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Edward Hamilton

During the Reconstruction period and through American industrialization there
was an attempt to change society. Some say that attempt was a failure, but any attempt at
creating equality in society is never a failure. The human race as a whole is not very
enthusiastic about change--especially radical change. Yet in the late 1800s, radical
change is exactly what was occurring in the United States. America was shifting from an
agriculturally based economy to an industrial based one, which before utilized slave labor
as a means of production. During this transition to industrialism, the new labor force was
composed mainly of immigrants and newly-freed slaves.
During the reconstruction period, African Americans experienced an enormously
important change in thought. They called the United States their country and for the first
time felt as though they were apart of it. William Howard Day, an African American
minister, gave a speech after the end of the Civil War that included phrases such as our
nation and spoke of how the African American community can rejoice in the right to
freedom they recently received (William Howard Day, 3). This was a grand milestone on
the path to equality in America. When a community can finally feel apart of their country
after having been discriminated against and oppressed by its government and people,
there has been victory. Children who were born into slavery had known nothing different.
When the ethnicity being held in slavery feels hopeless and has no motivation to change
their circumstances simply because they think that slavery is the way it has always been
and that it will always be that way, there is no hope for change. This is why, after the
Civil War when African Americans started to feel as though they could change their
circumstances and truly be a part of this country they have lived in for years, it is clear to

see that the changes that occurred after the Civil War were so beneficial to society,
especially African American society.
Since the North took a stance against slavery during the Civil War, it became a
safe haven for freed slaves in the South. This migration of African Americans to the
North became much more realistic in the Post Civil War era due to the fact that the
African Americans did not have to be smuggled into the North through the underground
railroad. The North did not have segregation laws and paid much higher wages than the
South. Working on a farm in the South would earn an African American seventy-five
cents per day, while an industrial job in the North would earn that same African American
around three to four dollars per day. This allowed a better way of life for many blacks and
allowed them to further themselves in society. An African American could now become
educated and begin to think for oneself based on the knowledge gained through school.
The easiest way to suppress someone is by taking away their education and ability to
think, which was now not the case in America and one of the main reasons African
Americans were able to continue their fight for equality.
African Americans are able to fight for their place in American society for the first
time. They are fighting their way up in business, education, and government positions.
Slowly, African Americans are climbing the societal ladder and making themselves
known. Steven Hahn says, blacks clearly filled over 1100 elective or appointive local
offices, and they may have filled as many as 1400 or 1500, about 80 percent of which
were in rural and small-town settings(Hahn 21). African Americans have made a
break through in the rural setting, which was typically the most segregated and racist.
Hahn also speaks about the black league organizers branching out from the urban areas

and into smaller and more rural areas, in order to fight for blacks voting rights. African
Americans got the right to vote, one of Americas most important rights given to its
citizens. There were now blacks that held government roles and were in a position to
advance the African American community through government. This means voting
against segregation and discrimination laws, as well as helping to create equal
opportunities for the black community.
The western frontier also gave opportunity for all Americans, as well as
immigrants. It allowed people to migrate from the urban cities and claim their own land
in order to build their own success. It opened up more land to accommodate the large
amount of immigrants flooding into America and created more jobs by governmentsubsidized companies building the railroad to the west. The west also held large amounts
of minerals that needed to be mined, which gave jobs to immigrants. America was a
country of opportunity according to a Slovenian boy who talks of a poor peasant leaving
his village with nothing and coming back from America a wealthy man that worked in
mines in Kansas and mills in Pennsylvania (A Slovenian Boy Remembers Tales of the
Golden Country, 81). The west helped to make a young America become a major country
on the global scale. People were going back to their homeland and speaking of the great
opportunities America offers, causing more interest for people to immigrate. During this
time period not only were whites given opportunity, but other ethnicities as well. This is
the beginning of the American Dream.
Anyone could get wealthy, but not everyone could get wealthy is a great
example of the competition that was created during the industrial age. The American
Dream was a vision that someone could go out into society and attempt to build whatever

he or she pleases. It was never guaranteed to succeed, but that risk and competition is
what drives America to become great and surpass other countries in technology.
Competition breeds new and better ideas because only the best will succeed. However,
Rockefeller showed how monopolies smother and oppresses competition because of the
power they have through money and capital, being able to drive down prices so that
smaller companies cannot survive. This caused the government to become involved and
make monopolies illegal, keeping the American Dream alive. This is something that
benefitted America; in keep the competition among society to build bigger and better
things. Had the government not intervened during this time period, America would be
very different today. That difference would not be for the betterment of the country and
would mean a slower growth in technology and knowledge in the early 1900s.
Ultimately causing a less advanced country than we have today.
The late 1800s was a time of opportunity and a step towards an equal society.
African Americans gained freedom from slavery and had opportunities to be educated, in
order to further themselves. The western frontier created more jobs and supplied America
with valuable resources. It was also a place that encompassed the American Dream for
many, including immigrants. America still had a journey ahead, but the post civil war was
very beneficial in creating equality and opportunity for the entire world.