late American history, there have been many examples of contraction of liberty,
such as Native Americans, Imperialism, and Homosexual Civil rights. On the
other hand, there were also instances of expansion of liberty, such as Labor
Unions, Second Wave Feminism, and Civil Rights Movements.
A national federation of trade unions that included
only skilled workers, founded in 1886. Led by Samuel Gompers for nearly four
decades, the AFL sought to negotiate with employers for a better kind of
capitalism that rewarded workers fairly with better wages, hours, and
conditions. The AFL’s membership was almost entirely white and male until the
middle of the twentieth century. This first national labor organization in U.S.
history gained 600,000 members from many parts of the work force, although it
limited the participation of Chinese, women, and blacks. The organization
devoted much of its energy to fighting for an eight-hour workday before it
dissolved in 1872. The second national labor organization, organized in 1869 as
a secret society and opened for public membership in 1881. The Knights were
known for their efforts to organize all workers, regardless of skill level,
gender, or race. After the mid-1880s their membership declined for a variety of
reasons, including the Knights’ participation in violent strikes and discord
between skilled and unskilled members.1 A
strike by railroad workers upset by drastic wage cuts. This strike was led by
socialist Eugene Debs but not supported by the American Federation of Labor.
Eventually President Grover Cleveland intervened, and federal troops forced an
end to the strike. The strike highlighted both divisions within labor and the
government’s new willingness to use armed force to combat work stoppages. 2
Civil Rights Movements were a fight for social
righteousness that took place mostly during the 1950’s and 1960’s for African
Americans to gain equal rights under the law in the United States. The 13th
Amendment was passed that abolished slavery but that did not end
discrimination. The final piece of federal civil rights legislation was a law that
promised blacks equal access to public accommodations and banned racism in jury
selection, but it provided no means of enforcement and was therefore
ineffective. In 1883, the Supreme Court declared most of the act
unconstitutional. Federal law banned racial discrimination in public facilities
and strengthened the federal government’s power to fight segregation in
schools. Title VII of the act prohibited employers from discriminating based on
race in their hiring practices, and empowered the Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission to regulate fair employment.3
Second Wave Feminism expanded freedom, it started in
the late 1950’s and moved into the 1980’s. After World War II, people began to
ask how women in society were looked at and the roles they played in the war. Women
were vital roles and in many cases performed tasks equally. Women stepping out
of their roles showed women as secondary to men in the workplace and in the
home. In the early late 1950’s and 1960’s, women had greater interest to
explore new ideas and movements. This established social constructs such as
segregation and inequality in the work place. By the early 1960s, the social
atmosphere began to be conducive for a major feminist movement. 4
Native Americans always had to fight for their freedom
because there freedom has always been contracted. Freedom of expression is
undeniably guaranteed both as a First Amendment issue and under specific
federal statutes, regulations and executive orders. The United States
Government took advantages over the tribe’s treaties. Many Americans don’t realize
this was the case. There were several battles between the Government and the
Indians. A battle between the U.S. Army and the Dakota Sioux, in which two
hundred Native Americans and twenty-nine U.S. soldiers died. Tensions erupted
violently over two major issues: the Sioux practice of the “Ghost
Dance,” which the U.S. government had outlawed, and the dispute over
whether Sioux reservation land would be broken up because of the Dawes Act.
After World War II the National Government stored nuclear waste in Handford,
Washington. There was a nuclear testing site near the Yakama Nation
Reservation, the Reservation was exposed for eight year without the
reservations knowledge. The government was doing research on the tribe. The
Native Americans were exposed to ten times more than what caused the Chernobyl
Meltdown. The Reservation had high percentages of cancer. 5 American
Indians on reservations had no religious rights and were specifically barred
from practicing traditional ceremonies. These efforts were driven by fear of
uprisings by Native populations, most notably epitomized by the massacre at
Wounded Knee, Dec. 29, 1890, when Lakota men, women and children were gunned
down while gathering for a Ghost Dance. 6
During Imperialism in 1803, freedom and liberty were contracted
from the Native Americans. The thirteen colonies were predetermined to move
west, the colonist thought they had the god given right to move west. The government
said the Native Americans were not using the land correctly and they should try
to bring civilization to the wilderness. The government saw themselves as the
vanguard of civilization and they should protect their citizens no matter what.
The Americans started to civilize the Native Americans by putting them in
reservations. By confining the Indians to the reservations this made it possible
to expand westward. The colonists made boarding schools for the Native
Americans to try and change them and put them into society. 7 In
the late Nineteenth Century, corporations made their business even more
profitable by making the poor work even harder and paying them less and letting
the big business men make all the profit. Men like John Rockefeller and Andrew
Carnegie were monopolies. Businesses had gentlemen agreements or nonbinding
agreements to help both companies gain profit without hurting each company
putting other small businesses out. Companies controlled majority of stock
called vertical integration. With big bosses taking all the money and the workers
were left out to dry working long hours for little to no pay and horrible
working conditions, Terrance V. Powderly started protest called Labor Unions.
Samuel Gompers founded the American Federation of Labor and served as president.
The federation made a Three Prong Program, this platform was to raise wagers,
shorter working hours, and better working conditions. The labor movement led
efforts to end child labor, give health benefits and provide aid to workers who
were injured or too old to work.8
During the 1960’s, Homosexuals had little to no rights
and wanted to be treated different by the society. The Homosexuals were
fighting for equal rights not special rights, they wanted to be treated
normally. In 1969 in Greenwich Village, New York had what is known as the
Stonewall Riots. This is the beginning and widely considered the most important
event in leading to the gay liberation movement. The Stonewall Riot was a raid
by the cops in a gay club that was serving alcohol without a license. Most of
the clubs around New York was already shutting down due to the police
departments targeting. In the club the men started to throw beer bottles at the
police officers starting a riot. The protesters trickled over into the
neighboring streets, and order was not regained until the deployment of New
York’s riot police. The Stonewall Riot got attention from other Homosexual,
Lesbian, and other groups. This started a much larger movement by the gay community.9 This
riot made other group and people do the unthinkable by trying to get into
politics. Harvey Milk, who campaigned on a pro-gay rights platform, became the
San Francisco city supervisor in 1978, becoming the first openly gay man
elected to a political office in California. With the help of the Stonewall
Riot and Harvey Milk over 100,000 people took part in the first National March
down Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights.10
Even throughout late American history, there have been
many examples of contraction of liberty, such as Native Americans Civil Rights,
Imperialism, and Homosexual Civil rights. On the other hand, there were also
instances of expansion of liberty, such as Labor Unions, Second Wave Feminism,
and Civil Rights Movements. Without groups contracting and expanding freedom
the United States would not be what it is today without their help. This Nation
will always have problems but as long as we learn from past mistakes in history
this country will always be moving forward.
“Business and Labor in the Gilded Age” September 6, 2017.
“Coxey’s Army and the Pullman Strike,” In The
American Pagent, 16th ed.
Lecture “African-American Civil Rights” November 6, 2017.
Lecture “Feminism” November 3, 2017.
Lecture, “World War II: Society” October 18, 2017.
Great West and the Agriculture Revolution,” In The American Pagent, 16th ed.
Lecture, “Imperialism at Home: The Indian Wars” August 30, 2017.
“Business and Labor in the Gilded Age” September 6, 2017.
Lecture, “Other Civil Rights Movements” November 6, 2017.
Video, “Milk” (2008), November 8-13, 2017.