Themes in American History: Capitalism, Slavery, Democracy

Blog Post #2

The New York Times is one of the most prestigious newsletters, websites, and information sources. Starting in August of 2019, the NYT has decided to start a long-form journalism project to circle America’s major events around the history of African Americans and their accommodations to the country. This project is called the 1619 project and the developer, Nikole Hannah-Jones, managed to connect every major event in American black history to the country’s development.

Hannah-Jones’s writes a lengthy entry on the most important events that shaped America today including the American Revolution, Civil War, slavery, and the World Wars. One occurrence that I found especially strange was the treatment of black soldiers after the wars. Black soldiers fought overseas for the country that didn’t even respect them, and came back home to worse conditions. Hannah-Jones infers that caucasians knew that when blacks went out to fight, they would want their full rights, the respect they were due, and to be treated as actual human beings. Therefore, they wanted to make them feel smaller when they were back home to show them that risking their lives for this country meant nothing. Black veterans were abused, spit on, talked down on, and killed for the smallest things. Isaac Woodard was an officer Jones mentioned for example. Woodard was a black soldier who was beaten to the point where he could no longer see because he got into an argument with a Greyhound driver over using the bathroom. He was an honorably discharged soldier who was returning home and came back blind not because of the battle field, but on his way back home in his own country. A small argument about wanting to use the bathroom left him without sight at the age of 26. By sharing Woodard’s story in the 1619 project, Hannah-Jones argued that no matter what black people do in or for this country, white residents would find a way to demean them and ignore their attributions.

Blog Post #1 James Fulcher

An economic system that benefits both consumers and producers will go through many trials and errors to form. At a time where different parts of the world still relied on a trading system in order to gain, capitalism started to take off in Europe. James Fulcher talks about the history of capitalism when it began to pick up speed in the 16th and 17th centuries. Fulcher breaks down his first chapter by discussing types of capitalism, production, its effects on workers, and famous cases of businessmen trying to use the system to their advantage. 

To start off, Fulcher defines capitalism as a system where money is spent in order to gain money in the future. Take for instance the cotton industry in the 1830’s, companies invested in more cotton mills because they saw more consumer interest arise in their product at the time. Thus, they knew they would need more space and workers to make more cotton to sell more products. However I found it very appalling when those same workers at the cotton mill were pushed past the point to where they caused an uproar. The workers were underpaid, of young age, worked long hours and soon replaced by automatic machinery. All these qualities pushed them to strike, protest, and walkout which eventually helped formulate work guidelines used today.

Their treatment was one thing I couldn’t stop thinking about throughout the text because I did not know Europeans in those times fought against mismanagement in their workplaces. I used to think that American workers, especially during the Second Industrial Revolution, were the only set of workers to rebel against straining work conditions. I originally thought protests such as the Steel Strike and Textile Workers Strike were the historical events that pushed for better wages, firm hours, and better treatment. But it was the European struggles that occurred 1-2 centuries before that opened the doors for leisure time, flexible work shifts, and discipline rules. From reading Fulcher’s text, it can be described to readers that the change in the work environment was a gradual change. Workers couldn’t just demand better conditions one day and get it the next, Fulcher says that it took months, even years. The revolt workers threw in opposition to their circumstances was just one effect capitalism had on its society it lived in. The employees who generate the product are a part of the economic system too, regardless if they’re consumers or the ones in charge.