As we wrap up our unit on Realism it is important to you examine the perspectives of multiple groups in America, and their issues and concerns, after the Civil War. The three main groups we will be analyzing are immigrants to the United States (Chinese and Irish), the Native Americans, freed slaves, women and the poor. There is a lot of intersection between these groups and their causes and concerns, so know that as we examine and discuss these texts you may see many similarities.
Coming to America: Immigration and the Rise of Nativism
As immigrants from China flocked to America to work on the Transcontinental railroad in the west, Irish and Italian immigrants flocked to the large factory cities of the American Northwest. Support for immigration waned at the end of the 19th century, with many Americans becoming distrustful of, and resenting, the influx of immigrants. Review the video below, and read the primary source document “Very Few Become Americanized” and “The Dives of New York are Hot-Beds of Crime”.
Free at Last: Life for Former Slaves after the Civil War
Though finally granted their freedom, after the Civil War former slaves had to navigate life in an America that was not always receptive to their inclusion. The lack of education that slaves were burdened with made life after the war even more difficult, and the Jim Crow and Black Codes were enacted to limit African America’s rights to property, legal representation and ability to vote. Review the video below, and read the primary source documents “The people of both races will have equal accommodations” and “We had only our ignorance”.
The Last Indian Wars: An End to America’s Native People
Though systematic removal, expulsion and killing of the Native Americans has been taking place for over 400 years, by the end of the 19th century the last of the battles and skirmishes between the Native people of American and the new ‘Americans’ would come to their bloody conclusion. As the last of the tribes in the west refused to be relocated again and leave their homes, they came into direct conflict with the U.S. Government and the American citizens of the Southwest. Many young Native Americans were sent to camps and schools to ‘civilize’ them and assimilate them forcibly into white American culture. After the Indian Wars ended, the Native people of America were largely confined to reservations, and the 500+ year resistance against the non-Native people ended. Review the video, and read the primary source documents “Massacre of the Cheyenne Indians”, “I will fight no more forever” and “It was one long grave of butchered women and children and babies”. Note – these documents are very accurate, and as a result graphic, in their recounting of Native American experiences.
Women after the Civil War: “All my sex are doomed to political subjection”
The Suffrage movement continued on after the end of the Civil War, with Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony leading the way. The fight for women’s suffrage would continue on for another 40 years before women were given the right to vote. As the 19th century closed and the 20th century began, the Suffrage movement also began to focus more on issue of women’s education, legal rights and representation, domestic abuse, employment and access to medial care and birth control. We will definitely revisit the role of women’s rights again in the Harlem Renaissance and the Modernist period – until then, be sure to review the video below and read the primary source “All my sex are doomed to political subjection”.
After you’ve read these primary source document, complete a SOAPSTone Analysis for each.
Ask yourself these three questions as you analyze and compare these documents (hint: they may end up being your topic for classroom debate or an essay prompt later).
- How does the tone and voice of the document impact your perception of the events discussed? In which documents do you think the author was initially controlling the tone to achieve their purpose?
- Are they any documents, or sections of the documents, that contradict each other? What does this tell us about the author, context and purpose?
- How do the experiences of the different groups represented in these primary source documents relate to previous documents we’ve read? How do they continue the story of these minority groups in America from our last unit?