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U.S. History: Reconstruction, American Imperialism, Immigration


The Reconstruction was effective in reincorporating the South but failed to “deal” with ex-slaves. As a result, the Reconstruction was a mix of successes and failures. It succeeded in uniting the South and the North after President Andrew Johnson adopted and implemented Lincoln’s Ten Percent Plan by pardoning many Confederacy officials. The Radical Republicans made aggressive efforts in ensuring the South does not secede again. Among the strategies put in place was installing pro-Republican and Unionist governments in the South and enfranchising the blacks. Fortunately, by the end of Reconstruction, the South and North were united, and all the states had abolished slavery. However, the issue of former slaves had not been solved despite numerous progressive efforts. The three amendments made were the Thirteenth Amendment, Fourteenth Amendment, and Civil Rights Act of 1875. Their purpose was to end slavery, give citizenship to ex-slaves, and ban racial segregation in public places but failed terribly (Zinn 164). The loopholes in the system included the conservative Supreme Court and Southern legislature. These bodies enacted ‘black codes,” including sharecropping and voter qualification that ensured that black lives did not improve. Hence, the unfounded statement that “slavery ended a long time ago” was misleading since the “black codes” introduced new methods of enhancing the continuity of slavery. Thus, African Americans are not to blame for living in poverty, instead, structural and institutional policies put in place ensured their continued oppression.

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The Yellow Peril Movement

In the 19th century, many Chinese immigrants were allowed into America to offer cheap labor. The idea was to replace the slave labor after the emancipation of the blacks. However, the white nativists viewed Chinese immigrants as a threat to their livelihoods and subjected them to racism by calling them the “yellow peril.” Even though the Yellow Peril was a movement of the past, it connects directly to the hate crimes Asians face today. Mostly, Asians are perceived as the minority and threat to employment in America. The emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic made it worse for Asians as they are blamed for introducing the disease to the world. The court case in the primary source is about Wong Kim Ark, who was born by Chinese immigrant parents in San Francesco, California but was denied citizenship on the grounds that he was Chinese and not American (Chin). However, the Supreme Court ruled that he was a U.S citizen as per the provisions of the Civil Rights Act of 1866. Ark’s denial of citizenship was against the U.S. constitution and all the virtues since anyone born in the U.S., regardless of race or color, is a citizen.

American Imperialism

Many historians claim the 19th century was the age of American imperialism. The claim is absolutely valid since America had maintained the policy of isolationism from independence. However, Manifest Destiny promoted westward expansion and the annexation of Texas after the Mexican- American War of 1846-48. Toward the end of the century, America intensified its imperialism by attempting to take over Spanish territories of Hawaii, Cuba, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines, which was a success (Zinn 308). Thus, it is true that American imperialism occurred entirely in the 19th century. The takeover of Hawaii and the Spanish-American War raised many concerns. I agree with the intervention of America to end the brutal control of the Spanish over Cuba and other territories. However, I believe the takeover of those countries was unethical. The Spanish colonies had been under the oppressive rule for the longest time, and all they wanted was freedom. The U.S. transferred colonialism from the Spanish to itself, which undermined the sovereignty and democracy of the territories. Therefore, understanding the takeover of Hawaii and the Spanish-American War depicts the U.S. double standards on democracy. The U.S. complicates the idea of democracy for failing to recognize that Hawaii, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines deserved independence and not a new colonial power.

Immigration and Immigration Laws

The United States has not always opened doors equally to all people. First, the slaves, despite being shipped from distant countries, were mistreated even after emancipation. Second, the immigrants have constantly been mistreated in the country. Strict and harsh laws have always been enacted to ensure control of immigrants and immigration. For instance, during the Yellow Peril Movement in the 19th century, the Chinese Exclusion Act aimed at restricting Chinese immigrants to the U.S., especially to California (Zinn 189). Additionally, the act declared that Chinese immigrants did not qualify for naturalization. In the 1920s, the Asian immigrants faced even more challenging laws after the U.S. adopted the Immigration Act in 1924. The act introduced quotas, which limited the number of immigrants based on their existing population in America as per the previous census statistics. The instituted quota allowed a visa for only two percent of the total population of people of a particular nationality (Zinn 193). Hence, the 1920s immigration laws reflect the recent U.S. stance on immigration where citizens of distinct nationalities are banned entirely from entering American borders. President Trump signed various executive orders banning immigrants from specific Islamic nations that were perceived terrorist sympathizers. Based on the understanding, the phrase “I’m not against immigration, I’m just against illegal immigration” can be complicated to state, “I support immigration, but conditions must be met.”

Works Cited

Zinn, Howard. A People’s History of the United States: 1492-Present. 3rd ed., Routledge, 2015.

Chin, Philip. “March 28, 1898 – United States vs. Wong Kim Ark.” Chinese American Heroes, Web.

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