewing continued, though she was forced to lower prices until earnings averaged no more than $3 or $4 a week. Instead of buying any new clothing, Mrs. Beuscher made over the old dresses and coats which, though discarded, had been packed away in the attic trunks. Insurance policies were cashed in one by one. Mrs. Beuscher’s 20-payment life insurance policy, with face value of $500, netted her $137; cash surrender values of the four policies carried on the younger children averaged about $35. Though they were able to keep Mr. Beuscher’s policy, $200 was borrowed against the face value of $1,000. Premiums have now been paid to date, but interest on the loan has been deducted from the value, now no more than $600.

For a year after Mr. Beuscher lost his job, the family’s only cash income was the four hundred seventy-odd dollars obtained from the insurance policies and Mrs. Beuscher’s irregular earnings, as contrasted with the pre-depression regular income of about $130 a month, Mr. Beuscher’s full-time earnings. In spite of all the Beuschers could do to reduce expenses and to raise cash, not all of the bills could be met: payments due on the principal of the mortgage and the property taxes had to be disregarded, and Mr. and Mrs. Beuscher were harassed with worry over the $68 grocery bill, for they had never before asked for credit, except from week to week. Expenditures for replacements of household equipment were eliminated from the budget. By the time Mr. Beuscher returned to work, the family had almost no bedding; this was the first special item purchased when the family again had a regular income from private employment.

Although they had heard about other families, some of them in their own neighborhood, who had applied for relief grants, the Beuschers had never thought of requesting relief for themselves until one day, in the fall of 1933, Mr. Beuscher came home from a neighbor’s to say to his wife, Do you know what Jim said? He said we ought to try to get relief. Mrs. Beuscher was so “shocked” that she gasps, even 4 years later, when she recalls her emotion. But after talking things over, Mr. and Mrs. Beuscher agreed that application for relief was a virtual necessity. Mr. Beuscher remembers going down to the courthouse for the first time as the hardest thing he ever had to do in his life; his hand was “on the door-knob five times” before he turned it. The investigation, which the Beuschers recognized as necessary and inevitable, was so prolonged that Mrs. Beuscher “really didn’t think” that the family would ever get relief. But finally, after about 2 months, a grocery order of $4.50 was granted. Mrs. Beuscher had long before learned to “manage” excellently on little, and though the order was meager, the family “got along” and “always had enough to eat.” Mrs. Beuscher believes that the investigators “did the best they could”; she resents only their insistence on the disconnection of the telephone, on which she depended for keeping in touch with her customers.

Soon Mr. Beuscher was assigned as a laborer to county relief work, for which he was paid, always in grocery orders, $7.20 a week; this increased amount gave the family a little more leeway. Yet they were still without much cash. Payments even of interest on the mortgage had had to cease. Because they anticipated foreclosure of the mortgage, the Beuschers applied for a Home Owners loan, which was refused, since there seemed to be little chance of Mr. Beuscher’s getting back to work.“Things looked pretty bad then,” and Mr. Beuscher was considered a “bad risk” because of his age. Though Mr. and Mrs. Beuscher were “terribly disappointed at the time,” they are glad now that they are not burdened with such a debt.

Mrs. Beuscher cannot guess how the family could have managed during the depression without the home, but Mr. Beuscher found home ownership more of a handicap than a help, for relief grants made no allowance for taxes or interest payments, while “bums” who had never tried to save or look to the future had their rent paid “regularly.”

Grocery orders were supplemented with surplus commodities. The only other outside assistance which the family received was a sack of seed potatoes for Mr. Beuscher’s garden planting in the spring of 1932 and several tons of coal during the winter of 1933–34 from a private charitable organization to which the Beuschers had in previous years contributed with the thought that they were “giving something away;” now they consider these contributions the “best investment they ever made;” they have been“repaid a hundred-fold.”

Although the Beuschers never felt comfortable about receiving relief, it came to be more or less an accepted thing. “You know, you went down to City Hall, and had to wait in line, and you saw all your friends; it was funny in a way, though it was pitiful, too… People went down to the relief office, and talked about going, just the way they might have gone anywhere else.”

The family received food orders for only a few months, as Mr. Beuscher was soon assigned to the CWA [Civil Works Administration] Eagle Point Park project as a laborer, earning 40¢ an hour. Later he worked on the lock and dam project at 50¢ an hour. Mr. Beuscher cannot understand why there was so great a difference between the wage rates of laborers on work projects and those of skilled carpenters. Although he was glad to be assigned to projects, there was little essential difference in his feelings about direct relief and about “work relief”; he worked hard for his pay, but still felt that he was being “given something.” He has heard many times that persons on relief do not want work and will not accept jobs in private industry, but he knows from project employees whose reactions were similar to his that such is not the case, except perhaps in a very few instances. Nothing makes him “more mad” than this criticism of project workers.

Mrs. Beuscher believes that relief, as such, has not fostered dependency. “Of course, there have always been some people who have wanted something for nothing,” but “the right kind of people—the people we know, except maybe a very few—” have invariably tried to remain independent, applied for relief only as a last resort, and made every effort to go back to private employment. It may be true that some persons have become so discouraged and disheartened that they have ceased to look for jobs, but any such discouragement Mrs. Beuscher considers “purely temporary.” Men will go back to private employment as soon as there are jobs to be had “without standing in line day after day waiting” on the chance that someone may be hired from among the men at the factory gates.

On principle, Mr. Beuscher decidedly favors work projects as against direct relief. “Men should be made to work for what they get,” and the “majority of them—at least 70 per cent—” prefer to work. In any event, however, Mr. Beuscher believes that some direct relief will always be necessary as there are a “few people who aren’t eligible for pensions and can’t work.”

Mrs. Beuscher believes that “the depression has changed people’s outlook.” In a way she is more “comfortable” now than when both she and Mr. Beuscher worried about bills and tried to plan for the future. Now, they “just live from day to day,” with the feeling that since they “lived through the depression” they can face anything to come. Of course, it was fun to plan and look ahead, “and that’s one way we’ve lost.” This resignation and acceptance of what the future may bring, Mrs. Beuscher accounts a “sign of age” as well as a result of the depression. Another “sign of age” is Mr. and Mrs. Beuscher’s being content to spend leisure time at home; lack of money “was the start of it,” and when they were Once again reasonably secure, they had “lost the ambition to go. . . .

● Works Progress Administration, “The DiMarcos,” 1938. The DiMarcos were a white family.

During the Depression the federal government launched a series of federal employment programs, part of the initiative known as the New Deal. The large-scale Works Progress Administration (WPA), not only provided jobs but also undertook many important studies of the depression’s human toll. One such study, published by the WPA Division of Research in 1939, included interviews by WPA workers with families in Dubuque, Iowa.

Mr. DiMarco 37, Mrs. DiMarco 33, Shirley 3

Mr. and Mrs. DiMarco are both stone-deaf. Bernard DiMarco, having been deaf since he was 2 years old, does not speak at all. Mrs. DiMarco, who had learned to talk before she gradually lost her hearing as the result of an injury when she was 8 years old, speaks a little now, in a harsh toneless voice, but for the most part she depends on talking with her hands.

Since neither of the DiMarcos can read lips, conversation with those who cannot talk with their hands must be written. Mrs. DiMarco is very articulate, she responds quickly and readily, and writes with facility and clarity; her spelling and punctuation are somewhat erratic, but her vocabulary is varied enough, and her phrasings are sometimes picturesque. She is friendly, eager, intelligent, quick to catch the meaning of gestures and facial expressions, which she watches intently. She is slight and pale; one leg is slightly twisted; her chin is pimply, and her eyelids red and raw behind her eyeglasses.

Mr. DiMarco is exceedingly dark, with a mop of black hair and a black stubbled chin. He does not write so fluently as does Mrs. DiMarco, and, being less articulate and less aggressive, prefers to let Mrs. DiMarco, who “knows better” than he what to say, do the talking for the family. He writes answers to questions about his employment only painfully, with many pauses for erasing, scratching his head, and asking Mrs. DiMarco what to say or how to spell certain words. He, too, is slight and not very husky, and he must find his glasses and put them on before he can read or write at all.

Mr. and Mrs. DiMarco have a strong feeling of identification with the deaf; they distinctly feel that they belong to a group set apart, and they do not comprehend general problems except in relation to the deaf. Unemployment to them does not imply a problem faced by millions of the hearing; it is the special problem of the deaf. Their own problems have of course been intensified by their physical handicap, and the DiMarcos do not dissociate any of their difficulties from the deafness which has been always with them. What recreation they have is, naturally enough, shared only with other deaf persons. When they have sought jobs, they have hunted out plants where other deaf persons were already employed, not only because the manager who had hired one deaf person would be most likely to hire another but also because they wanted to associate with other deaf people. When they consider leaving Dubuque to look for work elsewhere, they think in terms of the numbers of deaf persons living in various other towns, once again not simply because there may be more jobs open to the deaf where the deaf have congregated but also because they want to join the already established clubs for the deaf.

The DiMarcos are intensely conscious of prejudice against the deaf.

Neighbors, landladies, employers, relief workers, persons to whom they have gone in the vain search for jobs have often, the DiMarcos feel, been unfriendly and unsympathetic, or at least indifferent, because they “do not care for the deaf.”

The DiMarcos are now living in a moderately well-furnished three-room apartment, the second floor of a brick house in a semiresidential district of the downtown area. When the Stevenson plant closed late in 1931, Mr. DiMarco lost the job of disc sanding which he had held for almost 10 years, except for occasional layoffs. During the past 6 years, he has had no regular work; for such odd jobs as he has done he has usually not been paid in cash. Steady work on WPA projects during the past 2 years is as near as he has come to regular employment. Job-seeking is complicated by his deafness, and he sees little chance of finding any regular full-time work, aside from WPA, in Dubuque.

The DiMarcos have a 3-year-old daughter, a blue-eyed, tow-headed youngster, bright and well-trained. They are exceedingly fond of Shirley, but they try not to spoil her. Already, they are planning for her future, and hoping to be able to send her to business school. They are anxious always to learn from those who can hear Shirley’s prattle whether she “talks good” and are delighted when her remarks are quoted to them. Mrs. DiMarco tries to talk to Shirley so that she can learn to pronounce words plainly; and she also asks the neighbors to talk to her.

Bernard DiMarco was born in Italy in 1900. He writes spontaneously, near the end of an interview, “I am naturalized. I came to U.S.A. in 1902 been in U.S. for 35 years.” His father, according to Mrs. DiMarco, “ran away from the Italian frontier. He didn’t like the army and guard life so came here and took out naturalization papers—then after he earned enough sent for Bernard and his mother and sister.”On the boat, crossing from Italy, the 2-year-old Bernard contracted spinal meningitis, which presumably caused his deafness. On reaching New York, he and his mother and sister had to remain in quarantine for 3 months before they could join his father, a coal miner in southern Illinois. The family managed well for a time, and Bernard was sent to a school for the deaf in Jacksonville, III. But in 1910 the father was killed in a mine accident.

Bernard remained in school, working part-time in the shoe shop, until he was 17, when he left to help support his mother and three younger brothers, two of whom were deaf.

After he left school, and before he came to Dubuque, Mr. DiMarco had a succession of jobs, none of them lasting longer than 1 year, and none very well paid or involving much skill or responsibility. He summarizes his employment history thus: “In Spring Valley, III. I worked at the Overall factory for about 1 year, 1918–1919—pick overalls after the girls sewed and tie bundles then carry & sort & bale them & weigh and address them. I quit because the girls often went on strike so I got a job at the Roofing Co at Ottawa, Ill—do the work at the tile yard. They shut down after about 1 year so I came back to Spring Valley where my Home is, worked at the Overall factory for some 6 months. Then they shut down. I got a job at Wright store & do the cleaning & Polishing stoves. After about 6 months they laid me off so I got a job at Ottawa again stayed for 3 months so I quit in 1922 & came to Dubuque. I forgot to tell you—I worked at trunk factory in Spring Valley, Ill., for 8 months nailed the boxes & trimmed & painted them (wardrobes). When Harding was President I was out of work for 1 year.”

Mrs. DiMarco states that Bernard came to Dubuque in the hope of getting work with the Stevenson Radio and Phonograph Company.“He heard of a lot of deaf working there and was lonesome alone down home so came to see if he could get on too and he did.” In Mr. DiMarco’s words,“When I was working at Ottawa, III., I read in Chicago paper about it Stevenson’s so I wrote to my friend who worked there and asked him if I could work —He wrote and told me to come right away so I quit & came to Dubuque & met him & led me to a house to board. The next morning he took me to Stevensons & told me to see Mr. Smith, who was hiring men & women so I asked him about work. Smith is a good man & hired all deaf men to work. There were about more than 20 deaf men before I came. There were about 85 deaf people in Dubuque while working there. Now there are about 18 people here. Some of them Dead. At first I asked Smith if I could paint or Varnish. He said Filled so he put me in where I disc Sanded.”

Mrs. DiMarco is proud of Mr. DiMarco’s being “the best Disc Sander they had…. They could not get the men to work on it so asked him to work or try it and he got so adept at it they couldn’t go without him.” Before coming to Stevenson’s, Mr. DiMarco had never done any wood work. He preferred this job to any of the earlier ones, and found it much the best paid. When he put in overtime, he sometimes earned as much as $85 within a 2-week-pay period, …

Shortly before her marriage Mrs. DiMarco had come to Dubuque to work with Bernard at Stevenson’s. She has been crippled since she “was 8 years old, that resulted in my deafness. The lameness first started from what we aren’t sure but think I stepped on a rusty nail and blood poison set in. Then for about 5 years I was alternately in Hospital & out—I couldn’t walk for 2 years—after about the 2 years I was able to get around & go back to school again.” Mrs. DiMarco attended public schools before going to a school for the deaf in Chicago, where she remained for 2 years. “I only went through 8th [grade] as my parents were poor and had a large family. They couldn’t afford it.”

The winter after Mrs. DiMarco had left the school for the deaf, she was asked to return to take the place of the kindergarten teacher, who had resigned in midterm. “Mother was ill when school closed and I stayed at home all summer. Then about the time school reopened no doubt I would of gone back but my left limb began bothering me again…. I was in the hospital at Freeport, III. for 5 mo. Then they brought me home but it was 2 or 3 years before it healed up…. I had to go back to Hospital. Some friends took me to Rockford, III. to a (I think it was National Fraternity Society of the Deaf) picnic, it was there I met Mr. DiMarco & he kept at me until he finally got me to come to Dubuque. He got me a job at Stevensons & I worked there one summer [the summer of 1929].

A sewing machine was the first of the DiMarcos’ purchases after their marriage. As Mrs. DiMarco “loves to sew,” she had told Mr. DiMarco that she couldn’t get along without a machine. Besides buying furniture, Mr. DiMarco soon after his marriage had taken out an insurance policy which had no cash surrender value in 1931, and so was allowed to lapse. “Also we had started to save in National Bank but it closed in Jan. [1932]. We lost on that, had $5 left not bad but I wished I had that $5 to pay the gas & rent then.” “The plant closed first in 1929. We did not get any help for 6 mo. We went to his mothers then to my mothers trying to find another job but nothing doing. Then the plant reopened & sent for him. It worked until December then shut again for several months.“ During one of these layoff periods, Mrs. DiMarco is not sure which, ”he went home and got a better Job Cement factory but when Stevensons reopened they sent for him. He didn’t go back so the boss went down after him. I only wish he hadn’t maybe he’d have a job now as Stevensons shut down & the Cement factory didn’t but they won’t take him back now.

Mrs. DiMarco does not remember just when the first application for relief was made. “It was after we were put out of the first place after Stevensons shut down anyway. The St. Vincent Depaul Society helped us for 3 or 4 mo. before that anyway. I think it began in 1930 that they first started helping us. Mr. Edwards offered us three small rooms of his. He says the relief did not pay him regularly & they claim they did so after 2 or 3 years they had an argument and they came over and told me to move out of his place so I did. We got these rooms then. Mrs. Baker our landlady here has put us out several times & changed her mind. She tells us we must go this spring but she may change her mind, she says she wants well to do people here not ones like us who if we lost our job couldn’t pay. Seems we are kicked around like a foot ball. There was a period just before the W.P.A. started we got behind with the rent but we made it up after W.P.A. started. Before that period they paid the Rent regularly for us, then they made a change of every other mo. Of course with no way to earn it we couldn’t pay the other month, that’s how we fell behind.”

In the meantime, while the family was dependent on the weekly grocery order of a little more than $2, supplemented by occasional grants of surplus commodities, the DiMarcos had been sinking deeper and deeper in debt. Mrs. DiMarco “should say we were in Debt about $350 or So. There is probably about $50 yet unpaid. Some of them let Bernard work some off during his unemployment, or we made exchanges and etc. We kept pegging away & got most of it Cancelled somehow.”

Exchanges were “mostly by mutual interests. We’d meet them or Bernard (He is restless and can’t stay quiet long) would go out prowling around & meet them & they’d ask him to lend a hand they’d take so much off, etc. I don’t remember clearly just what all he did do. This seems like a dark cave or something we’d been walking through. I dont know how we managed yet but we cut down on the electric & water bills & everything & kept them at a minimum. He did any & everything he could think of to earn a little.”

Both Mr. and Mrs. DiMarco tried to find work, but in Mrs. DiMarco’s words “they don’t seem interested in a deaf man won’t listen to us. I’ve been in the Candy Factory & Halls trying to get on also and they won’t talk just shake their head as if I were a freak. I wish I could make them understand we have to live like others. I don’t work out much I can’t seem to find anything I can stand as I’m not overly strong but if I could l’d sure take it. I did sewing for people for awhile to earn a little when we had rent & things to pay every month & were on relief with nothing else on. I sometimes help people clean house, if I can find anyone who will take me. The last two or three years I haven’t done anything as I had Shirley to keep.”

On the CWA airport project, Mr. DiMarco earned $15 a week “digging.” When this work ended, he was given employment of“2 or 3 days a week on a sewer job for the city.” A former city manager, in Mrs. DiMarco’s opinion, “never liked us deaf. He come upon Bernard working once & spoke to Bernard. Bernard told him he was deaf & he wanted him sent home but the men on the job stood up for Bernard & he remained.”On WPA projects Mr. DiMarco has been paid $12 a week. This is Mr. DiMarco’s story of his employment during the depression: “At Eagle Point Park — just help the men do the work trucking, wheeling crushed Rock & cement for almost more than 2 1/2 years till last Dec. 17—we transferred to Riverside Park—building fires and raking Brushes. Relief work before W.P.A.—in quarry before Relief work.” For the relief work he was paid only in grocery orders.

He prefers WPA to relief work and to direct relief, but does not give his reasons for the preference. He has tried to find employment other than on WPA, but “can’t get—lots of men idle here. I make a little money by selling cartons, magazines & papers to buy clothes & groceries & pay cash on meat.” The Riverside Park project keeps him busy only 3 days in the week. According to Mrs. DiMarco, “He is always out looking for any odd jobs that will turn up on his off days. Watches for a chance to peddle circulars for the stores or get empty cartons for people shipping things. It don’t pay much but every little helps out.

Perhaps if Mr. DiMarco had had more education, he might be in a better position to find work now, especially “if he had had a chance to learn a special trade.” “But it’s awfully hard on us deaf — as they don’t seem to care for a deaf person when they can get one who can hear. I would like to see him take a course in barbering or something so he could go into business himself. I’d like to learn power machine operating too maybe it would help me in some clothing factory. Not here in Dubuque as Halls don’t care for Deaf but maybe in Davenport or some other town.”

Mrs. DiMarco is confident of her husband’s ability to do a job well, especially in view of his experience at the Stevenson plant. “I’m sure if someone would only be interested enough to try him out they would find him a good steady worker also. We can’t seem to find a person who will give him a trial. Some deaf here haven’t such good records. I think that injures the reputation of the rest of us. There are all kinds of deaf just like hearing people.” . . .

. . . From time to time, the DiMarcos have thought of leaving Dubuque in the hope of finding work in some more friendly town.“There don’t seem much else for us to do but leave sometime no future for us here that I can see. Mr. speaks some of going to Dixon Illinois where some of my people live & try the Cement Co or Milk Co or some of those large places. We would become affiliated with Rockford deaf if we did — Around 80 there now. Davenport might be a place also—I have a sister who moved there —we thought of going down sometime & trying. There are 35 or 40 deaf there. Seems odd when we used to have more than them to have them above us now.”

The DiMarcos’ preoccupation with the problems of the deaf is evident in their responses to questions relating to general problems, just as in any discussion of Mr. DiMarco’s employment, chances of getting work now, experiences during the depression, or recreation. In answer to a question as to whether Mr. DiMarco has thought about what may have caused so much unemployment, or what should be done to reduce unemployment, he writes, “I am thinking about moving out & look for better job Illinois. I get jobs easily but hardly in Iowa. In Iowa they begin not to hire any deaf men to work because of Insurance. In Cedar Rapids, Iowa there were about more than 15 deaf men but now about 5 men left. They wont hire any more.” As an elaboration of his comment, Mrs. DiMarco writes,“The Deaf find it difficult to get jobs because factories have insurance & refuse to insure the deaf in their employ.”

Mrs. DiMarco’s own answer to a question as to whether the DiMarcos have thought about what should be done for the unemployed or to minimize unemployment was as follows: “We read what the deaf think. The National Association for the Deaf think the deaf are as good risk in insurance as the hearing and I know they should not be prejudiced against us if only we could make them understand that our other senses are sharper because we can’t hear and we are mostly all able to hold our own with the hearing in nearly every job we care to tackle. We don’t waste time in talking like the hearing or get interested in something else like they do because we have to use our hands if we do & that would injure the work so we keep doggedly on. Any of Bernard’s bosses will tell you he can hold his own.” She adds, “I am glad to help you in any way we can & the deaf in General if it will interest anyone in them God knows we need it. Do you suppose we ought to stay on here in Dubuque or try to get away. I don’t know whether we’d be any better off somewhere else or not. If only I knew where there was a steady job.”

The DiMarcos’ hopes for the future are centered in Shirley. Mrs. DiMarco is planning to teach her by the same methods used in kindergarten classes in the Chicago school for the deaf. “I want her to go through High School and if possible some kind of Business school. I’m afraid we won’t be able to but we are already trying to fix it. We make her put all the pennies anyone gives her in a little bank & bank it. I also insured her—25¢ a week. Hard to pay but if anything should happen—” The DiMarcos now carry no insurance except the small policy for Shirley. “They ask too high premiums on a deaf person & he would pay out double the mortuary sum so we decided against it. There are some Societies for the deaf we’d rather join if we felt we could pay them but I’d hate to join up now unless I was certain I could keep them paid up & we would be taking an awful risk with no permanent job and not being sure of ourselves now.”

Mrs. DiMarco takes pride in keeping her home looking neat and attractive. On one occasion she wrote, “I don’t think I told you the other times you was here that we have an account for clothing and other necessities. I just got my new curtains, my old ones were in shreds. When this is paid I hope we can get some new rugs.” The WPA pay checks have been “a godsend.”

● Recollection of Leo Gurley, 1939

Leo Gurley was an African-American man who worked in Manhattan. This recollection was based on an interview conducted by the Black novelist Ralph Ellison.

Yeah, mam, we ain’ been doin’ so well in this here coat n’ dress job. An’ I kin say fum my own person’l experience us cullud people ain’ been doin’ so well in other kinds a wuk. I kin see y’ knows that already, an’ I kin not tell y’ so much ’bout that. Y’ know how we does fer ourselves in any kinda business. Well, if y’ wants to know my experience I’ll tell ya.

I been wukkin’ in this coat establishment fer onta twelve years. . . .

I gets $16 a week now. Been wukkin here for 12 years an’ gets a dollar raise – only one goddam dollar. I knows the job. I known it inside an’ out. I practic’ly runs the place. The foreman’s outa the place gabbin’ wit’ th’ boss for hours an’ says to me — “Man, y’ take care of the wuk. I dpends on ya. I knows y’ kid do it!” An’ so he leaves an’ I gotta go trampin’ up n’ back fum th’ shippin’ room to th’ fact’ry, fixin’ machines an’ shippin’ and dishin’ out wuk fer about 25 folk. They ain never give me a chance t’ wuk on ‘me machines. Why? ‘Cuz they keeps me fer th’ laborin’ [end?] a the wuk. An’ why? ‘Cuz I know as well as you becuz a my culla. I ain’ never got a half chance t’ make some [?] decent dough. . . .

I know I’m worth more. I knows every job on my finger tips an’ I even shows others how t’ do the job but I ain’ never got no chance an’ I don’ expect none fum this joint. — The foreman comes in about 10 every day when he’s supposed t’ be here at 8:30. An’ me? I knows the wuk’s gotta get out so I comes in at 8 instead a 8:30 like I’m supposed to t’ get the wuk done. He gets $75 a week t’ be foreman an’ I gets $16 an’ I does some a his wuk. First he asks me t’ help him out wit’ his wuk an’ I wants t’ be agreeable an’ does it. That’s a long time ago. Now he never asks me but expects me t’ do it, an’ I gotta or else. . . .

. . . Once I needed a coupla bucks an’ asks th’ boss t’ lend me 2. He lend it t’ me very nice. Next week I comes t’ pay him back an’ he says fer me t’ keep it ‘cuz I deserves it. I says no I don’ want it. I ain’ askin’ fer a han’ out. If he thinks I deserve it why don’ he give me it every week at th’ proper time on Saturday. He didn’ like it much. I tol’ him jus’ like that. Of course I didn’t get it.

Yeh, mam; I’m on my vacation for a week. This’s been the first one since I been here. . . .

No, mam; you knows this ain’ fair t’ us but whats y’ gonna do, huh? Somethin’s gotta be done–I knows that. This here’s discrimination t’ us cullud people. We gotta do ev’ry thin’ an’ get paid least. We knows th’ job as well as any an ‘me but they don’ give us a chance t’ do th’ same wuk. The situation ain’ good. Somethin’s t’ be done.

● Jesse O. Thomas, “Negro Workers and Organized Labor,” Opportunity, Journal of Negro Life 12 (September 1934)

A LITTLE more than a year ago the National Industrial Recovery Act was passed by the United States Congress. It carried significant implications for all groups of American citizens. For organized labor it created one of the most challenging situations in its history. The devastating lethargy that characterized workers in the mills, shops and mines, due partly to the protracted unemployment and widespread depression, was displaced by a new spirit of collective mindedness.

This awakened consciousness of the New Deal for labor manifested itself in an almost universal spirit of restlessness which was characterized by simultaneous strikes bobbing up in every part of the country. Then appeared large black headlines across the pages of our dailies in every city, village and hamlet, such statements as “Strike Grips Oakland;” “Frisco Reds Are Raided;” “3,000 Workers Quit in Alabama Cotton Mill Dispute;” “First Truck of Gasoline and Food Brought in Under Heavy Guard.”

These labor controversies have enveloped every type of workmen including laundry workers, longshoremen, truck drivers, textile operatives and those employed in the iron and steel industries.

Another evidence of a sense of new security on the part of labor has been evidenced by the disposition of the leaders to increase the numerical strength of their various crafts and unions, and the remarkable strides which have been made in this direction. The Federal Union form of organization, which was set up to deal with small local groups not covered by the jurisdiction of any national craft union, seems to appeal to the worker more than the old craft type. More than thirteen hundred such units have been organized since July 1, 1933. This is more than five times as many as the total organized five years previous, beginning in 1928.

The American Federation of Labor has encountered some difficulties in penetrating the unorganized field of labor. Its leaders have been considered by many as reactionary and it has been regarded by others as the official union of the NRA. Representatives of the United Mine Workers spread propaganda among its members to the effect that John Lewis, head of the Miners’ Union, was an undercover representative of President Roosevelt and ate breakfast with him every morning.

The following quotation from the Cleveland Citizen, an organ of the labor movement of that city, indicates the extent of activity among labor:

“The organization of workers has been proceeding so rapidly in Ohio that it is physically impossible for union officials to respond to all the calls for trained men and women to address meetings.”

The Trade Union Unity League, organized by the Communist Party to displace the A. F. of L. as the dominating influence in labor, has had a rapid increase in its members.

This new spirit toward collective action has registered in unionized activity in the automobile, clothing, coal, rubber and textile industries as well as in the power and electric equipment enterprises. Representatives of the textile industry claim that more than 130,000 workers in various sections of the country have been organized in recent months. They claim that in the South there are some three hundred locals recently organized–seventy-four of them in the State of North Carolina.

Section 7 A of the National Recovery Act is undoubtedly responsible for the major emphasis in this new awakening that has taken place among the industrial workers in the last twelve months. Section 7 A of the National Recovery Act reads as follows:

Sec. 7. (a) Every code of fair competition, agreement, and license approved, prescribed, or issued under this title shall contain the following conditions: (1) That employees shall have the right to organize and bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing, and shall be free from the interference, restraint, or coercion of employers of labor, or their agency, in the designation of such representatives or in self-organization or in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection; (2) that no employee and no one seeking employment shall be required as a condition of employment to join any company union or to refrain from joining, organizing, or assisting a labor organization of his own choosing; and (3) that employers shall comply with the maximum hours of labor, minimum rates of pay, and other conditions of employment, approved or prescribed by the President.

While the American Federation of Labor has been a rallying center for the workers of America for many decades, it is now facing not only a New Deal but a New Day. Labor in the United States is facing the most firmly entrenched and ruthless capitalistic system of the world. Any labor movement that is to survive the transition through which labor is now passing must be so constructed that it can lend itself; to the highly integrated structure of American industry. Already new trends are arising in the rank of labor characterized by unauthorized strikes against the present leadership.

The formation of what is called an adverse opinion among railroad shop workers toward the American Federation of Labor was crystallized in the establishing recently in Chicago of an organization known as the “Independent Organization of Western Lines.” The promoters of this movement repudiate the discriminatory practices of the American Federation of Labor and protest against what is considered abnormally high membership fee. This new labor union essays to welcome all workers regardless of race or section from whence they come.

Except in a few isolated cases, Negroes are not being included in any considerable numbers either in the controversial aspects of this new birth or by inclusion into peaceful membership of the various labor unions.

While Section 7 A has greatly increased the security of labor in general; in so far as the different labor organizations thus benefited deny and exclude Negroes from their membership by constitutions or rituals, the position of Negro labor has been made less favorable. It was the intention of the government in passing this legislation on behalf of labor to benefit all workers. On account of the unsportsmanlike and anti-social attitude of the majority of the membership and heads of many of the unions and crafts, the position of Negroes has been made even more disadvantageous.

In the City of St. Louis, we learn that Negro laborers were forced out of employment by the threats of the American Federation of Labor-made by the Business Agent against the contractors. Jobs were picketed by Negroes and whites who were not affiliated with the American Federation of Labor. They were attacked by three car loads of American Federation of Labor representatives.

On the Homer Phillips Hospital, a new Negro municipal hospital in St. Louis, the General Tile Company employed a Negro as tile setter; whereupon all the A. F of L. men walked off and tied up the job.

As a result an organization has been formed known as the “Allied Building Contractors Association” in St. Louis composed of both Negro and white contractors who will not limit the employment of any particular race, but will extend the employment opportunity to all people on the basis of competency and efficiency.

The Homer Phillips Hospital project has been closed and nailed up for eight weeks, according to our informant, on account of the unwillingness on the part of the membership of the American Federation of Labor to work on the same job with Negroes.

In the midst of all that is being done, by, for, with or against organized labor, the Negro stands aghast. Having little or no information as to the history of different organized labor movements–only a faint understanding concerning the technique of collective bargaining; in a more or less detached manner, the Negro wage earners of America stand and look at organized labor. One hundred and thirteen persons out of every thousand gainfully employed in the United States ten years of age and over are Negroes,and yet only fourteen out of every thousand of organized workers are Negroes.

It is the hope that the National Urban League program for organizing Negro workers as sponsored by the Committee of One Hundred outstanding leaders in Negro groups will come quickly to the forks of the road where the Negrois halted in the midst of confusion and indecision and point the way out.

Jesse O. Thomas is southern field secretary of the National Urban League

● Recollection of Jim Cole, 1939

Jim Cole was an African-American man who worked in a meat packing business in Chicago. This recollection was based on an interview conducted by Betty Burke.

I’m working in the Beef Kill section. Butcher on the chain. Been in the place twenty years, I believe. You got to have a certain amount of skill to do the job I’m doing.

Long ago, I wanted to join the AFL union, the Amalgamated Butchers and Meat Cutters, they called it and wouldn’t take me. Wouldn’t let me in the union. Never said it to my face, but reason of it was plain. Negro. That’s it. Just didn’t want a Negro man to have what he should. That’s wrong. You know that’s wrong.

Long about 1937 the CIO come. Well, I tell you, we Negroes was glad to see it come. Well, you know, sometimes the bosses, or either the company stooges try to keep the white boys from joining the union. They say, ‘you don’t want to belong to a black man’s organization. That’s all the CIO is.’ Don’t fool nobody, but they got to lie, spread lyin’ words around.

There’s a many different people, talkin’ different speech, can’t understand English very well, we have to have us union interpreters for lots of our members, but that don’t make no mind, they all friends in the union, even if they can’t say nothin’ except ‘Brother’, an’ shake hands.

Well, my own local, we elected our officers and it’s the same all over. We try to get every people represented. President of the local, he’s Negro. First V. President, he’s Polish. Second V[ice] Presdient, he’s Irish. Other officers, Scotchman, Lithuanian, Negro, German.

Well, I mean the people in the yards waited a [long?] while for the CIO. When they began organizing in the Steel towns, you know, and out in South Chicago, everybody wanted to know when the CIO was coming out to the yards. Twelve, fourteen men started it, meeting in back of a saloon on Ashland, [talking?] over what to do, first part of 1937. Some of my friends are charter members, well I got in too late for that.

Union asked for 15 extra men on the killing floor, on the chain. Company had enough work for them, just tried to make us carry the load. After we had a stoppage, our union stewards went up to the offices of the company and talked turkey. We got the extra help.

I don’t care if the union don’t do another lick of work raisin’ our pay, or settling grievances about anything, I’ll always believe they done the greatest thing in the world gettin’ everybody who works in the yards together, and [breakin’?] up the hate and bad feelings that used to be held against the Negro. We all doing our work now, nothing but good to say about the CIO.

SOURCES FOR 6c (Four sources)

●  Clarence Taylor, “Patriotism Crosses the Color Line: African Americans in World War II,” History Now 14 (Winter 2007) The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History 49 W. 45th Street, 6th Floor · NYC, NY 10036 (646) 366-9666 © 2009–2014 All Rights Reserved. [https://www.gilderlehrman.org/]

Although African Americans have been the victims of racial oppression throughout the history of the United States, they have always supported the nation, especially during wartime. When World War II erupted, over 2.5 million black men registered for the draft and one million served as draftees or volunteers in all of the branches of the Armed Forces during conflict. Most black men who served were in the Army and were relegated to segregated combat support groups. More than 12,000 black men who served in the segregated 92nd Division received citations and were decorated for their effort, and the all-black 761st Tank Battalion received the Presidential Unit Citation for “extraordinary heroism.”

By 1944, 145,000 black men served in the US Army Air Force, including the 99th Fighter Squadron, popularly known as the Tuskegee Airmen. The Tuskegee Airmen became legendary for their heroic feats during the war and received a Distinguished Unit Citation, several silver stars, 150 distinguished flying crosses, fourteen bronze stars, and 744 air medals. Although the Navy put up great resistance and had only allowed blacks to serve as mess attendants, pressure from President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and civil rights organizations forced the Navy to start recruiting blacks in April 1942 for service. However, its policy of relegating blacks to segregated units led black leaders to accuse the Navy of practicing Jim Crow. Despite its goal of recruiting 14,000 volunteers in the first year, blacks never made up more than 5 percent of the entire Navy.

Black women also came to the defense of the nation by enlisting in the Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps (WAAC). Black women in WAAC were labeled “ten percenters” because they made up 10 percent of the women recruited. Like black men in the Armed Forces, they were placed in segregated units, lived in segregated housing, ate at segregated tables in the mess hall, and received segregated training. Although black WAAC officers received officer cadet training in integrated units, all other aspects of life in the corps were segregated. More than 6,200 black women served in WAAC. In spite of serving in segregated units and facing harsh discrimination, black women served with distinction.

Although African Americans supported their government during WWII, they were not silent about racial practices in America. In fact, some even noted the similarities between the way Jews were treated in Germany and the way blacks were treated in America. The poet Langston Hughes, for example, expressed this sentiment in his piece “Nazi and Dixie Nordics.”

“The Germans are the victims of a mass psychosis,” says an American sociologist. “It will take drastic measures to control them when peace comes.” These people were talking about Germany. To a Negro, they might just as well have been speaking of white Southerners in Dixie. Our local Nordics have a mass psychosis too, when it comes to race. As the Hitlerites treat the Jews, so they treat the Negroes, in varying degrees of viciousness ranging from the denial of educational opportunities to the denial of employment, from buses that pass Negroes by to jailers who beat and torture Negro prisoners, from the denial of the ballot to the denial of the right to live.

Hughes, like millions of African Americans, was fully conscious of the gap between the stated ideals of the United States and its practices at home. African Americans were also aware that the war created an opportunity to press US leaders for full citizenship.

Double V Campaign

The Pittsburgh Courier, one of the nation’s largest black newspapers, stepped to the forefront in the struggle for racial equality by launching its “Double V” campaign. Responding to a January 31, 1942, letter to the editor by James G. Thompson of Wichita, Kansas, urging for a double V campaign, the paper published two interlocking Vs with the theme “Democracy: Victory at home, Victory Abroad” in its February 7, 1942, edition. The major objective of the campaign was to encourage blacks to support the war effort but fight for civil rights. The Courier’s advocacy of patriotism was in part to prevent critics from accusing it of pushing its own agenda ahead of the nation’s objective.

According to the Courier the response to the introduction of its campaign was “overwhelming.” Its office had been swamped with telegrams and letters of support proving that its slogan represented the “true battle cry of Colored Americans” and that they were determined to protect their nation and the freedoms that they cherished. It argued that African Americans would wage a “two-pronged attack” against those who would enslave us “at home and those who abroad would enslave us. WE HAVE A STAKE IN THIS FIGHT . . . WE ARE AMERICANS TOO!”

The Double V campaign became intertwined with popular culture. During the war, pinup models, usually glamorous movie stars considered sex symbols, were featured in magazines, postcards, and newspapers. In its February 14, 1943, edition, the Courier also began to feature photos of pretty young women. Labeled the “Double V girl,” the young women were college educated, were usually artistically talented, and were in support of the campaign. In addition to using glamorous women to attract supporters for its campaign, the paper also had photos of people dressed in the Double V fashion wear such as Double V dresses and Double V hats.

Besides the photos of the Double V Girls and Double V fashion, the Courier used numerous photos of whites standing alongside African Americans, emphasizing the point that the struggle for democracy was not a black issue but one that benefited the nation. The photos of blacks and whites flashing the Double V were to drive home the point that a unified country was essential for winning the war. Therefore, it urged the country not only preach democracy to the world but to practice it at home.

The Double V campaign was eventually adopted by other black newspapers, including the Los Angeles Sentinel, the Washington Tribune, and the Challenger of Columbus, Ohio. Despite the Courier’s effort, by 1943, the paper provided less space in promoting the campaign and by September 1945 the paper stopped using Double V. Although the Courier could not claim any concrete accomplishments, the Double V campaign helped provide a voice to Americans who wanted to protest racial discrimination and contribute to the war effort.

The March on Washington Campaign

Another crucial way that African Americans took advantage of America’s involvement in WWII to push for civil rights was through mass protest. When Nazi Germany began invading and occupying countries in Europe, American industries began contracting with the government to increase production of ships, tanks, guns, and other items for defense. Despite the urgent need for tens of thousands of skilled workers to help in the production of these items, war production companies refused to hire blacks. Moreover, the federal government refused to take steps to end the racial discriminatory actions of these industries. In fact, the administration publicly announced that it would continue to segregate black and whites who enlisted in the armed services.

In response to the blatant discrimination on the part of industry and government, civil rights leader and labor organizer A. Philip Randolph launched the March on Washington Movement (MOWM), which helped organize thousands of people of African origin in the United States to march on the nation’s capital in 1941, demanding that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt issue an executive order banning discrimination in the defense industry. The March on Washington Committee was organized and headed by Randolph and consisted of prominent black leaders such as Walter White of the NAACP and Lester Granger of the Urban League. Although Eleanor Roosevelt met with Randolph and White to convince them to call off the march, Randolph refused, insisting that the President agree to ban discrimination in the defense industry. The threat of thousands of black people coming to Washington, DC, to protest convinced FDR to hold a meeting with Randolph and other march leaders in June 1941. Although the president attempted to convince Randolph to call off the march, Randolph refused unless an executive order was issued.

Eventually, FDR agreed that his close ally Mayor Fiorello La Guardia of New York, and others associated with the White House, work out a compromise with Randolph. The compromise was Executive Order 8802, which banned employment discrimination in defense industry and government. FDR also created a temporary Fair Employment Practices Committee to help ensure that defense manufacturers would not practice racial discrimination. Because of a major victory in forcing the government to take action against discrimination for the first time since Reconstruction, Randolph agreed to call off the march.

Randolph and the march organizers had won a major victory for racial equality and had laid the groundwork for the civil rights protests of the 1950s and 1960s.

Clarence Taylor  teaches in the history department and the black and Hispanic studies department at Baruch College, The City University of New York. His books include Knocking at Our Own Door: Milton A. Galamison and the Struggle to Integrate New York City Schools (1997) and Black Religious Intellectuals: The Fight for Equality from Jim Crow to the 21st Century (2002).

●  Recollections of Clarence Inniss, U.S. Army

Inniss was an African American who enlisted in the Army in 1943 when he was 19 years old.

The Army was segregated and disappointing . . . well, I was accustomed to segregation.  Big deal, you know.  So, what else is new?  But I did not expect that in the black company the commissioned officers would be white . . .it took some time to get accustomed to that.  Although I must admit that some of the officers in my company were very professional . . . we were not subjected to any kind of abuse because of race from the officers who were serving with us . . .There was a USO that was always overcrowded with integrated black and white soldiers together.  And we lived in harmony with each other, we fought for the ping-pong table or whatever, but that was always a friendly fight.  And I think some of them (the white soldiers) sympathized with the fact that we didn’t have other outlets that were available to them.  Because . . . the restaurants, the bars, the theaters, did not cater to the black clientele.  They didn’t announce that they didn’t want you there, but you just didn’t get the service . . .

And this is where we were on D-Day . . . I don’t suppose many people got much sleep the night before because of the roar of airplanes in the sky.

I never saw so many wounded cry and there was no sense of race in evidence anywhere.  It would have warmed somebody’s heart to see blacks and whites embrace, you know.  It should have been captured on film because the idea that men don’t cry would certainly be out of the window then . . . There was an expectation of what was happening on the other side.  We could hear the noise . . . the number of casualties that we were suffering and you could see coming back, we knew that it was a toss up as to how well we were doing.  This was the feeling on D-Day throughout the day.  The hours meant nothing.  Morning, evening, it was just a continuous flow of troops and the noise, it was nothing like anything I had ever imagined . . . There were some instances where we unloaded landing barges that no one had been able to get out of.  Everybody dead.  It was horrible.

●  A. Philip Randolph, “Call to Negro America to March on Washington for Jobs and Equal Participation in National Defense,” Black Worker 14 (May 1941).

Dear fellow Negro Americans, be not dismayed by these terrible times. You possess power, great power. Our problem is to harness and hitch it up for action on the broadest, daring and most gigantic scale.

In this period of power politics, nothing counts but pressure, more pressure, and still more pressure, through the tactic and strategy of broad, organized, aggressive mass action behind the vital and important issues of the Negro. To this end, we propose that ten thousand Negroes MARCH ON WASHINGTON FOR JOBS IN NATIONAL DEFENSE AND EQUAL INTEGRATION IN THE FIGHTING FORCES OF THE UNITED STATES.

An “all-out” thundering march on Washington, ending in a monster and huge demonstration at Lincoln’s Monument will shake up white America.

It will shake up official Washington.

It will give encouragement to our white friends to fight all the harder by our side, with us, for our righteous cause.

It will gain respect for the Negro people.

It will create a new sense of self-respect among Negroes.

But what of national unity?

We believe in national unity which recognizes equal opportunity of black and white citizens to jobs in national defense and the armed forces, and in all other institutions and endeavors in America. We condemn all dictatorships, Fascist, Nazi and Communist. We are loyal, patriotic Americans all.

But if American democracy will not defend its defenders; if American democracy will not protect its protectors; if American democracy will not give jobs to its toilers because of race or color; if American democracy will not insure equality of opportunity, freedom and justice to its citizens, black and white, it is a hollow mockery and belies the principles for which it is supposed to stand. . . .

Today we call on President Roosevelt, a great humanitarian and idealist, to . . . free American Negro citizens of the stigma, humiliation and insult of discrimination and Jim-Crowism in Government departments and national defense.

The Federal Government cannot with clear conscience call upon private industry and labor unions to abolish discrimination based on race and color as long as it practices discrimination itself against Negro Americans.

●  James G. Thompson, letter to the editor, Pittsburgh Courier, originally printed January 31, 1942 The author was a a 26 year old African American cafeteria worker from Wichita, Kansas. The Pittsburgh Courier was an African American newspaper.

DEAR EDITOR: Like all true Americans, my greatest desire at this time, this crucial point of our history; is a desire for a complete victory over the forces of evil, which threaten our existence today. Behind that desire is also a desire to serve, this, my country, in the most advantageous way. Most of our leaders are suggesting that we sacrifice every other ambition to the paramount one, victory. With this I agree; but I also wonder if another victory could not be achieved at the same time. After all, the things that beset the world now are basically the same things which upset the equilibrium of nations internally, states, counties, cities, homes and even the individual. Being an American of dark complexion and some 26 years, these questions flash through my mind: “Should I sacrifice my life to live half American?” “Will things be better for the next generation in the peace to follow?” “Would it be demanding too much to demand full citizenship rights in exchange for the sacrificing of my life.” “Is the kind of America I know worth defending?” “Will America be a true and pure democracy after this war?” “Will colored Americans suffer still the indignities that have been heaped upon them in the past?” These and other questions need answering; I want to know, and I believe every colored American, who is thinking, wants to know. This may be the wrong time to broach such subjects, but haven’t all good things obtained by men been secured through sacrifice during just such times of strife? I suggest that while we keep defense and victory in the forefront that we don’t loose sight of our fight for true democracy at home. The “V for Victory” sign is being displayed prominently in all so-called democratic countries which are fighting for victory over aggression, slavery and tyranny. If this V sign means that to those now engaged in this great conflict then let colored Americans adopt the double VV for a double victory;The first V for victory over our enemies from without, the second V for victory over our enemies within. For surely those who perpetrate these ugly prejudices here are seeing to destroy our democratic form of government just as surely as the Axis forces. This should not and would not lessen our efforts to bring this conflict to a successful conclusion; but should and would make us stronger to resist these evil forces which threaten us. America could become united as never before and become truly the home of democracy. In way of an answer to the foregoing questions in a preceding paragraph, I might say that there is no doubt that this country is worth defending; things will be different for the next generation; colored Americans will come into their own, and America will eventually become the true democracy it was designed to be. These things will become a reality in time; but not through any relaxation of the efforts to secure them. In conclusion let me say that though these questions often permeate my mind, I love America and am willing to die for the America I know will someday become a reality.

SOURCES FOR 6d (Three sources)

Recollections of Ann Bernatitus, Captain, U.S. Navy Nurse

…There were 24 Army nurses, 25 Filipino nurses and me, the 1 Navy nurse. As we passed through the villages, the natives came out and cheered us giving us the “V” for victory sign. Many times during the trip the bus would have to stop and we would dive into gutters along the roadside because the Japanese planes were overhead. Late that afternoon we arrived at Camp Limay, Hospital Number 1. …

The operating room was a long narrow building with approximately seven or eight tables set up in the center. Along the window openings were the cabinets with supplies. There were shutters with a stick to keep them open. I’m a bit vague on how we sterilized the gauze and linen but it seems to me it was done in pressure cooker operated by kerosene. The instruments were sterilized by placing them in a foot tub filled with Lysol, then rinsed in alcohol. The period of sterilization depended on how fast they were needed. As the patients were brought in they were assigned to a table by Dr. Weinstein of the Army Medical Corps. The team assigned to that table took care of the patient regardless of what type of surgery was indicated. Casualties were heavy and the operating room was an extremely busy place.

We got there on December 24th. On January 23, 1942, Camp Limay moved to Little Baguio farther down the peninsula. We had two meals a day: 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. The wards ware just concrete slabs with corrugated roofs. They were open on the sides. The operating room was on a little knoll.

On March 3, the hospital was bombed, even though the warehouse on the beach had a big red cross. The alarm would sound and then you could hear the bombs coming down–a whistling sound. On April 7 the Japanese apologized. It had been a mistake. That hospital was right next door to the ammunition dump. …

Every operating table would be filled. They would come in from the field all dirty. You did what you could. There were lice; I kept my hair covered all the time. He did a lot of leg amputations because we had a lot of gas gangrene out there. I remember one patient we were operating on. Dr. Smith didn’t want to sew him back up. He had died. I remember telling him that I didn’t want him to do that if anything happened to me. He said, “I’ll sew him up just to shut you up.” We were washing the dirty dressings that they used during an operation. We would wash them out and refold and sterilized them and use them again. …

On April 7, the following week, they bombed us again. It was terrible. By that time, they had stopped advancing for a while. Things were kind of quiet at the front lines. But we were getting a lot of patients with malaria, dysentery, all that. We ran out of beds. You’d go to bed at night and when you awoke the next morning you’d get out there and there would be all these two or three-decker bunks made of wood and patients in them. There wasn’t much surgery going on, but the nurses taking care of the sick were very busy. The second time we were bombed, they hit one of the wards. There were patients who were tied in traction. The nurses had to cut the ropes so they could fall to the deck.

● Recollections of Elizabeth P. McIntosh, Army, Office of Strategic Services.

Well I was asked to serve in the Office of Strategic Services. I didn’t know what they did until I joined them and then I was very proud to serve overseas behind enemy lines with that outfit during the war. The options… I was just invited to join OSS, and I had no idea what I was going to do but they said I was going overseas and that’s all I wanted to do—go overseas and get away from Washington.

I was assigned to something called the Office of Strategic Services, which is the forerunner of the CIA. We operated all over the world behind enemy lines in different areas where the war was being carried out. It was a secret sort of operation. We worked behind enemy lines with the resistance groups and we also had operations where we bombed bridges and upset the enemy’s plans for their operations. And, uh, My particular job was something called morale operations where we were trying to convince the enemy that they were losing the war. We had all sorts of methods of doing that which perhaps I can go into later on. I was interviewing a man once who was with a strange government organization, and he asked me if I would be interested in joining the government because he heard that I spoke Japanese. I said yes I would on the condition that I go overseas. He said, “I can promise you that, but I can’t tell you what you’ll be doing until you join us.”

I was in Morale Operations, i.e. disinformation. We were trying to convince the enemy—the Japanese—how to get them to think differently. We used rumors, false documents, leaflets…..we even got some of their mail and put false messages in them. People back in Japan thought they were losing the war in Burma and they were starving and not getting ammunition—things like that— just to upset the people in Japan. It was a fascinating job. As a newspaper writer I had been taught that everything had to be right and correct and we were changing everything to make people think differently.

We were sent to different kinds of schools before we were sent overseas. We were taught how to trail people and how to assume false identities. I went down to Richmond. My false identify was being a stenographer—although I couldn’t type very well. At other places, we had other schools where they tried to find out about us and how we would react under certain circumstances—if we were captured. Then we went to Congressional Country Club to learn how to shoot—we shot up the greens—I used a machine gun.

Our mission was to get the Japanese to surrender and we carried it out as I described, even using a fake radio station which appeared to be coming from the Japanese but we were really sending it out. We had wonderful people like Marlene Dietrich singing these wonderful songs but they changed the words a bit to make them very unhappy and very sad.

●  Recollections of Civilian Women Workers in World War II:  Mary Stockton Brancato

I was born and raised on an Oklahoma wheat farm. I’d only been to the city once or twice while I was growing up. Wichita , Kansas , was the big city – and it was the capitol of the world to me. In May 1942 we were six months into the war. I was 17 and had just graduated Lamont High School . As so many young women did in those frightening days, I felt compelled to do my part for the war effort. So, I decided to head for Wichita , home of Beechcraft, Boeing and Cessna aircraft builders.

My sister Phyllis was already married and living in the city and I went to stay with her. My Dad drove me to Phyllis’ in his old Model A Ford. I went to training school for three weeks before starting work at Davis Westholt – a small airplane parts factory – as a welder making tail pipes for B29s. My job was to weld two pieces of pipe together before they went off to be sandblasted and made perfect before being used. I like to think that some of my tailpipes were on the planes that helped end the war.

That was the most exciting time I’d ever had. It was an exciting time of life really – I was in the big city with a war going on and earning real money for the first time in my life. With my 40¢ an hour I went crazy buying clothes – at least that’s what my sister says!

But you were always aware of the war – and there were many sad times when families you knew, and ones you didn’t, received the telegrams that informed them of loved ones lost in the war.

Still, we tried to have the most fun we could and we lived for the moment, because everybody thought life was so short. It was everyone’s motto that you could be dead before tomorrow ever came. I guess maybe that’s why my husband and I got married after just three weeks of dating.

I met him at the parts factory. Of course there weren’t a lot of places to go back then – not like today with all the shows and things, but you could get into the movies for about a dime and that’s where we’d go on dates. But most of the time I was too tired to do much and I certainly didn’t go out very often – welding was a hard job – and the heat from the acetylene torch really tired me out. From 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. I sat in my uniform, which was a pair of blue twill coveralls and a cotton bandana to tie my hair up in, welding the two seams of stainless steel pipes together.

I didn’t really wear makeup back then – well maybe just a little lipstick. But I remember that an eyebrow pencil came in might handy for us girls in a time when you couldn’t buy nylons for love nor money. I could draw a pretty straight line up the back of each of my legs with that eyebrow pencil and it really did look like I had on hose for the rare occasions my friends and I went out dancing.  Nylons weren’t the only thing in short supply. We had rationing on gas, sugar, meat and tires, too.

The war changed my life. I probably would have been a stay-at-home housewife, instead, I continued to work throughout my adult life – including as a working mother of four boys – and was a postal service worker for 22 years, until my retirement in 1988.

DISCUSSION 6: Comment on the statements of the U.S. servicemen below. Follow the guidelines and instructions for Discussion Participation. Post original comments and replies to the Discussion Board on Canvas by the deadline shown on the Class Schedule.

The recollections below are from U.S. servicemen from the World War II era. They are taken from Chris Heath, “Tell: An Intimate History of Gay Men in the Military,” GQ, Sept. 2011 © 2017 Condé Nast. All rights reserved.

Arch Wilson, age 87: “We’re going back a hell of a long way. I was 19 then. The myth was, if you volunteered instead of waiting to be drafted, you would be treated better. Well, that was false. I do have to thank the military for tearing me out of the typical hometown setting where I would have been trapped in Scranton, Pennsylvania. If I had stayed there, I would have had to get married like everybody there, and it would have been a disaster. I would have been crushed. No space for homosexuals back then. It was something to be ashamed of and hide.”

Jack Strouss, age 88: “We had heard about these very frightening psychiatrists who were going to grill you. We thought they were the all-seeing people. So we were a little apprehensive. But it certainly didn’t happen that way. I was called in, and there was a man sitting behind this desk, and he pulled down his glasses and looked at me, and the only thing he said to me was ‘Do you like girls?’ I said, ‘Oh yes. And I love to dance.’ And he looked over at the door and said, ‘Next!’ ”

John McNeill, age 85: “They were in desperate need of more cannon fodder—they didn’t care whether we were gay or straight.”

AW: “In January ’45, the Belgian Bulge occurred, and American troops, Patton’s Third Army, were slaughtered, and the army decided: We don’t need any more hot pilots, we need more infantry, so I did go overseas as an infantry rifle replacement in the spring. This man tried to rape me on the troop ship between Boston and Le Havre. I was small and I was cute—who wasn’t cute at 19, 20?—and he was a big, horny guy. I was afraid to scream, because people would wonder, ‘Why was he after you?’ I was afraid I had it coming to me because I was made that way.”

Edward Zasadil, age 86: “I was not revealing my gayness to anybody. I did have one or two incidents, but no one noticed it. We were in two-man tents, a good-looking fellow from another platoon was bunked with me, and I woke up at night, finding he was playing with my penis. And we did that every night after that. It was taking a chance. But all in all I just kept everything very straight. There were the usual nasty remarks about gay people—’homos’ and whatnot. But I passed it off. All my life. Acted as straight as possible. Listen, my life was a pretense the whole time.”

AW: “In this boxcar going overnight from France to Germany, May of ’45, I had a little romance with a married man next to me. Oh, that was a kick. There we were, sleeping on straw. Absolutely no lights. We wound up next to each other. And it was just easy, it was natural. That was it. Troops that pass in the night. In the morning we opened the boxcar doors and we were in Germany, and very quickly the word came to us that Germany had that morning surrendered. Wow, can you imagine the exhilaration in that boxcar? A day earlier, I could have become a statistic. We were flown out to the Philippines to form a new army to invade Japan. Well, timing. The day my plane landed in Manila, the U.S. dropped the first atomic bomb. We didn’t have to invade. We were brought home, sent to a big camp in North Carolina. In the rec center, the men’s room was so busy—big glory holes in the toilet partitions. Play out in these vast fields at night. Everybody was just waiting to be discharged, so lots of people were taking chances. It just happened, it was spontaneous. Just because: Mission Accomplished.”

JM: “I found out right after the war that if someone were discharged as homosexual, a notice of that fact was sent home to their local draft board, so that their whole community would come to know that they were gay. And this led indirectly to the formation of gay ghettos in the major cities, where people who couldn’t go home, because their sexuality had been revealed by the army, had to move into Greenwich Village or the San Francisco Castro. This was the beginning of the huge gay communities in the major cities.”

Part IV (1945 to ca. 1970s)

ASSIGNMENT 7: Answer the questions outside of Canvas. Save your responses. Submit on Canvas before the deadline on the Class Schedule.

5a. Write a statement characterizing this period based on the essay by William H. Chafe (A) below. Follow closely the Guidelines for Characterizing Context.

5b. Identify the five to seven most significant features of the period, based on Chafe’s essay. Follow closely the Guidelines for Describing Features.

William H. Chafe, “1945 to the Present [PART A]” The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History 49 W. 45th Street, 6th Floor · NYC, NY 10036 (646) 366-9666 © 2009–2013 [https://www.gilderlehrman.org/]

No event proved more important to the course of modern American history than World War II. The war cast America onto the world stage as a mighty economic and military giant. It rescued the country from the Great Depression, created full employment, and for the first time in a generation increased real income for American workers. Moreover, the poorest 40 percent of the population saw its share of the national income grow, while the top 5 percent witnessed a decline. Technology boomed, and the computer age began. African Americans and women experienced more dramatic change than they had in decades. And the contours of postwar diplomacy took shape in response to issues dividing the Western Allies on the one hand from the Soviet Union on the other. Although the war lasted only four years for the United States, its impact endured for generations.

Domestically, the war triggered massive social changes. More than 6.5 million women took jobs for the first time, increasing the female labor force by 57 percent. Most were married and over 35. Whereas before the war, the average woman worker was young, single, and poor, by the end of the war she was married, middle aged, and increasingly middle class. African Americans joined the Armed Forces in record numbers, while two million left the South for factory jobs in the North and West. While facing ongoing discrimination, black Americans pursued the “Double V” campaign—victory against racism at home as well as victory against fascism abroad. Membership in the NAACP—the largest African American protest organization—skyrocketed from 50,000 to 500,000.

In the meantime, workers with rising incomes put their money into savings accounts, since rationing limited their ability to purchase consumer goods like cars and clothes. Those funds were then available to fuel the consumer boom that followed the war. Millions took advantage of the opportunities to buy new houses in the suburbs, shop for new cars and appliances, and join the burgeoning “affluent society” of the 1950s.

The war also set the stage for the dominant political and diplomatic reality of the postwar years—the Cold War. Tensions among the Allies had existed from the beginning of World War II, and after the war profound conflicts continued to separate the superpowers. What would be the fate of Poland, whose freedom was the reason for Allied intervention in the first place? How would Germany and Japan be governed after the war? What about other Eastern European countries like Romania, Czechoslovakia, and Hungary? Should they fall under Soviet control, or have Western-style free governments? And how about the atomic bomb? Should the United States try to be the sole nuclear power, or should it share information about atomic science?

Although Roosevelt was confident he could reconcile these tensions, he died before the war ended, and he never shared his ideas for making peace. His successor, Harry Truman, found himself in an increasingly hostile relationship with Stalin and the USSR. By 1947, polarization between the two superpowers had come to dominate all diplomatic relations. In the Truman Doctrine, the President portrayed America as being in a holy war with Soviet Union. It was a battle between good and evil, he said, with God-fearing people who believed in freedom on one side, and atheistic Communists who believed in tyranny on the other. In this worldview, there could be no room for compromise, and anyone who suggested such a course was immoral. Pursuing a policy of “containment,” the United States pledged to fight Communist incursions any place and any time they occurred.

Tensions worsened through the 1940s and 1950s as nations around the world aligned themselves on one side or the other. The United States created the Marshall Plan in 1948 to rebuild Europe and established NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Alliance) the same year. In 1949, the USSR tested its first atomic bomb, and Communist China led by Mao Zedong emerged. In 1950, North Korea—with Russia’s approval—invaded South Korea, precipitating an immediate American response. The Korean War was the first open military conflagration of the Cold War. And in 1955, when NATO accepted the Federal Republic of Germany as a member, Russia formed the Warsaw Pact to prevent future invasions of Soviet territory and tighten control over Eastern Europe.

But Cold War anti-communism was not limited to foreign policy. The “other side of the [Cold War] walnut” was domestic anti-communism. From the hearings of the House Unamerican Activities Committee (HUAC) in the immediate postwar years to the launching of McCarthyism in 1950, fear of domestic communism dominated political discourse at home. It was the primary weapon in President Truman’s re-election campaign in 1948. Threatened by the candidacy of former Vice President Henry Wallace on the Progressive Party ticket, Truman denounced “Wallace and his communists” (emphasis added), suggesting that anyone to the left of the Democratic Party mainstream was suspect. When Truman proposed national health care insurance to Congress in 1947, it was excoriated as “socialized medicine,” an effort to imitate the Soviet Union. The same allegation was made against day care centers in New York City, because such centers suggested that the state take over the responsibilities of the family, as in the Soviet Union. Those who supported such measures were denounced as “fellow travelers” and “communist sympathizers.”

As a result, a centrist consensus emerged as the dominant political style of America. Democrats and Republicans celebrated American democracy and capitalism; they agreed there were no fundamental problems with American society, and that any problems that did exist could be solved by incremental reform. Economic growth would serve as the primary means of securing social progress. The anchor of this consensus was anti-communism, both as a foreign policy toward the Soviet Union and as a political stance rejecting the kind of left-of-center politics that was prevalent in the Labor Party in England and the Social Democratic Parties of France and Germany. To be sure, Democrats and Republicans disagreed on many issues, but for the most part both parties occupied the center of the political spectrum.

Thus, Dwight Eisenhower, a Republican and a war hero, was elected president in 1952, but he never sought to undo the New Deal. Indeed, he created a Cabinet-level Department of Health, Education and Welfare and famously wrote his brother that anyone who contemplated ending Social Security must be out of his mind. Similarly, when John F. Kennedy was elected president, he focused primarily on the Cold War and on stimulating economic growth. He might have been a Democrat, but in substance, Kennedy represented continuity with, not difference from, President Eisenhower.

In spite of this political consensus, the Civil Rights Movement was able to surge forward in the postwar years, creating the foundation for a decade of rapidly expanding protest. When black veterans returned from World War II, they refused to accept second-class citizenship any longer. With their uniforms still on, they went to register to vote. When they were beaten—even murdered—for trying to exercise the franchise, they fought back. The war had kindled a new activism and a new faith among African Americans. What had previously been endured was vigorously resisted, from the bottom up. When a black woman was raped by six white police officers in Montgomery, Alabama, angry African Americans, led by a Women’s Political Council and a black labor union, insisted that the police be put on trial. One of those activists was Rosa Parks. Secretary of the local NAACP, she was determined to challenge racism wherever it existed. So when she was told to give up her seat on a public bus to a white person in December 1955, she refused. Her arrest sparked phone conversations between the Women’s Political Council and the black labor union, and the next night, the African American community poured into a Baptist church where they heard a young and unknown minister, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., implore the community to stand up for justice. For 381 days, not a single black person in Montgomery rode a public bus, until finally the Supreme Court ruled that segregation in public transportation was unconstitutional.

By the 1960s, the Civil Rights Movement had become a page-one story in every newspaper and had entered the political arena as a pivotal issue. On February 1, 1960, four first-year college students in Greensboro, North Carolina, “sat in” at the local Woolworth’s to demand the right to buy a cup of coffee at the lunch counter, just as they were able to purchase school supplies and toiletries at other counters. They started a flash fire of similar protests. Within two months, sit-ins had spread to fifty-four cities in nine different states, and in the North students, black and white, protested stores that practiced segregation in the South. Soon, the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) was created, and civil rights demonstrators sought to integrate public restaurants and hotels and register voters in every Southern state.

By 1963, President John F. Kennedy could no longer ignore what was happening around the country and went on national television to declare that racial equality was a “moral issue” as old as the Scriptures and to propose legislation that would end segregation in the work place and in all public accommodations. Five months later on November 22, 1963, Kennedy was assassinated. He did not live to see his legislation pass, but his successor, Lyndon B. Johnson, not only secured passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but also signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965, prohibiting the states from denying African Americans their right to vote in the South. The greatest reform president since Franklin Roosevelt, Johnson also waged a War on Poverty, secured passage of Medicare, which offered health insurance to senior citizens, and promoted far-reaching changes in federal aid for education, manpower retraining, and urban renewal.

As in the the abolition movement more than one hundred years earlier, the battle over equal rights for African Americans quickly led to a battle over equal rights for women. Throughout the 1950s, women’s employment rate increased four times faster than men’s. Although most of those jobs were underpaid and not competitive with men’s jobs, they contradicted the dictum that “a woman’s place is in the home.” Soon, that cultural norm came under overt attack. President Kennedy established the Commission on the Status of Women, which in 1963 called for reforms in women’s status. The 1964 Civil Rights Act specifically outlawed discrimination in the workplace against women as well as African Americans, and when there was little effort to enforce that prohibition, a group of activists led by Betty Friedan created the National Organization for Women (NOW) in 1966. Friedan had written the best-selling Feminine Mystique in 1963, revealing the dissatisfaction of middle-class housewives who were concerned with “the problem that has no name.” It was given a name—sexism—and NOW set out to integrate women into the mainstream of American society, just as the NAACP had done for black Americans.

Young woman activists in the Civil Rights Movement, in the meantime, realized that they were treated as “second-class citizens,” even within a movement dedicated to equal rights. As the Civil Rights Movement split over the emergence of Black Power, many white woman civil rights activists joined the New Left, a predominantly campus-based organization that started groups like Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). There, too, women experienced condescension from white male radicals.

Soon, they started the women’s liberation movement. Not a national, hierarchical organization like NOW, women’s liberation groups emerged in grassroots settings where fifteen or twenty women gathered together for “consciousness-raising” sessions where they explored what it was like to be a woman. As such groups proliferated, a sea change occurred in the attitudes of young women. The result was a revolution in social values. No longer did most young women believe that happiness could be found solely in marriage and children. Growing numbers of women sought independence, equal relationships, and careers; they married later, had fewer children, and insisted on equal access to careers. In 1965, only 5 percent of all students entering medical school, law school, or business school were women. Twenty-five years later, that figure had skyrocketed to 50 percent.

Protest movements in the 1960s culminated when activists zeroed in on the Vietnam War as a primary example of what was wrong with American society. The war itself was a direct product of the Cold War. During World War II, Americans enjoyed an informal alliance with Ho Chi Minh, leader of the Vietnamese resistance against Japan. But when France re-imposed its colonial regime in Indochina, the United States supported its NATO ally against Ho Chi Minh and Vietnamese nationalists. When the French withdrew in 1954, the United States supported a pro-Western South Vietnamese government. John F. Kennedy increased American troop strength from 800 to 15,000, but resisted requests for more troops. Bolstered by his success during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, Kennedy gave every indication that he would begin withdrawing American troops after the 1964 election. But after the assassination, Lyndon Johnson, far less experienced than Kennedy, believed he had to resist Communist insurrection in Vietnam at all costs. By July 1965 Johnson had begun escalating American involvement in Vietnam, and the number of troops soon reached 540,000.

Initial protest against the war was moderate. It began with “teach-ins,” where opponents of the war debated representatives of the State Department in the hope that reason would prevail. But intellectual argument changed nothing. Student activists quickly intensified their protests. They demonstrated against universities that had defense industry contracts or that hosted recruitment visits from companies like Dow Chemical, the manufacturer of napalm. Soon, anti-war protestors started burning draft cards and calling the police who opposed them “capitalist pigs.” By the end of 1967, it was nearly impossible for an administration official to visit a college campus anywhere in the country without rowdy and violent demonstrations.

As the presidential election year of 1968 dawned, the nation was split apart more severely than at any time since the Civil War. Radical student groups threatened to take over campuses. The “Weathermen,” a break-off group from SDS, called for violent revolution. More moderate reformers rallied behind the anti-war presidential candidacy of Senator Eugene McCarthy from Minnesota, who contested Lyndon Johnson in the New Hampshire primary. A rapid-fire succession of explosive developments made the world seem dramatically different with each passing month.

In January, Vietnamese insurgents launched the Tet offensive (during the Vietnamese new year), assaulting every major South Vietnamese city, even briefly occupying the US Embassy in Saigon. One month later, Eugene McCarthy captured 48 percent of the vote in the New Hampshire primary. The next week, Robert F. Kennedy, also an anti-war senator, joined the presidential campaign. On March 31, Lyndon Johnson announced a halt in the bombing of North Vietnam, then stunned the nation by declaring he would not run for re-election. Four days later, on April 4, Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee. In reaction to King’s death, despite leaders urging for non-violence in his honor, riots broke out in more than 110 American cities. In May, students occupied the main administration buildings at Columbia University protesting racist policies. Then on June 5, Robert F. Kennedy was gunned down after winning the California primary, seemingly on his way to the Democratic presidential nomination. In August, the Democratic National Convention was racked by violence, and Chicago police engaged in brutal attacks against journalists and student protestors. The presidential race was dominated by a sense of domestic crisis. Alabama Governor George Wallace, a third-party candidate, lambasted all protestors as traitors. Richard Nixon, the Republican nominee, called for a return to law and order, claiming to speak for the “silent majority” who believed in patriotism, hard work, and reverence for God. Democratic nominee Hubert Humphrey sought to find a middle ground in vain, though he did almost win.[END OF PART A]

William H. Chafe is the Alice Mary Baldwin Professor of History at Duke University. His recent publications include Private Lives/Public Consequences: Personality and Politics in Modern America (2005) and The Rise and Fall of the American Century: The United States from 1890 to 2008 (2008).

DISCUSSION 7: Comment on the Congressional Testimony by Shirley Hall and Ruth Green. Follow the guidelines and instructions for Discussion Participation. Post original comments and replies to the Discussion Board on Canvas by the deadline shown on the Class Schedule.

In October 1949, President Harry S. Truman signed into law the Fair Labor Standards Amendments of 1949, raising the minimum wage to 75 cents hour and extending coverage, but still leaving many workers unprotected. The following are statements to the 1949 Senate subcommittee on FLSA amendments.

Shirley Hall, Textile Workers Union, Danville, Va., “Statement before Congress, Fair Labor Standards Act Amendments of 1949, Hearings before the Subcommittee of the Committee on Labor and Public Welfare, United States Senate,” 1949.

Miss HALL. My name is Shirley Hall, and I am a member of the textile workers union and work in the Dan River Mills, in Danville, Va. I have been working in the mills, not all the time at Danville, but the mill in Danville is organized and the minimum wage is 87 cents an hour. In our joint board we have another mill that is organized, a small knitting mill, seamless hosiery, and they have a minimum of 73 cents an hour.

All the people in the union would like for them to make as much as the workers in the cotton mill, but we can’t go to the company say, “You have to raise it to 87 cents.” There is too much competition.

We want this company to stay in business. They have to stay in business because our people get their living from them.

In the last couple of weeks we have become more concerned than usual about this whole thing because of the unemployment situation in Danville. The mills are just now getting back to normal. They are cutting off a third shift. In the last 2 weeks 1,500 of our people have been laid off work completely. In Danville the Dan River Mills are really the only source of employment. We have a few other factories, a little tobacco factory with a minimum wage of 65 cents an hour, an overall factory with a minimum wage of 65 cents an hour, a flour mill with a minimum wage of 40 cents an hour, and a small fertilizer factory paying 40 cents an hour, a laundry paying 35 cents, I believe, and a bakery with a minimum wage of 60 cents.

Our people in the last couple of years have got just a little bit used to making more money than that. They have paid off bills that they have owed for years and years, and when somebody comes to the door now instead of sending the kid to say, “Mother isn’t home,” the head of the house can answer the door because he is not afraid.

We don’t know what will happen to our people. The only way that much hardship could be avoided is for the minimum-wage law to go into effect so our people will get 75 cents or more. I have been trying to think how the people who made 40 and 50 cents an hour got along, and in Danville I don’t see how it could be done, because the Danville mills are the biggest thing and most of the people work there. Most of the prices in stores have been geared to what our people could pay, or maybe more than our people could pay, and now that so many of our people are out of work, the ones that have money aren’t spending it, they are scared stiff, business in town is suffering already.

A friend of ours on the council has a super market, and he told us that in the last 2 weeks his business has gone down 25 percent. Most of our people make, I am sure our average wage is $1.17 an hour. That looks like a pretty good amount of money, but since Christmas we have been on very short time. Some of our people would get 10 hours a week. I think a very few of them are still working 6 days a week. The majority of us are working 4 days a week. The people who were making that weren’t living well.

The man of the house would make $39 a week if he is lucky. I have a friend who has three children that go to school, and they buy milk and shoes and all that, so she does sewing on the side, and she had saved enough money to buy herself a suit for Easter, but she couldn’t do it because her little girl’s toes had gotten infected around the nails, they were coming off, and I reckon she figured it was more important to take her child to the doctor at $5 a trip than to have a new suit. It was lucky she had that money on hand.

Our people are desperately afraid we are going back to the days when I was growing up. When I was a child my mother worked in the mill and my dad worked in the mill, the older kids took care of the younger ones and cooked supper. It wasn’t a good way to live, and I think we were trying to forget about it, but now it has been forced back on us, and we can’t forget.

I know that last week or last month the time came when we had to buy a license for our dog we have at home. It is a dollar, so that wasn’t so bad. When I was about 10 years we got a little dog, we found him on the railroad. He had been hit by a train. We lugged him home and took care of him. Along about February we had to buy a license. Daddy didn’t have a dollar. We fastened the dog under the house when we left for school, and we rushed home from school to make sure the game warden hadn’t gotten him. It was very serious to us, although it may seem kind of silly now. I don’t want my kids or my sister’s kids to be worried about things like that.

I think if this law is passed raising the minimum wage, that the buying power of this country will pick up immediately. I work in a sheeting mill in Danville. Half of the people I know don’t have enough sheets. If somebody gets sick, they have to wash sheets every day or go to the neighbors and borrow some.

I suppose half the people in the country don’t have a lot of things they need. They have the necessities, but not the luxuries, but if this bill is passed, the buying power will pick up immediately and people in New York can buy the sheets we are making in Danville and maybe we can buy the shoes they are making some place else, and the only thing I think now that will eliminate this fear that all our people have is that.

A few of them have bonds. A man I know has some bonds and he needs some money. He is trying to sell his car. He is not going to sell his bonds.

That is all.

Ruth Green, member, Local no. 302, Laundry workers’ International Union, Richmond, VA. “Statement before Congress, Fair Labor Standards Act Amendments of 1949, Hearings before the Subcommittee of the Committee on Labor and Public Welfare, United States Senate,” 1949.

My name is Ruth Green. I am at present working in a laundry in Richmond, Va. I have worked in this same laundry 13 years, starting at a wage of $8 a week. During all this time, I, a widow, had one daughter to support and have raised a cousin, a girl now 17 years of age and in school.

Wages were raised at the rate of $1 or sometimes $2 a year. We organized into a union 3 years ago—now my wages are $24 a week; after deductions for old age, I have a check of $23.76, for 40 hours work at 60 cents an hour.

Fortunately my daughter has finished school and is now teaching. She lives with me and pays half of our bills. Our house rent is $31.20 a month. We heat, cook, and have hot water through the use of gas, which costs us from about $3 in the summer to almost $30 a month in the coldest of weather. Our food costs around $11 and $12 a week, and I spend $2.50 weekly on insurance, as I find it is the only way I can save for funeral expenses.

The greatest number of workers in our plant, which is an interstate linen-supply service, makes 55 cents an hour. There are between 40 and 50 girls at that rate; we have one head seamstress who makes 93 cents an hour, and one washman who makes 80 cents an hour. Thirteen other men make 75 cents an hour; the rest of the women make from 55 cents to 73 cents an hour. About eight of the women work on piece rate. They are pressers, and if they can get sufficient work two or three of them can sometimes make as much as $30 a week.

Many of the women in our laundry are not working for themselves alone; they have others to support or to help support. One girl at the plant, who makes 65 cents an hour, has four children to support. Her oldest boy, now 14, has quit school, because she could not give him the clothes and supplies he needs. Another woman, who has a little house at the edge of town which her father left her, has tried for the 19 or 20 years she has worked at the plant to get enough ahead to have water and lights put in her house. She still has to walk three blocks for water.

Our laundry is done for business firms; so, we do not have short workweeks as workers do in laundries doing home laundry, where families begin to do their own washing when lower wages or unemployment hits.

Laundry work is hard work; it is unhealthy work. We work in heat and steam. Often, in bitter cold weather, the piece workers have to keep their windows open because of the steam and hot air from the pressing machines. This causes all of us to be in the draft. None of our laundries under contract carry insurance for inside workers. If workers become ill, they must bear the total expense.

Hard, dirty work should be paid for. Laundry workers need a minimum wage of at least 75 cents an hour. We know this amendment will not cover all the little laundries that are paying pitiful wages. We wish it could, but chain laundries and interstate laundries need a floor under their wages or we will be pushed to still lower rates when times are not good.

I am a union member and our union has helped us but in the South most of the laundries are not organized. This makes it hard for us to get decent contracts and it means other laundry workers are much worse off than we are. My union, local 302, Laundry Workers’ International Union of Richmond, Va., begs this Senate committee to approve this 75-cent minimum wage and we hope you will cover all laundries that can be brought under a national law.

ASSIGNMENT 8: Answer the questions outside of Canvas. Save your responses. Submit on Canvas before the deadline on the Class Schedule.

8a. How did African Americans try to address the problems they faced in the country during the 1950s and 1960s? Following closely the Guidelines for Thesis Writing, write a thesis for an essay that could be written for this question, based on Sources for 8a b.

8b. Following closely the Guidelines on Evidence, write four points of evidence to support the thesis you wrote on African Americans in ‘a’ above, based on the sources on Sources on 8a b.

8c. How did women differ in their views of women’s social status in the 1960s? Following closely the Guidelines for Thesis Writing, write a thesis for an essay that could be written for this question, based on Sources for 8c

8d. How did Women participate in the Vietnam War and what did they gain or lose by the experience? Following closely the Guidelines for Thesis Writing, write a thesis for an essay that could be written for this question, based on Sources for 8d.

SOURCES for 8ab (Seven sources)

Background for first two sourcesIn August 1955, a fourteen year old African American boy from Chicago named Emmett Till went to visit relatives near Money, Mississippi.  Soon after talking in “too friendly a manner” with a young white woman in a store, he was kidnapped in the night at gunpoint and brutally murdered by two white men. An all-white jury failed to convict the accused murderers, adding a further sense of injustice.

Below are two poems by Langston Hughes on the murder of Emmett Till.

Langston Hughes, “Mississippi—1955,” 1955

(To the Memory of Emmett Till)

Oh what sorrow! oh, what pity! Oh, what pain That tears and blood Should mix like rain And terror come again To Mississippi.

Come again? Where has terror been? On vacation? Up North? In some other section Of the nation, Lying low, unpublicized? Masked—with only Jaundiced eyes Showing through the mask?

Oh, what sorrow, Pity, pain, That tears and blood Should mix like rain In Mississippi! And terror, fetid hot, Yet clammy cold Remain.

Langston Hughes, “The Money Mississippi Blues,” 1955

I don’t want to go to Money, honey, not Money, Mississippi! no, I wouldn’t go to Money, honey, down in Mississippi. There’s pity, sorrow, and pain

in Money, Mississippi. Tears and blood like rain in Money, Mississippi, in Money, Mississippi!

His father died for democracy fighting in the army over the sea. His father died for the U. S. A. Why did they treat his son this a-way? in Money, Money, Mississippi, Money, Mississippi.

His mother worked to raise her child, dressed him neat, kept him from running wild. She sent him to the country when vacation came, but he never got back to Chicago the same. They sent him back in a wooden box—- from Money, Money, Mississippi, Money, Mississippi.

Like old boy, just fourteen years old, shot, kicked, and beaten ‘cause he was so bold to whistle at a woman who was white. He was throwed in the river in the dead of night In Money, Money, Mississippi, Money, Mississippi.

I don’t want to go to Money, honey, not Money, Mississippi. No, I wouldn’t want to go to Money, honey, down in Mississippi. There’s pity, sorrow, and pain in Money, Mississippi! Tears and blood like rain in Money, Mississippi, in Money, Mississippi!

No, I wouldn’t want to go— for no kind o’ Money— to Money, Mississippi, not Money, Mississippi!

Money, Mississippi!

Southern Christian Leadership Conference,” “A Statement to the South and the Nation,” Issued by the Southern Negro Leaders Conference on Transportation and Nonviolent Integration 1 January 1957 [edited for length.]

All over the world men are in revolt against social and political domination. The age old cry for freedom and human dignity takes on a significance never experienced before. For in a very real and impelling sense no man, no nation and no part of the universe is an island unto itself.

Asia’s successive revolts against European imperialism, Africa’s present ferment for independence, Hungary’s death struggle against Communism, and the determined drive of Negro Americans to become first class citizens are inextricably bound together. They are all vital factors in determining whether Twentieth Century mankind will crown its vast material gains with the achievement of liberty and justice for all, or whether it will commit suicide through lack of moral fiber.

Because America is one of the two most powerful nations on earth and, even more, because our power and our prestige are pledged to freedom and civil liberties for the individual and constitutional government for the nation, the unresolved problem of civil rights becomes the most crucial issue of our culture. This is so because the nation, in proclaiming freedom, shines as a beacon of hope for the oppressed of the world and yet denies even elementary democratic rights to its Negro minority. But beyond this moral embarrassment, all of the nation’s institutions remain stunted and frustrated by the contradiction between what America practices and what America proclaims.

The church has the high task to provide the American people with moral leadership. And while the major denominations have spoken out clearly for brotherhood, the task of many local churches is made more difficult by the moral compromise in part imposed upon them by the civil rights conflict.

Even the Congress of our land is shackled. It is unable to enact urgently needed social legislation. Federal aid to education and increased social security bills for the benefit of white and Negro people die in congressional committees because the division over civil rights permits a small political minority to capture and control the legislative branch of our national government.

Thus the entire nation suffers because our democratic vitality is sapped by the civil rights issue. This is even more true of the South. In her unwillingness to accept the Negro as a human being, the South has chosen to remain undeveloped, poorly educated and emotionally warped.

Through recent Supreme Court decisions, declaring that discrimination based on race violates the Constitution, the issue has been joined. There is no turning back. The nation must now face the reality that America can never realize its vast economic, social and political potential until the struggle for civil rights has been decisively won.

We are convinced that the great majority of white Southerners are prepared to accept and abide by the Supreme Law of the Land. They, like us, want to be lawabiding citizens. Yet a small but determined minority resorts to threats, bodily assaults, cross-burnings, bombing, shooting and open defiance of the law in an attempt to force us to retreat. But we cannot in clear conscience turn back. We have no moral choice but to continue the struggle, not for ourselves alone but for all America. We have the God given duty to help save ourselves and our white brothers from tragic self-destruction in the quagmire of racial hate. We must continue to stand firm for our right to be first class citizens. Even in the face of death, we have no other choice. For if in carrying out this obligation we are killed, others, more resolute even than we, will rise to continue the drive to free the United States of the scourge of racial conflict.

In dedication to this task, we call upon all Negroes in the South and in the nation to assert their human dignity. We ask them to seek justice and reject all injustice, especially that in themselves. We pray that they will refuse further cooperation with the evil element which invites them to collude against themselves in return for bits of patronage. We know that such an assertion may cause them persecution; yet no matter how great the obstacles and suffering, we urge all Negroes to reject segregation.

But far beyond this, we call upon them to accept Christian Love in full knowledge of its power to deb evil. We call upon them to understand that non-violence is not a symbo1 of weakness or cowardice, but as Jesus demonstrated, non-vioht resistance transforms weakness into strength and heeds courage in face of danger. We urge them, no matter how great the provocation, to dedicate themselves to this motto:

“Not one hair of one head of one white person shall be harmed.”

We advocate non-violence in words, thought and deed, we believe this spirit and this spirit alone can overcome the decades of mutual fear and suspicion that have infested and poisoned our Southern culture.

In this same spirit, we place the following concerns before white Southerners of goodwill:

1. We call upon white Southern Christians to realize that the treatment of Negroes is a basic spiritual problem. We believe that no legal approach can fully redeem or reconcile man. We urge them in Christ’s name to join the struggle forjustice. They, as individuals, can begin now: (a) By working to see that all persons, regardless of color or creed, who seek the saving grace of Christ are accepted as equals in their churches. (b) By encouraging schools and colleges controlled by the church to set an example of brotherhood. (c) By speaking out in moral terms and by acting on the basis of their inner convictions, and accepting as Negro Christians must, the consequences of the Christian imperative. In this way they may well reduce the violence directed toward the Negro community; restore order and hasten reconciliation.

2. We call upon every white Southerner to realize that the major choice may no longer be segregation or intergration, but anarchy or law. We remind them that communities control their destinies only when order prevails. Disorder places all major decisions in the hands of state or federal police. We do not prefer this, for our ultimate aim is to win understanding with our neighbors. In a profound sense, the lawlessness and violence our people face is blood upon the hands of Southern Christians. Far too many have silently stood by as a violent minority stalks over the southland. We implore men of goodwill to speak out for law and order.

As citizens and as representatives of equal rights movements all over the South, we cannot ignore the vital role that government could play in easing tensions and in helping Negroes secure their constitutional rights. …

We have made this statement, believing that the trials of the present are not in vain. For we are convinced that if Negroes of the South steadfastly hold to justice and non-violence in their struggle for freedom, a miracle will be wrought-from this period of intense social conflict and that a society based on justice and equality for all, will gradually emerge in the South. Then we shall all be emotionally relieved and freed to turn our energies to making America truly “The land of the free and the home of the brave.”

Traditional, “ Ain’t gonna let nobody turn me round ,” song lyrics. (four minutes)

Click or ctrl+click the link above to listen to this song performed by Sweet Honey in the Rock. The source in this case is the lyrics of the song , but you are encouraged to watch the video montage.

Martin Luther King, Jr. “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” edited for length, 16 April 1963 My Dear Fellow Clergymen: While confined here in the Birmingham city jail, I came across your recent statement calling my present activities “unwise and untimely.” Seldom do I pause to answer criticism of my work and ideas. If I sought to answer all the criticisms that cross my desk, my secretaries would have little time for anything other than such correspondence in the course of the day, and I would have no time for constructive work. But since I feel that you are men of genuine good will and that your criticisms are sincerely set forth, I want to try to answer your statement in what I hope will be patient and reasonable terms….

I am in Birmingham because injustice is here. …

You deplore the demonstrations taking place in Birmingham. But your statement, I am sorry to say, fails to express a similar concern for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations. I am sure that none of you would want to rest content with the superficial kind of social analysis that deals merely with effects and does not grapple with underlying causes. It is unfortunate that demonstrations are taking place in Birmingham, but it is even more unfortunate that the city’s white power structure left the Negro community with no alternative.

In any nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps: collection of the facts to determine whether injustices exist; negotiation; self-purification; and direct action. We have gone through all these steps in Birmingham. There can be no gainsaying the fact that racial injustice engulfs this community. Birmingham is probably the most thoroughly segregated city in the United States. Its ugly record of brutality is widely known. Negroes have experienced grossly unjust treatment in the courts. There have been more unsolved bombings of Negro homes and churches in Birmingham than in any other city in the nation. These are the hard, brutal facts of the case. On the basis of these conditions, Negro leaders sought to negotiate with the city fathers. But the latter consistently refused to engage in good faith negotiation.

Then, last September, came the opportunity to talk with leaders of Birmingham’s economic community. In the course of the negotiations, certain promises were made by the merchants–for example, to remove the stores’ humiliating racial signs. On the basis of these promises, the Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth and the leaders of the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights agreed to a moratorium on all demonstrations. As the weeks and months went by, we realized that we were the victims of a broken promise. A few signs, briefly removed, returned; the others remained. As in so many past experiences, our hopes had been blasted, and the shadow of deep disappointment settled upon us. We had no alternative except to prepare for direct action, whereby we would present our very bodies as a means of laying our case before the conscience of the local and the national community. Mindful of the difficulties involved, we decided to undertake a process of self purification. We began a series of workshops on nonviolence, and we repeatedly asked ourselves: “Are you able to accept blows without retaliating?” “Are you able to endure the ordeal of jail?” We decided to schedule our direct action program for the Easter season, realizing that except for Christmas, this is the main shopping period of the year. Knowing that a strong economic-withdrawal program would be the by product of direct action, we felt that this would be the best time to bring pressure to bear on the merchants for the needed change.

You may well ask: “Why direct action? Why sit ins, marches and so forth? Isn’t negotiation a better path?” You are quite right in calling for negotiation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. My citing the creation of tension as part of the work of the nonviolent resister may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word “tension.” I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth. Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, so must we see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood. The purpose of our direct action program is to create a situation so crisis packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation. I therefore concur with you in your call for negotiation. Too long has our beloved Southland been bogged down in a tragic effort to live in monologue rather than dialogue.

One of the basic points in your statement is that the action that I and my associates have taken in Birmingham is untimely. Some have asked: “Why didn’t you give the new city administration time to act?” The only answer that I can give to this query is that the new Birmingham administration must be prodded about as much as the outgoing one, before it will act. We are sadly mistaken if we feel that the election of Albert Boutwell as mayor will bring the millennium to Birmingham. While Mr. Boutwell is a much more gentle person than Mr. Connor, they are both segregationists, dedicated to maintenance of the status quo. I have hope that Mr. Boutwell will be reasonable enough to see the futility of massive resistance to desegregation. But he will not see this without pressure from devotees of civil rights. My friends, I must say to you that we have not made a single gain in civil rights without determined legal and nonviolent pressure. Lamentably, it is an historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily. Individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture; but, as Reinhold Niebuhr has reminded us, groups tend to be more immoral than individuals.

We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct action campaign that was “well timed” in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word “Wait!” It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This “Wait” has almost always meant “Never.” We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that “justice too long delayed is justice denied.”

We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God given rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jetlike speed toward gaining political independence, but we still creep at horse and buggy pace toward gaining a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, “Wait.” But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six year old daughter why she can’t go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five year old son who is asking: “Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?”; when you take a cross county drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading “white” and “colored”; when your first name becomes “nigger,” your middle name becomes “boy” (however old you are) and your last name becomes “John,” and your wife and mother are never given the respected title “Mrs.”; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of “nobodiness”–then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience. You express a great deal of anxiety over our willingness to break laws. This is certainly a legitimate concern. Since we so diligently urge people to obey the Supreme Court’s decision of 1954 outlawing segregation in the public schools, at first glance it may seem rather paradoxical for us consciously to break laws. One may well ask: “How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?” The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that “an unjust law is no law at all.”

In your statement you assert that our actions, even though peaceful, must be condemned because they precipitate violence. But is this a logical assertion? Isn’t this like condemning a robbed man because his possession of money precipitated the evil act of robbery? Isn’t this like condemning Socrates because his unswerving commitment to truth and his philosophical inquiries precipitated the act by the misguided populace in which they made him drink hemlock? Isn’t this like condemning Jesus because his unique God consciousness and never ceasing devotion to God’s will precipitated the evil act of crucifixion? We must come to see that, as the federal courts have consistently affirmed, it is wrong to urge an individual to cease his efforts to gain his basic constitutional rights because the quest may precipitate violence. Society must protect the robbed and punish the robber. I had also hoped that the white moderate would reject the myth concerning time in relation to the struggle for freedom. I have just received a letter from a white brother in Texas. He writes: “All Christians know that the colored people will receive equal rights eventually, but it is possible that you are in too great a religious hurry. It has taken Christianity almost two thousand years to accomplish what it has. The teachings of Christ take time to come to earth.” Such an attitude stems from a tragic misconception of time, from the strangely irrational notion that there is something in the very flow of time that will inevitably cure all ills. Actually, time itself is neutral; it can be used either destructively or constructively. More and more I feel that the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than have the people of good will. We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people. Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be co workers with God, and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right. Now is the time to make real the promise of democracy and transform our pending national elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood. Now is the time to lift our national policy from the quicksand of racial injustice to the solid rock of human dignity.

You speak of our activity in Birmingham as extreme. At first I was rather disappointed that fellow clergymen would see my nonviolent efforts as those of an extremist. I began thinking about the fact that I stand in the middle of two opposing forces in the Negro community. One is a force of complacency, made up in part of Negroes who, as a result of long years of oppression, are so drained of self respect and a sense of “somebodiness” that they have adjusted to segregation; and in part of a few middle-class Negroes who, because of a degree of academic and economic security and because in some ways they profit by segregation, have become insensitive to the problems of the masses. The other force is one of bitterness and hatred, and it comes perilously close to advocating violence. It is expressed in the various black nationalist groups that are springing up across the nation, the largest and best known being Elijah Muhammad’s Muslim movement. Nourished by the Negro’s frustration over the continued existence of racial discrimination, this movement is made up of people who have lost faith in America, who have absolutely repudiated Christianity, and who have concluded that the white man is an incorrigible “devil.”

I have tried to stand between these two forces, saying that we need emulate neither the “do nothingism” of the complacent nor the hatred and despair of the black nationalist. For there is the more excellent way of love and nonviolent protest. I am grateful to God that, through the influence of the Negro church, the way of nonviolence became an integral part of our struggle. If this philosophy had not emerged, by now many streets of the South would, I am convinced, be flowing with blood. And I am further convinced that if our white brothers dismiss as “rabble rousers” and “outside agitators” those of us who employ nonviolent direct action, and if they refuse to support our nonviolent efforts, millions of Negroes will, out of frustration and despair, seek solace and security in black nationalist ideologies–a development that would inevitably lead to a frightening racial nightmare.

Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever. The yearning for freedom eventually manifests itself, and that is what has happened to the American Negro. Something within has reminded him of his birthright of freedom, and something without has reminded him that it can be gained. Consciously or unconsciously, he has been caught up by the Zeitgeist, and with his black brothers of Africa and his brown and yellow brothers of Asia, South America and the Caribbean, the United States Negro is moving with a sense of great urgency toward the promised land of racial justice. If one recognizes this vital urge that has engulfed the Negro community, one should readily understand why public demonstrations are taking place. The Negro has many pent up resentments and latent frustrations, and he must release them. So let him march; let him make prayer pilgrimages to the city hall; let him go on freedom rides -and try to understand why he must do so. If his repressed emotions are not released in nonviolent ways, they will seek expression through violence; this is not a threat but a fact of history. So I have not said to my people: “Get rid of your discontent.” Rather, I have tried to say that this normal and healthy discontent can be channeled into the creative outlet of nonviolent direct action. And now this approach is being termed extremist. But though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label. Was not Jesus an extremist for love: “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” Was not Amos an extremist for justice: “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream.” Was not Paul an extremist for the Christian gospel: “I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.” Was not Martin Luther an extremist: “Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise, so help me God.” And John Bunyan: “I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience.” And Abraham Lincoln: “This nation cannot survive half slave and half free.” And Thomas Jefferson: “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal . . .” So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice? In that dramatic scene on Calvary’s hill three men were crucified. We must never forget that all three were crucified for the same crime–the crime of extremism. Two were extremists for immorality, and thus fell below their environment. The other, Jesus Christ, was an extremist for love, truth and goodness, and thereby rose above his environment. Perhaps the South, the nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists….

It is true that the police have exercised a degree of discipline in handling the demonstrators. In this sense they have conducted themselves rather “nonviolently” in public. But for what purpose? To preserve the evil system of segregation. Over the past few years I have consistently preached that nonviolence demands that the means we use must be as pure as the ends we seek. I have tried to make clear that it is wrong to use immoral means to attain moral ends. But now I must affirm that it is just as wrong, or perhaps even more so, to use moral means to preserve immoral ends. Perhaps Mr. Connor and his policemen have been rather nonviolent in public, as was Chief Pritchett in Albany, Georgia, but they have used the moral means of nonviolence to maintain the immoral end of racial injustice. As T. S. Eliot has said: “The last temptation is the greatest treason: To do the right deed for the wrong reason.”

I wish you had commended the Negro sit inners and demonstrators of Birmingham for their sublime courage, their willingness to suffer and their amazing discipline in the midst of great provocation. One day the South will recognize its real heroes. They will be the James Merediths, with the noble sense of purpose that enables them to face jeering and hostile mobs, and with the agonizing loneliness that characterizes the life of the pioneer. They will be old, oppressed, battered Negro women, symbolized in a seventy two year old woman in Montgomery, Alabama, who rose up with a sense of dignity and with her people decided not to ride segregated buses, and who responded with ungrammatical profundity to one who inquired about her weariness: “My feets is tired, but my soul is at rest.” They will be the young high school and college students, the young ministers of the gospel and a host of their elders, courageously and nonviolently sitting in at lunch counters and willingly going to jail for conscience’ sake. One day the South will know that when these disinherited children of God sat down at lunch counters, they were in reality standing up for what is best in the American dream and for the most sacred values in our Judaeo Christian heritage, thereby bringing our nation back to those great wells of democracy which were dug deep by the founding fathers in their formulation of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.

I hope this letter finds you strong in the faith. I also hope that circumstances will soon make it possible for me to meet each of you, not as an integrationist or a civil-rights leader but as a fellow clergyman and a Christian brother. Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear drenched communities, and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty.

Yours for the cause of Peace and Brotherhood, Martin Luther King, Jr.

Black Panther Party, “Platform and Program,” 1966



1. We want freedom. We want power to determine the destiny of our Black Community.

We believe that black people will not be free until we are able to determine our destiny.

2. We want full employment for our people.

We believe that the federal government is responsible and obligated to give every man employment or a guaranteed income. We believe that if the white American businessmen will not give full employment, then the means of production should be taken from the businessmen and placed in the community so that the people of the community can organize and employ all of its people and give a high standard of living.

3. We want an end to the robbery by the CAPITALIST of our Black Community.

We believe that this racist government has robbed us and now we are demanding the overdue debt of forty acres and two mules. Forty acres and two mules was promised 100 years ago as restitution for slave labor and mass murder of black people. We will accept the payment in currency which will be distributed to our many communities. The Germans are now aiding the Jews in Israel for the genocide of the Jewish people. The Germans murdered six million Jews. The American racist has taken part in the slaughter of over fifty million black people; therefore, we feel that this is a modest demand that we make.

4. We want decent housing, fit for shelter of human beings.

We believe that if the white landlords will not give decent housing to our black community, then the housing and the land should be made into cooperatives so that our community, with government aid, can build and make decent housing for its people.

5. We want education for our people that exposes the true nature of this decadent American society. We want education that teaches us our true history and our role in the present-day society.

We believe in an educational system that will give to our people a knowledge of self. If a man does not have knowledge of himself and his position in society and the world, then he has little chance to relate to anything else.

6. We want all black men to be exempt from military service.

We believe that Black people should not be forced to fight in the military service to defend a racist government that does not protect us. We will not fight and kill other people of color in the world who, like black people, are being victimized by the white racist government of America. We will protect ourselves from the force and violence of the racist police and the racist military, by whatever means necessary.

7. We want an immediate end to POLICE BRUTALITY and MURDER of black people.

We believe we can end police brutality in our black community by organizing black self-defense groups that are dedicated to defending our black community from racist police oppression and brutality. The Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States gives a right to bear arms. We therefore believe that all black people should arm themselves for self-defense.

8. We want freedom for all black men held in federal, state, county and city prisons and jails.

We believe that all black people should be released from the many jails and prisons because they have not received a fair and impartial trial.

9. We want all black people when brought to trial to be tried in court by a jury of their peer group or people from their black communities, as defined by the Constitution of the United States.

We believe that the courts should follow the United States Constitution so that black people will receive fair trials. The 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution gives a man a right to be tried by his peer group. A peer is a person from a similar economic, social, religious, geographical, environmental, historical and racial background. To do this the court will be forced to select a jury from the black community from which the black defendant came. We have been, and are being, tried by all-white juries that have no understanding of the “average reasoning man” of the black community.

10. We want land, bread, housing, education, clothing, justice and peace. And as our major political objective, a United Nations-supervised plebiscite to be held throughout the black colony in which only black colonial subjects will be allowed to participate, for the purpose of determining the will of black people as to their national destiny.

When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume, among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That, to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that, whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute a new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly, all experience hath shown, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But, when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security

Stokely Carmichael, excerpts of undated recorded interview given to magazine Sucesos, 1967

In June 1966, the national chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), Stokely Carmichael, first voiced the slogan “Black Power” during a march in Mississippi. Carmichael himself left SNCC in 1967 and joined the Black Panther Party. The following are excerpts from an interview that he gave during a stay in Havana, Cuba in 1967. He died in 1998.

The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee is the organization for which I work and a group of young black people in the United States who decided to come together to fight racial and economic exploitation.

The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee was founded in 1960 by a group of young black students who felt the need to come together and actively fight against racial segregation in the United States. They came together because they felt the older organizations were not doing an effective job and were not actively participating. Most of them were taking their troubles to the courts and we felt that you could not take a problem of injustice by some white people to black people to the courts if those courts were again all white. You were taking an unjust problem to the people who themselves were unjust.

It could not be solved that way. The only way to solve it was in the streets. We used the name nonviolent because at that time Martin Luther King was the central figure of the black struggle and he was still preaching nonviolence, and anyone who talked about violence at that time was considered treasonable—amounting—to treason, so we decided that we would use the name nonviolent, but in the meantime we knew our struggle was not about to be nonviolent, but we would just wait until the time was right for the actual (word indistinct) name. We came together, we would coordinate activities between the students whereever we would have a nonviolent demonstration.

But after 1 year many of us decided that demonstrations were not the answer. The only answer was organizing our people. So we moved into the worst State, Mississippi, and began to organize our people to fight, and we’re now at the front where we are encouraging prople to pick up arms and fight back. …

When we say that we insist, we say very clearly, that the only solution is black revolution and that we’re not concerned with peaceful coexistence, armed struggle is the only way, not only for us but for all oppressed people around the world for a number of reasons. People who talk about peaceful coexistence are talking about maintaining the status quo because the only way that you can disrupt an imperialistic system is when you disrupt it by force. You do not disrupt it with talk. That has been crystal clear to us. It has been crystal clear to us, especially, because for 400 years the majority of African-Americans inside the United States have been talking, talking, and talking. And the reason is because when you talk, you play the imperialist game. They invented the game of talk, and when you talk, you talk in their language.

But now we have a new game. It’s called guerrilla warfare. They cannot play our game and if you want to win a game, you’ve got to make the rules. If somebody else makes the rules, they’ll always win. The imperialists have made the rules of talk, so when you sit down to talk with them you can’t possibly win. They’ll always find a reason why they can’t do this now, or why they can’t do it then, and they’ll seem very rational and you will sit there and try to reason with them, on their grounds, in their terms, but they can’t do that. In the first place, they have no right to oppress people, so there’s no need to talk about oppression. They have absolutely no right to oppress and to exploit anybody else, so to begin to talk about freeing yourself from exploitation and oppression from the people who oppress you, gets to be ridiculous. It’s like a slave sitting down with a master and talking to his master about when his master is going to let him go free. That’s nonsense. The master has no business enslaving him. So all the slave has to do is get up and kill the master if the master refuses to stop enslaving him. That is the only solution.

So it is crystal clear, as far as we’re concerned, armed struggle, that is all, no time for talk. We have talked and talked and talked and talked for too long. You must disrupt the system by any means necessary. . . .

Urban guerrilla warfare is the one way we will beat the United States because they cannot use bombs on us, because we are inside their country. They will have to fight us hand-to-hand combat. We will win, we will win.

The counterpart of that will be in the south, in the country, where we know the land, where we know the terrain, where we have worked it for years, where the white man is in (word indistinct) with sweat from us. He has enjoyed us walking all over the country. Well, we’ve walked over it so much so that when we take to the hills there, he doesn’t know it. He will be unable to find us. We will (?hit him) again, we will be able to beat him again in guerrilla warfare. The only way that you can bring men to their knees is through guerrilla warfare because guerrilla warfare is the one warfare they cannot fight with their big guns and their big bombs. And that is the one place you beat them because they do not have any guts.

Brother Malcolm used to tell us that there were several types of death. I think a dehumanized people who do not fight back are a dead people. That is what the West has been able to do to most of us. . . . Dehumanized us to the point where we would not even fight back. Once you’ve begun to fight back, you are alive, you are alive, and bullets won’t kill you. If you do not fight back, you’re dead, you are dead, and all the money in the world can’t bring you alive. So we’re alive today, and we’re alive all over the world. All of your black people are coming alive because they’re fighting back. They’re fighting for their humanity. They’re doing the type of thing that Fidel talks about, when you become alive and you want to live so much that you fight to live.

You fight to live. See, when you’re dead, when you don’t rebel, you’re not fighting to live, you’re already dead. Well, we are alive and we love life so much that we’re willing to die for it. So, we’re alive. Death can’t stop us.



Betty Friedan, excerpt from The Feminine Mystique, 1963 © Copyright by Betty Friedan.

The suburban housewife – she was the dream image of the young American women and the envy, it was said, of women all over the world.  The American housewife – freed by science and labor-saving appliances from the drudgery, the dangers of childbirth and the illnesses of her grandmother.  She was healthy, beautiful, educated, concerned only about her husband, her children, her home. She had found true feminine fulfillment.  As a housewife and mother, she was respected as a full and equal partner to man in his world. She was free to choose automobiles, clothes, appliances, supermarkets; she had everything that women ever dreamed of.

In the fifteen years after World War II, this mystique of feminine fulfillment became the cherished and self-perpetuating core of contemporary American culture. Millions of women lived their lives in the image of those pretty pictures of the American suburban housewife, kissing their husbands good-bye in front of the picture window, depositing their station wagonsful of children at school, and smiling as they ran the new electric waxer over the spotless kitchen floor….

Their only dream was to be perfect wives and mothers; their highest ambition to have five children and a beautiful house, their only fight to get and keep husbands. They had no thought for the unfeminine problems outside the home; they wanted the men to make the major decisions. They gloried in their role as women, and wrote proudly on the census blank “Occupation:  housewife.”

For over fifteen years, the words written for women, and the words women used when they talked to each other, while their husbands sat on the other side of the room and talked shop or politics or septic tanks, were about problems with their children, or how to keep their husbands happy, or improve their children’s school, or cook chicken or make slipcovers….

But on an April morning in 1959, I heard a mother of four, having coffee with four other mothers in a suburban development fifteen miles from New York, say in a tone of quiet desperation, “the problem.”  And the others knew, without words, that she was not talking about a problem with her husband, or her children, or her home.  Suddenly they all realized they shared the same problem, the problem that has no name….

The problem lay buried, unspoken, for many years in the minds of American women.  It was a strange stirring, a sense of dissatisfaction, a yearning that women suffered in the middle of the twentieth century in the United States. Each suburban wife struggled with it alone.  As she made the beds, shopped for groceries, matched slipcover material, ate peanut butter sandwiches with her children, chauffeured Cub Scouts and Brownies, lay beside her husband at night – she was afraid to ask even of herself the silent question – “Is this all?”

For over fifteen years there was no word of this yearning in the millions of words written about women, for women, in all the columns, books and articles by experts telling women their role was to seek fulfillment as wives and mothers. Over and over women heard in voices of tradition and of Freudian sophistication that they could desire no greater destiny than to glory in their own femininity. Experts told them how to catch a man and keep him,  how to breastfeed children and handle their toilet training, how to cope with sibling rivalry and adolescent rebellion; how to buy a dishwasher, bake bread, cook gourmet snails, and build a swimming pool with their own hands; how to dress, look, and act more feminine and make marriage more exciting;  how to keep their husbands from dying young and their sons from growing into delinquents. They were taught to pity the neurotic, unfeminine, unhappy women who wanted to be poets or physicists or presidents. They learned that truly feminine women do not want careers, higher education, political rights – the independence and the opportunities that the old-fashioned feminists fought for.  Some women, in their forties and fifties, still remembered painfully giving up those dreams, but most of the younger women no longer even thought about them. A thousand expert voices applauded their femininity, their adjustment, their new maturity.  All they had to do was devote their lives from earliest girlhood to finding a husband and bearing children….

The feminine mystique says that the highest value and the only commitment for a women is the fulfillment of their own femininity. It says that the great mistake of Western culture, through most of its history, has been the under-valuation of this femininity.  It says this femininity is so mysterious and intuitive and close to the creation and origin of life that man-made science may never be able to understand it.  But however special and different, it is in no way inferior to the nature of man; it may even in certain respects be superior.  The mistake, says the mystique, the root of women’s troubles in the past is that women envied men, women tried to be like men, instead of accepting their own nature, which can find fulfillment only in sexual passivity, male domination, and nurturing maternal love.

. . . The logic of the feminine mystique redefined the very nature of woman’s problem.  When woman was seen as a human being of limitless human potential, equal to man, anything that kept her from realizing her full potential was a problem to be solved:  barriers to higher education and political participation, discrimination or prejudice in law or morality.  But now that woman is seen only in terms of her sexual role, the barriers to the realization of her full potential, the prejudices which deny her full participation in the world, are no longer problems.  The only problems now are those that might disturb her adjustment as a housewife. So career is a problem, education is a problem, political interest, even the very admission of women’s intelligence and individuality is a problem. And finally there is the problem that has no name, a vague undefined wish for “something more” than washing dishes, ironing, punishing and praising the children….

If an able American woman does not use her human energy and ability in some meaningful pursuit (which necessarily means competition, for there is competition in every serious pursuit of our society), she will fritter away her energy in neurotic symptoms, or unproductive exercise, or destructive “love

It is time to stop giving lip service to the idea that there are no battles left to be fought for women in America, that women’s rights have already been won.  It is ridiculous to tell girls to keep quiet when they enter a new field, or an old one, so the men will not notice they are there.  In almost every professional field, in business and in the arts and sciences, women are still treated as second-class citizens.  It would be a great service to tell girls who plan to work in society to expect this subtle, uncomfortable discrimination – tell them not to be quiet, and hope it will go away, but fight it. A girl should not expect special privileges because of her sex, but neither should she “adjust” to prejudice and discrimination.

She must learn to compete then, not as a woman, but as a human being.  Not until a great many women move out of the fringes into the mainstream will society itself provide the arrangements for their new life plan…

Helen Andelin, excerpt from Fascinating Womanhood, 1963. All rights reserved. Copyright (C) by Helen Andelin

The first step to a happy marriage is to understand that all life is governed by law-nature, music, art, and all of the sciences. These laws are immutable. To live in harmony with them produces health, beauty, and the abundant life. To violate them brings ugliness and destruction. Just as unwavering are the laws of human relationships. These laws are in operation even though you may not understand them. You may be happy in marriage because you obey them, or you may be unhappy because you violate them without an awareness of the laws in operation.

Through ignorance of the laws of marriage relationships, much unnecessary unhappiness exists. We find one woman happy, honored, and loved; and another-no less attractive, no less admirable, no less lovable-neglected, unhappy, and disappointed. Why? This book explains why, for it teaches the laws she must obey if she is to be loved, honored, and adored.

Fascinating Womanhood will teach you how to be happy in marriage. There are three essentials in reaching the goal:

1. Love: Since the cornerstone of a happy marriage is love, you will learn how to awaken your husband’s love. These teachings apply, no matter what your age or situation. Love is not limited to the young or the beautiful, but to those who have qualities that awaken it.

If your husband doesn’t love you, you are likely doing something to cool his affections, or have lost something which awakens his love. You may have begun marriage lovingly but romance is fading. Why? Could it be that you have changed? Take a good look. In most cases a man stops loving a woman after marriage because she stops doing things which arouse his feelings. When you regain your charming ways, love can be rekindled.

In winning your husband’s love, it isn’t necessary for him to know or do anything about it. This isn’t to say that he doesn’t make mistakes or need to improve, but when you correct your mistakes you bring about a loving response in him. Frequently his response is so remarkable that it exceeds your highest expectations

The art of awakening a man’s love is not a difficult accomplishment for women because it is based on our natural instincts. However, in our highly civilized life many of our natural instincts have become rusty due to lack of use. You need only to awaken the traits which belong to you by nature.

2. Self-Dignity: Essential to happiness in marriage is self-dignity. Does your husband ever speak to you harshly, criticize you unduly, treat you unfairly, neglect you, impose on you, or in any way mistreat you? The important thing is not what he does but how you react. Do you shrink back as if struck by a lash? Do you go into your shell? Do you pay him back with a cutting remark? Or, do you fly off the handle with an ugly temper? If you react in any of these ways you will cause yourself unnecessary grief and lessen your husband’s love for you.

No man likes an ugly temper, nor does he want a woman he can walk on, or one who will retreat into her shell and feel sorry for herself. He wants a woman with some spunk-some hidden fire, a woman he can’t push around. Some men even admire little spitfires, women who are adorably independent and saucy, whom they can’t put down with even the most degrading remark.

In Fascinating Womanhood the method of handling wounded feelings is called childlike anger, spunk, or sauciness. It will teach you how to handle a man’s rough nature without pain, without friction. You can, in a flash, turn a crisis into a humorous situation, so that the man may have the sudden impulse to laugh. Instead of hurting marriage, childlike anger can increase love and tenderness.

3. Desires: If you are to be happy in marriage your desires must be considered. I am referring to things you want to have, places you want to go, something you want to do, or something you want done for you. This is not to suggest selfish whims, but worthy desires. Unfortunately, you may have gone without these things for years because you didn’t know how to motivate your husband to do these things for you.

As a consequence, his feelings for you have likely diminished. We love whom we serve. If your husband never does anything for you beyond the call of duty, he may lose his love for you. In Fascinating Womanhood you will learn how to obtain the things you need and deserve without causing a marital stir. Your husband will want to do things for you and will love you more because of it.

Although the teachings focus on building a relationship with your husband, the principles apply in building a relationship with any man-father, brother, son, teacher, student, employer. Take care, however, that you don’t use them unrighteously, to win the affections of a married man. You would be guilty of a cruel sin and would destroy another woman’s relationship as well as your own. In relationships outside of your marriage, apply them only to eliminate friction and to build harmony and trust.

The teachings are also helpful to the single mother who is rearing a family without a father present in the home. She becomes the feminine image for her children to view, as essential to boys in developing their manliness as to girls in developing their womanliness. She should also teach them about masculinity by providing them with a male image to associate with-her father, a brother, or another male person.

Within these pages you will learn principles to follow if you are to be happy, loved, and cherished. The study centers around the ideal woman, from a man’s point of view, the kind of woman who awakens a man’s deepest feelings of love. Within your reach is the possibility of a happy marriage. You can bring it about independent of any effort on the part of your husband. So, you hold the keys to your own happiness.

In accomplishing this you lose none of your dignity, influence, or freedom, but gain them, and it is only then that you can play your vital part in this world. The role of a woman when played correctly is fulfilling, fascinating, and full of intrigue. There never need be a dull moment. The practice of this art of womanhood is an enjoyable one, filled with rich rewards, numerous surprises, and vast happiness. Many years of experience teaching thousands of women has proven this to be true.

Jo Freeman, The Bitch Manifesto,” 1968 (c) Copyright 1969

Written in the fall of 1968, this paper was first published in Notes from the Second Year ed. by Shulamith Firestone and Anne Koedt, 1970. It was later reprinted as a pamphlet and reprinted in several books.

http://www.jofreeman.com/imagehome/spacer.gifBITCH is an organization which does not yet exist. The name is not an acronym. It stands for exactly what it sounds like. http://www.jofreeman.com/imagehome/spacer.gifBITCH is composed of Bitches. There are many definitions of a bitch. The most complimentary definition is a female dog. Those definitions of bitches who are also homo sapiens are rarely as objective. They vary from person to person and depend strongly on how much of a bitch the definer considers herself. However, everyone agrees that a bitch is always a female, dog, or otherwise. http://www.jofreeman.com/imagehome/spacer.gifIt is also generally agreed that a Bitch is aggressive, and therefore unfeminine (ahem). She may be sexy, in which case she becomes a Bitch Goddess, a special case which will not concern us here. But she is never a “true woman.” http://www.jofreeman.com/imagehome/spacer.gifBitches have some or all of the following characteristics.

http://www.jofreeman.com/imagehome/spacer.gif1) Personality. Bitches are aggressive, assertive, domineering, overbearing, strong-minded, spiteful, hostile, direct, blunt, candid, obnoxious, thick-skinned, hard-headed, vicious, dogmatic, competent, competitive, pushy, loud-mouthed, independent, stubborn, demanding, manipulative, egoistic, driven, achieving, overwhelming, threatening, scary, ambitious, tough, brassy, masculine, boisterous, and turbulent. Among other things. A Bitch occupies a lot of psychological space. You always know she is around. A Bitch takes shit from no one. You may not like her, but you cannot ignore her. http://www.jofreeman.com/imagehome/spacer.gif2) Physical. Bitches are big, tall, strong, large, loud, brash, harsh, awkward, clumsy, sprawling, strident, ugly. Bitches move their bodies freely rather than restrain, refine and confine their motions in the proper feminine manner. They clomp up stairs, stride when they walk and don’t worry about where they put their legs when they sit. They have loud voices and often use them. Bitches are not pretty. http://www.jofreeman.com/imagehome/spacer.gif3) Orientation. Bitches seek their identity strictly thru themselves and what they do. They are subjects, not objects. They may have a relationship with a person or organization, but they never marry anyone or anything; man, mansion, or movement. Thus Bitches prefer to plan their own lives rather than live from day to day, action to action, or person to person. They are independent cusses and believe they are capable of doing anything they damn well want to. If something gets in their way; well, that’s why they become Bitches. If they are professionally inclined, they will seek careers and have no fear of competing with anyone. If not professionally inclined, they still seek self-expression and self-actualization. Whatever they do, they want an active role and are frequently perceived as domineering. Often they do dominate other people when roles are not available to them which more creatively sublimate their energies and utilize their capabilities. More often they are accused of domineering when doing what would be considered natural by a man.

http://www.jofreeman.com/imagehome/spacer.gifA true Bitch is self-determined, but the term “bitch” is usually applied with less discrimination. It is a popular derogation to put down uppity women that was created by man and adopted by women. Like the term “nigger,” “bitch” serves the social function of isolating and discrediting a class of people who do not conform to the socially accepted patterns of behavior. http://www.jofreeman.com/imagehome/spacer.gifBITCH does not use this word in the negative sense. A woman should be proud to declare she is a Bitch, because Bitch is Beautiful. It should be an act of affirmation by self and not negation by others. Not everyone can qualify as a Bitch. One does not have to have all of the above three qualities, but should be well possessed of at least two of them to be considered a Bitch. If a woman qualifies in all three, at least partially, she is a Bitch’s Bitch. Only Superbitches qualify totally in all three categories and there are very few of those. Most don’t last long in this society. http://www.jofreeman.com/imagehome/spacer.gifThe most prominent characteristic of all Bitches is that they rudely violate conceptions of proper sex role behavior. They violate them in different ways, but they all violate them. Their attitudes towards themselves and other people, their goal orientations, their personal style, their appearance and way of handling their bodies, all jar people and make them feel uneasy. Sometimes it’s conscious and sometimes it’s not, but people generally feel uncomfortable around Bitches. They consider them aberrations. They find their style disturbing. So they create a dumping ground for all who they deplore as bitchy and call them frustrated women. Frustrated they may be, but the cause is social not sexual. http://www.jofreeman.com/imagehome/spacer.gifWhat is disturbing about a Bitch is that she is androgynous. She incorporates within herself qualities traditionally defined as “masculine” as well as “feminine”. A Bitch is blunt, direct, arrogant, at times egoistic. She has no liking for the indirect, subtle, mysterious ways of the “eternal feminine.” She disdains the vicarious life deemed natural to women because she wants to live a life of her own. http://www.jofreeman.com/imagehome/spacer.gifOur society has defined humanity as male, and female as something other than male. In this way, females could be human only by living vicariously thru a male. To be able to live, a woman has to agree to serve, honor, and obey a man and what she gets in exchange is at best a shadow life. Bitches refuse to serve, honor or obey anyone. They demand to be fully functioning human beings, not just shadows. They want to be both female and human. This makes them social contradictions. The mere existence of Bitches negates the idea that a woman’s reality must come thru her relationship to a man and defies the belief that women are perpetual children who must always be under the guidance of another. http://www.jofreeman.com/imagehome/spacer.gifTherefore, if taken seriously, a Bitch is a threat to the social structures which enslave women and the social values which justify keeping them in their place. She is living testimony that woman’s oppression does not have to be, and as such raises doubts about the validity of the whole social system. Because she is a threat she is not taken seriously. Instead, she is dismissed as a deviant. Men create a special category for her in which she is accounted at least partially human, but not really a woman. To the extent to which they relate to her a a human being, they refuse to relate to her as a sexual being. Women are even more threatened because they cannot forget she is a woman. They are afraid they will identify with her too closely. She has a freedom and an independence which they envy and challenges them to forsake the security of their chains. Neither men nor women can face the reality of a Bitch because to do so would force them to face the corrupt reality of themselves. She is dangerous. So they dismiss her as a freak. http://www.jofreeman.com/imagehome/spacer.gifThis is the root of her own oppression as a woman. Bitches are not only oppressed as women, they are oppressed for not being like women. Because she has insisted on being human before being feminine, on being true to herself before kowtowing to social pressures, a Bitch grows up an outsider. Even as girls, Bitches violated the limits of accepted sex role behavior. They did not identify with other women and few were lucky enough to have an adult Bitch serve as a role model. They had to make their own way and the pitfalls this uncharted course posed contributed to both their uncertainty and their independence. http://www.jofreeman.com/imagehome/spacer.gifBitches are good examples of how women can be strong enough to survive even the rigid, punitive socialization of our society. As young girls it never quite penetrated their consciousness that women were supposed to be inferior to men in any but the mother/helpmate role. They asserted themselves as children and never really internalized the slave style of wheedling and cajolery which is called feminine. Some Bitches were oblivious to the usual social pressures and some stubbornly resisted them. Some developed a superficial feminine style and some remained tomboys long past the time when such behavior is tolerated. All Bitches refused, in mind and spirit, to conform to the idea that there were limits on what they could be and do. They placed no bounds on their aspirations or their conduct. http://www.jofreeman.com/imagehome/spacer.gifFor this resistance they were roundly condemned. They were put down, snubbed, sneered at, talked about, laughed at and ostracized. Our society made women into slaves and then condemned them for acting like slaves. It was all done very subtly. Few people were so direct as to say that they did not like Bitches because they did not play the sex role game. http://www.jofreeman.com/imagehome/spacer.gifIn fact, few were sure why they did not like Bitches. They did not realize that their violation of the reality structure endangered the structure. Somehow, from early childhood on, some girls didn’t fit in and were good objects to make fun of. But few people consciously recognized the root of their dislike. The issue was never confronted. If it was talked about at all, it was done with snide remarks behind the young girl’s back. Bitches were made to feel that there was something wrong with them; something personally wrong. http://www.jofreeman.com/imagehome/spacer.gifTeenage girls are particularly vicious in the scapegoat game. This is the time of life when women are told they must compete the hardest for the spoils (i.e. men) which society allows. They must assert their femininity or see it denied. They are very unsure of themselves and adopt the rigidity that goes with uncertainty. They are hard on their competitors and even harder on those who decline to compete. Those of their peers who do not share their concerns and practice the arts of charming men are excluded from most social groupings. If she didn’t know it before, a Bitch learns during these years that she is different. http://www.jofreeman.com/imagehome/spacer.gifAs she gets older she learns more about why she is different. As Bitches begin to take jobs, or participate in organizations, they are rarely content to sit quietly and do what they are told. A Bitch has a mind of her own and wants to use it. She wants to rise high, be creative, assume responsibility. She knows she is capable and wants to use her capabilities. This is not pleasing to the men she works for, which is not her primary goal. http://www.jofreeman.com/imagehome/spacer.gifWhen she meets the hard brick wall of sex prejudice she is not compliant. She will knock herself out batting her head against the wall because she will not accept her defined role as an auxiliary. Occasionally she crashes her way thru. Or she uses her ingenuity to find a loophole, or creates one. Or she is ten times better than anyone else competing with her. She also accepts less than her due. Like other women her ambitions have often been dulled for she has not totally escaped the badge of inferiority placed upon the “weaker sex.” She will often espouse contentment with being the power behind the throne — provided that she does have real power — while rationalizing that she really does not want the recognition that comes with also having the throne. Because she has been put down most of her life, both for being a woman and for not being a true woman, a Bitch will not always recognize that what she has achieved is not attainable by the typical woman. A highly competent Bitch often deprecates herself by refusing to recognize her own superiority. She is wont to say that she is average or less so; if she can do it, anyone can. http://www.jofreeman.com/imagehome/spacer.gifAs adults, Bitches may have learned the feminine role, at least the outward style but they are rarely comfortable in it. This is particularly true of those women who are physical Bitches. They want to free their bodies as well as their minds and deplore the effort they must waste confining their physical motions or dressing the role in order not to turn people off. Too, because they violate sex role expectations physically, they are not as free to violate them psychologically or intellectually. A few deviations from the norm can be tolerated but too many are too threatening. It’s bad enough not to think like a woman, sound like a woman or do the kinds of things women are supposed to do. To also not look like a woman, move like a woman or act like a woman is to go way beyond the pale. Ours is a rigid society with narrow limits placed on the extent of human diversity. Women in particular are defined by their physical characteristics. Bitches who do not violate these limits are freer to violate others. Bitches who do violate them in style or size can be somewhat envious of those who do not have to so severely restrain the expansiveness of their personalities and behavior. Often these Bitches are tortured more because their deviancy is always evident. But they do have a compensation in that large Bitches have a good deal less difficulty being taken seriously than small women. One of the sources of their suffering as women is also a source of their strength. http://www.jofreeman.com/imagehome/spacer.gifThe trial by fire which most Bitches go thru while growing up either makes them or breaks them. They are strung tautly between the two poles of being true to their own nature or being accepted as a social being. This makes them very sensitive people, but it is a sensitivity the rest of the world is unaware of. For on the outside they have frequently grown a thick defensive callous which can make them seem hard and bitter at times. This is particularly true of those Bitches who have been forced to become isolates in order to avoid being remade and destroyed by their peers. Those who are fortunate enough to have grown up with some similar companions, understanding parents, a good role model or two and a very strong will, can avoid some of the worse aspects of being a Bitch. Having endured less psychological punishment for being what they were they can accept their differentness with the ease that comes from self-confidence. http://www.jofreeman.com/imagehome/spacer.gifThose who had to make their way entirely on their own have an uncertain path. Some finally realize that their pain comes not just because they do not conform but because they do not want to conform. With this comes the recognition that there is nothing particularly wrong with them they just don’t fit into this kind of society. Many eventually learn to insulate themselves from the harsh social environment. However, this too has its price. Unless they are cautious and conscious, the confidence gained in this painful manner — with no support from their sisters — is more often a kind of arrogance. Bitches can become so hard and calloused that the last vestiges of humanity become buried deep within and almost destroyed. http://www.jofreeman.com/imagehome/spacer.gifNot all Bitches make it. Instead of callouses, they develop open sores. Instead of confidence they develop an unhealthy sensitivity to rejection. Seemingly tough on the outside, on the inside they are a bloody pulp, raw from the lifelong verbal whipping they have had to endure. These are Bitches who have gone Bad. They often go around with a chip on their shoulders and use their strength for unproductive retaliation when someone accepts their dare to knock it off . These Bitches can be very obnoxious because they never really trust people. They have not learned to use their strength constructively. http://www.jofreeman.com/imagehome/spacer.gifBitches who have been mutilated as human beings often turn their fury on other people — particularly other women. This is one example of how women are trained to keep themselves and other women in their place. Bitches are no less guilty than non-Bitches of self-hatred and group-hatred and those who have gone Bad suffer the worse of both these afflictions. All Bitches are scapegoats and those who have not survived the psychological gauntlet are the butt of everyone’s disdain. As a group, Bitches are treated by other women much as women in general are treated by society — all right in their place, good to exploit and gossip about, but otherwise to be ignored or put down. They are threats to the traditional woman’s position and they are also an outgroup to which she can feel superior. Most women feel both better than and jealous of Bitches. While comforting themselves that they are not like these aggressive, masculine freaks, they have a sneaking suspicion that perhaps men, the most important thing in their lives, do find the freer, more assertive, independent, Bitch preferable as a woman. http://www.jofreeman.com/imagehome/spacer.gifBitches, likewise, don’t care too much for other women. They grow up disliking other women. They can’t relate to them, they don’t identify with them, they have nothing in common with them. Other women have been the norm into which they have not fit. They reject those who have rejected them. This is one of the reasons Bitches who are successful in hurdling the obstacles society places before women scorn these women who are not. They tend to feel those who can take it will make it. Most women have been the direct agents of much of the shit Bitches have had to endure and few of either group have had the political consciousness to realize why this is. Bitches have been oppressed by other women as much if not more than by men and their hatred for them is usually greater. http://www.jofreeman.com/imagehome/spacer.gifBitches are also uncomfortable around other women because frequently women are less their psychological peers than are men. Bitches don’t particularly like passive people. They are always slightly afraid they will crush the fragile things. Women are trained to be passive and have learned to act that way even when they are not. A Bitch is not very passive and is not comfortable acting that role. But she usually does not like to be domineering either — whether this is from natural distaste at dominating others or fear of seeming too masculine. Thus a Bitch can relax and be her natural non-passive self without worrying about masticating someone only in the company of those who are as strong as she. This is more frequently in the company of men than of women but those Bitches who have not succumbed totally to self-hatred are most comfortable of all only in the company of fellow Bitches. These are her true peers and the only ones with whom she does not have to play some sort of role. Only with other Bitches can a Bitch be truly free. http://www.jofreeman.com/imagehome/spacer.gifThese moments come rarely. Most of the time Bitches must remain psychologically isolated. Women and men are so threatened by them and react so adversely that Bitches guard their true selves carefully. They are suspicious of those few whom they think they might be able to trust because so often it turns out to be a sham. But in this loneliness there is a strength and from their isolation and their bitterness come contributions that other women do not make. Bitches are among the most unsung of the unsung heroes of this society. They are the pioneers, the vanguard, the spearhead. Whether they want to be or not this is the role they serve just by their very being. Many would not choose to be the groundbreakers for the mass of women for whom they have no sisterly feelings but they cannot avoid it. Those who violate the limits, extend them; or cause the system to break. http://www.jofreeman.com/imagehome/spacer.gifBitches were the first women to go to college, the first to break thru the Invisible Bar of the professions, the first social revolutionaries, the first labor leaders, the first to organize other women. Because they were not passive beings and acted on their resentment at being kept down, they dared to do what other women would not. They took the flak and the shit that society dishes out to those who would change it and opened up portions of the world to women that they would otherwise not have known. They have lived on the fringes. And alone or with the support of their sisters they have changed the world we live in. http://www.jofreeman.com/imagehome/spacer.gifBy definition Bitches are marginal beings in this society. They have no proper place and wouldn’t stay in it if they did. They are women but not true women. They are human but they are not male. Some don’t even know they are women because they cannot relate to other women. They may play the feminine game at times, but they know is is a game they are playing. Their major psychological oppression is not a belief that they are inferior but a belief that they are not. Thus, all their lives they have been told they were freaks. More polite terms were used of course, but the message got thru. Like most women they were taught to hate themselves as well as all women. In different ways and for different reasons perhaps, but the effect was similar. Internalization of a derogatory self-concept always results in a good deal of bitterness and resentment. This anger is usually either turned in on the self — making one an unpleasant person or on other women — reinforcing the social cliches about them. Only with political consciousness is it directed at the source — the social system. http://www.jofreeman.com/imagehome/spacer.gifThe bulk of this Manifesto has been about Bitches. The remainder will be about BITCH. The organization does not yet exist and perhaps it never can. Bitches are so damned independent and they have learned so well not to trust other women that it will be difficult for them to learn to even trust each other. This is what BITCH must teach them to do. Bitches have to learn to accept themselves as Bitches and to give their sisters the support they need to be creative Bitches. Bitches must learn to be proud of their strength and proud of themselves. They must move away from the isolation which has been their protection and help their younger sisters avoid its perils. They must recognize that women are often less tolerant of other women than are men because they have been taught to view all women as their enemies. And Bitches must form together in a movement to deal with their problems in a political manner. They must organize for their own liberation as all women must organize for theirs. We must be strong, we must be militant, we must be dangerous. We must realize that Bitch is Beautiful and that we have nothing to lose. Nothing whatsoever.

This manifesto was written and revised with the help of several of my sisters, to whom it is dedicated. Phyllis Schlafly, “What’s Wrong with ‘Equal Rights’ for Women?” Phyllis Schlafly Report 5, no. 7 (February 1972) .

The author is an activist and writer. She holds a law degree from Washington University.

In the last couple of years, a noisy movement has sprung up agitating for “women’s rights.” Suddenly, everywhere we are afflicted with aggressive females on television talk shows yapping about how mistreated American women are, suggesting that marriage has put us in some kind of “slavery,” that housework is menial and degrading, and—perish the thought—that women are discriminated against. New “women’s liberation” organizations are popping up, agitating and demonstrating, serving demands on public officials, getting wide press coverage always, and purporting to speak for some 100,000,000 American women. It’s time to set the record straight. The claim that American women are downtrodden and unfairly treated is the fraud of the century. The truth is that American women never had it so good. Why should we lower ourselves to “equal rights” when we already have the status of special privilege? The proposed Equal Rights Amendment states: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.” So what’s wrong with that? Well, here are a few examples of what’s wrong with it. This Amendment will absolutely and positively make women subject to the draft. Why any woman would support such a ridiculous and un-American proposal as this is beyond comprehension. Why any Congressman who had any regard for his wife, sister or daughter would support such a proposition is just as hard to understand. Foxholes are bad enough for men, but they certainly are not the place for women—and we should reject any proposal which would put them there in the name of “equal rights.” It is amusing to watch the semantic chicanery of the advocates of the Equal Rights Amendment when confronted with this issue of the draft. They evade, they sidestep, they try to muddy up the issue, but they cannot deny that the Equal Rights Amendment will positively make women subject to the draft. Congresswoman Margaret Heckler’s answer to this question was, Don’t worry, it will take two years for the Equal Rights Amendment to go into effect, and we can rely on President Nixon to end the Vietnam War before then! Literature distributed by Equal Rights Amendment supporters confirms that “under the Amendment a draft law which applied to men would apply also to women.” The Equal Rights literature argues that this would be good for women so they can achieve their “equal rights” in securing veterans’ benefits. Another bad effect of the Equal Rights Amendment is that it will abolish a woman’s right to child support and alimony, and substitute what the women’s libbers think is a more “equal” policy, that “such decisions should be within the discretion of the Court and should be made on the economic situation and need of the parties in the case.”

Under present American laws, the man is always required to support his wife and each child he caused to be brought into the world. Why should women abandon these good laws—by trading them for something so nebulous and uncertain as the “discretion of the Court”? The law now requires a husband to support his wife as best as his financial situation permits, but a wife is not required to support her husband (unless he is about to become a public charge). A husband cannot demand that his wife go to work to help pay for family expenses. He has the duty of financial support under our laws and customs. Why should we abandon these mandatory wife-support and child-support laws so that a wife would have an “equal” obligation to take a job? By law and custom in America, in case of divorce, the mother always is given custody of her children unless there is overwhelming evidence of mistreatment, neglect or bad character. This is our special privilege because of the high rank that is placed on motherhood in our society. Do women really want to give up this special privilege and lower themselves to “equal rights”, so that the mother gets one child and the father gets the other? I think not.…

Many women are under the mistaken impression that “women’s lib” means more job employment opportunities for women, equal pay for equal work, appointments of women to high positions, admitting more women to medical schools, and other desirable objectives which all women favor. We all support these purposes, as well as any necessary legislation which would bring them about. But all this is only a sweet syrup which covers the deadly poison masquerading as “women’s lib.” The women’s libbers are radicals who are waging a total assault on the family, on marriage, and on children. Don’t take my word for it—read their own literature and prove to yourself what these characters are trying to do. The most pretentious of the women’s liberation magazines is called Ms., and subtitled “The New Magazine For Women,” with Gloria Steinem listed as president and secretary. Reading the Spring 1972 issue of Ms. gives a good understanding of women’s lib, and the people who promote it. It is anti-family, anti-children, and pro-abortion. It is a series of sharp-tongued, high-pitched whining complaints by unmarried women. They view the home as a prison, and the wife and mother as a slave. To these women’s libbers, marriage means dirty dishes and dirty laundry. One article lauds a woman’s refusal to carry up the family laundry as “an act of extreme courage.” Another tells how satisfying it is to be a lesbian. (page 117)

The women’s libbers don’t understand that most women want to be wife, mother and homemaker—and are happy in that role. The women’s libbers actively resent the mother who stays at home with her children and likes it that way. The principal purpose of Ms.’s shrill tirade is to sow seeds of discontent among happy, married women so that all women can be unhappy in some new sisterhood of frustrated togetherness. Obviously intrigued by the 170 clauses of exemptions from marital duties given to Jackie Kennedy, and the special burdens imposed on Aristotle Onassis, in the pre-marriage contract they signed, Ms. recommends two women’s lib marriage contracts. The “Utopian marriage contract” has a clause on “sexual rights and freedoms” which approves “arrangements such as having Tuesdays off from one another,” and the husband giving “his consent to abortion in advance.” The “Shulmans’ marriage agreement” includes such petty provisions as “wife strips beds, husband remakes them,” and “Husband does dishes on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. Wife does Monday, Wednesday and Saturday, Friday is split…” If the baby cries in the night, the chore of “handling” the baby is assigned as follows: “Husband does Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. Wife does Monday, Wednesday and Saturday, Friday is split…” Presumably, if the baby cries for his mother on Tuesday night, he would be informed that the marriage contract prohibits her from answering. Of course, it is possible, in such a loveless home, that the baby would never call for his mother at all. Who put up the money to launch this 130-page slick-paper assault on the family and motherhood? A count of the advertisements in Ms. shows that the principal financial backer is the liquor industry. There are 26 liquor ads in this one initial issue. Of these, 13 are expensive full-page color ads, as opposed to only 18 full-page ads from all other sources combined, most of which are in the cheaper black-and-white. Another women’s lib magazine, called Women, tells the American woman that she is a prisoner in the “solitary confinement” and “isolation” of marriage. The magazine promises that it will provide women with “escape from isolation…release from boredom,” and that it will “break the barriers…that separate wife, mistress and secretary…heterosexual women and homosexual women.” These women’s libbers do, indeed, intend to “break the barriers” of the Ten Commandments and the sanctity of the family. It hasn’t occurred to them that a woman’s best “escape from isolation and boredom” is—not a magazine subscription to boost her “stifled ego”—but a husband and children who love her. The first issue of Women contains 68 pages of such proposals as “The BITCH Manifesto,” which promotes the line that “Bitch is Beautiful and that we have nothing to lose. Nothing whatsoever.” Another article promotes an organization called W.I.T.C.H. (Women’s International Terrorist Conspiracy from Hell), “an action arm of Women’s Liberation.” In intellectual circles, a New York University professor named Warren T. Farrell has provided the rationale for why men should support women’s lib. When his speech to the American Political Science Association Convention is stripped of its egghead verbiage, his argument is that men should eagerly look forward to the day when they can enjoy free sex and not have to pay for it. The husband will no longer be “saddled with the tremendous guilt feelings” when he leaves his wife with nothing after she has given him her best years. If a husband loses his job, he will no longer feel compelled to take any job to support his family. A husband can go “out with the boys” to have a drink without feeling guilty. Alimony will be eliminated.

The “women’s lib” movement is not an honest effort to secure better jobs for women who want or need to work outside the home. This is just the superficial sweet-talk to win broad support for a radical “movement.” Women’s lib is a total assault on the role of the American woman as wife and mother, and on the family as the basic unit of society. Women’s libbers are trying to make wives and mothers unhappy with their career, make them feel that they are “second-class citizens” and “abject slaves.” Women’s libbers are promoting free sex instead of the “slavery” of marriage. They are promoting Federal “day-care centers” for babies instead of homes. They are promoting abortions instead of families. Why should we trade in our special privileges and honored status for the alleged advantage of working in an office or assembly line? Most women would rather cuddle a baby than a typewriter or factory machine. Most women find that it is easier to get along with a husband than a foreman or office manager. Offices and factories require many more menial and repetitious chores than washing dishes and ironing shirts. Women’s libbers do not speak for the majority of American women. American women do not want to be liberated from husbands and children. We do not want to trade our birthright of the special privileges of American women—for the mess of pottage called the Equal Rights Amendment. Modern technology and opportunity have not discovered any nobler or more satisfying or more creative career for a woman than marriage and motherhood. The wonderful advantage that American women have is that we can have all the rewards of that numberone career, and still moonlight with a second one to suit our intellectual, cultural or financial tastes or needs. And why should the men acquiesce in a system which gives preferential rights and lighter duties to women? In return, the men get the pearl of great price: a happy home, a faithful wife, and children they adore. If the women’s libbers want to reject marriage and motherhood, it’s a free country and that is their choice. But let’s not permit these women’s libbers to get away with pretending to speak for the rest of us. Let’s not permit this tiny minority to degrade the role that most women prefer. Let’s not let these women’s libbers deprive wives and mothers of the rights we now possess. Tell your Senators NOW that you want them to vote NO on the Equal Rights Amendment. Tell your television and radio stations that you want equal time to present the case FOR marriage and motherhood.

SOURCES FOR 8d (Four sources)

● Recollection of Rhona Marie Knox Prescott, Captain, U.S. Army Nurse Corps Library of Congress Veterans History Project.

When surgery started (it was usually brain surgery) they had no idea what they would find and the [surgical] techniques weren’t perfected at that time. It was kind of go in carefully and slowly, see what you could find and test the areas of the brain to be sure that you could cut there without doing more damage. It was a very slow process; once we got into a skull we stayed until the work was done to the best of our ability. We had a lot of cases because that was the neuro- surgical center. We worked really long days and scary days. Kent: So you saw more trauma in those first days than you had seen. Prescott: Yes, since they were head injuries it stands to reason that there were also facial injuries. These young fellows on these litters; they were like Halloween masks; they just didn’t even look human. It was [pause] really challenging.

One incident that I remember; because I was the assistant supervisor so I was pretty much operationally in charge; I remember one day the hall was just so filled with litters with fellows on them with decimated faces and skulls and other body parts. It was so filled that you had to kind of shimmy around to get down the hallway. One of the corpsmen just lost it. He just started screaming and crying and slid to the floor, actually. I remember just yelling, yelling, yelling at him that he had to get himself together and go ahead and function. What I remember him saying back to me (between gasps) was that a specific litter contained a person who he knew and had gone through basic training with, and was in fact his buddy. It was a real moment of truth when he verbalized what he did. I had to come to grips with the fact that what we were dealing with was absolutely impossible.

They were really scared and you had to deal with them and try to pass some kind of confidence on to them. In a way it was so very dishonest, but it was the thing to do to give them the best chance of recovery.

● Recollection of Ann Catherine Cunningham, Captain, U.S. Army Nurse Corps Library of Congress Veterans History Project.

I think you change, you know, just because of, of everything you’re going through, and all of a sudden, you know, it’s kind of like “Gosh, I could die here,” because the operating room, a mortar landed right outside of the operating room in, in between triage and the operating room and blew holes all through the operating room, our hut, and everything, and you’re sitting there saying, “Gosh, I really could get killed over here,” you know, and you, you always kind of think, “Well, I’m a woman, so they’re gonna take special care of me.” Hahaha. I don’t think so. Hahaha.

I think I was, I was really touched by, by some of the Vietnamese people, and you know, I mean, and they, they couldn’t care less about democracy. All they wanted to do was try and feed their families, you know, I mean there was so much corruption going on in, in their government, and um, um, but I, I just think a lot of times when you, you do something like that, it’s probably the only time um, I’d really been thankful I’m a nurse, because there, there are people alive because of what I did, and I think that that in itself right there changes you. You know? I hope it’s made me a better person, maybe a little bit more sympathetic, and, and, and stuff like that, and um, I think we were all changed by our experience. We were young, we didn’t have a lot of life experiences to go through. I think, sometimes they say that the older you are, the better you’re able to process a lot of these things. You know, well we, we didn’t have much experience processing everything, but, um I think it was just a really, a really sad time and um you know what I mean?

● Recollection of Gayle Smith, nurse, as told to Al Santoli, Everything We Had: An Oral History of the Vietnam War, 1985.

We were shelled close only once at Binh Thuy.  But we could always hear it.   Every night we could hear it,  three or four miles away.  The hospital compound wasn’t big, but engineers were behind us and Air Force on one side and the Navy and dust-offs on the other.  It was the Air Force that used to get hit.  And then one night it came in a few yards away.  Let me tell you, I moved that night.  It was like thunder and landed right beside me.  That was halfway through my tour.

Actually, I was queasy the first three months because I had visions of somebody opening my door and throwing in a grenade.  I had trouble sleeping the first three months because of that.  Then I got used to the idea that there wasn’t anything I could do to prevent that from happening, so I may as well forget about it and get some sleep, and if  I woke up the next day, that was good.

The first night I was there, the compound next to ours was shelled. A couple of guys were killed.  I went over and there was a big hole in the barracks and it just dawned on me that . . . this was it.   I was here,  in the middle of a war. It was all around me. That day I went down to Binh Thuy and it was probably the first and last time I cried  I realized I was halfway around the world from home and I couldn’t go home if I wanted to  .”what have I done?  Here I am in the middle of this godforsaken country.  I might get  killed.  I can’t see my parents. ” I have to say I did cry a couple of times after that, but it mostly was because of my patients.  It was when they died.

Boy, I remember how they came in all torn up. It was incredible. The first time a medevac came in,  I got right into it.  I didn’t have a lot of feeling at that time.  It was later on that I began to have a lot of feeling about it, after I’d seen it over and over and over again.

● Recollection of Lynda Van Devanter, Nurse, (1969-1970) as told to Al Santoli, Everything We Had: An Oral History of the Vietnam War,1985.

Vietnam was the first place I delivered a baby by myself. It seemed like a Saturday afternoon. It was very quiet. There were no other patients around. I was feeling very depressed and this lady came in. I got pissed off at first because we were supposedly there for taking care of military casualties. We were only supposed to take care of civilian situations if we possibly had the time. But his particular day I got her onto a gurney and started leading her back to the OR because I could tell she was very close to delivery and I had already put in a call to one of the surgeons to come down and deliver it. He didn’t have time to get there.

She looked over at me and said, “Baby come, baby come.” I looked down and there was the head. I just grabbed a sterile towel and held it under, and that kid just popped his little head out and turned around on the side, and popped his little shoulders out, and there was this little squalling bundle of humanness. And the life came back again. It was creation of life in the midst of all that destruction. And creation of life restored your sanity.

Those moments when we had a little baby around were very precious. I have a couple of slides of me sitting in the operating room with my foot up on the table, in my fatigues and combat boots, with a scrub shirt over the top of me, holding a tiny little bundle in my arms, feeding it. Those were the things that kept you going. That there was still life coming. There was still hope.

DISCUSSION 8: Comment on the sources by the U.S. Senate, James Justen, and Lillian Fadermann. Follow the guidelines and instructions for Discussion Participation. Post original comments and replies to the Discussion Board on Canvas by the deadline shown on the Class Schedule.

U.S. Senate, Subcommittee Report, excerpts,  “Employment of Homosexuals and Other Sex Perverts in Government Interim Report,” 1950The primary objective of the subcommittee in this inquiry was to determine the extent of the employment of homosexuals and other sex perverts in Government; to consider reasons why their employment by the Government is undesirable; and to examine into the efficacy of the methods used in dealing with the problem. Because of the complex nature of the subject under investigation it was apparent that this investigation could not be confined to a mere personnel inquiry. Therefore, the subcommittee considered not only the security risk and other aspects of the employment of homosexuals, including the rules and procedures followed by Government agencies in handling these cases, but inquiries were also made into the basic medical, psychiatric, sociological and legal phases of the problem. A number of eminent physicians and psychiatrists, who are recognized authorities on this subject, were consulted and some of these authorities testified before the subcommittee in executive session. In addition, numerous medical and sociological studies were reviewed. Information was also sought and obtained from law-enforcement officers, prosecutors, and other persons dealing with the legal and sociological aspects of the problem in 10 of the larger cities in the country. Psychiatric physicians generally agree that indulgence in sexually perverted practices indicates a personality which has failed to reach sexual maturity. The authorities agree that most sex deviates respond to psychiatric treatment and can be cured if they have a genuine desire to be cured. However, many overt homosexuals have no real desire to abandon their way of life and in such cases cures are difficult, if not impossible. The subcommittee sincerely believes that persons afflicted with sexual desires which result in their engaging in overt acts of perversion should be considered as proper cases for medical and psychiatric treatment. However, sex perverts, like all other persons who by their overt acts violate moral codes and laws and the accepted standards of conduct, must be treated as transgressors and dealt with accordingly.” Sex Perverts as Government Employees Those charged with the responsibility of operating the agencies of Government must insist that Government employees meet acceptable standards of personal conduct. In the opinion of this subcommittee homosexuals and other sex perverts are not proper persons to be employed in Government for two reasons; first, they are generally unsuitable, and second, they constitute security risks. General Unsuitability of Sex Perverts Overt acts of sex perversion, including acts of homosexuality, constitute a crime under our Federal, State, and municipal statutes and persons who commit such acts are law violators. Aside from the criminality and immorality involved in sex perversion such behavior is so contrary to the normal accepted standards of social behavior that persons who engage in such activity are looked upon as outcasts by society generally. The social stigma attached to sex perversion is so great that many perverts go to great lengths to conceal their perverted tendencies. This situation is evidenced by the fact that perverts are frequently victimized by blackmailers who threaten to expose their sexual deviations….

In further considering the general suitability of perverts as Government employees, it is generally believed that those who engage in overt acts of perversion lack the emotional stability of normal persons. In addition there is an abundance of evidence to sustain the conclusion that indulgence in acts of sex perversion weakens the moral fiber of an individual to a degree that he is not suitable for a position of responsibility. Most of the authorities agree and our investigation has shown that the presence of a sex pervert in a Government agency tends to have a corrosive influence upon his fellow employees. These perverts will frequently attempt to entice normal individuals to engage in perverted practices. This is particularly true in the case of young and impressionable people who might come under the influence of a pervert. Government officials have the responsibility of keeping this type of corrosive influence out of the agencies under their control. It is particularly important that the thousands of young men and women who are brought into Federal jobs not be subjected to that type of influence while in the service of the Government. One homosexual can pollute a Government office. Another point to be considered in determining whether a sex pervert is suitable for Government employment is his tendency to gather other perverts about him. Eminent psychiatrists have informed the subcommittee that the homosexual is likely to seek his own kind because the pressures of society are such that he feels uncomfortable unless he is with his own kind. Due to this situation the homosexual tends to surround himself with other homosexuals, not only in his social, but in his business life Under these circumstances if a homosexual attains a position in Government where he can influence the hiring of personnel, it is almost inevitable that he will attempt to place other homosexuals in Government jobs. “ Sex Perverts as Security Risks The conclusion of the subcommittee that a homosexual or other sex pervert is a security risk is not based upon mere conjecture. That conclusion is predicated upon a careful review of the opinions of those best qualified to consider matters of security in Government, namely, the intelligence agencies of the Government. Testimony on this phase of the inquiry was taken from representatives of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the intelligence services of the Army, Navy and Air Force. All of these agencies are in complete agreement that sex perverts in Government constitute security risks. The lack of emotional stability which is found in most sex perverts and the weakness of their moral fiber, makes them susceptible to the blandishments of the foreign espionage agent. It is the experience of intelligence experts that perverts are vulnerable to interrogation by a skilled questioner and they seldom refuse to talk about themselves. Furthermore, most perverts tend to congregate at the same restaurants, night clubs, and bars, which places can be identified with comparative ease in any community, making it possible for a recruiting agent to develop clandestine relationships which can be used for espionage purposes….             James Justen, interview, recollection of the 1950s

Jim Justen grew up in Kenosha, Wisconsin during the 1950s.

I knew that I was gay, had been closeted of course in high school, but there was a small minority of gay people around us in school, and we knew who was and who wasn’t. And a few tricks that we were going to bed with occasionally and that was about it in high school. In fact I had my first lover in high school. I ran with a pretty rough bunch of people, regrettably. My ex-lover used to fight golden gloves and I got my butt kicked at one time, and made up my mind I was going to learn to fight. And I spent a year learning how to fight. He taught me how to fight and defend myself. And if a problem developed it was going to be solved real fast. We just stood up for our own self and that was it. I guess we made up for the fact that we were gay by being strong enough to handle any situation that would come up.

I notified my mother and father somewhere around the time I was nineteen years old or so that I was gay. I told my mother first and she accepted it although she would rather see grandchildren on my side. My father’s only attitude when I told him was, “you are the way you are and you better do one thing — accept yourself for what you are and don’t try to change or you will be a screwed up person. He did know some gay women that he worked [with], some lesbians on the railroad, he was close to and friends to. My father was a very bright shrewd person he was my best friend as well as my father.

Lillian Faderman, interview. Recollections of the 1950s

Lillian Faderman is an internationally known scholar of lesbian and LGBT history and literature, as well as ethnic history and literature.

I was a working class lesbian and I first came out after meeting a woman in a working class lesbian bar called the Open Door. It was 1956 and I was still a minor with a phoney ID. I describe in my memoir, Naked in the Promised Land, what it was like even walking down the street. Once I jaywalked across the street holding hands with my first lover who was a very butch woman – she was dressed, as it was considered in those days, like a man. Now everyone wears pants and tailored jackets but then that wasn’t the case. This policeman stopped us, ostensibly for jaywalking, made us get into the car and drove around the block and parked. It was very threatening. He made her get out of the car. I had no idea what he would do. I thought I was going to be arrested but he just lectured me, saying I didn’t look like somebody like Jan (the woman’s name) and that she was bad business. Finally he just let us both go.

When I did interviews for my book, Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers, I heard many worse horror stories of butches and femmes who were picked up and sometimes raped, and I heard horror stories about raids on bars. There were many times when I got to bars just after a raid had taken place, where the bar was empty with just vice squad officers around.

It was particularly middle class women who were concerned about their livelihood during the McCarthy era. If you were a teacher or you worked in any kind of government position and it was discovered that you were lesbian, you could be fired on the grounds of immorality. There were witchhunts of lesbians working in government positions and they were frequently fired.

I was an undergraduate in my first semester at UCLA and when students entered we had to take a battery of tests. I remember well questions that kept appearing on a psychological test all freshmen had to take such as, “Have you ever dreamt of kissing a person of the same sex?”, “Do you have affectionate feelings, or erotic feelings, towards a person of the same sex?” But all of us who were homosexual knew if we were smart enough to get into UCLA we had to say no to any question like that.

Once when I was doing research I ran across an article published in a journal called School and Society> in 1954, four years before I became a freshman. It was co-authored by the dean and associate dean of students at UCLA and the thrust of it was that it was the job of deans of students around the country to ferret out homosexuals and make sure that they got treatment for their homosexuality and changed. If they were unwilling to change they were to be expelled from college lest they spread the disease of homosexuality to other students. That was the atmosphere. We had constant reason to be wary, to be in hiding, to try to masquerade.

Middle class lesbians for the most part by the 1950s – it was different in earlier eras – were terrified about going to bars. There were occasional exceptions. There was a cocktail lounge, for example, in Los Angeles that I was familiar with. The style was a holdover from the earlier era where the entertainer and co-owner of the bar, Beverly Shaw, modelled herself on Marlene Dietrich. She would sit on the piano and sing, wearing a skirt with high heels and a man-tailored jacket and a bow tie. Middle class lesbians felt pretty conformable going there. The rumour was that Shaw paid the vice squad off, so it was a safe place.

But for the most part middle class lesbians were terrified of the bars because they were often raided. That was true in all the big US cities. Lesbian or lesbian and gay bars weren’t safe and the names of everyone who was arrested would be in the newspapers. You would risk losing your job, and middle class lesbians who had extensive training as teachers or social workers or nurses didn’t want to blow it all by being arrested. Instead they would have house parties and extended circles of friends who could do things that they considered safe.

For working class lesbians it would have been much harder to invite 20, 30 or 40 friends over to your small digs. So the only place to socialise or form a community was in the bar.

For many working class lesbians the bar culture was an absolutely wonderful thing because that’s where they formed friendship circles. They could be who they were – if they were butch they could dress in butch garbs.

Yet it was so dangerous.

Part V. 1970s to Present

ASSIGNMENT 9: Answer the questions outside of Canvas. Save your responses. Submit on Canvas before the deadline on the Class Schedule.

5a. Write a statement characterizing this period based on the essay by William H. Chafe (B) below. Follow closely the Guidelines for Characterizing Context.

5b. Identify the five to seven most significant features of the period, based on Chafe’s essay. Follow closely the Guidelines for Describing Features.

●  William H. Chafe, “1945 to the Present [PART B]” The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History 49 W. 45th Street, 6th Floor · NYC, NY 10036 (646) 366-9666 © 2009–2013 All Rights Reserved [https://www.gilderlehrman.org/]

The election of Richard Nixon inaugurated a new era of conservatism, based on rallying mainstream Americans against social experimentation and protest groups. Although he had dedicated his presidency to “bringing us together,” Nixon practiced a politics of polarization. His “Southern strategy” sought to use racial conflict as a basis for creating a new Solid South, this time dominated by white Republicans. Spiro Agnew, his alliterative vice president, gave repeated speeches denouncing the “nattering nabobs of negativism” who insisted on criticizing rather than celebrating America. While Nixon had spoken of a “secret plan” to end the Vietnam War, he chose a strange way of executing it, engaging in secret bombing of Cambodia and then invading the country, a course that prompted renewed student protests and led to the killing of four student demonstrators by National Guardsmen at Kent State University in Ohio. Although Nixon finally ended the war in 1973 (on terms virtually identical to those he could have had in 1969), he did so by such excessive bombing of Hanoi that he seemed to be out to prove that he was the “mad man” that he wanted his enemies to think he was.

Nixon’s greatest achievements were in the foreign policy realm, which he cared about more deeply than anything else. A person who detested most of his own Cabinet and the daily routine of presidential meetings, Nixon spent as much time as he could by himself in a small study off the Oval Office. Most often, his hopes focused on transforming America’s relations with China. As one of the most inveterate anti-Communists to ever walk the halls of Congress, Nixon was ideally situated to reverse nearly a quarter century of hostility and open relations with Peking. After all, no one could accuse him of being soft on Communism. Plotting with National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger (he never told his secretary of state about his China plans), Nixon secretly arranged the dramatic breakthrough. He went personally to China, met with Chinese Communist Party Chairman Mao Zedong, and inaugurated diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China. It was a master stroke.

While Nixon could be a visionary on foreign policy, he also engaged in petty, self-destructive, and vindictive efforts to squash his political adversaries. Going into the 1972 presidential election, it was clear that Nixon would easily defeat his opponent, George McGovern. But for Nixon that was not enough; he wanted to destroy his foes. Nixon created “the Plumbers,” a group of secret operatives who broke into offices of the political opposition and sought to sabotage their campaigns. When the Plumbers entered the Democratic Party headquarters at the Watergate apartment complex for the second time (the first effort was botched), an alert security guard noticed the break-in and the burglars were arrested. Soon two Washington Post cub reporters, Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, discovered the names of White House officials in the notebook of the Plumbers’ leader. Although it took nearly two years, the full story finally came out. The President of the United States not only helped to create the Plumbers, he also schemed to pay them off if they stayed quiet and explicitly ordered a campaign to obstruct justice. Ironically, all this was taped by ubiquitous tape recorders set up by Nixon himself to document his presidency. Eventually, Watergate led Republicans and Democrats alike to conclude that Nixon had to go, and in the summer of 1974 Richard Nixon, faced with impeachment, resigned the office of the presidency. Gerald Ford assumed the presidency.

Watergate inaugurated an era of malaise in America. A series of developments in the 1970s caused the American people to doubt that the nation could continue to reign, unchallenged, as ruler of the world. In 1973 and 1974, an OAPEC (Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries) embargo on oil sales highlighted America’s dependence on Middle Eastern fuel, with mile-long gas lines forming in every major city. “Stagflation” became the byword for the American economy. For the first time, high unemployment went hand in hand with high inflation rates, both in double digits. As the economy foundered, so too did the nation’s sense of well being and moral stability. Supreme Court decisions legalizing abortion (Roe v. Wade,1973) and other rulings such as the outlawing of school prayer in the 1960s enraged millions of conservatives. When Americans were forced to flee Saigon in 1975, clinging to helicopters, it seemed a fitting symbol of the country’s decline, economically, politically, militarily, and on issues of basic social values.

Jimmy Carter’s election to the presidency in 1976 seemed like a partial answer. An unknown  politician and a born-again Christian who told the American people they deserved a government as moral and as competent as its citizens, the former Georgia governor seemed ideally suited to restore a sense of stability to the nation. But Carter did not know how to deal with Congress. The energy crisis overwhelmed him. So too did inflation rates nearing 20 percent. Although he represented a breath of fresh air in foreign policy, especially in espousing democratic regimes in Africa and Latin America, Carter ultimately fell victim to one of the most humiliating defeats America had experienced—the seizure of the American embassy in Teheran, Iran, and the holding of more than sixty American hostages for over a year. Nothing more powerfully exemplified America’s new sense of powerlessness.

Ronald Reagan was the “cowboy” who came riding in from the West to rescue America’s sense of well being and pride. An actor, Reagan exuded leadership and strength. He operated on a simple creed: Capitalism was the only economic system that worked; people had to free themselves of the burdens of government—especially taxation—to manifest their creativity; no one should be allowed to challenge America militarily; and with these in hand, the nation would bounce back. Once again it would be “morning time in America.” To a remarkable degree, Reagan delivered. He cut taxes, created new jobs, increased the military budget dramatically, called the Soviet Union an “evil empire,” and won back the confidence of the people. Walter Mondale, the Democratic candidate for president in 1984, never stood a chance. Reagan swept forty-nine of the fifty states.

Yet Reagan’s successes (and failures) were largely a product of the staff who served him. As long as James Baker was his chief of staff and Michael Deaver scripted his lines, Reagan’s performance was impeccable. But when Baker swapped jobs with Donald Regan, Secretary of the Treasury, everything fell apart. Regan lacked the finesse of Baker. New National Security aides Oliver North and Admiral John Poindexter had Reagan sign off on the Iran-Contra affair—a scheme to have Israel sell US arms to Iran to free hostages and then use the profits to arm the “Contra” rebels in Nicaragua. Unfortunately, aiding the “Contras” was a direct violation of the Boland Amendment, a Congressional act that prohibited such aid. Reagan, never a “hands-on” president, was oblivious to the entire disaster. With poor staff, he blundered badly and, once more, it seemed that America was doomed to be afflicted with a failed chief executive.

Yet in the end, Reagan pulled off a miracle. At his wife Nancy’s prompting, he had entered into intense negotiations with Mikhail Gorbachev, the leader of the Soviet Union. Unable to compete financially or militarily with Reagan’s arms buildup, Gorbachev was ready for peace. He also recognized the futility of pursuing policies of Stalinist repression within his own country. As a result, Gorbachev and Reagan arrived at a dramatic arms control treaty and set the world on a path that signified the end of the Cold War. Returning from a triumphant final visit to Moscow, Reagan told the press that what he had just done was like being in a Cecil B. DeMille movie. It was, he said “the role of a lifetime.”

Reagan’s immediate successor—and his vice president—was George Herbert Walker Bush, a Yankee transplanted to Texas who had been a Congressman, ambassador to the United Nations and to China, and CIA director. Using his experience to brilliant effect, Bush presided masterfully over the end of the Cold War. To the astonishment of the world, the Berlin Wall came down in 1989 after twenty-eight years. Shortly thereafter, the Soviet Union itself fell apart, literally, with its constituent parts breaking away to form independent republics. Bush handled it all well, always careful to respect the sensibilities of other nations. Partly because of that skill, he shaped the most effective coalition of the post–Cold War world. Carefully putting together a military and political force of sixty-five nations under a United Nations mandate, Bush led a military drive, presided over by General Colin Powell, that removed Saddam Hussein and his Iraqi forces from the oil-rich nation of Kuwait in 1991. After “Operation Desert Storm,” Bush’s popularity rating soared to 91 percent.

Bush seemed tone deaf, however, when it came to responding to the economic recession that swept the country in 1991–1992. Due to Bush’s lack of creative response, a presidential contest that in early 1991 seemed hopeless for any Democrat suddenly became a toss-up. In the absence of other candidates—most of whom thought Bush was unbeatable—a young governor from Arkansas, William Jefferson Clinton, proved singularly adept at forging a political coalition consisting of the old New Deal Democrats and a group of new centrist Democrats who hued to the middle and loved the idea of a charismatic, bright leader.

Pivotal to Clinton-era politics was the partnership that existed between the President and First Lady Hillary Clinton. Not since Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt had there been such a political team. But unlike the Roosevelts, Bill and Hillary talked explicitly about a “co-presidency.” She was involved in decisions, at times taking the lead role. As a result, there was no single person in charge during the administration’s first two years.

In the end, the hallmark of Bill Clinton’s presidency was the deficit reduction package he passed in 1993, with increased taxes, reduced spending, and an expanded Earned Income Tax Credit for poor people. It passed by just one vote in the House, with Vice President Al Gore casting a tie-breaking vote in the Senate. The plan produced a surplus and a projected elimination of the national debt, while creating an economic climate that created a precedent-shattering twenty-two million jobs.

But the other main story of the first two years was a failed health care reform package, developed by a task force led by Hillary Clinton. In neither design nor execution did she display sensitivity to political realities. Indeed, so unpopular was the bill that it never even came to a Congressional vote. Moreover, disgust about the whole process led to a devastating defeat for the Democrats in 1994, led by Newt Gingrich, who moved forward with a conservative agenda—his “Contract with America”—that threatened to cut taxes, trim Medicare, and return to an age of laissez-faire economics.

But Clinton had not earned the label of being the “comeback kid” for nothing. During 1995–1996, he masterminded a brilliant campaign to make Gingrich look like a reactionary extremist. In 1995, in response to the devastating Oklahoma City terrorist bombing executed by right-wing militant Timothy McVeigh, Clinton drew the country together as its spiritual and political leader. He followed up with a series of modest legislative victories—V-chips for parents to monitor their kids’ television programming; 100,000 new police officers on the streets to halt crime; tax breaks for parents of students attending college; incentives for homeowners. Clinton even signed a bill on welfare reform that promised to “end welfare as we know it.” “The era of big government is over,” he declared. Perhaps most important, Clinton made Gingrich look reckless, and when Congress decided to shut the government down rather than pass Clinton’s budget, it was Gingrich, not Clinton, who looked like an irresponsible radical. Not surprisingly, Clinton soared to re-election in 1996 over Republican Robert Dole.

But Clinton could not avoid his personal demons. In the midst of the government shutdown, he had an affair with a twenty-two-year-old White House intern. When the information was raised by a Special Prosecutor investigating the Clintons for a real estate venture in Arkansas, Clinton chose to lie, under oath, about the affair. Soon there was another Congressional impeachment process underway, and Bill Clinton became the second president in history to be indicted by Congress and brought to trial before the United States Senate. (Nixon would have been the second, but he resigned.) In the end, Clinton survived. In the view of the Senate and of over 65 percent of the American people, the affair and his perjury was not the “high crime and misdemeanor” that the Founding Fathers had in mind when they created the impeachment clause. Nevertheless, Clinton largely undermined his second term in the White House and tarnished one of the most effective presidencies of postwar America.

In perhaps the most sensational and disputed election in American history, George W. Bush was elected president in 2000. Although he lost the popular vote to Al Gore by over 540,000 votes, he appeared to win the Electoral College. The state that proved decisive was Florida, with twenty-five electoral votes, although the election there was rife with voting scandals. In many areas, minorities had difficulty getting their votes counted. In Dade County, a “butterfly” ballot was printed that confused normally pro-Democratic voters. In the end, the Supreme Court, by a 5-4 vote in Bush v. Gore, decided to stop the recount before it was complete and to certify the existing results. Bush would be president. But Al Gore had partially brought the defeat on himself by refusing to run on the accomplishments of the Clinton-Gore administration and by distancing himself from Clinton—who still retained an approval rating of more than 60 percent as he left the White House.

The George W. Bush administration will be remembered forever because of the terrorist attacks by Osama bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda on September 11, 2001. Al-Qaeda conspirators hijacked four jumbo passenger jets. Two were flown into the 110-story twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City. The towers collapsed, killing nearly 3,000 people. A third plane flew into the Pentagon. A fourth was headed for the White House when courageous passengers and crew stormed the cockpit and forced to plane to crash in the Pennsylvania countryside. It was a time of national shock parallel to that which occurred after the attacks on Pearl Harbor in 1941. Everyone was united, including allies around the globe.

But unlike the aftermath of Pearl Harbor, the American people were not asked to engage in common sacrifice. Instead of people paying more taxes for a strengthened military, tax rates were cut, especially for the rich and powerful. President Bush announced “the War on Terror,” a military campaign against Afghanistan, the home base of Osama bin Laden, with the approval of the American people. But then Bush, Vice President Richard Cheney, and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld refocused their attention on Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. With none of the coalition-building that his father had engaged in for “Desert Storm” in 1991, the younger Bush proceeded without UN sanction. The administration cited Clinton’s 1998 Iraq Liberation Act, which stated Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, to ensure Congressional authorization for the attack. The American invasion of Iraq was carried out with less than half the number of troops Colin Powell had gathered in 1991, as the war continued in Afghanistan. What followed was an eight-year civil war inside Iraq. Despite assiduous efforts, no weapons of mass destruction were found. Confused, angry, and frustrated, Americans returned to the tortured divisions of the Vietnam War era. Like that earlier war, the Iraq conflict polarized the country, except that this time, with no draft, volunteer soldiers paid the price through multiple tours of duty, while average Americans simply enjoyed their lower taxes.

Like John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton before him, Barack Obama came to the presidency as a messenger of change, a leader who would restore America to its path as a leader among nations. The first black president, Obama rallied people who had never voted before with “Change we can believe in” and “Yes we can.” But although Obama achieved much of what he set out to accomplish—national health insurance (the first president in a hundred years to succeed), rigorous re-regulation of investment banking and Wall Street, a new arms control agreement, repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” to legalize the service of gay men and women in the Armed Forces—the recession Obama inherited from Bush would not go away. As a result, in 2010 the Democratic Party suffered a defeat in the Congressional elections parallel to that which Clinton suffered in 1994. America seemed caught in a never-ending pendulum of politics swinging from one side to the other.

Where it might end no one can predict. But every major theme of the past sixty years had its origins in World War II and its aftermath. The question is whether, as in World War II, America can find a new and shared sense of mission to carry it forward into the new millennium.

William H. Chafe is the Alice Mary Baldwin Professor of History at Duke University. His recent publications include Private Lives/Public Consequences: Personality and Politics in Modern America (2005) and The Rise and Fall of the American Century: The United States from 1890 to 2008 (2008).

DISCUSSION 9: Comment on stories of Vietnamese immigrants. Follow the guidelines and instructions for Discussion Participation. Post original comments and replies to the Discussion Board on Canvas by the deadline shown on the Class Schedule.

The sources below are excerpts from interviews collected for The First Days Story Project, a collaboration of PBS’s American Experience and Story Corps and was inspired by the documentary Last Days in Vietnam. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/lastdays/firstdaysstoryproject/

Pascale My Phuong Tran

In 1975, 13-year-old Pascale My Phuong Tran escaped Vietnam with her mother. Her two sisters were already in America, but her father, an older brother and an older sister were left behind and sent to reeducation camps. For years, Pascale and her family in America had virtually no contact with those they left, and feared for the worst. But in Vietnam, her father was planning a daring escape. Here, she recounts the tale to a friend.

I was with Mom. I had two sisters in U.S. and the rest of the family – my father, my older brother, one older sister – were still in Vietnam. And at the end of the war in ’75, we lost total contact with them. During this time, we didn’t know yet if they were dead or alive. I remember, I was waitressing in Texas, and the hardest day for me to work was Sunday. Because on Sunday, people – the whole family gather. They go to church and then they would go to the restaurant. And then when I work on Sunday, you know, I see happy family gather. I used to pray that somehow the family can reconnected. My father never shared this story with us, but this was my brother who shared this story. My father went underground and he turned himself to a fisherman. He left Saigon and he went to a fishing village near the sea, and he let his beard grow – grew long and by himself, he built a boat out of plywood, whatever he could get his hand on. He got some engine and take years – you know, you cannot do it overnight.

Years just to gather the material. My brother told us that the boat just have like a little bunker underneath. That’s where everybody — 420-some-odd people — they all sat like sardine. There’s no room to lay down. There were three boats left that night, and my dad was the first boat that went out and they turn on the radio to listen to the weather. And they said the biggest hurricane of the century on the Pacific at that time. And my dad say, doesn’t matter, hurricane or not, he went right into the international waterway. The other two boat, when they heard that the hurricane’s coming, they just went along the edge of Vietnam, and they got caught. So my dad went right into the biggest hurricane of the century at that time, Hurricane David, and he was the only man who sat the whole time at the wheel and tried to hang on to this little boat. You know, hundred mile an hour, lots of rain and wind. And my brother say the waves was so high that you don’t see the breaking point. All you saw is a wall of black water, coming toward you, in front of you. And this little boat, like a toy, this little boat just climb up this mountaintop, like 30-story building, to plunge down. And then, again, the next wall of black water.

And on the fifth day, from far far away, my dad saw some sort of light. And he knew that’s a big ship. So, he gave order to try to burn everything they could and make SOS signal. And suddenly, they signal back to acknowledge. So everybody was just like, “Oh God, finally, somebody signal back” and it’s a Russian flag. And then to get on the Russian boat, that’s mean to go back to Vietnam, they will give you back to the Vietnamese, and that’s the end of my family. But the people on the boat rather get on this ship with the Russian and be alive and then deal with whatever later than die at sea. But my father stood up and he said, “Our family will die at sea, or we will make it to freedom, but we not going to get on this ship. And any of you who want to get on, please, you know, I will try to get as close as I can and you get on, but we are not.” Everybody decide to make it or die at sea with him. So one day, we receive a letter who said that they’d made it to an island in Malaysia.

And I remember, Lubbock, Texas, you know, they came and we so excited. The first thing my dad told my mom was that “I have done my job. I have reunited the family and brought us all together. And my job to you as a husband and father, I have accomplished my mission to you.”

That’s the first thing he told my mom. And I thought about it, I thought, thanks to him, to his bravery and his conviction, that 400-some people, family, now multiply and have a chance to have a great, better life with dignity and freedom and they spread out all over the world and thanks to Dad.

Joshua Nguyen

Joshua Nguyen was 10 years old in April 1975 when he, his mother, and siblings boarded a boat and fled Saigon, a city under siege. Determined to bring out more family members, Joshua’s father had ventured back into the city, and became separated from his wife and children. Joshua sat down with his wife, Colette, and talked about the family’s stay at a refugee camp in Guam, and their first days in the United States.

When we arrive in Guam, they put us into a big camp. It was then I realized that my dad’s still not with us. And I said, “You know, if we got here, I’m pretty sure he will come along any day now.” So I noticed there was a bus of people coming in almost every day at a certain time. So every day, I would make it out there at that time and I would jump on every bus that comes through there. And I would say, “Bah,” real loud, hoping he would recognize my voice and responded. And every day, there was no answer. But, you know, I never gave up. One day I jump on the bus, did the same thing, and I heard his voice. Just like, “Hey, dad, you know, where you been? Mom’s looking for you.” No big deal. He was crying, but to me I didn’t know any better. So I took his hand and take him back to the — where we were staying, which is my mom staring out the window. And I say, “Mom, hey look, Dad’s right here.” They started crying. I was like, “What’s going on? Why are you all crying?” We arrive in Boise, Idaho on July 3 and the next day there was this big celebration. And I’m thinking, “Hey, wow, look at that, fireworks for us. They really want us here.” I thought, “Wow, this is a great country. You know, all this for just some people they never met before.” And I didn’t know until later somebody told me that was Fourth of July and they did that every year. So it kind of busted my bubble.

[Question: Another funny story is your first Halloween. Can you talk about that a little bit?]

Yes, later that year we were at the church family’s home and they told us, “OK, let’s get ready. You’re going to dress up.” I said, “I don’t have a costume.” So they grabbed me a sheet, threw it over my head, and tell me, “OK, I want you to go through the door, knock on the door, and says, “Trick or treat.” And I said, “What?” “Trick or treat.” So I did. I knock on the door, “Trick or treat,” and the people give me candy. I said, “Wow, how strange is this. They have no idea who I am now with the sheet over my head, but yet they gave me candy. This is great.” So I spent all night up until midnight just ringing on everybody’s doors, getting all these candies. And I thought, “Man, what a country this is.” I was sick the next day.

[Question: What about your experiences in elementary school and I mean, did you speak English when you came to America, or –]

I knew a total of four words: hello, thank you, how are you, and fine. I picked up most of my English from watching Sesame Street’s, and Electric Avenues, and cartoons, and Scooby-Doo’s. I remember the one time, they had these little cards that you’re supposed to pick up when you leave the room to go to the restroom. I thought, “Huh, “B” stand for bathroom, and “G” stand for green.” So I thought, “OK.” I was thirsty and I needed something to “grink.” So I pick up the “G.” I walked out to go get my water. When I came back in the whole class start to laugh. Yeah, it’s “B” for boy and “G” for girl. I did not know that.

[Colette Nguyen: Looking back, can you think of what your most difficult, or your family’s most difficult challenge was?]

Assimilation — where we were from, you walk out the door every morning, there are people walking everywhere. They wave back to you and say hello. Here, everyone seems to kept to themself and everybody seems to be so, so busy. The language and the cultures are very different. So we kept to ourself. And the refugees kept to themself. We all kept together. But once we were in school, I think the kids — the younger ones assimilate a lot quicker than my older brother or my mother.

[Question: What would you want your daughters to know? I mean, I think that this is something that’s really important for them to understand and to know about their dad. What would you hope that they would understand about it or know about it?]

If anything else, they need to know that I love them, that I came a long way to be their father, and that they should not take anything for granted. I thank God every day of my life and this experience reinforced that we are here for a reason.


Van Truong Le and Vincent Trien-Vinh Ho

Friends Van Truong Le and Vincent Trien-Vinh Ho are both Harvard graduates. But that’s not all they have in common. Both left Vietnam as children and settled with their families in Boston in the 1970s. They were met with the challenges of transitioning from comfortable lives in Vietnam, to lives of struggle in the United States. In their conversation, they learn how similar their paths have been.

Troung Le: We were part of the first wave of boat people that fled by boat. And as a child, I just remember, you know, nice things, like how spectacular the beaches were in Guam and watching my first Bugs Bunny cartoon and eating new foods. I think the Sloppy Joe was a pretty good one, and hamburger obviously also was a big hit.

Troung Le: How would you describe growing up in Boston as a newcomer?

Vincent Ho: I just remember that first summer I just felt so cold. You know, it was like 60 degrees and I had never felt so cold in my life. So we lived in Chinatown for about one year, and then there was a fire and the studio burnt down, and then finally we got public housing in East Boston. So for those first four years, because I was moving around every single year, I was in a different school. So that really made me quite resilient. I didn’t have many friends in the beginning, because every year I would move to a different school, and I had to learn how to make friends. But it also made me tough because in the beginning, they placed me in an ESL bilingual program. But after the second year, my teacher said, “You cannot stay in the bilingual program. You have to get out, you have to assimilate.” And so I remember crying for like two days — I thought I didn’t know English and how could I survive in a program when I can’t even understand what my homeroom teacher was telling me.

Troung Le: You actually came from a comfortable family where your parents were well to do, and then to essentially have to make it again, to rebuild again. I also share something like that: my parents were very well to do, but in America, in Pittsburgh, my father’s first job was a janitor. He was a janitor for the Frick Museum and it was heartbreaking to see him hold a mop when he was quite removed form that kind of work when he left Vietnam.

Vincent Ho: Yeah, my dad obviously was quite well off in Vietnam with a good business and then here, he had to start over. He went to cooking school — in Chinatown — to learn how to cook so that he could work in a restaurant, and even then, since he was older it was hard for him to find a job. In Chinatown, they expect you to work like a slave. You go to work at 11 o’clock in the morning and you come home at two o’clock in the morning the next day. And because he was already 50 by the time he came to the U.S., he was not able to keep up with the younger people. They expected him to carry 100 pounds of rice on his back up the stairs, so after a while, he had to give up because he couldn’t do it anymore. And so it was quite a struggle and we were living on welfare for many years. At the same time, my mom worked as a seamstress in Chinatown, so they would pay you by each piece of clothing you make.

Troung Le: But they expected you to go to school and do well the whole time.

Vincent Ho: That’s right. They didn’t have to tell me. They just knew my job was to go to school and do well. And the one thing America offered was the opportunity for a free public education.

Troung Le: I also struggled a lot. We didn’t have long-term friends because we were constantly moving, trying to find out way and find our footing. A lot of Vietnamese boat people crowded these small apartments — my family was one of them. Can you imagine there was like eight, nine, ten of us in a three-bedroom apartment and we also had government assistance a lot. Like you, I was told that our job was to do well in school.

Vincent Ho: The first five years were hard because I was in a different school every year, but once I got into high school I took the exam and got into Boston Latin High School and that gave me stability. And those four years of stability was the point of takeoff for me. And I knew I wanted to do something to pay back — I’ve been very blessed to have made the journey, to be given the opportunity and that’s the reason I want to do medicine. There are still many refugees out there nowadays even though there’s no war in Vietnam — there’s always war somewhere in the world and there’s always good that we can do.

Thu-Thuy Truong

Thu-Thuy Truong was 13 years old, and Sy Truong was just eight when their family left Vietnam in 1975. Their journey took them first to Guam, then Hawaii, then to Fort Chaffee, Arkansas. Their family settled in the San Francisco Bay area. In this conversation, the sister and brother reminisce about their first impressions of life in America.

Thu-Thuy Truong: We were in Fort Smith, Arkansas, and it was a long journey, flying. And we were in the military camp, and there was these barrels of cold water with floating Red Delicious apples. “Oh, wow!” You know, we were finally landed in the US and the US is plenty of fruits and somehow, that made a big impression for me. And later on, when we started living in Berkeley, California, and staying in a small apartment, and even though life wasn’t that luxurious, it was our little home. And we get to visit our sponsors and how they treat us with their homemade meal, with their homemade casserole and muffins and stuff, those were my favorite moments in the early days in the US.

Sy Truong: I remember going BART at one time — BART, which is the rapid transit here in the Bay Area – and understanding the fact that as we go in between, say, Oakland and San Francisco, it actually goes underneath the Bay. So my imagined greatness of this new world was, you know, we’d be in a tunnel that we can look out to the ocean [laughter] and we can see the fish swimming and everything. But the reality was, it was, no, dark and…

Sy Truong: But still, it was quite an amazing experience of being in the subway for the first time and traveling to various destinations. So, every little thing, for me, was a new experience of something radically different than what we had growing up in Vietnam.

Thu-Thuy Truong: Remember when we first came, there was very few Vietnamese. And the first years, there’s no such thing as trying to reserve Vietnamese culture. But what it is is we’re trying to hang onto something we are familiar with. And I remember how we love Vietnamese music, because that’s something that kind of bring us back to the good part of Vietnam, right? Growing up, Mom loves to listen to Vietnamese ballad, so, to me, hanging on, to celebrate the culture, is to listen to Vietnamese music. So when we were in Fort Chaffee, we don’t have that much money. But we did pay money to just buy some cassette from other people who re-record and re-record some famous singers. That’s the only connection to the homeland, is the music.

Sy Truong: At that time, I didn’t see any value, being a child, of holding onto this culture of ours that I saw as the past. And the only way to move forward and progress in this new world was to fully immerse and fully become an American. Now, it was only years later that, perhaps not even until college, that I saw value in retaining our culture. But at the time, you know, becoming a teenager and going to school, I almost wanted to erase that part, for some reason.

Thu-Thuy Truong: One of the major difference I felt was, school has people from all different skin color. We have white kids, and Asian kids, and we have black kids, and feeling, “Wow, what a totally different life we had, back in Vietnam.”

Sy Truong: The first day at school was very dramatic for me. I remember being dropped off at the elementary school and, I looked at the other kids. And, you know, they look very different — both their size and the clothes they wear, and everything. And I felt, “How am I ever going to fit in?” But what I found was, I did find a lot of friends and – and it was actually a cool thing to be different.

Thu-Thuy Truong: I remember we got kicked out of our apartment, because we were too noisy. We’re on the second floor, right? So, how are we going to find another apartment, and we’re new to the country and all that. So, with Mom, the one thing she says was, “We survived going from Vietnam to America with nothing. We can survive anywhere.” So that’s the one thing I take to heart. Anytime, when we’re in hardship, if we survive and last, nothing — we don’t have anything, except the clothes on our back. And we got where we are today. We can survive again.

Toa Do

In 1980, Toa Do escaped Vietnam, but had to leave behind his wife, Le Hang T Phan, and their two young children. Upon arriving in the United States, he was taken in by the Miller family, with whom he had lived as a student in 1968. Here, Toa Do speaks with his wife about their separation, and the family’s reunion in Ohio, seven years later.

Toa Do: In June of 1980, Mrs. Miller drove from Mansfield, Ohio to Columbus, Ohio to pick me up. And I didn’t have any shoes, so she said, “Well, maybe the first thing we should do tomorrow is that, uh, you know, you would go out and buy some shoes.” It was a totally different feeling, because twelve years earlier, I was a happy, carefree high school student and now, I came back and my papers said that I’m a stateless refugee, and I didn’t know how people would treat me again this time. Now that I’m going to stay here, I’m going to find a job, I have to work, and then, most importantly, you know, I have to figure out how to get all of you out. Then Mrs. Miller took me, the second day, to shop for shoes and I think I went to the store and bought a little toy for [Name], our first son. But it took like a year for the package to get to Vietnam.

Le Hang Phan: Yes. And they love that. They play all the time. Because that’s considered a luxury toy. Nobody has, you know, toy from the U.S. yet. And then after that, you just send package after package. So the image of the father to them, it just somebody that send some money and send food, toys, and clothes. That’s the only thing that they think about the father. And the children, they grow and grow older and older.

Toa Do: Yeah, seven years went by very quickly. And then, you actually came here in December 1987 and then I think, that was our first Christmas together.

Le Hang Phan: Yes. I think that the first thing that impressed them the most is the lights. And that’s during the Christmas. You know, all the houses and then the trees have all lights. That’s the most impressive thing that they ever seen in their life, that the lights all over the place. It’s a whole different world.

Toa Do: And then someone told them about the story about the Santa Claus.

Le Hang Phan: Yeah, and my older son was so happy. He said, “Mom, from now on, you don’t need to worry about the money or the toy anymore. Because now, here, we have the Santa Claus.”

Toa Do: In this country, yeah.

Le Hang Phan: “The Santa Claus give us everything, so you don’t need to worry about money anymore.” That’s what he told me.

Toa Do: And then [Name] and [Name], our sons, they — their first day of school was a big snow.

Le Hang Phan: And they came, and they just ran into the class.

Toa Do: But they didn’t speak any English.

Le Hang Phan: No English at all. They were so excited. They are not scared anything. They just want to go to school. Yeah. That’s amazing. But, you know, the older one, he’s kind of shy. About the lunch, I forgot to give him money, and he just look at the people eating, and he came home, so hungry. And he told me, “I didn’t eat anything, because I didn’t have any money.” But the younger one, he’s more… aggressive. He said, “If I don’t have anything, I just ask the girl. The girl to give me, because the girl, they waste the food a lot. They just put all the food in the trash can. So I ask them to give to me.” So, actually, he eat the food from the girls. You know, he adjust to the new life so easily, yeah. With no fear.

Toa Do: I still remember, in 1986, when I sworn in to become a U.S. citizen, Mr. Miller said, “You will be a good citizen.” So, you know, looking back, I can say that, yes, no matter what, we still very fortunate, and then, we can do whatever small part we can do.

Le Hang Phan: Yeah, we are Vietnamese, we try to keep our tradition. You know, we speak Vietnamese. Yeah, we love our country. But, at the same time, we’re proud to be American.

Dzuong Nguyen

Dzuong Nguyen served in the South Vietnamese Air Force. After the fall of Saigon, he spent five years in reeducation camps, before escaping Vietnam by boat in 1980. Dzuong speaks with Van Lan Truong, who escaped from Vietnam with her family by boat in 1975 when she was 20 years old.

Dzuong Nguyen: During those five years, I always dreamed of someday I will drive my own car on the Golden Gate Bridge. That’s what kept me alive. So when I escaped from the camp I had to use a fake ID. So the first thing I came to America, I was so happy to state my real name to the custom officer. It was a wonderful feeling because I become myself again after so many years. I had to hide myself. I lived like a rat. So it was the first beautiful experience that I always remember. I came to Oakland and when I came I was 33 years old. I had only a shirt. I had only a pair of blue jeans. That’s all I had. Of course no money, nothing. And the first days in America I went to the Goodwill store in Oakland on the corner of Webster and 7th Street — they are still there now. I came there 35 years ago and shopped for blues jeans, and shirt, and jacket all the time (laughs). So that’s how I started my life.

Van Lan Truong: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania was the very first city that our family start a new life in the U.S. Of course just like everyone else, our family had to start all over again. We lost everything. We’ve lost our country. We’ve lost our freedom. We’ve lost our identity. We’ve lost the life that we used to know. But Pittsburgh and the fall were beautiful. I loved that. The first winter were really horrible. It was very cold. We weren’t sure if we were going to survive that first year. But we made it. All of us went back to school. And my father got a job at a museum. It were very humble first job in America compared to what he used to have in Vietnam. It were very difficult for him. That were also right after the time that my mom pass away. I brought only a family picture with me, when we were born, when we were kids. Especially, for our family when our mom passed away, picture becomes so valuable, so precious.

Dzuong Nguyen: Very soon I realized that this is the land of opportunity. After maybe three weeks when I first came, I got a job working for a non-profit organization. And my full-time salary, at that time, was $1,050 a month.

Van Lan Truong: That’s a lot of money (laughs).

Dzoung Nguyen: I was so happy from a man with zero money and now I’m so proud that I can make it $1,050 a month to support my wife and to support my two children. I worked full time, and I went to school full time. Because of the ideas and the things that I learned from books, I watched the movies for America. I never figured that people had to work that hard. Van Lan Truong: We all have to work that hard (laughs). Many years I worked three jobs at one time. It’s very scary.

Dzuong Nguyen: Yes.

Van Lan Truong: I began to care and work for the Vietnamese community and become a community advocate as I am now. I forgot for a free Vietnam and for democracy in Vietnam.

Dzuong Nguyen: When I came I realized that my human dignity was respected, which is the thing that I enjoy the most. And very soon I also realized that I can practice my rights. Whatever I want to do here I do it. And very true when I drove my own car on the Golden Gate Bridge — it was a very happy feeling. You can believe that (laughs).

ASSIGNMENT 10. Answer the questions outside of Canvas. Save your responses. Submit on Canvas before the deadline on the Class Schedule.

10a. How might “intersectionality” be applied to issues of equality and justice in the United States? Write a coherent paragraph in response to the question above based on the Sources for 10aBegin with a thesis that follows the Guidelines for Thesis Writing and support your thesis with evidence that follows the Guidelines for Evidence.

10bHow can cultural expression be a tool for social change? Write a coherent paragraph in response to the question above based the Sources for 10bBegin with a thesis that follows the Guidelines for Thesis Writing and support your thesis with evidence that follows the Guidelines for Evidence.


Cole provides the background and definition for the concept of intersectionality, and is followed by seven sources from 1969 to 2017.

Nicki Lisa Cole, “Definition of Intersectionality: On the Intersecting Nature of Privileges and Oppression,” ThoughtCo, March, 2017. https://www.thoughtco.com/intersectionality-definition-3026353

Intersectionality refers to the simultaneous experience of categorical and hierarchical classifications including but not limited to race, class, gender, sexuality, and nationality. It also refers to the fact that what are often perceived as disparate forms of oppression, like racism, classism, sexism, and xenophobia, are actually mutually dependent and intersecting in nature, and together they compose a unified system of oppression.

Thus, the privileges we enjoy and the discrimination we face are a product of our unique positioning in society as determined by these social classifiers.

Sociologist Patricia Hill Collins developed and explained the concept of intersectionality in her groundbreaking book, Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment, published in 1990. Today intersectionality is a mainstay concept of critical race studies, feminist studies, queer studies, the sociology of globalization, and a critical sociological approach, generally speaking. In addition to race, class, gender, sexuality, and nationality, many of today’s sociologists also include categories like age, religion, culture, ethnicity, ability, body type, and even looks in their intersectional approach.

Intersectionality According to Crenshaw and Collins

The term “intersectionality” was first popularized in 1989 by critical legal and race scholar Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw in a paper titled, “Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrines, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics,” published in The University of Chicago Legal Forum.

In this paper, Crenshaw reviewed legal proceedings to illustrate how it is the intersection of race and gender that shapes how black men and women experience the legal system. She found, for example, that when cases brought by black women failed to match the circumstances of those brought by white women or by black men, that their claims were not taken seriously because they didn’t fit perceived normative experiences of race or gender.

Thus, Crenshaw concluded that black women were disproportionately marginalized due to the simultaneous, intersecting nature of how they are read by others as both raced and gendered subjects.

While Crenshaw’s discussion of intersectionality centered on what she has referred to as “the double bind of race and gender,” Patricia Hill Collins broadened the concept in her book Black Feminist Thought. Trained as a sociologist, Collins saw the importance of folding class and sexuality into this critical analytic tool, and later in her career, nationality too. Collins deserves credit for theorizing a much more robust understanding of intersectionality, and for explaining how the intersecting forces of race, gender, class, sexuality, and nationality manifest in a “matrix of domination.”

Why Intersectionality Matters

The point of understanding intersectionality is to understand the variety of privileges and/or forms of oppression that one may experience simultaneously at any given time. For instance, when examining the social world through an intersectional lens, one can see that a wealthy, white, heterosexual man who is a citizen of the United States experiences the world from the apex of privilege.

He is in the higher strata of economic class, he is at the top of the racial hierarchy of U.S. society, his gender places him in a position of power within a patriarchal society, his sexuality marks him as “normal,” and his nationality bestows upon him a wealth of privilege and power in global context.

By contrast, consider the everyday experiences of a poor, undocumented Latina living in the U.S. Her skin color and phenotype mark her as “foreign” and “other” compared with the perceived normality of whiteness. The ideas and assumptions encoded in her race suggest to many that she is not deserving of the same rights and resources as others who live in the U.S. Some may even assume that she is on welfare, manipulating the health care system, and is, overall, a burden to society. Her gender, especially in combination with her race, marks her as submissive and vulnerable, and as a target to those who may wish to exploit her labor and pay her criminally low wages, whether in a factory, on a farm, or for household labor.

Her sexuality too, and that of the men who may be in positions of power over her, is an axis of power and oppression, as it can be used to coerce her through threat of sexual violence. Further, her nationality, say, Guatemalan, and her undocumented status as an immigrant in the U.S., also functions as an axis of power and oppression, which might prevent her from seeking health care when needed, from speaking out against oppressive and dangerous work conditions, or from reporting crimes committed against her due to fear of deportation.

The analytic lens of intersectionality is valuable here because it allows us to consider a variety of social forces simultaneously, whereas a class-conflict analysis, or a gender or racial analysis, would limit our ability to see and understand the way privilege, power, and oppression operate in interlocking ways. However, intersectionality is not just useful for understanding how different forms of privilege and oppression exist simultaneously in shaping our experiences in the social world. Importantly, it also helps us to see that what are perceived as disparate forces are actually mutually dependent and co-constitutive. The forms of power and oppression present in the life of the undocumented Latina described above are particular not just to her race, gender, or citizenship status, but are reliant on common stereotypes of Latinas in particular, because of how their gender is understood in the context of their race, as submissive and compliant.

Because of its power as an analytic tool, intersectionality is one of the most important and widely used concepts in sociology today.

Author Note: Nicki Lisa Cole, Ph.D. is a broadly trained sociologist who has over a decade of experience in university research and teaching. With a background that includes the study of race and racism, gender and sexuality, the economy and work, consumer studies, and environmental issues, Nicki researches and writes about a range of topics, but is most interested in those that relate to inequality and how we can fight it.

Mary Ann Weathers, “An Argument For Black Women’s Liberation As a Revolutionary Force,” No More Fun and Games: A Journal of Female Liberation. Cambridge, Mass: Cell 16. vol. 1, no. 2. Feb. 1969

“Nobody can fight your battles for you; you have to do it yourself.” This will be the premise used for the time being for stating the case for Black women’s liberation, although certainly it is the least significant. Black women, at least the Black women I have come in contact with in the movement have been expounding all their energies in “liberating” Black men (if you yourself are not free, how can you “liberate” someone else?). Consequently, the movement has practically come to a standstill. Not entirely due however to wasted energies but, adhering to basic false concepts rather than revolutionary principles ant at this stage of the game we should understand that if if is not revolutionary it is false.

We have found that Women’s Liberation is an extremely emotional issue, as well as an explosive one. Black men are still parroting the master’s prattle about male superiority. This now brings us to a very pertinent question: How can we seriously discuss reclaiming our African Heritage — cultural living modes which clearly refute not only patriarcy and matriarchy, but our entire family structure as we know it. African tribes live communally where households let alone heads of households are non-existant.

It is really disgusting to hear Black women talk about giving Black men their manhood — or allowing them to get it. This is degrading to other Black women and thoroughly insulting to Black men (or at least it should be). How can someone “give” one something as personal as one’s adulthood? That’s precisely like asking the beast for your freedom. We also chew the fat about standing behind our men. This forces me to the question: Are we women or leaning posts and props? It sounds as if we are saying if we come our from behind him, he’ll fall down. To me, these are clearly maternal statements and should be closely examined.

Women’s Liberation should be considered as a strategy for an eventual tie-up with the entire revolutionary movement consisting of women, men, and children. We are now speaking of real revolution (armed). If you can not accept this fact purely and without problems examine your reactions closely. We are playing to win and so are they. Viet Nam is simply a matter of time and geography.

Another matter to be discussed is the liberation of children from a sick slave culture. Although we don’t like to see it, we are still operating under the confines of the slave culture. Black women use their children for their own selfish needs of worth and love. We try to live our lives which are too oppressing to bear through our children and thereby destroy them in the process. Obviously the much acclaimed plaudits of the love of the Black mother has some discrepincies. If we allow ourselves to turn from the truth we run the rist of spending another 400 years in self destruction. Assuming of course the beast would tolerate us that long, and we know he wouldn’t.

Women have fought with men and we have died with men in every revolution, more timely in Cuba, Algeria, China, and now in Viet Nam. If you notice, it is a woman heading the “Peace Talks” in Paris for the NLF. What is wrong with Black women? We are clearly the most oppressed and degraded minority in the world, let alone the country. Why can’t we rightfully claim our place in the world?

Realizing fully what is being said, you should be warned that the opposition for liberation will come from everyplace, particularly from other women and from Black men. Don’t allow yourselves to be intimidated any longer with this nonsense about the “Matriarchy” of Black women. Black women are not matriarchs but we have been forced to live in abandonment and been used and abused. The myth of the martriarchy must stop and we must not allow ourselves to be sledgehammerd by it any longer — not if we are serious about change and ridding ourselves of the wickedness of this alien culture. Le it be clearly understood that Black women’s liberation is not anti-male; any such sentiment or interpretation as such can not be tolerated. It must be taken clearly for what it is — pro-human for all peoples.

The potential for such a movement is boundless. Where as in the past only certain type Black people have been attracted to the movement — younger people, radicals, and militants. The very poor, the middle class, older people and women have not become aware or have not been able to translate their awareness into action. Women’s liberation liberation offers such a channel for these energies.

Even though middle-class Black women may not have suffered the brutal supression of poor Black people, they most certainly have felt the scourge of the male superiority oriented society as women, and would be more prone to help in alleviating some of the conditions of our more oppressed sisters by teaching, raising awareness and consciousness, verbalizing the ills of women and this society, helping to establish communes.

Older women have a wealth of information and experience to offer and would be instrumental in closing the communications gap between the generations. To be Black and to tolerate this jive about discounting people over 30 is madness.

Poor women have knowledge to teach us all. Who else in this society sees more and is more realistic about ourselves and this society and about the faults that lie within our own people than our poor women? Who else could profit and benefit from a communal setting that could be established than these sisters? We must let the sisters know that we are capable and some of us already do love them. We women must begin to unabashedly learn to use the word “love” for one another. We must stop the petty jealousies, the violence that we Black women have for so long perpertrated on one another about fighting over this man or the other. (Black men should have better sense to encourage this kind of destructive behavior.) We must turn to ourselves and one another for strength and solace. Just think for a moment what it would be like if we got together and internalized our own 24 hour a day communal centers knowing our children would be safe and loved constantly. Not to mention what it would do for everyone’ egos especially the children. Women should not have to be enslaved by this society’s concept of motherhood through their children, and then the kids suffer through a mother’s resentment of it by beatings, punishment, and rigid discipline. All one has to do it look at the statistics of Black women who are rapidly filling the beast’s mental institutions to know that the time for innovation and change and creative thinking is here. We cannot sit on our behinds waiting for someone else to do it for us. We must save ourselves.

We do not have to look at ourselves as someone’s personal sex objects, maids, baby sitters, domestics and the like in exchange for a man’s attention. Men hold this power, along with that of the breadwinner over our heads for these services and that’s all it is — servitude. In return we torture him, and fill him with insecurities about his manhood, and literallly force him to “cat” and “mess around” bringing in all sorts of conflicts. This is not the way really human people live. This is whitey’s thing. And we play the game with as much proficiency as he does.

If we are going to bring about a better world, where best to begin than with ourselves? We must rid ourselves of our own hang-ups, before we can begin to talk about the rest of the world and we mean the world and nothing short of just that (Let’s not kid ourselves). We will be in a position soon of having to hook up with the rest of the oppressed peoples of the world who are invovled in liberation just as we are, and we had better be ready to act.

All women suffer oppression, even white women, particularly poor white women, and especially Indian, Mexican, Puerto Rican, Oriental and Black American women whose oppression is tripled by any of the above-mentioned. But we do have female’s oppression in common. This means that we can begin to talk to other women with this common factor and start building links with them and thereby build and transform the revolutionary force we are now beginning to amass. This is what Dr. King was doing. We can no longer allow ourselves to be duped by the guise of racism. Any time the White man admits to something you know he is trying to cover something else up. We are all being exploited, even the white middle class, by the few people in control of this entire world. And to keep the real issue clouded, he keeps us at one another’s throats with this racism jive. Although, Whites are most certainly racist, we must understand that they have been programmed to think in these patterns to divert their attention. If they are busy fighting us, then they have no time to question the policies of the war being run by this government. With the way the elections went down it is clear that they are as powerless as the rest of us. Make no question about it, folks, this fool knows what he is doing. This man is playing the death game for money and power, not because he doesn’t like us. He could care less one way or the other. But think for a moment if we all go together and just walked on out. Who would fight his wars, who would run his police state, who would work his factories, who would buy his products?

We women must start this thing rolling.

The National Black Feminist Organization’s Statement of Purpose, 1973

The distorted male-dominated media image of the Women’s Liberation Movement has clouded the vital and revolutionary importance of this movement to Third World women, especially black women. The Movement has been characterized as the exclusive property of so-called white middle-class women and any black women seen involved in this movement have been seen as selling out, dividing the race, and an assortment of nonsensical epithets. Black feminists resent these charges and have therefore established The National Black Feminist Organization, in order to address ourselves to the particular and specific needs of the larger, but almost cast-aside half of the black race in Amerikkka, the black woman.

Black women have suffered cruelly in this society from living the phenomenon of being black and female, in a country that is both racist and sexist. There has been very little real examination of the damage it has caused on the lives and on the minds of black women. Because we live in a patriarchy, we have allowed a premium to be put on black male suffering. No one of us would minimize the pain or hardship or the cruel and inhumane treatment experienced by the black man. But history, past or present, rarely deals with the malicious abuse put upon the black woman. We were seen as breeders by the master; despised and historically polarized from/by the master’s wife; and looked upon as castrators by our lovers and husbands. The black woman has had to be strong, yet we are persecuted for having survived. We have been called matriarchs by white racists and black nationalists; we have virtually no positive self-images to validate our existence. Black women want to be proud, dignified, and free from all those false definitions of beauty and woman hood that are unrealistic and unnatural. We, not white men or black men, must define our own self-image as black women and not fall into the mistake of being placed upon the pedestal which is even being rejected by white women. It has been hard for black women to emerge from the myriad of distorted images that have portrayed us as grinning Beulahs, castrating Sapphires, and pancake-box Jemimas. As black feminists we realized the need to establish ourselves as an independent black feminist organization. Our above ground presence will lend enormous credibility to the current Women’s Liberation Movement, which unfortunately is not seen as the serious political and economic revolutionary force that it is. We will strengthen the current efforts of the Black Liberation struggle in this country by encouraging all of the talents and creativities of black women to emerge, strong and beautiful, not to feel guilty or divisive, and assume positions of leadership and honor in the black community. We will encourage the black community to stop falling into the trap of the white male Left, utilizing women only in terms of domestic or servile needs. We will continue to remind the Black Liberation Movement that there can’t be liberation for half the race. We must, together, as a people, work to eliminate racism, from without the black community, which is trying to destroy us as an entire people; but we must remember that sexism is destroying and crippling us from within.

Dr. Pauli Murray, excerpts, Testimony before Congress, House, Committee on Education and Labor, Discrimination Against Women, 91st Congress, 2d Session (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1970).

I am Pauli Murray, a professor of American studies at Brandeis University…. I teach legal studies, civil rights, law and social change, and a course on women in American society. …

I am both a Negro and a woman whose experience embodies the conjunction of race and sex discrimination.

This experience also embodies the paradox of belonging simultaneously to an oppressed minority and an oppressed majority, and for good measure being left-handed in a right-handed world. As a self-supporting woman who has the responsibility for elderly relatives, the opportunity for education and employment consonant with my potentialities and training has been a matter of personal survival.

Moreover, in more than 30 years of intensive study of human rights and deep involvement in the civil rights movement I have observed the interrelationships between what is often referred to as racism and sexism (Jim Crow and Jane Crow), and have been unable to avoid the conclusion that discrimination because of one’s sex is just as degrading, dehumanizing, immoral, unjust, indefensible, infuriating and capable of producing societal turmoil as discrimination because of one’s race.

…One spends 50 years of one’s life trying to get equal civil rights because of one’s race and turns around and finds one must spend the second 50 years, if you should live so long, to get one’s rights because of sex.

In matters of discrimination, although it is true that manifestations of racial prejudice have often been more brutal than the subtler manifestations of sex bias—for example, the use of ridicule, of women as the psychic counterpart of violence against Negroes—it is also true that the rights of women and the rights of Negroes are only different phases of the fundamental and indivisible issue of human rights for all.

There are those who would have us believe that the struggle against racism is the No. 1 issue of human relations in the United States and must take priority over all other issues. I must respectfully dissent from this view. The struggle against sexism is equally urgent. More than half of all Negroes and other ethnic minorities are women. The costly lesson of our own history in the United States is that when the rights of one group are affirmed and those of another group are ignored, the consequences are tragic.

Whenever political expediency has dictated that the recognition of basic human rights be postponed, the resulting dissension and conflict has been aggravated. This lesson has been driven home to use time after time—in the Civil War, the women’s suffrage movement, the violent upheavals of labor, and in the Negro revolt of the 1960’s.

It seems clear that we are witnessing a worldwide revolution in human rights in which traditionally excluded or alienated groups—blacks, women, youth, various ethnic minorities and social minorities, the handicapped, and so forth—are all demanding the right to be accepted as persons and to share fully in making the decisions which shape their destinies.

Negroes and women are the two largest groups of minority status in the United States. The racial problem has been made visible and periodically more acute because of the peculiar history of black slavery and racial caste which produced a civil war and its bloody aftermath.

The acuteness of racism has forced us to engage in national self-examination and the growing militancy of our black minority has compelled us as a nation to reverse our former racist policies, at least in a formal legal sense. In neglecting to appreciate fully the indivisibility of human rights, however, we have often reacted with the squeaky-wheel-gets-the-grease approach and not given sufficient attention to the legitimate claims of other disadvantaged groups—poor whites, women, American Indians, Americans of Puerto Rican, Mexican, and Oriental origin, and the like. In so doing, we have often set in motion conditions which have created a backlash and which, if developed to an intense degree, would threaten to destroy the gains which Negroes have made over the past few decades, meager as these gains may have been for the masses of blacks.

The fact that women constitute more than 51 percent of the population, the very pervasiveness of sex discrimination which cuts across all racial, religious, ethnic, economic, and social groups, and the fact that women have cause to believe they are not taken seriously—all these combine to make the revitalized movement for women’s liberation in the 1970’s an instrument for potential widespread disruption if its legitimate claims are not honored.

Given the tendency of privileged groups to retain their power and privilege and to play one disadvantaged group off against another, and given the accelerating militancy of Women’s Liberation, there is a grave danger of a head on collision of this movement with the movement for black liberation unless our decision makers recognize and implement the rights of all.

It is my special responsibility, however, to speak on behalf of Negro women who constitute about 93 percent of all nonwhite women, and I wish to call to your attention an article which appeared in the March 1970 Crisis published by NAACP, “Job Discrimination and the Black Women,” by Miss Sonia Pressman, senior attorney in the Office of General Counsel of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and an expert in the law of race and sex discrimination.

This document presents the special problems of Negro/black women because of their dual victimization by race and sex-based discrimination coupled with the disproportionate responsibilities they carry for the economic and social welfare of their families compared with their white counterparts. All that has been reported here with respect to women generally applies with particular poignance to Negro women who, as Miss Pressman points out, are at the bottom of the economic totem pole.

In 1966 the median income of a nonwhite woman who had completed high school was less ($2,475) than that of a nonwhite man who had 8 years of education ($3,681) or that of a white man who had not completed eighth grade ($2,945). (1969 Handbook on Women Workers, Women’s Bureau Bulletin 294, p. 141.)

Consider the fact that while women generally in the United States are the responsible heads of 11 percent (5.2 million) of all families, in March 1966 nonwhite women headed one-fourth of the 4.4 million nonwhite families.

I might underscore the fact that the women who are the responsible economic heads of their families constitute as large a minority as the black minority.

Nearly four out of ten (or 1,871,000) nonwhite families were living in poverty in 1965. Of the 3,860,000 white families headed by a woman, 30 percent were poor. Of the 1,132,000 nonwhite families headed by a woman, 62 percent were poor. (1969 Handbook on Women Workers, pp. 130–131; Negro Women, p. 3)

Although on the average, Negro women have slightly more schooling than Negro men at the elementary and high school levels, their depressed wages stem from the fact they are concentrated in low-paying jobs as service workers and private household workers. Of the 2.9 million Negro women 18 years and over employed in March 1966, 58.5 percent held jobs as service workers including private household work.

When the fact that the 1968 median wage of full-time year-round household workers 14 years of age and older was only $1,523 is taken into account (see Labor D.C. (WB 70–193), p. 1), we can understand more clearly why protection against both race and sex discrimination is crucial not merely for the Negro woman as an individual, but also for millions of black youth in families headed by black women.

The Negro woman has a higher rate of unemployment, a higher incidence of poverty, a greater proportionately economic responsibility and less overall opportunity than white women or black or white men. If we are genuinely concerned about removing the causes of racial conflict, we must relate the statistics I have just described to the deep anger of black teenage girls and black women.

The comparative unemployment rates by sex, color, and age, 1954–66, are depicted in chart D, “Negro Women,” page 10, which has been introduced as an exhibit. You will note the sharp rise in the unemployment rate of nonwhite teenage girls (14 to 19 years of age) coupled with a sharp drop in the unemployment rate for nonwhite teenage boys and a gradual sloping for white male and female teenagers. The rates of unemployment in 1966 are as follows: White males, 2.9 percent; white females, 4.3 percent, nonwhite males, 6.6 percent; and nonwhite females 8.8 percent.

The rate of unemployment among nonwhite female teenagers, 14 to 19 years of age, was highest of all: White males, 9.9 percent; white female, 11.0 percent; nonwhite males, 21.2 percent; and nonwhite females, 31.1 percent.

It is in part, I think, because much of the organization among women today, that is, the organization for action against discrimination, is taking place particularly among the professional and academic women and women in the higher industrial occupations climbing the ladder to higher paying jobs.

The lower economically paid women, I don’t think, are as well organized. They are not often in trade unions. When they are black women, very often they are organized in the welfare rights organizations to some extent, but the tragedy of black women today is that they are brainwashed by the notion that priority must be given to the assertion of black male manhood and that they must now stand back and push their men forward.

What this means, in essence, is that while the militant rhetoric is that we are rejecting the values of white society; on the other hand, we are holding on very definitely to the patriarchal aspect of white America, and I think it is tragic and I stand against it. But it partly explains why these women aren’t coming in here demanding equal opportunities for girls who are threatened with poverty.

It is important to recognize that while the appallingly low economic status of Negro women is related to lack of educational opportunity, it is integrally related to dual discrimination. A week ago, June 12, I listened to the Honorable Arthur A. Fletcher, Assistant Secretary of Labor, addressing the 50th anniversary conference of the Women’s Bureau and telling the 1,000 women assembled there from every geographical and social sector of the Nation the moving story of how his own mother carried the heavier economic load in rearing her children, although his father worked hard to do his share.

Mr. Fletcher explained that his mother held two college degrees, but was forced to support her family by employment as a domestic worker.

My own struggle for higher education through college and law school apart from scholarships for tuition was financed by working as a waitress, dishwasher, elevator operator, night switchboard clerk, and bus girl in a large hotel in Washington during World War II. In this last job the waiters whom we bus girls served were all Negro males, but they tipped us only 25 cents per night.

Our salary of $1.50 per night plus a second-class meal supplemented by what we could steal from the kitchen constituted our weekly wage. If anyone should ask a Negro woman what is her greatest achievement, her honest answer would be, “I survived.”

I respectfully submit that in light of the widespread discrimination against women in many areas and in light of the need to protect all groups of minority status against actual or potential discrimination, as a rule of thumb all antidiscrimination measures should include sex along with race, color, religion, national origin, age, and other prohibited bases of discrimination. I do not have time to document the assertion that women are discriminated against in housing (particularly single women or women separated from their husbands), in public accommodations, in criminal law, in jury service, as well as in educational and employment opportunities.

The Combahee River Collective, “The Combahee River Collective Statement,” copyright © 1978 by Zillah Eisenstein.

We are a collective of Black feminists who have been meeting together since 1974. During that time we have been involved in the process of defining and clarifying our politics, while at the same time doing political work within our own group and in coalition with other progressive organizations and movements. The most general statement of our politics at the present time would be that we are actively committed to struggling against racial, sexual, heterosexual, and class oppression, and see as our particular task the development of integrated analysis and practice based upon the fact that the major systems of oppression are interlocking. The synthesis of these oppressions creates the conditions of our lives. As Black women we see Black feminism as the logical political movement to combat the manifold and simultaneous oppressions that all women of color face. …

During our time together we have identified and worked on many issues of particular relevance to Black women. The inclusiveness of our politics makes us concerned with any situation that impinges upon the lives of women, Third World and working people. We are of course particularly committed to working on those struggles in which race, sex, and class are simultaneous factors in oppression. …

As Black feminists we are made constantly and painfully aware of how little effort white women have made to understand and combat their racism, which requires among other things that they have a more than superficial comprehension of race, color, and Black history and culture. Eliminating racism in the white women’s movement is by definition work for white women to do, but we will continue to speak to and demand accountability on this issue.

In the practice of our politics we do not believe that the end always justifies the means. Many reactionary and destructive acts have been done in the name of achieving “correct” political goals. As feminists we do not want to mess over people in the name of politics. We believe in collective process and a nonhierarchical distribution of power within our own group and in our vision of a revolutionary society. We are committed to a continual examination of our politics as they develop through criticism and self-criticism as an essential aspect of our practice. In her introduction to Sisterhood is Powerful Robin Morgan writes:

I haven’t the faintest notion what possible revolutionary role white heterosexual men could fulfill, since they are the very embodiment of reactionary-vested-interest-power.

As Black feminists and Lesbians we know that we have a very definite revolutionary task to perform and we are ready for the lifetime of work and struggle before us.

Michele Wallace, “POP VIEW; When Black Feminism Faces The Music, and the Music Is Rap,” New York Times, July 29, 1990

Like many black feminists, I look on sexism in rap as a necessary evil. In a society plagued by poverty and illiteracy, where young black men are as likely to be in prison as in college, rap is a welcome articulation of the economic and social frustrations of black youth.

In response to disappointments faced by poor urban blacks negotiating their future, rap offers the release of creative expression and historical continuity: it draws on precedents as diverse as jazz, reggae, calypso, Afro-Cuban, African and heavy-metal, and its lyrics include rudimentary forms of political, economic and social analysis.

But with the failure of our urban public schools, rappers have taken education into their own hands; these are oral lessons (reading and writing being low priorities). And it should come as no surprise that the end result emphasizes innovations in style and rhythm over ethics and morality. Although there are exceptions, like raps advocating world peace (the W.I.S.E. Guyz’s ”Time for Peace”) and opposing drug use (Ice-T’s ”I’m Your Pusher”), rap lyrics can be brutal, raw and, where women are the subject, glaringly sexist.

Given the genre’s current crossover popularity and success in the marketplace, including television commercials, rap’s impact on young people is growing. A large part of the appeal of pop culture is that it can offer symbolic resolutions to life’s contradictions. But when it comes to gender, rap has not resolved a thing.

Though styles vary – from that of the X-rated Ice-T to the sybaritic Kwanee to the hyperpolitics of Public Enemy – what seems universal is how little male rappers respect sexual intimacy and how little regard they have for the humanity of the black woman. Witness the striking contrast within rap videos: for men, standard attire is baggy outsize pants; for women, spike heels and short skirts. Videos often feature the ostentatious and fetishistic display of women’s bodies. In Kool Moe Dee’s ”How Ya Like Me Now,” women gyrate in tight leather with large revealing holes. In Digital Underground’s video ”Doowutchyalike,” set poolside at what looks like a fraternity house party, a rapper in a clown costume pretends to bite the backside of a woman in a bikini.

As Trisha Rose, a black feminist studying rap, puts it, ”Rap is basically a locker room with a beat.”

The recent banning of the sale of 2 Live Crew’s album ”As Nasty as They Wanna Be” by local governments in Florida and elsewhere has publicized rap’s treatment of women as sex objects, but it also made a hit of a record that contains some of the bawdiest lyrics in rap. Though such sexual explicitness in lyrics is rare, the assumptions about women – that they manipulate men with their bodies – are typical.

In an era when the idea that women want to be raped should be obsolete, rap lyrics and videos presuppose that women always desire sex, whether they know it or not. In Bell Biv DeVoe’s rap-influenced pop hit single ”Poison,” for instance, a beautiful girl is considered poison because she does not respond affirmatively and automatically to a sexual proposition.

Bell Hooks, author of ”Yearning: Race, Gender, Cultural Politics” (Southend, 1990), sees the roots of rap as a youth rebellion against all attempts to control black masculinity, both in the streets and in the home. ”That rap would be anti-domesticity and in the process anti-female should come as no surprise,” Ms. Hooks says.

At present there is only a small platform for black women to address the problems of sexism in rap and in their community. Feminist criticism, like many other forms of social analysis, is widely considered part of a hostile white culture. For a black feminist to chastise misogyny in rap publicly would be viewed as divisive and counterproductive. There is a widespread perception in the black community that public criticism of black men constitutes collaborating with a racist society.

The charge is hardly new. Such a reaction greeted Ntozake Shange’s play ”For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf,” my own essays, ”Black Macho and the Myth of the Superwoman,” and Alice Walker’s novel ”The Color Purple,” all of which were perceived as critical of black men. After the release of the film version of ”The Color Purple,” feminists were lambasted in the press for their supposed lack of support for black men; such critical analysis by black women has all but disappeared. In its place is ”A Black Man’s Guide to the Black Woman,” a vanity-press book by Shahrazad Ali, which has sold more than 80,000 copies by insisting that black women are neurotic, insecure and competitive with black men.

Though misogynist lyrics seem to represent the opposite of Ms. Ali’s world view, these are, in fact, just two extremes on the same theme: Ms. Ali’s prescription for what ails the black community is that women should not question men about their sexual philandering, and should be firmly slapped across the mouth when they do. Rap lyrics suggest just about the same: women should be silent and prone.

There are those who have wrongly advocated censorship of rap’s more sexually explicit lyrics, and those who have excused the misogyny because of its basis in black oral traditions.

Rap is rooted not only in the blaxploitation films of the 60’s but also in an equally sexist tradition of black comedy. In the use of four-letter words and explicit sexual references, both Richard Pryor and Eddie Murphy, who themselves drew upon the earlier examples of Redd Foxx, Pigmeat Markham and Moms Mabley, are conscious reference points for the 2 Live Crew. Black comedy, in turn, draws on an oral tradition in which black men trade ”toasts,” stories in which dangerous bagmen and trickster figures like Stackolee and Dolomite sexually exploit women and promote violence among men. The popular rapper Ice Cube, in the album ”Amerikkka’s Most Wanted,” is Stackolee come to life. In ”The Nigga Ya Love to Hate,” he projects an image of himself as a criminal as dangerous to women as to the straight white world.

Rap remains almost completely dominated by black males and this mind-set. Although women have been involved in rap since at least the mid-80’s, record companies have only recently begun to promote them. And aswomen rapperslike Salt-n-Pepa, Monie Love, M. C. Lyte, L. A. Star and Queen Latifah slowly gain more visibility, rap’s sexism may emerge as a subject for scrutiny. Indeed, the answer may lie with women, expressing in lyrics and videos the tensions between the sexes in the black community.

Today’s women rappers range from a high ground that doesn’t challenge male rap on its own level (Queen Latifah) to those who subscribe to the same sexual high jinks as male rappers (Oaktown’s 3.5.7). M. C. Hammer launched Oaktown’s 3.5.7., made up of his former backup dancers. These female rappers manifest the worst-case scenario: their skimpy, skintight leopard costumes in the video of ”Wild and Loose (We Like It)” suggest an exotic animalistic sexuality. Their clothes fall to their ankles. They take bubble baths. Clearly, their bodies are more important than rapping. And in a field in which writing one’s own rap is crucial, their lyrics are written by their former boss, M. C. Hammer.

Most women rappers constitute the middle ground: they talk of romance, narcissism and parties. On the other hand, Salt-n-Pepa on ”Shake Your Thang” uses the structure of the 1969 Isley Brothers song ”It’s Your Thing” to insert a protofeminist rap response: ”Don’t try to tell me how to party. It’s my dance and it’s my body.” M. C. Lyte, in a dialogue with Positive K on ”I’m Not Havin’ It,” comes down hard on the notion that women can’t say no and criticizes the shallowness of the male rap.

Queen Latifah introduces her video, ”Ladies First,” performed with the English rapper Monie Love, with photographs of black political heroines like Winnie Mandela, Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman and Angela Davis. With a sound that resembles scat as much as rap, Queen Latifah chants ”Stereotypes they got to go” against a backdrop of newsreel footage of the apartheid struggle in South Africa. The politically sophisticated Queen Latifah seems worlds apart from the adolescent, buffoonish sex orientation of most rap. In general, women rappers seem so much more grown up. Can they inspire a more beneficent attitude toward sex in rap? What won’t subvert rap’s sexism is the actions of men; what will is women speaking in their own voice, not just in artificial female ghettos, but with and to men.

Queen Latifah, “Ladies First,” excerpt. Copyright c 1990. T-Girl Music Publishing/T-Boy Music Publishing.

Believe me when I say being a woman is great you see

I know that all the fellas out there will agree with me

Not for being one but for being with one

Cause when it’s time for loving it’s the woman that gives some

Strong stepping strutting moving on

Rhyming cutting but not forgetting

We are the ones to give birth

To the new generation of prophets

Cause it’s ladies first

I break into lyrical freestyle

Grab the mike, look at the crowd and see smiles

Cause they see a woman standing up on her own two

Sloppy slouching is something I won’t do

Some think that we can’t flow can’t flow!

Stereotypes they got to go got to go!

I’m gonna mess around and flip the scene into reverse

With what

With a little touch of ladies first

Oh ladies first, ladies first

Shanita Hubbard, “Russell Simmons, R. Kelly, and Why Black Women Can’t Say #MeToo,” New York Times, Dec. 15, 2017

There’s an intersection in almost every hood that teaches young girls lessons about power, racism and sexism. In the projects, where I grew up, I had to pass it almost every day to get home from school.

This intersection is where some of the guys from the neighborhood would stand around, play music, trash-talk about which artist should hold the title of greatest rapper, and then, suddenly, turn into dangerous predators when young girls walked by. This is where young girls like me learned to shrink into ourselves and remain silent.

On this intersection, like so many others in the world, your body and sense of safety were both up for grabs. On a good day, if you and a girlfriend remained silent, walking past the group of “corner dudes,” who were all about 15 years your senior and screaming about what they would do to your 12-year-old body, would be a short-lived experience.

On other days, especially if you were walking alone, things would escalate quickly. One of the men would grab your butt and you would pretend you didn’t feel it. Fighting back would make things worse: If you resisted, they would scream at you, curse at you and, in one particular case, attempt to follow you home until you ran inside a store and waited them out. But cross this intersection enough times and such things start to feel normal.

The normalization of predatory behavior manifests itself in many forms. It’s not yet clear how the black community will respond to the news that icons like Russell Simmons and Tavis Smiley are among those men who have been accused of sexual misconduct. (Both deny the accusations.) Unlike when the accusations were made against Harvey Weinstein, however, we have yet to see a flood of prominent figures publicly stand with the victims. What is clear is that too many of us still perform mental gymnastics, of the sort deployed during Woody Allen movies, to justify attending R. Kelly concerts, despite years of reports about him victimizing young girls. For some of us, the basis for this cognitive dissonance was established at a very young age.

From my years passing through that intersection, I came to believe — wrongly — that a person can be a victim only if those committing the offenses against her had great power. By any definition, the corner guys had very little power — and they themselves were victims of those who did. They were victims of a type of power that drove through that same intersection, snatched people away from their families and out of the community for decades. This type of power could stop and frisk them, and return to its patrol cars and proceed with its day. On a good day, if these guys were alone and remained silent without resisting, the consequences wouldn’t be as severe. A few cops would pull up, pat them down, curse at them, beat them up and scream for them to get off the corner. On other days, especially if the corner guys were in a large group, things could escalate quickly. Sometimes a corner dude wouldn’t make it home that night.

This state-sanctioned abuse at the hands of police evoked, and continues to evoke, a community response that literally and figuratively calls for the protection of these young men, and rightfully so. A community is right to fight against over-policing and brutality. It should encourage victims of police violence to speak up and put pressure on local politicians to take a stand.

But when your community fights for those same people who terrorize you, it sends a very complicated and mixed message. Even worse, sometimes the community members fighting back consist of young women who were once the little girls walking home from school doing their best to be invisible in hopes of avoiding what nobody ever called sexual assault. This sends the message that your pain is not a priority. It tells you that perhaps you are not a victim, because those who are harming you are also being harmed and we need to focus our energy on protecting them. After all, their lives are at stake.

#MeToo is triggering memories of that corner that I’ve tucked away for 20 years because I’ve been taught there are greater needs in the community. Perhaps this is part of the reason studies indicate only one in 15 African-American women report being raped. We’ve seen the unchecked power of white men ravish our communities, and we carry the message of “not right now” when it comes to addressing our pain if the offender is black.

Maybe this is why more victims of sexual assault within the hip-hop community have not come forward. Is it possible that black women who work in hip-hop are silent victims, with pain they have been conditioned not to prioritize? I suspect this is true — but I can’t say with certainty.

How can these women who live at the proverbial intersection of race and sexism, who grew up crossing that corner, ever be a part of the national #MeToo conversation when they can’t be heard in their own community? The intersection of race, class, sexism and power is dangerous, and the most vulnerable women among us must navigate it alone. They are terrorized, then expected to fight for those who terrorized them because a seemingly greater predator is at large. Their faces will never grace the cover of Time magazine, and in some cases their silence will never be broken, if they hold the same false notions of power and victimhood that I once clung to when the cognitive dissonance became too strong.

Shanita Hubbard is an adjunct professor of criminal justice at Northampton Community College in Pennsylvania, a writer, a speaker and a social justice advocate.

SOURCES FOR 10b: This is a collection of five poems by African American women.

Maya Angelou, And Still I Rise by. Copyright © 1978 by Maya Angelou.

Maya Angelou was an African American writer and civil rights activist. She died in 2014

You may shoot me with your words,

You may cut me with your eyes,

You may kill me with your hatefulness,

But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?

Does it come as a surprise

That I dance like I’ve got diamonds

At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame

I rise

Up from a past that’s rooted in pain

I rise

I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,

Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear

I rise

Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear

I rise

Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,

I am the dream and the hope of the slave.

I rise

I rise

I rise.

Gwendolyn Brooks, Primer for Blacks, 1980

Gwendolyn Brooks was the first African American to receive a Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. She died in 2000.


is a title,

is a preoccupation,

is a commitment Blacks

are to comprehend—

and in which you are

to perceive your Glory.

The conscious shout

of all that is white is

“It’s Great to be white.”

The conscious shout

of the slack in Black is

“It’s Great to be white.”

Thus all that is white

has white strength and yours.

The word Black

has geographic power,

pulls everybody in:

Blacks here—

Blacks there—

Blacks wherever they may be.

And remember, you Blacks, what they told you—

remember your Education:

“one Drop—one Drop

maketh a brand new Black.”

Oh mighty Drop.

______And because they have given us kindly

so many more of our people


stretches over the land.


the Black of it,

the rust-red of it,

the milk and cream of it,

the tan and yellow-tan of it,

the deep-brown middle-brown high-brown of it,

the “olive” and ochre of it—


marches on.

The huge, the pungent object of our prime out-ride

is to Comprehend,

to salute and to Love the fact that we are Black,

which is our “ultimate Reality,”

which is the lone ground

from which our meaningful metamorphosis,

from which our prosperous staccato,

group or individual, can rise.

Self-shriveled Blacks.

Begin with gaunt and marvelous concession:

YOU are our costume and our fundamental bone.


All of you—

you COLORED ones,

you NEGRO ones,

those of you who proudly cry

“I’m half INDian”—

those of you who proudly screech

“I’VE got the blood of George WASHington in MY veins”

ALL of you—

you proper Blacks,

you half-Blacks,

you wish-I-weren’t Blacks,

Niggeroes and Niggerenes.


Lucille Clifton, won’t you celebrate with me, Copyright © 1991 by Lucille Clifton

Lucille Clifton was an American poet, writer, and educator. She died in 2010.

won’t you celebrate with me

what i have shaped into

a kind of life? i had no model.

born in babylon

both nonwhite and woman

what did i see to be except myself?

i made it up

here on this bridge between

starshine and clay,

my one hand holding tight

my other hand; come celebrate

with me that everyday

something has tried to kill me

and has failed.

Nikki Giovanni, BLK History Month, Copyright © 2002 by Nikki Giovanni

Nikki Giovanni is an American poet, writer, commentator, activist, and educator. She is currently a University Distinguished Professor at Virginia Tech.

If Black History Month is not

viable then wind does not

carry the seeds and drop them

on fertile ground

rain does not

dampen the land

and encourage the seeds

to root

sun does not

warm the earth

and kiss the seedlings

and tell them plain:

You’re As Good As Anybody Else

You’ve Got A Place Here, Too

Alice Walker, Gather, ©2014 by Alice Walker

Alice Walker is an American novelist, short story writer, poet, and activist. She has won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award.

It is still hard to believe that millions of us saw Eric Garner die. He died with what looked like a half dozen heavily clad policemen standing on his body, twisting and crushing him especially his head and neck. He was a big man, too.  They must have felt like clumsy midgets as they dragged him down.

Watching the video, I was reminded of the first lynching I, quite unintentionally, learned about: it happened in my tiny lumber mill town before the cows were brought in and young white girls on ornate floats became dairy queens. A big man too, whom my parents knew, he was attacked also by a mob of white men (in white robes and hoods) and battered to death by their two by fours.

I must have been a toddler overhearing my parents talk and mystified by pieces of something called “two by fours.”

Later, building a house, i would encounter the weight, the heaviness, of this varying length of wood, and begin to understand.

What is the hatred of the big black man or the small black man or the medium sized black man the brown man or the red man in all his sizes that drives the white lynch mob mentality?

I always thought it was envy: of the sheer courage to survive and ceaselessly resist conformity enough to sing and dance or orate, or say in so many outlandish ways: You’re not the boss of me! Think how many black men said that: “Cracker,* you’re not the boss of me;”  even enslaved.  Think of how the legal lynch mob so long ago tore Nat Turner’s body in quarters skinned him

and made “money purses” from his “hide.”

Who are these beings?

Now we are beginning to ask  the crucial question.

If it is natural to be black and red or brown and if it is beautiful to resist oppression and if it is gorgeous to be of color and walking around free, then where does the problem lie?

Who are these people that kill our children in the night? Murder our brothers in broad daylight? Refuse to see themselves in us as we have strained, over centuries,  to see ourselves in them? Perhaps we are more different than we thought. And does this scare us? And what of, for instance,  those among us who collude?

Gather. Come see what stillness lies now in the people’s broken hearts.

It is the quiet force of comprehension, of realization of the meaning of our ancient

and perfect contrariness; of what must now be understood and done to honor and cherish ourselves: no matter who today’s “bosses” may be.

Our passion and love for ourselves that must at last unite and free us.  As we put our sacrificed beloveds to rest in our profound and ample caring: broad, ever moving, and holy, as the sea.

*Cracker:  from the crack of the whip wielded by slave drivers.

DISCUSSION 10: Comment on the sources on immigration below. Follow the guidelines and instructions for Discussion Participation. Post original comments and replies to the Discussion Board on Canvas by the deadline shown on the Class Schedule.

Samuel P. Huntington, excerpt from “The Hispanic Challenge,” Foreign Policy, March/April 2004

Samuel P. Huntington was chairman of the Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies and cofounder of FOREIGN POLICY. Copyright © 2004 by Samuel P. Huntington. From the book Who Are We by Samuel P. Huntington published by Simon & Schuster, Inc. N.Y. Huntington died in 2008.

America was created by 17th- and 18th-century settlers who were overwhelmingly white, British, and Protestant. Their values, institutions, and culture provided the foundation for and shaped the development of the United States in the following centuries. They initially defined America in terms of race, ethnicity, culture, and religion. Then, in the 18th century, they also had to define America ideologically to justify independence from their home country, which was also white, British, and Protestant. Thomas Jefferson set forth this “creed,” as Nobel Prize-winning economist Gunnar Myrdal called it, in the Declaration of Independence, and ever since, its principles have been reiterated by statesmen and espoused by the public as an essential component of U.S. identity.

By the latter years of the 19th century, however, the ethnic component had been broadened to include Germans, Irish, and Scandinavians, and the United States’ religious identity was being redefined more broadly from Protestant to Christian. With World War II and the assimilation of large numbers of southern and eastern European immigrants and their offspring into U.S. society, ethnicity virtually disappeared as a defining component of national identity. So did race, following the achievements of the civil rights movement and the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965. Americans now see and endorse their country as multiethnic and multiracial. As a result, American identity is now defined in terms of culture and creed.

Most Americans see the creed as the crucial element of their national identity. The creed, however, was the product of the distinct Anglo-Protestant culture of the founding settlers. Key elements of that culture include the English language; Christianity; religious commitment; English concepts of the rule of law, including the responsibility of rulers and the rights of individuals; and dissenting Protestant values of individualism, the work ethic, and the belief that humans have the ability and the duty to try to create a heaven on earth, a “city on a hill.” Historically, millions of immigrants were attracted to the United States because of this culture and the economic 9opportunities and political liberties it made possible.

Contributions from immigrant cultures modified and enriched the Anglo-Protestant culture of the founding settlers. The essentials of that founding culture remained the bedrock of U.S. identity, however, at least until the last decades of the 20th century. Would the United States be the country that it has been and that it largely remains today if it had been settled in the 17th and 18th centuries not by British Protestants but by French, Spanish, or Portuguese Catholics? The answer is clearly no. It would not be the United States; it would be Quebec, Mexico, or Brazil.

In the final decades of the 20th century, however, the United States’ Anglo-Protestant culture and the creed that it produced came under assault by the popularity in intellectual and political circles of the doctrines of multiculturalism and diversity; the rise of group identities based on race, ethnicity, and gender over national identity; the impact of transnational cultural diasporas; the expanding number of immigrants with dual nationalities and dual loyalties; and the growing salience for U.S. intellectual, business, and political elites of cosmopolitan and transnational identities. The United States’ national identity, like that of other nation-states, is challenged by the forces of globalization as well as the needs that globalization produces among people for smaller and more meaningful “blood and belief” identities.

In this new era, the single most immediate and most serious challenge to America’s traditional identity comes from the immense and continuing immigration from Latin America, especially from Mexico, and the fertility rates of these immigrants compared to black and white American natives. Americans like to boast of their past success in assimilating millions of immigrants into their society, culture, and politics. But Americans have tended to generalize about immigrants without distinguishing among them and have focused on the economic costs and benefits of immigration, ignoring its social and cultural consequences. As a result, they have overlooked the unique characteristics and problems posed by contemporary Hispanic immigration. The extent and nature of this immigration differ fundamentally from those of previous immigration, and the assimilation successes of the past are unlikely to be duplicated with the contemporary flood of immigrants from Latin America. This reality poses a fundamental question: Will the United States remain a country with a single national language and a core Anglo-Protestant culture? By ignoring this question, Americans acquiesce to their eventual transformation into two peoples with two cultures (Anglo and Hispanic) and two languages (English and Spanish). . . .

Continuation of this large immigration (without improved assimilation) could divide the United States into a country of two languages and two cultures. A few stable, prosperous democracies—such as Canada and Belgium—fit this pattern. The differences in culture within these countries, however, do not approximate those between the United States and Mexico, and even in these countries language differences persist. Not many Anglo-Canadians are equally fluent in English and French, and the Canadian government has had to impose penalties to get its top civil servants to achieve dual fluency. Much the same lack of dual competence is true of Walloons and Flemings in Belgium. The transformation of the United States into a country like these would not necessarily be the end of the world; it would, however, be the end of the America we have known for more than three centuries. Americans should not let that change happen unless they are convinced that this new nation would be a better one.

Such a transformation would not only revolutionize the United States, but it would also have serious consequences for Hispanics, who will be in the United States but not of it. Sosa ends his book, The Americano Dream, with encouragement for aspiring Hispanic entrepreneurs. “The Americano dream?” he asks. “It exists, it is realistic, and it is there for all of us to share.” Sosa is wrong. There is no Americano dream. There is only the American dream created by an Anglo-Protestant society. Mexican Americans will share in that dream and in that society only if they dream in English.

The following comments are from interviews with recent immigrants, mostly undocumented. They were collected by Miranda Leitsinger and Bert Johnson for KQED, April 21, 2017 Copyright © 2017 KQED Inc. All Rights Reserved. <https://ww2.kqed.org/news/2017/04/21/photos-the-faces-of-californias-immigrant-story/>

Enrique Yarce Martinez, DACA* recipient, Santa Rosa

We came through border checks (from Mexico). I was in the trunk, for part of the journey, and then the back, covered with a blanket. My parents say it’s a miracle that the patroller didn’t see me. I am DACA, so, slightly less illegal, I’ve heard. I saw a really good play in Santa Rosa, and they were talking about that, and they put it really well, because DACA isn’t really a path to citizenship, like a lot of people think. It’s like $500 every two years for it. We’re at risk for being deported. I’ve lived here 19 years of my life in this country. I’m an American. If I were to be deported, it’d be such a culture shock. I love Mexico. From what I hear, obviously the government has a lot of issues, but the country’s beautiful, but still, I wouldn’t feel the same. This is my home, it always has been. I always internalized this part of my identity for a very long time, because it’s scary to think about. It’s scary because it’s very real. I remember one time my dad was trying to tell us, my mom and I, to say we’re Chilean or something, because Mexico’s having a lot of attention, with all the immigration and stuff. ‘… with a child and everything, they were doing crime scene cleanups, and cleaning offices, and just anything they could do to get money. You can get two tacos for $1 at Jack in the Box, and we would just eat that, a lot. I still like it. My mom was like, “No, I’m proud of being a Mexican. I’m not going to hide from that.” Yeah, I didn’t really know yet, but I felt that way. Later, as I got older, I think about that a lot, and that was really important to me — how my mom stood up like that. I’m proud of who I am, and my identity is complicated, but it’s still who I am, and it’s made me into the person I am. It’s very uncertain. I know it’s taken me awhile to finally feel like I can go to school and continue my education. I want to be a social worker, my major is sociology. I was always interested in activism, community organizing. I do that stuff, I love it — it’s my life. I want to continue to do that, I want to continue to help people, so it just feels … I feel really paralyzed a lot of the times, because I don’t know if all my work will just go down the drain, you know? Same with my parents, we were homeless when we first moved here, and that was rough, but they still managed to get out of that, I don’t even know how. That’s incredible, with a child and everything, they were doing crime scene cleanups, and cleaning offices, and just anything they could do to get money. You can get two tacos for $1 at Jack in the Box, and we would just eat that, a lot. I still like it. I’m worried about my parents. I’ve talked to my mom about it, what it’s like for her to not really have an identity in this country. She doesn’t have any sort of identification. She’s always felt, kind of, trapped. They live in Lake County, and there’s not a lot of people of color at all, especially where we live. We’re just here, trying to live our lives. We’re human like everyone else.

[*Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is a federal program established under the Obama Administration for eligible immigrant youth who came to the United States when they were children. It protects the young immigrants from deportation and provides a work permit.]

Sergio Herrera, child of immigrants, San Francisco

My family’s migration starts from two Latin American countries, Mexico and El Salvador. My dad was born in Mexico and migrated to America at 18 to find a way to support his poor family back in Mexico, who were living in a hut. He knew he wouldn’t be able to support them in Mexico where jobs are really low-paying, so he decided to take a risk that millions of people have taken: jump the border in order to have a better life and higher-paying jobs. Obviously, he had to face major obstacles since he entered the country illegally. He had to survive a two-week trip from his hometown to the border fence. He would then have to take another 24 hours to get through the border. His goal was San Francisco since he had friends there, and after a long trip he made it. Eventually, he was able to get his green card and his citizenship, and save enough money for his family back home to build a house. My mother was born in El Salvador and immigrated legally by plane at age 25. Her parents were able to apply for a green card before she traveled to the United States and her green card was granted. The main reason for her migration was the fact that there was a civil war going on in El Salvador. She knew no one and basically had to start from scratch. Luckily, after about two years, her sister arrived in San Francisco and they were able to help each other out. Growing up in an immigrant family makes me feel fortunate that I had the opportunities to experience different cultures. It also meant that my family was different in a sense that we ate different meals than most of my friends: While they were eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch, me and my brother were eating tortillas with beans. It also made me want to work harder knowing that my parents went through a hard time coming to the United States for them and their kids to have a better future. They did their part, so now it’s my turn to do my part.

Anonymous, permanent resident, San Francisco Bay Area

I entered on a tourist visa and have since married my Mexican-American partner and gained permanent residency after a very stressful, drawn-out, expensive application starting in NYC and now ending in the Bay Area.

I became undocumented as I “overstayed” my 90-day tourist visa while awaiting paperwork (from the UK) that I was told I’d need by the Office of the City Clerk in NYC, delaying our wedding. The irony being that the paperwork wasn’t needed after all. But because we followed the rules we were told by a government official, I then became classed as undocumented (“illegal”). My same-sex marriage could be reneged by the new administration and/or I could get deported due to being undocumented briefly before marrying, and my husband would then face the same sorts of issues trying to immigrate to the UK with me.

DISCUSSION 11: Comment on the “Stories from the War on Poverty” below. Follow the guidelines and instructions for Discussion Participation. Post original comments and replies to the Discussion Board on Canvas by the deadline shown on the Class Schedule.

The sources below were collected by Dominica Lim for “’I feel rich when I have food.’ Stories from the War on Poverty,” Al Jazeera America, January 15, 2014. © 2016 Al Jazeera America, LLC. All rights reserved.

 Mary Lee in Bellingham, Washington: “I do live on the lowest income [listed by the federal government]. I was middle class, went to college, and worked for years before the surprise outsourcing of my work. Then my own business slowed due to housing loss and health problems, and now I’m caring for relative with cancer. I have now lived on my own, homeless (out of car or couch surfing) for several years. I am 48 years old. I survive by eating a lot of Top Ramen. It is sort of a joke to hear how so many people talk about living in poverty.  Many of those people have no real clue what it is like and how stressful it is until you have to do it year after year. In my 20s, I had no idea this would occur in my life. At first, I had strength to fight back, but now I am worn down. It feels like falling in the ocean and treading water for years with no real ladder to a ship to get out and get stable and warm. It is hellish stress and very humiliating. I pretend it is not that bad to others. I wouldn’t even tell my doctor at the low-income clinic how bad things are for me. I am too embarrassed to let anyone know that I sleep in my car and have only one pair of pants left to wear. I used to have a good income. I used to go hiking and work full time and walk my dog and jog five days a week. I had what many people have in America, and I took it for granted that I would always have a home and a job and enough money to at least pay the bills and keep my clothes clean and eat healthy food. I never touched Top Ramen back in my 20s. Yes, I do know that there are even many people worse off now than me, but until you experience this long-term poverty situation, you can’t really understand how it devastates your ability to function and robs you of your health from the stress, the instability, and the lack of ability to eat healthy. I do my best, and still I am grateful for the basic things in life, even the Ramen noodles, although they have caused me more health problems. I don’t see a way out of this situation at this time. I do hope another Martin Luther King, Jr. comes along to push for help for those in this rich country who have fallen into such unstable and difficult times. Most of us have worked hard, still want to, and paid plenty of taxes in our lives, and all people deserve some basic dignity, and at least medical and housing. It is not as easy to get help in this country as some think.”

-Virginia in Omaha, Nebraska: “I am already facing this. After raising my children and going through a divorce from an abusive husband, I worked for the past 20 years at physically demanding jobs. I am currently a bus driver, and my body is giving out (I’m 63 years old). I am no longer able to work. I have filed for Workman’s Compensation, was denied, now have an attorney working on that. Next will be disability, which I understand will be denied, and I will need an attorney for that. I understand that I will be expected to live on maybe $900 a month. I clear $2000 a month as a driver and just have my head above water. I am planning to possibly move to South Dakota, get a trailer and live with my friend of 35 years. She is also struggling and helps care for her aged mother who also lives on a small fixed income.”

-Eugene in Taos, New Mexico: “Wishing I was more eloquent with my wording, but here it goes. I live off grid. I supply all of my own needs. I do not receive food stamps or federal assistance. I am getting heath insurance for the first time in a couple decades. I use solar, catchment water and wood for heating. Poverty isn’t a bad thing, It just shows you what you really need, not what is to be desired. My motto: ‘have what you need and need what you have’.”   

-Tania Parsons: “I’m a single mom and I make under $11,000 a year. The only way to do well for us is with food stamps. Without it, we couldn’t eat. The government reduced the amount we get so by the end of the month we ran out of milk, juices, bread, eggs. It’s difficult when one child is only three. They have health insurance, but I was told I don’t qualify for it. In my area, rent is high and all of my income goes to it. I don’t want to become homeless again. It’s scary.”

-Sharon Dory in Mendocino County: “For seven years, I lived on $500 a month. The cost of taxes on my small home was more than $200 monthly. Volunteering was the only “recreation” I could afford. I feel rich when I have food.”

-Jay Gee in Los Lunas, New Mexico: “In my 20s and 30s, I was paying off college loans and making $6,000 a year working full time, even with previous college. About a third of my take-home went for college loan payments — I did pay them all eventually. The unemployment rate (this was in 1976 or so) was close to 10.25%, as I remember it. Here’s what I did: I lived with others in whatever places I could afford, had poor or no heat and never air conditioning, no screens, bad locks (in bad neighborhoods), barely-working stoves and fridges, iffy bathrooms, with abusive landlords. I ate a lot of eggs, peanut butter and bread. I did not own a car; it took me two hours to get to work and two hours to get back on the bus (I ended up taking two buses and and doing lots of walking). Work was only 13 miles away. As a small female, I was often under the threat of violence and harassment by strangers. I did not have a lot of clothes and what I got was from Goodwill or thrift stores, but I was always very clean. Winter clothes and shoes were the hardest to find. When I got pretty sick, I could not afford the $50 to go to a doctor; I had insurance but only for catastrophic coverage. I had friends and we got by with each others’ help. I learned a lot in those years and would not want anyone else to go through them. Some things I faced were stunted and delayed promises, hunger, constant fear of harm, and ill health. I did much better as the years went on, I fought hard for that, but I have known ever since then that this is a country which does not care about it’s people and it has gotten a lot worse.”

 Mira in Sacramento, California: “Back in 2012, I was at the federal poverty level. I was a raising senior at UC Davis, and while I had a scholarship that covered my tuition and books for four years, I lost my student assistant position with the state, which paid $10 an hour. My parents have not financially supported me since I started college and for a period of time I was taking odd jobs to keep myself afloat. It was not until I started working at Costco, getting paid $11 and hour and worked some over time before I was able to stop eating canned food. I remember all my bills (rent, utilities, food) and wiping out my savings that I had built up for three years. It was a stressful time. I don’t look back on college fondly because all I remember is working and resenting all the privileged students around campus who never worked a single day in their lives.”

–Amanda in North Carolina: “I don’t need a chart. I’ve been on my own since I was 17, and I’ve never made more than the federal poverty level. I have horrific health problems which can’t be treated. I’ve been homeless for about a year and, all told, much of that was while I was employed but not making enough to make ends meet. I tried to go to college. I worked 60 hours a week at minimum wage jobs and pulled a full load at college. I had a 3.75 GPA, but I to drop out to take care of younger siblings.”  -Deborah in New Hampshire: “Unfortunately, I spent most of the 1990s at the poverty level for two adults and as recently as 2004 lived with a total annual income of less than $12,000. This also came with the added pressure of not reaching out for assistance from welfare and food stamps, but rather, we chose to let go of the amenities – no TV, a budget telephone service ($6.11 a month) dumpster-diving for clothes (except underwear, of course) repairing our own automobile with parts from salvage yards, going to the public library to check out movies instead of renting them, and eating a lot of ‘Happy Hour’ bar food, stuff like buffalo wings, potato dkins, leftover sandwiches and soups that made a filling meal for the cost of a $1.50 bottle of beer. We ate a lot of chicken wings that way. It wasn’t fun by any means, but both my husband and I managed to squeak by. Could I do it again? Yes, but it would only happen if I completely stopped working as my own business finally is getting traction and it’s been a long, long 22 years getting to this point. With the economy mismanaged by the bankers that are running the government and so much of the capital diverted into the stock market accounts of the investor elites at the top, it really does behoove every person living at the poverty level to stop looking for assistance in the form of jobs creation. Business isn’t going to hire and employ Americans anymore by default, so the only option is to work for yourself. Waiting on a government that is sinking in debt from the mass transference of jobs away from the taxpaying public to the workers in the Far East – who do not incur tax liabilities to that same government – is a fool’s game. As Warren Buffet said in a 2006 interview in the New York Times: ‘There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.’ So the ‘poor’ need to stop looking to these cretins or the government they’ve financially starved for help. Shuck, hustle, do what you can, but don’t expect the 1% or government to help. In fact, they’ll probably try to get in your way using laws and regulations.”

-KC Mulhall in Wenatchee, Washington State: “I have lived below or at poverty level for ten years now. My wife and I earn minimum wage, but due to work levels one or both of us have not worked consistently in any year. We avoid comparisons, we avoid social media, do not eat out, do not really do anything but work and love each other doing free activities: hiking, exercise, reading through library. We both volunteer a lot because that is free and helps us feel connected to our real community. I love America but income inequality is worse stress than any job if you buy into it. The trick we found is be happy with what you have and do not compare. Just live.” -George Leake in Vallejo, CA: “I’ve lived below the poverty line for years now. There’s a number of things you can do to make it: don’t own a car, try to grow your own food, cook everything from scratch, don’t buy anything unless you absolutely need it, couch surf with friends, barter rent for yard work, cleaning or other services, try to shop at thrift stores or garage sales. Last year, I found a pair of shoes my size that were getting thrown away. The threads started coming off, so I fixed them with shoe glue: they were much better shoes than the cheapest ones you can find which only last a month at most. I know so many people living like this. The idea of having things like cable TV, cell phones or iPads is so ridiculous — many of us read books from the library for entertainment.”

FINAL EXAM: Due by 11:59 pm Tuesday, July 31. Answer all four questions below. Number your responses. Save a copy to your own storage media.

Your responses for questions 1-3 should draw exclusively on the overview essays for each course module: Richard White, Daniel Rodgers, David Kennedy, and William Chafe (Parts A and B.)

Your responses for question 4 should draw on primary sources from the five period, at least one source from each.

1. U.S. Politics*, 1870s to Present. Learning Outcome addressed: Express Understanding of Historical Context.

1a. Write a statement characterizing the general nature and main contours of U.S. politics* from the 1870s to the present, as suggested in the overview essays for each module. Follow closely the Guidelines for Characterizing Context.

1b. Identify the five to seven most significant features of U.S. politics from the 1870s to the present, as suggested in the overview essays for each module. Follow closely the Guidelines for Describing Features.

*Politics refers to internal political events, ideas, movements, government, voting, political parties, and public affairs of a country.

2. U.S. Economy*, 1870s to Present. Learning Outcome addressed: Express Understanding of Historical Context.

2a. Write a statement characterizing the general nature and main contours of the U.S. economy* from the 1870s to the present, as suggested in the overview essays for each module. Follow closely the Guidelines for Characterizing Context.

2b. Identify the five to seven most significant features of the U.S. economy* from the 1870s to the present, as suggested in the overview essays for each module. Follow closely the Guidelines for Describing Features.

* Economy refers to the production, distribution, and use of income, wealth, poverty, goods, and commodities. Financial and business affairs generally.

3. U.S. Foreign Relations, 1870s to Present. Learning Outcome addressed: Express Understanding of Historical Context.

3a. Write a statement characterizing the general nature and main contours of U.S. foreign relations* from the 1870s to the present, as suggested in the overview essays for each module. Follow closely the Guidelines for Characterizing Context.

3b. Identify the five to seven most significant features of U.S. foreign relations* from the 1870s to the present, as suggested in the overview essays for each module. Follow closely the Guidelines for Describing Features.

* Foreign Relations refers to relationships and dealings among countries, conflicts, wars, treaties, and alliances.

4. Coping with Problems in American Life. Learning Outcome addressed: Develop and express a historical interpretation in a thesis. Support the thesis with evidence.

Write a coherent paragraph in response to this question: What problems have African Americans or women faced since the 1870s, and how did oneof these groups try to address the problems from the 1870s to the present? Begin with a clear thesis, consistent with the Guidelines on Thesis Writing, and support your thesis with evidence, consistent with the Guidelines on Using Evidence. Use at least five primary sources, one from each of the five periods addressed in the course.

Submission: Submit to the assignment labeled Final Exam on Canvas.

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