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The Plight of Minorities and Progressive Era: Analytical Essay

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The history of America in terms of minorities has always been a rollercoaster of hardships and triumphs. Minorities included every ethnic group that was not born in America and people of color. These minorities included, but were not limited to; immigrants, Mexicans, Japanese Americans, and African Americans. There are certain eras in which minorities soared and others in which minorities were treated with discrimination in the face of injustice. It is important to note that though there had been highs for minority rights throughout sometimes in the history of America, there was always deep underlying discrimination and unfair treatment towards minorities no matter which era America was going through.

The progressive era is described as, “a way of describing a broad, loosely defined political movement of individuals.” (Foner, 692) These groups of loosely defined individuals would do so in hopes of the possibility of bringing about changes in the American political and social aspects of the American way of living. During this specific era, women were also among minorities and would not be treated the same as men. For women, during the progressive era, there were some highs for them on account of protecting standing up for one another. There were female organizations that were created to protect women and children from the possibility of being treated unfairly to be able for men to take advantage of them and to protect against the middle class who felt threatened by women.

In the cities, women were able to make a name for themselves. There was “new visibility of women in urban public places…” (Foner, 700) Women were now seen as “working women” Throughout the urban parts of town, instead of being stepped over, women were able to work in shops, spend their money at these shops and go to entertain themselves at the dances and theatres freely. This coming from same America that saw women as degrading and not as worthy as the masculine gender was a big deal for all women. This, according to the text, “indicated that traditional gender roles were changing dramatically in Progressive America.” (Foner, 700) The idea of gender roles had a very clear line and bar set for it before this time but once the progressive era began, the lines were blurred and it was acceptable to see our women as strong and independent in nature.

During the progressive era, though immigrants had been immigrating for years at this point, the percentage of immigrants coming to America was at its peak during the progressive era. This prompted all immigrants, especially Mexican Americans, on their quest for freedom.

Most, if not all, immigrants came to America during this era hoping to find new beginnings and opportunities to live the American Dream. What the found was not the exact thing that they had envisioned. Immigrants were grateful that America was immensely better than their home origin region but they still suffered throughout a lot. Each benefit of immigrating to America came with a huge downside. For example, there were plenty of ways to make money with all sorts of jobs but immigrants were only given the bottom of the barrel jobs that could lead them nowhere near to what the white man American way of living was. They were giving jobs but they were giving long hours in unsafe work environments. Though they were given many hours, they were severely underpaid and suffered through it all because it was either to deal with it or go back to where they came from. Immigrants suffered discrimination in the workplace environment and throughout their everyday life.

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They lived throughout their own ethnic group religions, nowhere near the white Americans. The text states, “Mexican immigrants became poorly paid agricultural, mine and railroad laborers.” (Foner, 699) And these jobs were given with no possibility to advance. They got the job they were given and learned to live with it. Though these aspects of life were not what they expected, they still got to enjoy some of the things that America had to offer. This included cities and activities, despite not having the appropriate amount of money to do so, they were in America and they were supposedly free.

The Civil Rights movement was an empowering and emotional era for the United States. Minorities stood up for themselves like no other. Question the elected officials and the constitution concerning what their definition of “freedom” was because they were not following it correctly. There were definitely more highs during Civil Rights for minorities than there was during the Progressive Era.

Groups during the Civil Rights Movement immensely made a difference in the motion of deterring the plight of minorities in America. Throughout the civil rights era, there was a “rising tide of protest” in which a committee is known as the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee which dedicated its group to “replacing the culture of segregation with a ‘beloved community’” (Foner,985) Different communities and groups were launched from all places to accelerate the Civil Rights Movement.

Minorities and the injustice and unfair treatment they had endured for years were finally getting noticed and were being paid the attention that they had been needing for years! The Congress of Racial Equality, better known as CORE created many internal movements such as Freedom Riders who would fight for the ending of segregation on bus rides.

Both the Progressive Era and the Civil Rights Era incorporated such movements and parts that made way for equality and justice in the face of minorities. When looking at and comparing the two to see whether one helped alleviate these injustices faster than the other, the Civil Rights Era would take the reign. Though the progressive era was filled with high moments in history for some minorities, there was not enough being done throughout the communities to fix the wrongs that were happening to the majority of the minority population. The Civil Rights Era was filled with nothing but a voice to change these injustices. Hence the name was given to the Era. The Civil Rights Era definitely progressed the speed at which human rights were given and allowed for minorities. The government was bought into question, people worked together and would not face down, it was powerful and it was a time of protest to fight for what was right.


  1. Foner, E. ​Give Me Liberty Vol. 2 ​(2016) Pgs. 691-724, 983-1024
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