The Twentieth Century
The United States in 1900
Twentieth Century Revolutions
The Progressive Era
By the beginning of the twentieth century, muckraking journalists were calling attention to the exploitation of child labor, corruption in city governments, the horror of lynching, and the ruthless business practices employed by businessmen like John D. Rockefeller. At the local level, many Progressives sought to suppress red-light districts, expand high schools, construct playgrounds, and replace corrupt urban political machines with more efficient system of municipal government. At the state level, Progressives enacted minimum wage laws for women workers, instituted industrial accident insurance, restricted child labor, and improved factory regulation.
At the national level, Congress passed laws establishing federal regulation of the meat-packing, drug, and railroad industries, and strengthened anti-trust laws. It also lowered the tariff, established federal control over the banking system, and enacted legislation to improve working condition. Four constitutional amendments were adopted during the Progressive era, which authorized an income tax, provided for the direct election of senators, extended the vote to women, and prohibited the manufacture and sale of alcoholic beverages.
Jane Addams: Champion for the Working Poor
A New Era
The Roots of Progressivism
Herbert Croly and The Promise of American Life
Along the Color Line
Booker T. Washington, the most prominent black leader, argued that African Americans should make themselves economically indispensable to southern whites, cooperate with whites, and accommodate themselves to white supremacy. But other figures adopted a more activist stance, such as the anti-lynching crusader Ida B. Wells, and W.E.B. DuBois, a founder of the NAACP, who demanded an end to caste distinctions based on race.
A tight labor market during World War I triggered the “Great Migration” of African Americans to the North, which continued into the 1920s. But the movement of blacks out of the South was met by racial violence in Chicago, East St. Louis, Houston, Tulsa, and other cities.
The Great Migration was accompanied by new efforts at black political and economic organization and cultural expression, including Marcus Garvey's Universal Negro Improvement Association, which emphasized racial pride and economic self-help, and the Harlem Renaissance, a literary and artistic movement.
The State of African Americans in the South
Convict Lease System
Jim Crow and the Courts
Plessy v. Ferguson
Segregation and Disfranchisement
Booker T. Washington and the Politics of Accommodation
The Struggle for Women's Suffrage
But as American states widened suffrage to include virtually all white males, they began denying the vote to free blacks and, in New Jersey, to women, who had briefly won this privilege following the Revolution. In the 1820s and for decades to come married women could not own property, make contracts, bring suits, or sit on juries. They could be legally beaten by their husbands and were required to submit to their husbands' sexual demands.
During the early 19th century, however, a growing number of women became convinced that they had a special mission and responsibility to purify and reform American society. Women were at the forefront of efforts to establish public schools, abolish slavery, and curb drinking. But faced with discrimination within the antislavery movement, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and others organized the first Women's Rights Convention in history in Seneca Falls, New York, in 1848.
The quest for full equality involved not only the struggle for the vote, but for divorce, access to higher education, the professions, and other occupations, as well as birth control and abortion. Women have had to overcome laws and customs that discriminated on the basis of sex in order to overcome the oldest form of exploitation and subordination.
"Failure is Impossible"
The Drive for the Vote Begins
The Movement Splits
The First Breakthroughs
New Arguments and New Constituencies
Opponents of Suffrage
The Final Push
Did the Vote Make a Difference?