American history starts with many years back, right from its discovery by Christopher Columbus. Then came The War of Independence referred to as the American Revolution. Generally, the historical events and the history of America are monumental in nature. This means that every move that was done during those early days has ever left an impression. This paper will exhaustively examine the independence of the united ideals and social life through people who made history in the post American Revolution and or independence era. Booker T. Washington and Jane Addams will be at the center of focus and their social enigma. Before then, a little of slavery, the American Revolution or the American Independence War and the Civil War will set the pace for this paper as this war the mirror for their turning points. Lastly the paper will compare the two giant figures of the American history, coincidently they were black Americans.
Early History and Slavery
Transatlantic slave trade was one of the biggest and most intriguing trade expeditions. After explorers went around adventuring, they discovered very good grounds for their goods and others to take home. Arabs also exchanged the good with the people from Spain and Portugal who were very good in seafaring. This writing will examine the causes of transatlantic trade and what made it successful. The trade itself was triangular as some people up to date call it. The trade exclusively specialized in slave trade. As early as the year 1440 the Portuguese had established routes around Africa. This is the year and region respectively that slave trade had been started. The Portuguese established the institution of slavery trade was one of the main economic activities. These were the people to implant an implement the banning of slave.
Some slaves were killed and the mistreatment against them increased time after time and they were seen as lesser beings. Black people or the African slaves were more discriminated than any other people. Their color vividly identified them from the mulattos. Their language also was identifying them clearly. There was also a belief among the whites in Europe that Africans were not full humanlike as their white counterparts. Racism started when Africans and other minorities were considered to be inferior. Some people thought that others are so clever and had superior thinking capacities and they were seen as a danger.
The Revolution and the Civil War
The American Revolution started in the year 1775. The war had been accelerated by indifferences of commerce or trade and traditions between the British and America. The revolution which also came to be known as The American War of Independence was based on the mission that all men were created equal to enjoy liberty, life and happiness. This was the message that had the radicalism for change. The revolution made thirteen states win independence from the Great Britain. The American Revolution was an independence movement that was too radical. This paper will analyze the Revolution and some constitutional clauses that were controversial and how they were addressed.
The Americans started the revolution or the War for Independence to free themselves from the chains of the colonists and the Great Britain. (Wood 1993) notes that “This is one of the greatest revolutions the world has ever known; it unleashed the social forces that transformed the American society in the years between 1760 and 1820, the change from a monarchial, deferential and static society to a liberal, democratic and commercial one. It was a revolution of the mind, in which the concept of equality, democracy and private interests were grasped by hundreds of thousands of Americans, transformed a country nearly overnight. ”
The Americans had and their rights fundamentally subverted by the British. Several grievances were raised by the Americans against the British government which had caused suffering to the people of America. The first one was about the taxes that were imposed on them which were exorbitant in disguise of collecting revenue. The British had established a board of commissioners with unconstitutional powers to collect the revenue. This revenue was only benefiting the British because it was not channeled back to the colonies to develop them. Another grievance was concerned with the way the colonists or Americans were arrested and transported over long distances to Britain to be charged there of accusations like treason. The Bills of Rights clearly forbid these arbitrary arrests and judgments. The bill of rights also regulated on how the searches and seizures should be conducted by prohibiting unreasonably searching and arresting of people. If there could be arrests then prosecutions were to be conducted speedily within the district where the crime was committed. This avoided the long distance over which people were taken to be charged.
After the revolution and the banning of slavery, many of the southern states were in turmoil and there was growing tension between the freed slaves and the worried masters. (Stampp 1990) notes, “As tension grew with time segregation took a new turn as gangs were formed to kill and main the black population”. This is the time when gangs like Ku Klux Klan were formed not for the good but to kill and scare the black people who were now free to go to school, open up shops and engage in any other business to sustain themselves. The black population or the freed slaves had started in embarking in the reconstruction of their lives after long suffering under slavery by developing their homes and counties after the war had ended.
Throughout this century (19th century) there was tension as witnessed in the southern states. There were lynchings in these southern parts of the United States because many white families were blaming the black freed slaves for their financial woes. But even some whites were lynched for the reason that they were against slavery and another claim was that they supported the black families to establish themselves after horrible experiences. For instance in the span of 85 years that is 1882-1968 almost five thousand lynchings occurred in the United States where about 75% accounted for the black and many of them were in the southern parts. (Wood 1993).
After the civil war the black people were enjoying many rights like voting, getting formal employment and going to schools. Louisiana was the only first state in the south that tried integration whereby blacks and whites went to the same schools, it legalized interracial marriages, black senator were elected and all sectors had blacks working within. This was the cause of hate for blacks not only in Louisiana but almost in all the southern states. Many states had even enacted black codes to limit the blacks, one such code was the tax that was imposed on freed slaves who pursued other careers apart from agriculture.
Booker T. Washington and the Tuskegee Institute
Booker T. Washington was born around the year 1858 in the state of Virginia. This was the time when slavery and the conditions of slaves were horrible. They were living in wooden cabins and they worked for long ours. They had no warm clothing during winter. Mothers and fathers had no time for their families. Thousands if not millions of the slaves had these same conditions. It was illegal for slaves and children to go to schools. Elderly people who could no longer work in the plantations were abandoned in far away forest to die there because they no longer had any value. For Booker T. Washington, he lived together with his mother, brother and sister until the day slavery was abolished and all slaves were declared free. He was not schooling, “but occasionally he carried books of here mistress to the a school house door and the picture of children studying in class had an enormous impression in him and the urge in him was that one day he will go to school” (Washington 1995). The news of the civil war was rife and slaves were praying for Abraham Lincoln and the Union forces from the north. Their win meant freedom for the slaves in the southern states.
Booker T. started learning the alphabets from a book at home and their mother helped them where she could even though ignorant. At around this time a young colored man joined them and he was able to read. Booker T. felt the envy that one day he could read that way. Black people started talking about building a school for their children in the village, “the discussion of opening a school for black children and to be the first one in Virginia excited the wildest interests” (Washington 1995). The question of finding a teacher nagged the villager but they were fortunate at the time they were stranded a young man had been a teacher for the colored came about and he was immediately employed and every villager contributed towards his upkeep. Booker T Washington looked forward to for the teacher to take a night in their cabin because he was accommodated in turns by the villagers (Washington 1995).
After a long struggle to join school like other children which his step father had denied him, he did his tricks and went to school but with a strict time table that before and after school he must work, he complied and worked as he went to school until sometime later he was employed by a white mistress who was very strict with everything. With his meager salary of $5 a month Booker T. was able to join Hampton college in 1872 with and encouragement from Mrs. Ruffner the mistress employer. After a torturous journey to Hampton which took several days, at last he went to class once again but joining the college was another hill to climb but he managed. He only passed a tempting entry examination which was given by the headmistress of the school, sweeping and cleaning a room. He later worked there as a janitor. After completion of college, he managed to assist many other blacks including his siblings to study as far as Hampton. He later joined Wayland seminary in Washington and graduated and again went back to Hampton to work as a teacher. He was recommended from Hampton to lead Tuskegee College which was training teachers in the year 1881. At his age and leadership in this college, the college attained excellence and opened ways for more students and many practical skills were offered to cover the gap which was waiting for the black population.
From experience of his suffering and the way he saw many black people suffer, he encouraged more schools to be built and many teachers were trained. He set a very positive example of fighting a social problem that was too heavy for the freed people.
Jane Addams and Hull House
Jane Addams was born in the year 1860 in Illinois. He was a graduate from Rockford seminary. He was more a social worker after he founded one of the world renowned settlement schemes in Chicago. Her concern was the housing problems that were caused by urbanization which was in turn caused by industrialization and immigration in many cities. Hull House is where she stayed while working until her death in 1935. The problem of housing especially for the black population was enormous and nagging especially in cities. By that time racial segregation was the order of the day. Many settlements were for the working middle class women and men. Poor people were only crowded to some place where there was pollution and other evils like crime and bootlegging.
Jane Addams among the first to be at Hull House many activities were coordinated from there. In the nineteen twenties when many blacks were settling there, Jane and other residents started many projects to uplift the standards of living here. Among the projects were day care nursery centers for working mothers, a library, classes for arts and music, an employment bureau and many other things. She promoted very activity that generated money for the residents and many other cultural events. She was a prolific writer and sometimes she wrote on events that were going on in Hull House. She was simply a social worker, rights activist, an educationist and international figure. She with other women came together and formed a movement to fight for the rights of the immigrants. She was against war especially the First World War as she actively participated in the women suffrage.
These two personalities left a mark in the history of the United States of America in the 19th century. There had many things in common. They fought for the education of colored people i.e. the black population. In education sector, Booker T. Washington struggled to go to school through college and became a teacher inspiring many black people to get educated. He also, enrolled many black students in school and college to bridge the ratio of teachers to students. He even elected tents in the school compound to accommodate more students. While Booker T. Washington was doing all these, Jane Addams built libraries in her suburb in Chicago and fought for the rights of girls to get education. Booker T. Washington knew that education itself will fight poverty, ignorance and disease. Jane Addams fought for quality education programs and social cohesiveness as she says, “Ignorance, disease and crime are the result of economic desperation and not flaw in moral character” (Addams 1999). Both of them agitated for and assisted to build more schools. She worked for African Americans’ welfare in all ways in her life as Booker Washington fought for them actively in his last twenty years to his death.
Both Booker Washington and Jane Addams shared a common cause like they encouraged industrial arts for African Americans. This was evident as Jane Addams built theaters in Hull House. In legal issues Booker Washington used his resources secretly to fund attorney to represent black people in court cases in other hand on the same line of legal matters Jane Addams out rightly fought for fair application of laws for the black people in Chicago. Booker T. Washington did not have any grudge for whites considering the suffering he went through as a slave boy and the segregation he suffered in his you. It was clear that even the whites like him and his range of wisdom. Likewise Jane Addams chose to stay in Hull House with the middle class and the poor regardless of her international status, whereby she reminded people that good neighborhood was a cornerstone to respect for others regardless of color. However, education and housing were there important social challenges that were to be dealt with first and foremost.
From the American Revolution, then the civil and eventually the much fought for freedom for the blacks were the tempting time of all Americans especially the blacks. Right from their slavery to freedom their social and educational lives were challenging but among rose men and women who voiced these problems openly and they were listened to. Among the many Booker T. Washington and Jane Addams will be remembered in generations to come. They socially and financially contributed not to their cause but the cause of and for many. They lived far apart, they may only be hearing of each other and they never met but what they did was the same. These personalities left legacies and more so social structures that have lived through the 20th century and they are there today and for posterity. The constitution of America which granted and sure fired equal rights and happiness for all men and women is confirmed through these two great and gigantic personalities.
Addams, J. (1999). Twenty Years at Hull House, 2nd Edition. New York: Bedford/St. Martins.
Stampp, K. M. (1990). America in 1857: A Nation on the Brink. New York: Oxford University Press.
Washington, B. T. (1995). Up From Slavery: An Autography. New York: Dover Publications.
Wood, G. (1993). The Radicalism of The American Revolution. New York: Vintage Publishers.