Saturday, June 13, 2015

Minority vs Minority: Discrimination of Both Sides?

As we continue to look at life after the Civil War, an important aspect is buffalo soldiers and native Americans versus the government and citizens. After the war, many blacks still faced discrimination from white citizens and had a hard time finding jobs. Many black men who had fought in the Civil War for the Union become permanent soldiers and became Buffalo soldiers. These "black troops" went west to fight the Indians for the western lands and force the tribes into reservations. America's federal government wanted this land and this fighting was called the Indian Wars. In class, we learned about this topic both as a class and in groups. We first watched a series of videos from ABC Clio about the soldiers and Indians which not only introduced us to the topic, but also provided good detail. We then split up into groups to analyze a diagram, a primary source excerpt from a book by Helen Hunt Jackson from 1881, and a primary source excerpt from the Dawes Act of 1887. We then reconvened as a class to come up with our essential question for the unit: Were federal policies towards Native Americans and buffalo soldiers intentionally discriminatory or well intentioned?

For hundreds of years since colonists started coming to the "New World", the issue of how to deal with the Indians living on the land was prevalent. In the 1880's, Americans wanted more westward expansion, and the same problem arose. However, the American government was harsh and forceful and tried to take the land away without negotiation. This started the Indian Wars. During this time right after the Civil War, many African Americans who had fought in the Civil War and wanted to settle down in the west, became permanent soldiers for the U.S. This organization of colored troops became known as the buffalo soldiers and they had an extremely hard job and had to endure harsh conditions. They were ordered to fight against the Indian to conquer the land. However, along the way, both sides were discriminated against; the buffalo soldiers by white citizens and the Indians by the federal government's policies.

I think that the federal government was intentionally discriminating against the Indians with all of their actions and policies. They primarily wanted all of the Indians’ land for themselves and wanted all Indians to get rid of all their culture to become Americans. That does not sound like a fair deal, and it was very one-sided. The Americans were not willing to negotiate or compromise at all with the Indians, and instead used force. The Americans had been pushing the natives further and further west for hundreds of years, and Andrew Jackson's Trail of Tears during the 1830's was still a fresh wound to the natives. Yet, events like the California gold rush resulted in more American westward expansion and even more conquering of native land. The leaders of the Indian tribes tried to make compromises and peace, but the federal government wanted the land and didn’t care about the native leaders. In Helen Hunt Jackson's book A Century of Dishonor written in 1881, she wrote “These Indians found themselves of a sudden surrounded by and caught up in the great influx of gold-seeking settlers, as helpless creatures on a shore are caught up in a tidal wave. There was not time for the Government to make treaties; not even time for communities to make laws. The tale of the wrongs, the oppressions, the murders of the Pacific-slope Indians in the last thirty years would be a volume by itself, and is too monstrous to be believed.” The government also decided to try to Americanize the Indians on their reservations. They required all children to be sent to school, and above the doors of the school there were signs that said “kill the Indian in him, and save the man”. The policies stated and admitted that their goal was to completely get rid of Indian culture, and to minimize the power and influence of native leaders so that they learn to obey the American government. The federal policy of the Dawes Act in 1887 also gave each family a piece of land on their reservation, but they did this with the intent to get rid of Indian culture by splitting up the sharing of land that normal occurred in Indian culture and the traditional community atmosphere. The federal government was greedy and knew how to strategically make policies to discriminate against and lessen the Indians. They not only forced the Indians from their homes and took over it, they also forced the Indians to conform to their ways and squash all diversity in culture.
Picture from Quotes from Richard Pratt

Buffalo soldiers were also wrongly discriminated against by the white citizens in their own country of America, but the federal government didn’t discriminate against them. Even though slavery was abolished, whites still did not accept or agree with blacks' equality. They gave blacks a hard time and didn’t make it easy for them to find jobs, so many of them were stuck with a job in the military. Whites did not like having blacks be able to tell them what to do, and there were many altercations and fights started by white men against buffalo soldiers.This is extremely unfair and disrespectful because the buffalo soldiers were the people protecting the white Americans and fighting for more land. It was an extremely hard job that nobody else would do, and the soldiers were very courageous. They did not deserve these fights as a thank you for their service. However, the federal policies did not discriminate against buffalo soldiers. Since these soldiers were having a hard time finding jobs with whites and needed the military for a job, the government provided soldiers with food, shelter, and clothes. This was a generous and attractive offer. The government also knew how hard their job was, and would often give many of the soldiers medals of honor to acknowledge their service. Although the American government didn't discriminate against buffalo soldiers, they did against Indians by trying to get rid of their culture completely and conquer their land without compromise.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Would You Want Your Life To Be a Big Game of Monopoly?

During this unit, we are learning about the monopolies in business following the Civil War. Huge businesses arose after the war and in many cases, one company would gain control of an entire industry, creating a monopoly. These monopolies are controversial because they both helped and hurt the economy and the people after the Civil War. Two men in particular prospered immensely during this time and became leaders of monopolies, Rockefeller and Carnegie. We learned about these topics by analyzing articles about them and watching videos from ABC Clio. We were split into groups and each group had to analyze these sources thinking about either the key people, main ideas, important events, and essential terms. We all took notes on these sources in one big class Google Document. Then, we all, as a class, had to come up with an essential question for this unit. We decided that our essential question was going to be: How did the actions of monopolistic leaders, such as Rockefeller and Carnegie, affect the common worker?

John D. Rockefeller was a very competitive man. He eventually became the leader of the oil industry. He became a wealthy man by helping the Union during the Civil War. When oil started being drilled, he saw an opportunity to prosper. He opened up a few oil companies to start pumping oil, and he started buying other competitors around him. When the depression hit, many oil companies around him started to crash, but his was able to stay efficient and strong. He saw this as an opportunity for even more power and was able to expand his company and prosper while others were crumbling. He bought out most of the oil companies in the U.S. and started partnering with intelligent business partners such as Henry Flagler. If he wasn't able to buy a company, he would partner with them so he was still able to regulate prices and gain power. He was able to keep production costs low meaning lower prices for the population. He founded the Standard Oil Company which absorbed almost all of the competing oil companies and was able to negotiate lower shipping prices, stabilizing and lowering oil prices. However, people got nervous about his ruthlessness and having too much power, and they thought he was just making decisions for greed and money. They eventually took it to the Supreme Court where he was forced to disperse his trusts. He gave lots of his money to charities and donated to education, medicine, and science. He believed strongly in spreading his wealth, and he said in an interview with William Hoster " I believe the power to make money is a gift of God ... to be developed and used to the best of our ability for the good of mankind. Having been endowed with the gift I possess, I believe it is my duty to make money and still more money and to use the money I make for the good of my fellow man". He was able to become one of the wealthiest men in U.S. history because of his monopoly.

Andrew Carnegie controlled a similar monopoly in the steel industry. He too became wealthy by helping the Union during the Civil War. However, he was very poor as a child so he knew what it was like to be a common and poor worker. After the war, he realized that steel production was deteriorating, and he invested all his money in it to help it out. Carnegie knew the great need for steel, and tried to get advice from Europe on how to make it flourish. He was able to figure out a way to make high quality steel for lower prices he kept production costs, wages, and salaries low. He then grew even more with vertical integration which allowed him to control the raw materials, transportation, and dispersion of steel, meaning he controlled every part of steel. Common people became mad at Carnegie. A group called the iron and steel workers' union wanted to keep some power of their own and create better contracts for the workers, and word leaked that Carnegie planned to destroy them. This resulted in the brutal battle of Homestead Strike. However, he was able to keep expanding the company by buys materials at lower prices because of the depression, and he was the leader of the industry.

Even though these monopolies were able to help the U.S. by lower prices and increasing production, the common worker struggled immensely. Big monopolies also lowered wages and salaries to make bigger profits which was bad for the common worker. Monopolistic leaders wanted the most profit possible and since they had so much power, they could give workers very low wages. They controlled whole business so if a worker didn't like the way they did something, they had to stay in the job because they couldn't go anywhere else; everything was controlled by that one person. So workers had to deal with the bad wages to make sure they kept their jobs or else there weren’t many other job options. The common man didn't like one person controlling all of the business like a dictatorship and becoming rich in a time of depression. They tried to rebel a few times with events such as the Homestead Strike, but the leaders were very powerful. Carnegie grew up poor, so he knew the mindset and problems of the common and poor worker. However, he forgot about them and didn’t help them when he became rich and successful. This frustrated workers during economic depression, but they didn’t have much of a choice. The following picture shows how the common worker was completely at the mercy of the monopolistic leaders, and they could decide how to manage the money of the U.S.