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American History 1865-1970

During this period, racial struggle in United States was at its peak. The period was characterized by intensive struggle between the South and North over black’s place in the society. The South had a large number of white racists who were of the opinion that the blacks should be separated from the whites. The Republicans on the other hand focused on aiding blacks develop their bills which were focused at instilling rights amongst the blacks. Some of these bills include the 1866 and 1875 civil rights acts, the 14th and 15th amendments and the KKK (Ku Klux Klan). During this period, the blacks were not given the right to vote using the black codes. In addition, social inequality was widespread. This was spurred by the decision of Supreme Court which was mainly composed of conservatives Keene & O’Donnell, 2009, pp. 123-345).

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America: 1865 – 1900

After the civil war that occurred between 1861 and 1865, which posed eleven seceding states against the union army, the southern states surrendered and paved way for reconstruction. The U.S president during that time (Abraham Lincoln) intended to stop the spread of slavery in states it had earlier existed. Following their defeat, reconstruction began. These policies were later abandoned after they were compromised in 1877. Some of the implementations leading to reconstruction included issuing of land to former slaves by the president for instance in South Carolina. After his assassination, his successor, Andrew Johnson, continued with the plans by appointing governors and declaring achievement of the reconstruction. These terms which signified the end of slavery and the objective to create national unity were rejected by congress. The republicans took over the reconstruction process in their own way (Keene & O’Donnell, 2009, pp. 123-345).

The Southern States were taken over by the union and the slaves were liberated. In addition, the former confederate lords were banned from voting or running for any public office. The resultant effect was formation of coalition amongst the freedmen, scalawags and carpetbaggers. This led to formation of states of republicans. The governments introduced several reconstruction programs which included support for railroads, public schools as well as the raising of taxes. These were opposed by the conservatives who accused the republicans of massive corruption. This led into emergence of violent resistance in different places called which were referred to as the KKK until the then president Ulysses Grant abolished them in 1870. The democratic conservatives recaptured the southern states and also gained roots in the North following the1873 economic depression which adversely affected the country. This led to a halt on several road schemes that were in reconstruction (Keene & O’Donnell, 2009, pp. 123-345).

This signified the end of reconstruction as it staggered. The climax occurred in 1877 when all remaining Republican controlled states in the South were taken over by Democrats. This eased tension and the Army stopped intervening. The period that followed was referred to as a time of redemption by the Southerners. This was mainly because they ceased from being ruled by republicans and they were identified with conservative democrats. The whites achieved their redemption by seizing all the states and forcing the new president Hayes to compromise with during this period. The compromise which entailed pulling the Army out of the southern states was among the numerous favors that were aimed at putting to an end the reconstruction (Keene & O’Donnell, 2009, pp. 123-345).

America: 1900-1970

This marked the beginning of disfranchisement of the constitution with whites through their democratic elected representatives who pushed for reduction of rights given to African Americans. This was done by ensuring that the election rules were complicated for the African Americans. In addition, they made the vote registration process to be difficult. Disfranchising was also characterized by actions such as passing laws that could suppress the Blacks as well as poor whites. An example of this was evident in Tennessee where a violent competitive election battle marked by rampant corruption in 1888 ended up being taken by the white democrats. They then went on to suppress African Americans by implementing poll taxes as well as changing voter registration process. This trend spread to Mississippi and other southern states. The result was a sharp reduction in the number of black voters and poor whites (Keene & O’Donnell, 2009, pp. 123-345).

Various barriers were created. Some of these included literacy and residency requirement and variation of rules among others. These were difficult for African Americans to fulfill. The challenges brought forward during late 1890s and early 1900s could not change constitutional provisions. It seemed to interest the congress as they threatened to strip the Southern members off their seats, but later withdrew. This went on until 1950s when millions of Americans and blacks citizens were disfranchised. They backed this with their strong number in congress thus defeating any legislation that countered their opinion such as lynching among others. They also held key positions within the leadership hierarchy. This gave them the capacity to control issues such as the budget and other patronage projects (Keene & O’Donnell, 2009, pp. 123-345).

These issues were not ignored. The blacks and the poor whites kept fighting in and out of court. Several protests and challenges were made. Some were successful while others were not. For instance, Oklahoma’s provisions on grandfather and old soldier, which had been placed to deny blacks an opportunity to register as voters was successfully challenged in 1915 by Civil rights activists for African Americans. The whites reacted by replacing it with another clause which was again successfully challenged in 1939. Others included Smith versus Allwright in Texas reviewing the rule on white-only primaries. Every successful move was countered by the white’s new control measures and the struggle continued. Some of the measures included questions to blacks that they were to pass in order to be allowed to register. Interestingly, the register was to decide who passed and who did not. It was noted that out of the total 64% of the black population in Terrell County, only 48% of them were passed (Keene & O’Donnell, 2009, pp. 123-345).

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Notable gains by the Blacks during Reconstruction

Even after the civil war in 1865, African Americans were still inferior to the whites since their rights were limited. A period of reconstruction followed when President Lincoln and the Republicans helped them get equal right protections. However, with the dwindling of Republican supremacy and violent takeovers in elections by conservative democrats, reconstruction eventually collapsed. This cannot undermine the notable gains, blacks acquired during reconstruction period. Some of the gains included literacy, teachers of black and white descent from missionaries, schools, and churches in the north and south, tried their best to provide education to the liberated Blacks. This saw various ages walking to classrooms with grandparents, parents and their children utilizing the opportunity to gain knowledge. By 1876, survey showed that more that 50% and $40% of white kids and black kids had enrolled in southern schools (Keene & O’Donnell, 2009, pp. 123-345).

Other identifiable benefits which were received during this period resulted from the amendment that was done to the country’s constitution. These amendments include the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments. As a result of these amendments, slavery was banned and civil rights guaranteed amongst all. For example, African Americans were granted voting rights. These conditions were enshrined within the constitution and led to return of blacks from the North to help reconstruct the South. Some of the blacks gained political powers and this enabled them to fight for their rights. They could vote actively and participate in any political process during this period of reconstruction. They could also acquire land and seek employment (Keene & O’Donnell, 2009, pp. 123-345).

Failures of reconstruction (1877-1900)

As the African Americans tried to get their rights, the conservative whites felt threatened by their dominance and decided to make ways of trimming black freedom. They slowly reorganized, terrorized and eliminated any potential opponents calling for redemption. This led to the collapse of reconstruction and exposed its failures some of which included land redistribution. All the land that had been divided to black families was given back to their owner which surprisingly was supported by President Johnson. Other failures included the continuity of social classes even after reconstruction. Blacks were allowed to run for seats during elections. However, this did not stop hate messages, blackmailing, deception and social violence (Keene & O’Donnell, 2009, pp. 123-345).

America (1920-1970)

Amendments that were passed gave way for conservative democrats to use other ways to suppress them such as the Jim Crow laws. Others included the black codes. Events that followed such as vigilante and paramilitary white campaigns were due to the sharp differences that were emerging as African Americans embraced emancipation while whites wanted them to get back to their former states as they posed political challenge due to their dominance. In addition, swift change of leadership after Lincoln’s assassination, made the legislations that were adopted useless.

Republican president Hayes also contributed to this failure when he pulled out the troops from South. This made the democrats to propagate their cruelty with ease since this was followed by return of the old system of things eventually repealing the amendments. This set into a compromise with the North that put aside civil rights of African Americans until 1960s, when the movement that dealt with rights issues was formed (Keene & O’Donnell, 2009, pp. 123-345).

How railroad shaped the development and settlement of the west

After the completion of transcontinental line, what remained was a railroad which required ranchers, shopkeepers and farmers who were allowed to put up along the railroad. This instigated the use of Pacific Railway Acts which gave land of up to 10 square miles for every mile that was built. It also gave out alternate unit-square-mile lands also known as sections for an estimated 20 miles while the government owned the other portions. This accelerated its building, and effectively promoting development of land that had been acquired from war with Mexico. Resources were vast in this region and absence of a mode of transport had slowed growth. With the establishment of railroad, industries, ranchers and farmers as well as traders took complete advantage of this to develop the region (Keene & O’Donnell, 2009, pp. 123-345).

The progressive party

The reform movement, progressivism formation, was motivated by both social and political factors in the beginning of the 20th century. First, the citizen wanted their tax regime to be revised so that their income could accommodate their basic needs. President William Taft exercised a high tax regime. While Theodore Roosevelt lost confidence in President Taft, in 1912 Roosevelt called for stricter industrial regulations and proper reawakening of the women suffrage. These two views resonated with the interest of most low wageworkers in several states. It further implied the people’s need for liberty and equity in governance.

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As the reform movement progressivism proved vital to the primary contestants in the 1990s elections, it indicated the citizen’s interests in vesting authority to an individual who would champion for their course. Thus, the need to prohibit child labor and triumph over racism triggered the reform movement progressivism in many southern states where many non-Natives had made their residences. Since the movement focused on alleviating the status of the poor and middle income earners in the country, progressivism had direct triggers from the people’s need to revise taxes and tariffs including measures to offer incentives to farmers. In addition, the movement’s interest to have child labor abolished encouraged the spread of the movement farther south. The need for collective ownership of public amenities also triggered the spread progressivism in urban areas where the state of development required space for recreational activities (Keene & O’Donnell, 2009, pp. 123-345).

1920’s & Great Depression

1920’s was marked by great economic development. There was rejuvenation in the manufacturing industry which was at the time the heart of the nation’s economy. Economic ideologies of consumerism created high demand for manufactured products and thus helped fuel the economy. Although other areas had important contribution, it was the automobile industry that contributed most in the booming economy. Between 1920 and 1929, the number vehicles in American’s road almost tripled. This led to great demand for steel, plate glass, rubber and other materials. Standardization and mass production played significant role automobile industry.

The Great depression that started from 1929 to 1939 came after a decade of great economic success. The economic downturn affected every area of the economy. Automobile industry, which was the main drive 1920’s economy, was affected severely by the Great depression. Demand for motor vehicles dropped severely lead to fall of many automobile players. The Great depression persisted until the implementation of the New Deal.Although the new deal is said to have played a very significant role in economic recovery, there were some criticism against it. There was mistrust on Roosevelt leadership in economic recovery as he was among the wealthiest people in his time. The deal was viewed to be unconstitutional and tending towards socialism. The New Deal was also criticized for failing to bring significant impact on unemployment and distribution of wealth. Before the New Deal, the federal government’s role in economy was not felt. Adoption of economic policies also strengthened the federal government’s role with regard to various socio economic issues. People relied on the government to manage the economic situation. This was contrary to role of the government before the Great Depression.

America World War II

Most Americans were against their government being involved in the Second World War. Experience from World War I played a significant role in people’s reservation towards the wars. There was general rise in isolationism. Majority of Americans felt that their government should refrain from engaging in issues that did not involve it. The second war was mostly viewed as a Europe problem. Despite of strong feeling against the war, there were those who felt that the US government should involve itself in order to prevent the war. The general public feeling against the war explains the government’s reluctance to get into the war. Pearl Harbor’s bombing increased United States commitment to the war. The war left great destruction especially in Europe. After 1945, US government foreign policy was mainly focused on reconstructing Western Europe. It was felt that rise in poverty as a result of the war could lead to extension of communism. One of the foreign policy after World War II was Marshall Plan that involved financial investment in Western Europe to help in rebuilding it. The main US foreign policy after the war was however Containment that aimed at ensuring that communism did not extent from USSR to other countries. This policy played a significant role in the Cold War. President Truman cannot be blamed for the Cold War. It was difficult to avert the Cold War as there was great mistrust between US and USSR.

America’s 1950s

The 1950s were characterized by a different kind of twist to the expectation of the people of America. Struggle had been boiling up amongst the black minority in the country since the early 16th century. It was only in the 1950s that bodies struggling for the civil rights of African American community at the time stood firm for their belief. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was instrument al in leading the civil rights movement. He was the chairperson of the central and largest civil rights movement in the country. He was also on the top least in leading the famous bus ride to the Supreme Court, dubbed “the Freedom Rides” which was a test towards the high court ruling about outlawed segregation. Martin Luther also led a strong campaign wit h the SCLC called the Albany struggle. His was a community campaign against the same and though it came with a humiliating defeat, it sparked of other local campaigns, with the spotlight turning towards Birmingham. Rev Shuttlesworth had been an activist in that region which was termed as the most thoroughly discriminating city. The use of police dogs and fire hoses to disperse peaceful protestors are some of the acts that made President Kennedy’s administration to rethink its legislation concerning the human rights of the African American.

Since the civil rights that were fought for could not just become effective through the mere ruling of the Supreme Court, the executive had to come through and send forces down to the south in order to put weight on desegregation. The goals of the civil rights movement which was generally lead by the famous Martin Luther King were simply to progress deeply into the fight against racial discrimination worldwide. This common activity affected the lives of minorities all around the world and Martin Luther’s primary goal was to pull down these kinds of roots in the American state and probably use this as a formidable instrument to fight for the minority across the world. The other goal of the movement was to generate any kind of extra support for this kind of legislation to take place. Again, Martin Luther in his understanding of the depth of this injustice sort to drum up support from any possible source in order to root out the vice. In order to do this, Martin Luther had to raise an audible sense of awareness throughout the country concerning this. The extent racial discrimination that had persisted around the country at this time was overwhelming. Someone had to be the voice for the people. The movement thus became this voice and in the end, its objectives were accomplished.

Americas 1960s & 1970s

Great changes in all aspects of the human society took place in the two decades of 1960’s and 1970’s. During these times, tension started to develop against all sorts of rights that the human being needed to enjoy its prime one covering the African American Civil right s. The war that was going on in Vietnam gave a contribution to this tension, whereby activists started asking questions regarding the social welfare of the army that was at war. In addition to the civil right movement that was already having its activities the relations across races fast became an issue for the then legislatures to contend with. Sexual mores also rose above the waters while the rights for women to receive certain rights that they were previously not awarded became another issue that the country was forced to work on.

In addition to these, a new way of culture slowly started to creep in. The rise of certain music bands like the Beatles became an icon among the youth, thus reshaping the culture of the youth at the time. Not only the Beatles, but also other artists form mostly the United Kingdom highly influenced and ultimately remodeled the countercultural movement that the. More was revealed about the environment al degradation that was at the time going on and consequently, the then activists worked towards exposing the misguided use of the industrial chemicals at the time.

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Another great change related to recreational sex which brought about the sexual revolution. Realization of the need to use contraceptives would significantly reduce the danger of pregnancy thus giving more freedom among the youth. Television, radio and general media coverage gave a massive boom to consumerism which expanded exponentially in America giving rise to such stores as Wal-Mart and automobile companies such as Ford and such food stores as McDonalds. Generally a lot of freedom was realized in this era including such freedoms as of expression, to create oneself, to explore and so on.

Role of President in shaping the destiny of United States

The United States came a long way into realizing their achievements ranging from economic to social developments among others. However, these did not come easy since they faced several obstacles and only presidents with people’s goodwill would stand the test. American history has seen several presidents with different agendas for its peoples. Among the major achievements in America’s turbulent history is equality for all races which gave African Americans freedom from slavery thus offering them the opportunity to contribute actively to the country’s development. This raised them to their present status as country that promotes varied cultures and embraces cross-cultural interaction. In addition, it made them stronger by unifying them to become the strongest single force in the world. Integration and tolerance for each other’s culture is therefore significant and a key component of their struggle to remain the best country in world in terms of democracy, economy, social integration, international relations as well as military expansion (Thayer, 1919, p. 20).

Another key achievement in United States is their industrial development which has enabled it to continue being the largest single economy in the world. This could not be reached without a focused president. This means that the president is very instrumental in a country’s development. Former president, Theodore Roosevelt was the best in his time. This was observed in his support for Abraham Lincoln’s fight against Slavery in the South despite his uncle’s alignment to the confederate states. This brings him out as one of the pioneers for a unified America. His sentiments in the article written in 1894 on immigration which urged Americanization in all ways attest to this. Moreover, his opinion on African Americans, whom he wanted to be treated as everyone else, and Indians as well as the minority Jews, Irish and Germans, proves further on his position to unifying the country. His Christian root and zero tolerance to corruption, for instance in his work as Police Commissioner to NYPD, helped shape him as good president (Thayer, 1919, p. 20).

His successor William Taft is credited as the first to come third in his re-election bid, counts as the worst. His agendas and following of the rule of law without instituting reforms were to his disadvantage. Much needed reforms at the time like civil rights, minorities and immigration policies were not in his list of priorities. Besides, his reforms were causing divisions than unity leading to his fall.

Presidency’s role in determining US destiny

In the United States, the president heads both the Government and the State. One of the president’s roles is that he acts as the head of the executive arm of government. In addition, he also heads all the armed forces in the country (Lang, 2001). The constitution of the United States gives the president the power to make appointments of chief diplomatic officers, members of the federal executive, the judicial officers in addition to signing local and international treaties. However, in order for the president to do this, consent and advice from the senate is required. The president also has the mandate to pardon and give official amnesty besides convening and adjourning both houses of Congress under certain conditions perceived to be extra-ordinary. Currently, the president of the United States has powers to sign bills that have been passed by Congress in addition to controlling the lawmaking scheme of his party. He can also control United State’s policies both in the domestic and international context. The president and his choice of the Vice president are elected indirectly through the Electoral College by the Americans (Lang, 2001).

Presidents have a choice to make in discharging their executive and legislative powers and duties. One can either choose to mold and follow public opinion by responding to the advice of the Congress or initiate his own policies and programs under certain circumstances. The choices made during the president’s term in office determine whether he is regarded to as being successive or a failure.

Theodore Roosevelt had a successful tenure in office as the president of the United States. Raised as a sickly asthmatic child, Theodore Roosevelt grew up knowing that having moral strength is equal to physical strength. This forced him to move from the legal field into other avenues where he could demonstrate his moral strength after graduating from Harvard. He joined the Republican Party and served as the New York assemblyman in a 3-year term from 1881-1884. He was very active in fighting for reforms in child labor and safety in the workplace for his people besides uncovering corrupt corporate activities (Dorsey, 2008, p.4). While working as a civil service commissioner from 1889-1895, Roosevelt was pivotal in changing the tradition in the civil service where politicians could appoint their unqualified relations into various positions in the government. As a rancher and Army officer, Roosevelt commanded respect locally and internationally through his role in modeling the local and international policies of his country into the 20th Century. He advised his fellow countrymen to forget about the material wealth accumulated from industrialization and act to fulfill America’s role in an international context. After the assassination of President McKinley later in 1901, Roosevelt became president transforming the office of the presidency where he was acting as the moral leader that provided his followers with the vision of their country’s destiny (Dorsey, 2008, p.10). In order to demonstrate his idea of America’s role in international issues, President Roosevelt engaged foreign forces that had influence on the western hemisphere. He declared that America had the right to intervene in the business of any force anywhere in the American soil in order to maintain law and order. Roosevelt is said to have developed a policy that led to the establishment of American forces that participated in international affairs, a legacy that lived on until his death in 1919.

T. Roosevelt’s immediate successor and his personal choice for presidency was William Howard Taft, who served for only one term and is considered a failure. He had worked in many legal positions such as in the Ohio Supreme Court prior to his rise into presidency. In addition, he worked as a Solicitor-General for the US government and as a Judge of the US Court of Appeal (Abraham, 1992). He later enjoyed an easy ride into the office of the president in his 1908 bid upon endorsement by President T. Roosevelt. During his tenure in office, President Taft is credited for initiating civil service reforms just like President Roosevelt. He was also instrumental in the formation and improving operations of Interstate Commerce Commission and the postal service. He instituted the sixteenth amendment besides empowering the undeveloped overseas countries economically. He was later defeated in his bid for the second term in office in 1912.

Some major differences between William Taft and the former president led to his failure. He is said to have be an isolated man who did not want to interact with people especially journalists unlike President Roosevelt. Unlike his predecessor who believed in moral strength in changing the problems facing the society, President W. Taft held the opinion that the law was the only tool that could solve such problems (Abraham, 1992). Unlike President Roosevelt, President Taft was known to alienate his constituencies particularly with the introduction of the Payne-Aldrich Tariff Act while ignoring the risks that were involved. Through his antitrust law suits filed against a number of corporations that had been approved by his predecessor, President Taft lost the trust and support of the local businessmen, President Roosevelt and antitrust reformists. These events led to his failure to get re-elected for a second term.

It is obvious that the presidency plays a pivotal role in shaping the destiny of a nation in terms of initiating and improving local and international policies that address the interests of all parties involved. However, the success of these policies is heavily dependent on the relationship of the office holder and his subjects. It is imperative that the president stick to his opinion while allowing room for others to make their fair judgment of the situation if at all reforms is to work.


After the civil war in 1965, reconstruction began with President Lincoln pushing for the southern states to drop slavery and embrace civil rights for the blacks. Several developments were made. Some of them included passing the13th, 14th and 15th amendments. However, the whites crept on in the name of redemption finally breaking the rule of republicans in the South and forcing the north into a compromise. These compromises led to collapse of reconstruction and effectively caused the demise of black rights (Keene & O’Donnell, 2009, pp. 123-345).

However, reconstruction had its gains since the blacks were able to experience a period of total freedom participation in polls and gaining of knowledge through education systems. Its failures were propagated by President Johnson’s move to allow farmers to reclaim their lands. In addition, its failure also resulted from Hayes action of pulling out U.S troops thereby giving the conservative democrats a chance to seize power and bring back the old order of discrimination and denial of civil rights to African Americans by repealing amendments that had been made (Keene & O’Donnell, 2009, pp. 123-345).

Establishment of railroad promoted settlements along it with farmers, traders, ranchers and industrialist utilizing the transportation to enhance business and commerce throughout the west. This led to its industrialization and effective development (Keene & O’Donnell, 2009, pp. 123-345). Among the Presidents of United States between 1890 and 2002, Theodore Roosevelt was the best while his successor William Taft was rated as the worst. Roosevelt instigated reforms wherever he went. These reforms were founded on the country’s needs at the time. For example, his support for minorities was followed by appointment of the first Jewish secretary of Commerce, Oscar Straus. This showed his commitment to reforms and the need for presidents who not only listen to the people but critically examines their validity and effectively institute relevant reforms.

Reference List

  1. Abraham, H. J. (1992). Justices and Presidents: A Political History of Appointments to the Supreme Court (3rd ed.). New York: Oxford University Press.
  2. Dorsey, L.G. (2008). Theodore Roosevelt: the strenuous life. Texas A&M University. Voices of Democracy; 3(1): 1-16.
  3. Keene D. J., Cornell, S. & O’Donnell, T. E. (2009). Visions of America: A history of the United states, since 1865. New York: Pearson Education.
  4. Lang, J. S. (2001).The Complete Book of Presidential Trivia. New York: Pelican Publishing.
  5. Thayer, W. R. (1919). Theodore Roosevelt: An Intimate Biography, Chapter I, p. 20.

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