The Progressive Era in the United States

The progressive era occurred between 1901 and 1917 mainly as a result of political and corporate exploitations that were taking place in American. There were calls from the spiritual leaders, the media and the radical supporting groups for reforms in the capitalist nature of the American economy; however, President Roosevelt Theodore supported the reforms by encouraging proper environmental management strategies, calling for adjudication in the Anthracite coal strike and disbanding the economic monopolies that were exploiting the Americans.

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The social reformers acted on the social standards that they felt were having a negative influence on the Americans and included the likes of Jane Adams, who founded the settlement house movement, Margaret Sanger who educated the economically disadvantaged people living in the cities about the benefits of planned families, and Booker T. Washington who founded the Tuskegee institute that educated the black Americans trading skills that help them to improve their standard of living and to gain the respect of the whites.

Another group of reformers was the muckrakers who engaged in exposing the corruption in the government. The journalists were able to bring to the limelight the abuses of the public resources; they were also able to highlight negligence by the government, for instance, Jacob Riis exposed the poor living conditions in some parts of the urban areas and the low quality of the housing in such regions. Another journalist, Upton Sinclair, released information about the indiscriminate killing of the African Americans, exposed the poor working conditions in the meat factories. The question of civilization and equality arose where claims were made to ensure equal treatment of all people regardless of their race, rather than concentrating wealth on a specific race (Carnegie, para. 2).

Another group of reformers was the city reformers that focused on handling the corruption issues within the urban regions. Corruption in the urban centers was being perpetuated by the politicians and so the city reformers came up with strategies that changed the management systems within the cities in order to reduce corruption (Steffens para. 3). In order to achieve this, the cities came up with a plan in which the major functions of the cities were placed into departments and an individual was made in charge of each of the departments, answerable to the city council.

The state reformers were focused on changing or improving the system of governance and informing the government about the needs of the people. Some of these reforms that were put in place allowed the voters to cast their votes secretly without anyone knowing about their decisions, to voice their concern about a bill that they would want to be passed, to decide if a proposed bill should be passed, dismiss the election of a candidate and elect the leaders and not the party officials.

The last group of reforms was in the federal government that aimed at protecting the natural resources, strengthening previous economic bylaws and safeguarding the health and the safety of the American citizenry. The reforms also aimed at preventing monopolies by companies and also forced the companies to include the components of the manufactured food substances on the product label. Basically, the progressive era is characterized by some major amendments in the history of the United States and they include the 16th amendment that allowed the congress to levy the income of individuals, the 17th amendment allowed the citizens to elect the senators; the 18th amendment prohibited the production, distribution or sale of alcoholic drinks and the 19th amendment allowed the women to vote.

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Progressivism brought a lot of change to America. It allowed for the consideration of the rights of the minorities like the blacks in government’s decisions. During this time, the blacks had been facing a lot of discrimination from the whites and there was a need to protect them; a number of blacks were being assassinated and they were also not allowed equal rights with the whites. The progressive movement at least voiced these concerns and some amendments were made, the result of which was the improvement of the educational system which enabled the common people to acquire more knowledge on various issues. As more blacks and women gained access to education, they became more informed and were, therefore, able to make better and informed decisions.

The introduction of the income tax increased the government’s proceeds and as a result enabled it to provide more services to its citizenry. Earlier on, no tax was levied on the income earned by the Americans but after the 16th amendment was made, it was agreed that an income tax will be levied on the salaries earned by individuals. The movement also succeeded in having the disbanding of the business monopolies that exploited the consumers and prevented the entry and success of small businesses.

The movement made the company owners and the manufacturers be considerate of the consumer’s interests about the goods they manufactured. Earlier on, the manufactures exploited the consumers and some of them were not keen on informing the consumers about the content of the products that they were using. The progressive era saw the enactment of a law that forced all the manufacturers to indicate the components of the products that they produced. The movements also allowed the enactment of laws that led to the improvement of sanitation in the food-producing companies. This specifically happened after a journalist had raised issues concerning the unhygienic conditions at the meat processing factories. As a result of the alarms raised by journalists about the poor living conditions in the urban centers, the buildings code was passed in order to enhance the quality of the buildings built. The movement resulted in the voters being given the right to elect the political leaders or have an elected leader ousted out of office.

In addressing the unequal treatment of the blacks and the whites, Washington asked the blacks to postpone persistence on constitutional rights, political influence and higher learning for the African American adolescents and advised them to concentrate on business and industrial activities (Bois para. 2). This led to faster development of the blacks but after some time, it became quite clear that the blacks had become inferior to the whites with regards to civil service. This was because most of them had no educational qualifications. It also led to a continuous reduction in the educational fund that was meant for the instructions where the black children learn. This approach by Washington mainly focused on trading and making money but it did not educate the people to aspire for higher goals. This approach did not work in the long term since it would not have been possible for an individual to succeed if he or she had no political privileges.

If politics become commercialized then the public may be forced to provide a market for good leadership. There was great bias against the blacks and most of them could not have and access to education and proper employment opportunities. Some of the black women were therefore forced to seek household jobs from the whites; these women always got overworked at a very minimal (Baker and Cooke para. 5). It may not be justifiable for the blacks to criticize the whites who have been able to acquire wealth mainly because the whites have worked hard to achieve this and it is even right for them to use it in a way they please. In addition, not all wealth is acquired through corruption but an individual can engage in business activities and obtain a lot of wealth (Cornwell para. 6).

The progressive era in America occurred between 1901- 1917 and it came as a result of political and corporate abuses. There were calls from the spiritual leaders, the media and the radical supporting groups for reforms in the capitalist nature of the American economy. Progressivism brought a lot of change to America; it allowed for the consideration of the rights of the minorities like the blacks and as a result of the movement, the educational system was improved, enabling the common people to acquire more knowledge on various issues. As more blacks and women gained access to education, they became more informed and were, therefore, able to make better and informed decisions. The movement also succeeded in having to disband the business monopolies that exploited the consumers and restricted the entry of small businesses. The movement also made the company owners and the manufacturers be considerate of the consumer’s interests in the goods they manufactured.

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Works Cited

Baker, Ella and Cooke, Marvel. “The slave market.” The slave market. 1935.

Carnegie, Andrew. “Gospel of Wealth.” Gospel of Wealth. 1889.

Cornwell, Russell. “Acres of Diamond.” Acres of Diamond. 1901.

Du Bois, William Edward B. “Of Mr. Booker T. Washington.” Of Mr. Booker T. Washington. 1903.

Steffens, Lincoln. “The Shame of the Cities.” The Shame of the Cities. 1904.

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