Changes in Race Relations from Reconstruction - Paper Example

Published: 2024-01-24
Changes in Race Relations from Reconstruction - Paper Example
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Race Racism United States
Pages: 5
Wordcount: 1258 words
11 min read


The three significant changes in race relations that resulted from reconstruction are constitutional amendments, changes in labor arrangements, and socio-economic status. According to Norton et al. (2014), the years of ratification saw the introduction of three constitutional amendments that addressed race relations directly or indirectly. The thirteenth amendment sought to abolish slavery within all US territories, both in the Northern and Southern states. The second significant constitutional change was the fourteenth amendment, which addressed citizenship rights and granted everyone equal protection under the law (Norton et al., 2014). Norton et al. (2014) also indicate that the third one was the fifteenth amendment, which outlawed discrimination in voting rights based on race, color, or a previous servitude situation.

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The second significant change was in labor arrangements, especially in the Southern states heavily reliant on slaves. Since the constitutional amendments had outlawed slavery, former slave owners found themselves in a position to negotiate wage labor with their former slaves (Downs & Masur, 2016). The former slaves had to work for their white landowners but a fee or share of the crop. It led to the rise of sharecropping. According to Norton et al. (2014), sharecropping is a system where the landowners and the former slaves would reach an agreement where the tenants would work on the farm for a portion of the crops produced, which would serve as compensation. Sharecropping ended up placing some former slaves in a state of permanent debt, hence influencing their socio-economic changes.

The abolition of slavery ended up creating colossal instability, primarily in the southern economies. The white landowners adopted exploitative policies that would almost resemble slave-like conditions. One of them was to promise wage for the former slaves but deny subsistence such as food and clothing that the masters had previously provided to their slaves (Downs & Masur, 2016). The freed people find themselves in a position where they had to use their small wages to pay for access to basic needs such as food, shelter, and clothing. The situation led to rampant poverty among the free people who lacked primary education or advanced skills to make reasonable wages.

Consequences of Industrialization on American Politics

Industrialization is one of the processes that propelled America to the top of the world. It had a specific significant impact on American society, politics being one of them. Industrialization led to the accumulation of wealth and power as specific individuals had managed to accumulate a considerable amount of wealth that allowed them to have significant sway in society. It led to the rising debate on whether the government should actively intervene in businesses and industrialists (Storm, 2017). According to Storm (2017), some politicians thought it would be beneficial to take a hands-off approach to significant business, while others pushed for more regulations.

There was also the rise of a labor union, which became essential players in the political field. The extensive industries employed thousands of people and led to massive unionization, especially in urban areas. The trade unionist became influential in society and leveraged their power to get their political will. They influenced the formation of policies at both the state and national levels. Some of the country’s leading politicians were former trade unionists, and their approaches were mainly meant to improve workers’ negotiating power and give them better welfare.

Furthermore, industrialization had led to the movement of people from rural to urban areas. Industrialization increased the political power of cities, which carried more votes and had more resources. The rural population experienced a decrease as more people moved to cities, searching for jobs in factories (Storm, 2017). These caused an explosion of urban population that gave urban centers increased political power. The metropolitan areas contained many votes, and policies were more focused on urban areas than the rural areas.

The Rise of the Progressive Movement

The desire and impulse to improve society led to the rise of the progressive movement. Some of the main factors that created these progressive movements were religion and social morality. According to Cook and Halpin (2010), “many of America’s social movements would not have been possible without the inspirational values and moral authority of socially conscious Christianity and Judaism.” Religious morality was applied to transform and improve American society (Cook & Halpin, 2010). During the industrial age, the faith traditions sought to steer the country away from the exploitation of the workers, which was rampant at the time, to a more cooperative economic life.

The two reform movements that helped define the progressive era were done at the national level. The sixteenth amendment gave Congress the power to lay and collect income tax (Norton et al., 2014). President Wilson had wanted to reduce the influence of big business by lowering tariffs. It worked, but the government found itself with reduced revenue, and to provide more support to the government, he introduced the income tax that would vary depending on the individuals’ or corporations’ income. The wealthy saw it as punishment, but it helped rebuild the financial prospects of the country.

The seventeenth amendment made a provision for US senators’ direct election (Norton et al., 2014). The amendment reflected the corruption and inefficiency that had characterized the legislative elections of the US senators. The reform reduced the legislature’s power and transferred it to the American public, who decided on the senators they wanted. It also reduced the influence that large companies and other special interests had on the election of senators.

Role of American Imperialism

America’s growing power in the 19th century led to increased imperialism, which led to their involvement in several conflicts worldwide. One of the consequences of American imperialism was Hawaii’s annexation and participation in the Philippines’ war. According to Norton et al. (2014), the Hawaiian Islands had always captured American religious, commercial, missionary, naval, and diplomatic interests. According to Norton et al. (2014), Hawaii proved to be of strategic importance as it was a stop station to Asia and particularly the Philippines in the Spanish-American war. The American imperialism was motivated by the desire for new markets, especially in Asia hence the colonization of the Philippines (Office of the Historian)

The American imperialist interests had extended to the Caribbean, which placed them on a collision course with Spain (Norton et al., 2014). The Spanish-American was caused by a range of factors, including the growing American interest in new markets for its goods. But American imperialism did not play a direct role in America’s decision to join World War 1 as it did with the Spanish-American war. The Germans embarked on a campaign to deny the Americans access to the British and larger European markets by sinking American merchant ships. That move prompted the Americans to join the First World War because they wanted to maintain and increase their growing influence in Europe, as they had done in the Pacific and Caribbean regions.


Cook, M., & Halpin, J. (2010). The Role of Faith in the Progressive Movement. Center for American Progress.

Downs, G. P., & Masur, K. (2016). The Era of Reconstruction: 1861-1900. The National Historic Landmarks Program

Norton, B. M., Katzman, M. D., Blight, W. D., Chudacoff, H., & Logevall, F. (2014). A People and a Nation: A History of the United States, Brief 10th Edition. Cengage Learning.

Office of the Historian. (n.d). The Philippine-American War, 1899–1902.,or%20Japan)%20might%20do%20so.

Storm, S. (2017). The Political Economy of Industrialization: Introduction to Development and Change Virtual Issue. Development and Change.

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