Some people would argue that the Post Civil War period in America from 1865 to around 1910 was more detrimental than beneficial. However, it was a progressive time for African Americans, and the United States was experiencing major advantageous changes through industrialization and urbanization. Therefore, the period from 1865 to around 1910 was more beneficial than detrimental for the country as a whole because of the progressivism occurring at this time.
During this Post Civil War period, African Americans were given many new opportunities and rights. One example of this is the 14th and 15th Amendments, which Congress passed in 1868 and 1870, respectively. The 14th Amendment granted African Americans the right to citizenship, but it did not grant them the right to vote. This was a huge breakthrough considering African Americans were considered as 3/5 of a person before this, and “black codes” were essentially created to deny them citizenship. The 15th Amendment granted African Americans the right to vote by stating that no state can prohibit the right to vote because a person is African American or because they used to be a slave.
Although African Americans still did not have representation equal to the number of votes they produce, this is a huge step forward from where they were. These Amendments were revolutionary for the African American community during this time. After slavery was abolished by the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, slaves were able to earn money through sharecropping. This is another example of how this period is more beneficial than detrimental for the United States. “Sharecropping was a kind of compromise between blacks’ desire for independence from white control and planters’ desire for a disciplined work force” (A Sharecropping Contract; p. 12).
These sharecropping contracts allowed the African Americans to be free and earn money while getting benefits such as “one half of all the cotton, corn, and wheat that is raised on said place for the year […] after all the necessary expenses are deducted out that accrues on said crop” (A Sharecropping Contract; p. 12). The African Americans that participated in sharecropping agreed to “do good work and labor ten hours a day on an average, winter and summer” (A Sharecropping Contract; p. 13). Although this was not the ideal situation, it was definitely another step away from slavery and another step forward and a progressive change for the African American community.
The third example of how this period is beneficial is the way African American leaders stepped up to guide other African Americans. Booker T. Washington called other African Americans to “remain in the South, turn away from agitation for civil and political rights, adjust to segregation, and seek, with white cooperation, to improve their economic condition” (Booker T. Washington, Address at the Atlanta Cotton Exposition; p. 57). He called for people to “’Cast down your bucket where you are’ – cast it down in making friends in every manly way of the people of all races by whom we are surrounded” (Booker T. Washington, Address at the Atlanta Cotton Exposition; p. 59). Washington had many progressive ideas for the African American community and used his platform to share it with the country, which proved to be beneficial by bringing people from different cultures and backgrounds closer. This period proved to be more beneficial than detrimental for the African American community, in turn making it beneficial to the nation as a whole.
During this period, big business was booming, and industrialization caused populations in American cities to rise, which created a need for widespread urbanization. In 1890, America no longer had a frontier line. Instead, economics became America’s new frontier. Andrew Carnegie, a wealthy industrialist during the Gilded Age, is one example of how this period was beneficial. He promoted The Gospel of Wealth. The idea of The Gospel of Wealth was “that those who accumulated money had an obligation to use it to promote the advancement of society” (Andrew Carnegie, The Gospel of Wealth; p. 32). Carnegie argued that the “contrast between the palace of the millionaire and the cottage of the laborer […] measures the change which has come with civilization […]” (Andrew Carnegie, The Gospel of Wealth; p. 32).
He also argued that “[This change] is essential for the progress of the race […]” (Andrew Carnegie, The Gospel of Wealth; p. 32-33). Carnegie believed that it would be better to build public institutions than to give charity to the poor. He believed people should work for their wealth instead of accepting handouts. Andrew Carnegie helped make this period beneficial for America by promoting these ideas and using his wealth to better the community with public institutions such as public libraries and institutions. Urbanization opened up many opportunities for Americans and helped make the country able to compete with other world powers at the time.
Populations in American cities were growing rapidly. Changes had to be made to fit this new population into a relatively small space. There were many technological advances during this time. The elevator was invented in the 1880s and allowed for buildings to start being built higher. This helped regulate the space issue. Elevated railroads were invented, but they were slow, not very efficient, and dangerous. Then, cable cars were introduced in San Francisco. By 1890, 51 American cities had trolley lines, but this created traffic issues. American cities then move to underground transportation, and the first subway system is introduced in Boston.
These advances in transportation freed up space to allow for more people to live and work in these urban areas. Developments in communication were also being made during this period. The telephone was invented in 1876, which allowed for people to communicate with each other faster and more conveniently. By 1890, 85 American towns have telephone exchanges, and by 1900, there were 800,000 telephones in use in the United States. The United States had twice as many telephones as Europe had as a whole. These advances in communication technology benefited America greatly because people were able to communicate with other people they had previously not been able to communicate with. The rise of businesses, industrialization, and urbanization benefitted America greatly by allowing it to become a world super power during this period.
The period from 1865 to around 1910 was more beneficial than detrimental for America because of the breakthroughs and advances occurring during this time. African Americans were given many opportunities, freedoms, and rights, and industrialization and urbanizations created a need for important technological advances. During this time, America made sweeping strides forward in terms of human rights as well as technology and urbanization without compromising the basic rights upon which the country was founded.