Thursday, September 30, 2010

Progressivism, War, and Race

I. Imposing the Federal Color Line

A. Woodrow Wilson, Southerner

1. Born in Virginia (1856) into a slave-owning family--although his paternal grandfather was an anti-slavery advocate.

2. Spend nearly all of his formative years in the South, growing up as whites in the region were constructing their "Lost Cause" narrative to explain the role in a treasonous rebellion against the United States.

3. Instituting the Color Line--upon taking office, one of the first actions Wilson took was the segregate Federal employment; in particular, Wilson issued an executive order stating that blacks would no longer be permitted to join the officer corps of the army, and removing African American units (the Army had been segregated itself since the end of the Civil War) from combat billets.

4. Screening Birth of a Nation at the White House--Wilson's Princeton classmate, Thomas Dixon, authored a fictional romanticization of the rise of the Ku Klux Klan, and convince President Wilson to screen the movie at the White House--despite the protests of the recently-established National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

If you're so inclined, you can also now watch all three hours of the movie on YouTube, since the film is now in the public domain.

5. Haitian Intervention (1915)--this was part of the series of the so-called "banana wars," but during this nearly 30 year occupation, the United States attempted to institute Jim Crow in a foreign country.

a. Intervention to "protect US and foreign interests," and to limit German influence on the island

b. Closing of the leading classical college in Haiti in order to transform it into a trade school (the school was attended by Haitian elites--many of whom were already bilingual.

B. Wartime and Postwar Riots

1. East St. Louis, Illinois (1917)

2. Chicago (1919)--the largest of the dozens of race riots that occurred that summer

3. Lynchings, which had been falling for most of the decade, spiked upward in response to events that year.

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