U.S. History Exam

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1. What are the great changes in Americans’ life from 1865 - 1920?

The United States experienced rapid economic growth during this period for both the country and individual citizens. In economic terms, the GDP multiplied more than seven times. The period from 1865 – 1920 has been considered a golden era for both independent inventors and entrepreneurs. Some contributing factors were the expansion and improvement of transportation systems and communications networks, and the increase in immigration. Faster and larger transportation systems moved goods quickly all over the country, opening up wider markets to entrepreneurs and farmers. Improvements to overseas travel also increased the international trade market, making the United States a major power in agricultural trade. Increased immigration between 1880 and 1920 provided a surplus in manpower for factory and agricultural jobs. During this period, almost 24 million immigrants arrived in the U.S. from Italy, Croatia, Greece, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and Russia. Not all Americans were happy about the surge of immigrants, and starting in 1882, Congress began to pass legislation limiting immigration. This legislation prohibited immigrants convicted of crimes, classified as lunatics, or carrying disease. A literacy test for immigrants was enacted in 1917. Additional points of unrest in the U.S. involved the establishment of Jim Crow laws. It was also during this time that the Nineteenth Amendment, giving women the constitutional right to vote, was passed.

2. What did they seek in America - order from chaos. In terms of cities, politics, immigration.

The period from 1865 – 1920 saw three major events: the Reconstruction, the Gilded Age, and the Progressive Era. A phenomenal surge in immigration, as well as improvements in transportation systems and communication networks, helped to bring on the Second Industrial Revolution. The legislation passed during this time shows how political parties in the U.S. attempted to keep pace with the massive growth taking place and bring order to the chaotic expansion happening on so many levels. Examples of such legislation include many immigration bans and the enactment, and upholding of Jim Crow laws, and the “separate but equal” doctrine. Cities vied for importance, and their piece of wealth and fame, feeding entrepreneurship and economic growth. For their part, immigrants came to escape poverty and religious threats. America offered immigrants jobs, equality, and land. The phrase “the American Dream” came from this time.

3. How did the concept of "the system" bring order to America life?

“The system” referred to the implementation of Jim Crow laws within the United States and the creation of the “separate but equal” doctrine. During the Reconstruction, African-Americans had gained their freedom and were beginning to move freely in the U.S. society. For many white U.S. citizens, especially in the southern states, this created an uneasy upheaval. Mixed emotions over the abolishment of slavery and the acceptance of African Americans as equals, left many whites at a loss for how to handle the new situation. They were overwhelmed. The Jim Crow laws took many of the newly-gained rights of African-Americans away, and established them firmly and clearly as second-class citizens. White Americans, especially families of former slave owners, could resolve the controversy within themselves as to how African Americans were to be treated. The law said they were not slaves, and the law said they were not the same. Jim Crow laws gave African Americans their place in the society, and all that everyone else had to do was to observe the laws. The “separate but equal” doctrine excused the white population from moral discussion by allowing them a piece of legislation to hide behind.

4.  What factors led US to involve in World War I?

There were several factors that led to the United States’ involvement in World War I. The sinking of the British cruise ship, the Lusitania, on May 7, 1915 was a major factor. The German attack on the Lusitania resulted in the loss of 128 U.S. citizens’ lives. A second main factor was the discovery by the British of a telegram outlining a plan for an alliance between the German military and Mexico. It was called the Zimmerman Telegram and was released by the British in 1917. The U.S. was also allied with Britain, France and Russia at that time. The U.S. had lent the allies money hoping to recover at the end of the war, something that might not have been possible if the allies lost. The U.S. merchant ships were sunk by German submarines, causing a substantial blow to the U.S. economy. It was determined the best way to stop the submarine activity themselves. Finally, the President Woodrow Wilson strongly believed that it would be bad for the U.S. and the world at large if Germany was allowed to win WWI.

5- How did progressive era to reform - city, state and national level.

Progressivism is a wide term used to describe many reforms made during the progressive era. The individuals who promoted and campaigned for reforms were called progressives. At the city level, progressives sought to shut down red light districts, build playgrounds, institute a more efficient system of municipal government, and expand education. On a state level, successful reforms created minimum wage laws for female employees, required industries to have industrial accident insurance to protect workers and their families, improved adherence to factory regulation laws, and placed restrictions on child labor. Changes at the national level established federal regulation of the meatpacking, drug, railroad, and banking industries, strengthened anti-trust laws, passed laws to improve working conditions. There were four constitutional amendments: authorization of an income tax, granting of women’s suffrage, provision for the direct election of senators, and prohibition.

6. Stereotypes vs. Realties of 1920.  

The image of the flapper, a tomboyish young woman with short, bobbed hair, fringed skirts, and rolled stockings that drank and danced flamboyantly, was much publicized by media and adopted as a symbol of the times. The reality was that this stereotype and rebellious air fit a small segment of society, and traditional values were largely left unchanged. Prohibition was less popular than its supporters were loud, and in reality only small numbers of Americans took the ban on alcohol seriously. In many places, prohibition laws were not enforced.

 7. Accomplishments and Criticisms of New Deal

FDR’s Emergency Banking Act alleviated the panic and regained American citizens’ trust in the banking system, leading Americans to deposit their money back with the banks. The Civil Works Administration employed some four million workers on project building and repairing roads, parks, airports and various other projects. The Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 restored ownership of unallocated lands to Native American groups without requiring a sale. The Federal Securities Act of May 1933 required the full disclosure of information regarding stocks being sold. It established the Securities Exchange Commission to regulate the stock market. Other accomplishments included a ban on child labor, a set minimum wage, and establishment of the SSA. Criticisms of the New Deal were over the increase in the national debt, portions that were declared unconstitutional, and that unemployment remained high until the start of WWII. There were many detractors that criticized the New Deal as a failed economic recovery plan and claimed it was WWII that brought the U.S. out of the Depression, not FDR.   

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