Slavery, Sectarianism, a growing sentiment of having more rights for the states were the prime reasons behind consolidating the secessionist forces in America, which finally led to the four year Civil War from 1861 to 1865 (Porter 2017). In the Post Civil War period, the primary concern was to instill the spirit of unity and diversity in the country. It was during that the idea of America being a melting pot of cultures gained currency, and efforts both at the societal and the political level were undertaken for the purpose. The concern herein is to discuss the role of the Progressive and the Agrarian Populist Movements in forging the spirit of unity in the country.
The Progressive Movement spanned from 1890 to 1920 (Porter 2017). It was basically a civil society movement which aimed at the eradication of certain social evils which was deemed as detrimental to the harmonious co-existence of various ethnicities that resided in the country. The movement harped upon launching attack on several social issues which involved, the removal of economic inequality induced by rampant industrialization and the consequent swift urbanization; devoting a deep insight into the problems caused by immigration which basically concerned itself with tackling issues like assimilation and naturalization; and also forcing the government to give up on the corrupt political practices which sought to divide people, vested with selfish interests (DeWitt 2017). The movement had achieved success in terms of universal adult suffrage, bridging the problem of gender inequality, and in bringing about an improvement in the living and working conditions of the labour class by introducing unionization and putting an end to child labour (Porter 2017). Despite having a noble motive, the movement was highly fragmented and full of contradictions which caused the political leaders to be pitted against each other. The movement had incorporated too many agendas to be addressed which was why it had failed to address the problem of racialism and the tension between the Africans and the Whites (Porter 2017). Nevertheless, the movement did prove to be watershed moment for the entire nation, and a basis for demand for civil rights and equality for future generations.
It would not be unjustified to say that the Agrarian populist movement of the 1890s had derived inspiration form the Progressive Movement in tackling the specific problems that persisted in the agricultural sector, namely, the economic problems that the farmers were facing as a result of the Great Depression (McCarty, Poole and Rosenthal 2016). The Movement had been successful in making the government pass several fiscal and agricultural policies that ensured, that the farmers got the due share of their sale price; regulation of the banks and the corporations so that the negative cascading effects of the Great Depression does not affect them (McCarty, Poole and Rosenthal 2016). The movement had thus been significant as under the headship of the People’s Party it had effected a betterment of the conditions of the farmers in the country (DeWitt 2017). Similarly, the civil rights of the Blacks, spearheaded by Martin Luther King was also a legacy of the Progressive Era (DeWitt 2017). This demonstrates the fact that the Progressive Movement had inspired quite a lot of issue-specific, autonomous movements in the country which had eventually restored unto the people the rights they deserved.
Porter, K., 2017. Press Coverage of Internal Divisions Over Reform Judaism, 1905-1920: A Classic Tale of the American Progressive Movement. Historical Perspectives: Santa Clara University Undergraduate Journal of History, Series II, 22(1), p.11.
DeWitt, B.P., 2017. The progressive movement: A non-partisan comprehensive discussion of current tendencies in American politics. Routledge.
McCarty, N., Poole, K.T. and Rosenthal, H., 2016. Polarized America: The dance of ideology and unequal riches. mit Press.