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Race Relations during the Progressive Era Essay


The progressive era is a period covering the late nineteenth century and the early twentieth century (Kirby 2). During this period, Americans faced a lot of problems. The need to solve the problems led to the emergence of pro-reform groups. These groups had been labeled populists just before the beginning of the progressive era. The progressive era was characterized by agitation for social, political, economic, and legal reforms.

During this era, the American constitution was amended several times to accommodate the reforms. Political debate revolved around the need for reforms. However, these reforms did not immediately reach all sections of the American society that needed to be reformed. For instance, racial relations continued to be strained. This paper will examine racial relations in America during the progressive era.

Racial relations received little attention during the progressive period. As the reformers agitated for social reforms, the gains that had been made with regard to racial relations appeared to deteriorate. The abolition of slave trade had ushered in a new era in America. The progressive era coincided with the era of great immigration into the United States of America. Some reformers were not comfortable with the idea of maintaining an open door policy to immigrants.

They proposed a careful selection of the immigrants by the government to reduce the possibility of immigrants outbreeding the native whites. Majority of the immigrants during this period were of Italian, Slavic, and Asian descent. The proponents of racial selection thought that these races were inferior. They feared that immigrants could adapt more easily to urban life than the ‘native’ whites. Therefore, vetting would ensure that only a few immigrants entered America.

Blacks and the so called colored people did not obtain a lot of benefits from the reforms. It was during this era that some controversial laws were enforced in some states. The Jim Crow laws allowed racial segregation. In this arrangement, black people were to be separated from white people.

This meant that black people attended separate schools, visited separate hospitals, and travelled in separate buses from the ones used by white people (Washington 380). This was worsened by a court ruling that upheld the laws. The Supreme Court ruled that racial segregation was not a big problem as long as all races were accorded equal opportunities. This meant that African Americans could not get good jobs.

In addition, black people were often attacked or lynched especially in the southern states during the era (Kirby 70). During the era, black people were not granted equal opportunity to participate in national politics. This significantly hindered their ability to better themselves.

The reforms were intended to solve problems that slowed progress. The major problems that progressives sought to solve included poverty, illness, and ignorance.

However, these problems could only be solved if all members of the American society were granted equal access to opportunities. Denying African Americans and immigrants of certain races equal opportunity meant that these problems would persist in a section of the American society. Therefore, the so called progressive era did not have a significant impact on members of the ‘lesser races’.

This paper examined racial relations during the progressive era. During this era, reformers desired to solve problems inflicting the American society. Some Americans like African Americans were not given sufficient opportunity to better themselves during this period.

Works Cited

Kirby, Jack, Darkness at the Dawning: Race and Reform in the Progressive South, Philadelphia: J. P. Lippincott, 1972. Print.

Washington, Booker, A New Negro For a New Century, Miami: Mnemosyne Publishing, 1969. Print.

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IvyPanda. 2019. "Race Relations during the Progressive Era." February 1, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/race-relations-during-the-progressive-era/.

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IvyPanda. (2019) 'Race Relations during the Progressive Era'. 1 February.

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