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Progressive Movement Rise on Turn of the 20th Century

The beginning of the 20th century might be marked as a crucial historical point for the United States, reflecting the state’s political and industrial establishment as a national unit. However, despite the emergence of rapidly growing political and industrial reforms, it was only the second half of the century that claimed the country’s superiority on the world stage, making dozens of other states follow the US’ suit. Before this shift, the US was forced to undergo a series of drastic revolutionary events for the material development of the nation to comply with its social growth. Thus, the period of the 1890s – 1920s in the US was called “the progressive era,” claiming the following timeframe to be the decisive step in the history of liberalism expansion across the state.

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The very emergence of the Progressive movement was primarily initiated by the middle class’s extremely high levels of discontent with the ongoing superiority of oligarchy that was aiming at monopolizing the industrial market. The Industrial Revolution, being a central issue of interest at the time, bore too much mystery around the concept, as then society was not well-prepared to such radical changes (Schambra & West, 2007). Thus, with people obtaining a better perspective of the economic and social prospects of the nations, intellectuals and middle-class representatives decided to voice their concerns and expectations in a rather radical way. After long yet successful social action, American citizens managed to gain certain advantages, including:

  • The gradual elimination of governmental corruption;
  • Citizen’s active engagement in the national legislative processes;

However, despite the positive connotation of the Progressive Era as a notion, there was a series of unfortunate outcomes of the movement that required years of healing afterward, with US citizens able to experience consequences even nowadays. When speaking of any radical social activism movement, it is of crucial importance to take into account the socio-economic and historical precedents that surrounded the following period. Considering the timeframe of the Progressive movement, it should be mentioned that then US society was facing some severe cultural and social discrimination issues at the time, limiting the opportunities of African Americans within the state.

Thus, the movement led primarily by white Americans inevitably resulted in a noticeable distinction between the rights and privileges of whites and African Americans. Hence, despite the activists’ desire to redefine the notion of political and economic freedom in the US, the peculiarities of this definition remained constrained by various external factors. At the time, American society was perplexed by the Supreme Court’s decision to employ racial segregation among all the social classes existing in the state. According to the doctrine, while middle-class representatives were exposed to equal rights in terms of access to basic education and labor, the facilities were divided into the ones working with while Americans and ones created exclusively for African Americans (Fiorito & Foresti, 2017). Thus, although the accomplishments of the movement were seemingly equally beneficial, US social, cultural, and political development was faced with the issue, which was tackling its residents since the very national formation – discrepancy in social perception and general respect for human rights.

Taking everything into consideration, it might be concluded that the Progressive Era is, by all means, a significant chapter of US history, implying that each period plays a crucial role in the overall diachronic state development. However, while it is a common practice to perceive this period positively due to its establishment of democracy and liberalism fundamentals, the Progressive movement included some negative aspects as well. Thus, the following part of national history resulted in a contribution to the overall development of racism and discrimination in terms of culture, social relations, and political engagement within the country.


Fiorito, L., & Foresti, T. (2017). Economists and Eugenics: Progressive Era Racism and Its (Jewish) Discontents. In Hayek: A Collaborative Biography (pp. 317-353). Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.

Schambra, W. A., & West, T. (2007). The Progressive movement and the transformation of American politics. Web.

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