Date: May 7, 2019
Category: History Essay
Social Inequality in the U.S. History

During 1865-1925, the United States experienced the eras of Reconstruction, Gilded Age, progressivism, industrialization, and the surge of immigration. As a result of the Civil War, the slave system was destroyed. Settlement of land was accelerated. All this contributed to the rapid expansion of the U.S. domestic market and, thus, greatly accelerated the development of capitalism in the United States. It laid the foundation of social equality and the end of discrimination in American society. Nevertheless, despite economic growth and rights expansion, some groups of people such as former slaves, Native Americans, and Jewish immigrants were excluded from freedoms during 1865-1925.

Former Slaves

As a result of the victory of the North, the 13th Amendment was adopted. It provided the abolition of slavery on the federal level. The 14th Amendment also contributed to freeing slaves. It defined U.S. citizenship, guaranteed citizens’ protection laws, and abolished discrimination against freed slaves in the elections. The 15th Amendment decided that the right to participate in elections would not rely on race.

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However, in the southern states, the constitutional solution of racial problems did not mean the complete elimination of racial discrimination. Everywhere, one could see signs of whites’ superiority. There was an illegal practice of segregated education, as well as prosecution of mixed marriages. Outdoor terror against blacks was deployed by an organization under the ominous name ‘Ku Klux Klan’. African Americans were subjected to lynching. Due to illiteracy and fear of violence among former slaves, they signed sharecropper contracts such as a contract between Schmidt and Wagener, which were aimed at keeping them poor. Thus, legal democratic changes did not ensure real equality for all Americans before the law in some states, mainly in the South.

Assimilation of Native Americans

The period from 1776 to 1924 is one of the most dramatic for the indigenous people of the United States. Since the emergence of this state on the political map of the world and till the adoption of the law on Indian citizenship in 1924, the legal status of the indigenous people changed depending on trends in the domestic U.S. politics.

In the first 30 years of the 19th century, the institutionalization of relations with indigenous peoples in the American society reached a point when, on the one hand, the Indians were considered as officially independent nations and, on the other hand, Indians were seen as a real hindrance to the development of the country. At the appointed time, the federal policy towards Indians was based on a number of principles: the USA had exclusive rights to trade with indigenous tribes, only Americans had the right to establish trading posts and military garrisons, and only the U.S. courts were arbiters in disputes not only between whites and Indians but in territorial claims of different tribes. Thus, it can be concluded that federal intervention in the tribal sovereignty only intensified, the dependence of Indian government grew, and collective rights and freedoms that were guaranteed by agreements and contracts became a formality.

In the second half of the 19th century, the growth of the population in western states, invasion of whites into the Aboriginal territory, and corruption in the Bureau of Indian Affairs complicated the relations with indigenous nations. A controversy about providing the status of the U.S. citizens to Indians received a significant resonance in the American society in the mid-19th century. On the wave of democratic changes in the U.S. after the Civil War, the society was split on the issue of the legal status of indigenous peoples. The lower part of the American political elite supported efforts of certain religious communities (both Protestant and Catholic) to Americanize Indians. The U.S. policy on the indigenous population after the Civil War suffered from uncertainty and inconsistency.

The policy of assimilation reached its peak at the turn of the 19-20th centuries. Being deprived of any legal possibility to resist state policies apparatus and understanding the actual military advantage of Washington, most indigenous peoples had to take the path of assimilation. Moreover, the pressure of the authorities became more powerful and diversified. Opening schools for Indian children displayed the assimilation policy regarding indigenous peoples. Principles of teaching in these schools were based on complete forced immersion in American cultural standards and stereotypes. Much more serious were physical bullying and humiliation.

At the time of giving citizenship to all representatives of indigenous peoples who were born in the USA in 1924, many Indians already had this status. These dramatic changes in policies towards Indians allowed to acquire all rights and freedoms on an equal basis with others, while not abandoning their home and keeping their traditions. The reason for providing them with U.S. citizenship was the lack of prospects for an effective public Indian policy on the conditions of uncertainty of their status.

Jewish Immigrants

The history of the American people is a story of immigration marked by a wide ethnic diversity. The United States of America, the land of religious liberty, has always attracted the sympathy of the Jews of Europe. The main thrust that laid the foundation for the rise of anti-Semitism in the USA was mass immigration, which began after 1865, i.e. after the Civil War. Eastern European Jews were a part of a powerful flow of people who poured to America from Eastern and Southern Europe. They faced social inequality and discrimination in various fields of life.

The American Jewish ethnic community was of several immigrant groups that represented Jewish ethnic communities around the world. The main Jewish immigrant groups in the United States were the Spanish-Portuguese, German, and Eastern European Jews. The most compelling reason for Jewish immigration to the United States was the anti-Jewish legislation, which took place in several European countries, as well as economic, political, and religious (Christian) anti-Semitism. The influx of Jews from Central Europe to the United States peaked in the early 1850s in connection with the strengthening of reaction after the defeat of the revolutions, which were followed by recovery and even tougher restrictive anti-Jewish laws, as well as a general deterioration of the economic situation in Europe.

Already in the 1820s, almost throughout the entire USA the laws and regulations restricting the rights of Jews were completely abolished. The Legislative Assembly of Maryland debated a bill that allowed Jews to hold public office and freed them from bringing the Christian oath. In this regard, the public debate about whether the U.S. government should be purely Christian emerged. As a result, the bill was still approved. After this, the article, according to which the Governor and the Legislative Assembly could only be Protestant, remained in the constitutions of only two states – North Carolina and New Hampshire. However, in these states, the Jews constituted a little percentage of the population.

Despite the achievement of equality, the Jewish population in the United States mostly remained on the periphery of political life. Only a few Jews who were mostly assimilated and were not a part of the community were elected as municipal councilors and members of state legislatures. As a rule, the Jews did not participate in the struggle between opponents of slavery (abolitionist) and its supporters, which largely determined the course of the political development of the country.

In many synagogues of the United States, schools that taught both Jewish studies and general science began working. However, in the 1850s the situation changed dramatically in connection with the actual output of state and municipal schools from the control of the Christian church, which allowed the Jews, even the most religious ones, to send their children to these schools. As a result, in 1860 there was a new education structure. The majority of Jewish children studied general science in public or private secondary schools and Jewish subjects in evening or community schools. In the middle of the 19th century, there was also a number of Jewish cultural and educational institutions, among which were the Jewish Youth Association.

The main ideological basis of the American anti-Semitism that started after 1865 was racism. In those days, when the Jews were, for the most part, poor immigrants in New York and around the coast, they found themselves frequent victims of violence and police brutality. The 1910-1920s brought discrimination against Jews in the fields of higher education and medicine. There was also discrimination in employment. The U.S. policy was aimed at ensuring the assimilation of the Jewish community into the American culture. However, immigrants wanted to preserve their national identity and traditions. The novel read Givers by Yezierska shows the struggle of the heroine with the need for assimilation. Immigrants wanted to balance their efforts to belong to the new society with the desire to preserve the values of the old one.

Despite social inequality, the Jews had a significant influence on the development of common American life and specifically Jewish life in the United States. They occupied a prominent place in the economic, political, and intellectual life of America and not in proportion to their limited number. At the same time, the Jews contributed to the development of Jewish life. They built a magnificent synagogue, founded a large Jewish hospital, which later gained a good reputation in the medical world, and established rich Jewish charities, as well as some special Jewish institutions of scientific and educational nature. The Jews joined the ranks of American officials, representatives of liberal professions and began to have an impact on many areas of the American intellectual life.

 

The end of the Civil War meant the beginning of the new era in the development of American society. As a result, many reforms, including the abolition of slavery, were accepted. Nevertheless, the end of discrimination and social inequality was made only on paper. Some groups of Americans, as well as immigrants, suffered from violence, lack of rights, and stereotypes. Thus, mass immigration of the Jews was the key reason for the rise of anti-Semitism in America. Native Americans were also considered as foreigners who had nothing to do in the United States. The analysis of the legal status of African Americans after the abolition of slavery makes it possible to demonstrate the falsity of the bourgeois democracy, democracy for the elite, democracy, which provided the right to freely use the ‘benefits’ of capitalism like poverty, injustice, and so on. The United States used military, economic, and technical advantage in the era of the formation of the statehood to ignore the interests of indigenous nations, former slaves, and immigrants. Therefore, it is crucial to understand historical mistakes in order to create a democratic society that is based on the principles of equality in all spheres of life. The United States should fulfill the historic and moral duty to ensure the rights of indigenous peoples and ethnic minorities.