(The UNITED STATES, 1865-1900 – continued)

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The UNITED STATES, 1865-1900 (4 of 4)

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Indians, Negroes and Whites, 1886 to 1900

In the year 1886, work on the Statue of Liberty was completed. That year also, near the border of Arizona-New Mexico, at Skeleton Canyon, the Apache chieftain Geronimo surrendered, ending years of his involvement in intermittent warfare and resistance to being herded onto a reservation.

In 1887, Congress passed the General Allotment, or Dawes, Act – an attempt at assimilating the Indians. Reservations were to be divided into tracts of land, 160 acres per family. Indians were made citizens, with the right to sell their land. Many of these Indians did not see themselves as farmers and would sell.

In 1889, an Indian named Wovoka claimed that he had traveled to heaven during a vision. And just as troubled Jews had looked for rescue by a messiah, Wovoka's vision of a coming messiah spread among the plains Indians. They believed that the messiah would be accompanied by the death of all whites and the resurrection of Indians. A "ghost dance" was part of Wovoka's movement. Whites on the plains became alarmed. Fear that the aged leader of the Sioux would lead a rebellion resulted in an incident in which Sitting Bull was shot and killed. Two weeks later at Wounded Knee, an unincorporated area on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, out of control U.S. soldiers slaughtered men, women and children.

The South

Meanwhile in the South, segregation of the races was increasing. Blacks had been grouping together for education and in their own churches by choice, but little segregation had existed in public transportation. Beginning in 1890 this changed when in Louisiana a law was passed that demanded separate accommodations and separate railway cars for blacks. Homer Plessy, who was seven-eighths white and one-eighth black, purchased a first-class ticket and was arrested for violating this law, and in 1896 his case made it to the US Supreme Court as Plessy v. Ferguson. The court decided against Plessy and established a doctrine of "separate but equal."

Douglas A. Blackmon writes in his book Slavery by Another Name that Plessey v. Ferguson legitimized the contemptuous attitudes of whites. He adds: certified that any charade of equal treatment for African Americans was not just acceptable and practical at the dawn of the twentieth century, but morally and legally legitimate in the highest venue of white society.

It was a signal moment in America's national discourse. From the lowliest frontier outposts to the busiest commercial centers... note74

There arose in the South separate seating on buses, separate waiting rooms, separate lavatories, separate entrances at circuses and factories, separate parks and denial of service to blacks at restaurants and lunch counters. That the separate facilities were equal became the fiction of whites who favored this segregation. And, instead of equality, Southern whites continued to apply pressure on blacks to show deference to whites. No matter how accomplished the black and how low the white, the black was called boy, and the white was called sir or ma'am. And in the South devices were being put in place to deny the vote to blacks. For example, Louisiana's 130,334 registered black voters in 1896 would, in eight years, decline to 1,342.

More States and Voting for Women

More states, meanwhile, were added to the Union, and women were gaining the right to vote. The Territory of Utah allowed women to vote beginning in 1870. In 1889, North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana and Washington became states. In 1890 Idaho became the 43rd state. Wyoming had allowed women to vote beginning in 1869, and in 1890 there were threats not to give Wyoming statehood as long as it allowed women to vote, but this was overcome, and, in 1890, Wyoming became the 44th state – the year that the western portion of Indian Territory became Oklahoma Territory. In 1893, Colorado extended suffrage to women. In 1896 so too did Idaho – decades ahead of much of the rest of the nation. And, in 1896, Utah became the 45th state.

End of the Century

By the end of the century, the United States had a population of 76 million, behind Russia, which had 159 million, with Germany at 56 million and Britain at 41 million – and China with 467 million. By now, agricultural output in the U.S. had increased 2.5 times what it had been in 1869, against a rise in population during this period of 2.1 times. note75

The U.S. emerged from the nineteenth century the world's leading industrial power, with 23.6 percent of the world's manufacturing output, compared to 18.5 percent for Britain, 8.8 percent for Russia and 6.8 percent for France. note76

Unionized workers were only 3 percent of the population. And however low wages were for the average struggling working person, the real wages of workers outside the South – what their money could buy – had been rising since 1840 at an average rate of 1.5 percent per year. note77  And women were 18.3 percent of those sixteen or older earning wages outside the home.


American Colossus: The Triumph of Capitalism, 1865-1900, by H.W. Brands, 2010

Billy the Kid, PBS Documentary (American Experience), 2012

Those Terrible Carpetbaggers, by Richard Nelson Current, Oxford University Press, 1988

Dubious Victory: The Reconstruction Debate in Ohio, by Robert D Sawrey, 1992

Masters without Slaves, by James L Roark, W W Norton & Company, 1977

The Era of Good Stealing, by Mark Wahlgren Summers, Oxford University Press, 1993
(Corruption in the North and the South after the Civil War)

The Almanac of American History,  Editor, Arthur M Schlesinger, Jr , 1983

Business Enterprise in American History, by Mansel G Blackford and K Austin Kerr, 1993

American Economic History, by Seymour E Harris, 1961

Chronology of American Indian History, by Liz Sonneborn, 2001

Power Faith and Fantasy, America in the Middle East, 1776 to the Present, by Michael B. Oren, 2007

The Oxford History of the American People, by Samuel Eliot Morison, 1965

The Shooters, by Leon C Metz, (A reality version of the Old West), 1976

Freedom in the Modern World, Chapter 3, by Herbert J Muller, 1966

Progress and Poverty: an Inquiry into the Cause of Industrial Depressions, by Henry George, 1879. Online book. (George was concerned about poverty and progress. He was popular and of some influence in Britain. He theorized that everyone owns what he or she creates but everything in nature, most importantly land, belongs equally to all humanity. He was the most influential proponent of the land value tax, an early supporter of the secret ballot. He preferred government issued notes such as the greenback rather than gold. He left the Republican Party and became a Democrat.)

Economic History Association, "Child Labor in the United States,"

Additional Viewing

Rockefeller, American Experience, PBS, 2013

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