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Excluded from Reform
Transcript of Excluded from Reform
During the 1800s, the majority of people in the U.S. were white protestants. Specifically, White Anglo-Saxon Protestants (W.A.S.P.s)
People who weren't were liable to face discrimination in a number of ways. Let's go through them.
This is weird to think about today, however there was a great deal of suspicion towards Catholics in the U.S.
There "papists" (why would that be a term?) were suspected of taking secret orders from the pope to undermine American protestantism. It won't really be until JFK is elected that anti-Catholic sentiment dissapears in the U.S.
Like just about every other country at the time, American's weren't overly fond of jews.
Their practices were considered foreign and they were often accused of conspiring against the average American.
As America expanded westward, many Japanese and Chinese immigrated here to work on the railroads. After the railroads were built, Americans were concerned that they would take their jobs.
Americans weren't overly fond of them either. The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 banned all emigration from China.
The Japanese weren't totally banned, however they were forbidden to buy land in many western states.
Discrimination against African-Americans
As you well know, African-Americans weren't exactly welcome in most of the U.S. either, especially in the South where they were frequently denied the rights given to them in the 14th and 15th Amendments.
Most Southern blacks worked as sharecroppers or other low-paying jobs. Segregation, dividing whites and blacks into different neighborhoods, schools, parks, restaurants, etc. was the norm and upheld in the court case Plessy v. Ferguson. (separate but equal)
Related to Anti-Catholicism was anti-Irish sentiment.
Located mostly in the north, the Irish were considered genetically inferior to those of German or English descent. Their job opportunities were limited.
The Ku Klux Klan, an organization founded by Confederates after the Civil War, pops up again around 1915 in the deep south.
The KKK was very much a mainstream movement- it was not unusual for your local pastor or mayor to be a member.
Its goal was to restore white protestant America and was opposed to blacks, Catholics, Jews, and immigrants.
Lynchings of blacks did occasionally happen. Often the local sheriff would turn a blind eye.
The Birth of a Nation
One of the very first blockbuster films was "The Birth of a Nation" by D.W. Griffith.
The film tells the story of the deep south after the Civil War. In it, the KKK are the protagonists fighting back against Reconstruction. Blacks in the film are shown as violent, especially towards women.
The film was a huge success, with our president Woodrow Wilson saying after a private screening "It was like writing history with lightning." In some cities, blacks led protests against the film but got little support.
In the late 1800s and early 1900s, the "Eugenics Movement" became popular.
Basically, Darwin's ideas of evolution began being applied to humans. The idea was that if some animals are "more evolved" than others, the same must apply to humans. Also, we could be a better country if we took "undesirables" out of the gene pool.
Criminals and the mentally disabled were forcibly sterilized in many US States. The movement only lost steam after WWII.
At this time, a new brand of science based on Darwinian theory called Phrenology was becoming popular.
Phrenologists said they could determine someone's race, personality, and genetic quality by analyzing the skull. Having a good skull shape indicated you were a member of an "advanced race" while other skull shapes implied a primitive nature.