Themes in American History: Capitalism, Slavery, Democracy

Blog Post #4

In the reading of week 14 Lizbeth Cohen, “Culture : Segmenting the Mass, in the Consumer’s Republic , there were a few ideas that I found the most interesting. Although this reading goes pretty much in depth about mass consumption in general I found it really interesting how this all, (to my understanding) came to be known in the twentieth century.  I had initially thought that companies always sold to a target audience, but I was wrong since this reading showed that it was something that they learnt overtime. Instead of companies trying to sell a product that all people would want or that all people need they “ develop more store ‘personality,’ or ‘image,’ to fill a particular ‘niche’ in the marketplace,’ not try to be ‘all things to all people,” (Cohen 297). Which is a very smart business move. I essentially thought that it would be obvious because we are all different with opposed similarities like,  “ age group, income, education, geography, ethnic background, and use patterns,” (Cohen 297). Those differences can pretty much make or break a product. For example it wouldn’t be smart to be advertising an expensive product to a group of people with low incomes since they wouldn’t be able to afford it. In class, (December 8th lecture) we recently learned that during the twentieth century unemployment rates lowered and wages increased for all income groups which is really interesting to note because that could’ve been a result of market segmentation since, “the move from mass to market to segmented markets promised greater, steadier profits through expanding the pool of potential consumers,” (Cohen 298). The reading also hits some points more on the political side, but something I found most intriguing was that “market segmentation techniques were not only implemented in candidate campaigns in the 1960s and 1970s : they were also called on to help mobilize voters around controversial issues,” (Cohen 341). This all really just goes to show how capitalism has pretty much kept increasing and expanding in this country and probably will continue to do so. I think the most important and interesting thing I learned from this reading was that without us (consumers) this countries (and many others) economy would not be the same and that market segmentation has really helped the economy.

Blog Post #3 On Reconstructing Representation

Throughout the past few weeks my knowledge on the reconstruction era has immensely increased but also my interests on it. In the reading by Joshua Brown, “Reconstructing Representation, 1866-1877,” from Beyond The Lines I got to see that the reconstruction era also known as “America’s Unfinished Revolution” has way more to it than I initially thought. Of course I believed it was just like any other “ordinary” history event that had its ending but this one was different. It was interesting to see that it wasn’t as simple as I thought. In class we learned several things that were new during this time period like the 14th and 15th amendment, and the black codes. This reading showed me a different approach to this era. This reading really goes into depth of how bad this era really was despite the “changes” being made. Families would have a hard time getting basic necessities because of these changes , “The father of the family, a strong, athletic man whose labor could bring means to support his family in comfort, sits idly by his cabin-door.. While his hard working wife and almost starving children gather around the oven.. Wondering where the next supply of food may come from,” (Brown 132-133). Learning that there was a labor strike was really interesting to me because it gave a new approach in seeing the effects of the reconstruction era. “The bitter “Long Strike ” during winter of 1874-75,” (Brown 132) shows that although a lot of essentially good changes were being made they weren’t good enough especially. Families were struggling to keep up with basic necessities after the reconstruction era as well as during the start of the Gilded Age (given that this strike was during the 1800s). We also see that there were specifically strikes with coal mining, miners in general which was really interesting to know the specifics. This is similar to life today because although changes are being made in our country slowly, there are still major things that need change. Like seen in this text, poverty and labor is still an issue today that needs solving today.

Blog Post Assignment #2 (The Gender Of Violence)

In the past few weeks we have read various passages about different events and also learned about them during lectures in class. However, there is a specific passage that has helped me further my understanding on a topic I didn’t really know much about which in short involves how patriarchy has been an issue since the beginning of time. The book Out Of The House Of Bondage by Thavolia Glymph, first chapter “The Gender of Violence” gives a great understanding and interpretation of how life for women got harder when the patriarchy and slavery issues combined. “If anything, the joining of patriarchy and slavery made the lives of mistresses harsher and more difficult overall, (Glymh, 21). I found this very intriguing to start off because in the past I thought of slavery as obviously a very broad topic but here specifically shows that there is a-lot of things to slavery that I will continue to learn about. Previously I connected slavery with capitalism which for me was already a great “discovery” and here learning that patriarchy is another thing that plays its role in slavery. Women are usually taking on their role of being the housewife in the past as well, “..the mistress emerges from slave testimony as the plantation authority figure who pled for better treatment of slaves, ‘as a white woman who tried to to live up to the responsibilities of her position,” (Glymph,23). Although women of plantations were “taking up their responsibilities,” they were still in a way enslaved themselves. In a way their “master” was their husband, once again supporting this idea that patriarchy and slavery are interconnected and women being seen as objects. As the passage goes very in depth about this topic there was a specific question at the end that intrigued me the most, “ If rich white women in the Cotton Kingdom had gained equal rights with their men, how likely is it that they would have agitated for their slaves’ emancipation?,”(Glymph, 31). I started asking myself this question because the truth is we don’t know. Every human is different but given  the time racism was a huge thing so, would color have impacted their decision on whether to fight for their slaves, or not? Or were the rich white women only pleasant because how (some may say) they were in similar positions as the slaves themselves? This passage bought not only a deeper understanding on how slavery was and how patriarchy had a role in it but also raised a bigger question to think about. What if things happened differently and the women were in charge instead of the men?

Blog Post Assignment #1 (Berlin, Slave Societies)

Throughout the past few weeks we have learned about many historical events that have happened and their details. There’s one specific event that the passage, Slave Societies Many Thousands Gone by Ira Berlin goes into detail about, slavery. This is a topic that I have been learning about since middle school, I thought I was pretty well-informed about slavery until I read this passage. I thought of slavery as it’s simple definition, the system of owning slaves, having restricted freedom, hard labor, but it’s a way bigger concept than that. This passage not only goes into the details of slavery, but also introduced me to new issues that happened during this time.  From how it started, to the names of the slaves, how slavery became into a system, the labor slaves were put through, the treatment they dealt with, all contributes to the way I now think about slavery, meaning this passage as significantly added to my knowledge about slavery.

There is a significant difference between race, which we see in the text : black African Americans didn’t have the same opportunities as white people did, ” they worked harder and died earlier. Their families were truncated, and few men and women claimed ties of blood and marriage… They  had small opportunities to participate independently in exchange economies and they rarely accumulated property,” (Berlin, 95). Another valuable piece that is mentioned in the text is about the slave trade, and slave ships. Slave ships were extremely harming, dangerous and not at all safe. I was never really taught about the transportation method of slaves so this part of the text I found particularly interesting, “Although conditions improved on slave ships over time, death stalked these vessels, and more than one in ten Africans who landed did not reach the Americas. The survivors arrived in the New World physically depleted and psychologically disoriented,” (Berlin, 104). Berlin’s emphasis on all the details of slavery made it really clear to me how this country is really based off of capitalism. The main goal is to make a profit and it didn’t matter to put humans in harmful environments and situations to get it. Slavery was made into a a large system for profit, “In each of these venues, planters practiced the art of domination, making laws, meting out justice, and silently asserting – by their fine with slaves,” (Berlin, 97).

Does slavery still exist to the same extent as back then? This can be a very controversial topic but today, there are even more forms of slavery like sex trafficking, forced labor, child sex trafficking, the list goes on.. Slavery is and has been a system back then and now. This reading allowed my knowledge to expand on slavery as well as support my thought that America has been based off of capitalism.