The reconstruction era, progressive era, and the civil rights movement are some of the most important historical periods in the history of the United States. They are similar in that they help in the abolishment of certain inequalities that threatened to destroy the United States. They are also different in that they occurred at different times and aimed at serving different purposes. Despite this, there is a connection between these eras as in all of these eras, there were reformers who fought as much as they could to protect their interests.
The fight for social justice is one of the most important historical movements that began in the United States. According to many historical authors, this struggle began in the nineteenth century and has continued to date. Its main agenda was to ensure that the advantages and disadvantages of the states were uniformly distributed. The fight was important because apart from helping in ending slavery, it has also aimed at attaining equality among all the races in the United States. To some extent, this push for justice was a means through which some people pushed their personal agenda. The reconstruction era was important for this era because it aimed at ending the social inequalities brought by slavery. The progressive era was also important in this fight because it ensured that as the United States turned a new leaf in its strive for prosperity on all fronts, everybody was included in this fight. Finally, the civil rights movement just as the name suggests focused on ending the social inequalities that the black race was facing at the hands of the whites. From this, it is evident that all the three eras were crucial in ending the social injustices in the United States.
In the words of Michal Capel, certain eras in the United States played a key part in shaping the political democracy currently witnessed in the United States. Political democracy was seen as a crucial component because it helped in the attainment of representative government as well as ensuring the participation of all citizens in the political processes. However, despite its objectives, it has not led to freedom or transparency in the political acts and processes as wished. Despite being considered among the most democratic nations in the country today, the United States still suffers some political injustices such as the violation of human rights as seen with the LGBTQ rights and unending deaths on the African Americans. It is crucial to suggest that the civil rights movement led by Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, and Malcom X to name just a few played a key part in ending these injustices through lawsuits and civil disobedience. The progressive era also aimed at political democracy by primarily targeting the political machines and their bosses who were considered corrupt and prevented the country from attaining its true political purpose. The reconstruction era is also politically relevant because it ensured the freedom of the slaves in the twelve years in which it took place.
Economic equality is widely considered the third most important issue that led to the establishment of these eras. According to historical findings, economic movements in the United States played a key role in ensuring the redistribution of wealth, particularly after the end of slavery. To some individuals, these movements created more disparities than leading to equal distribution of wealth. Even though these movements helped in transforming the wealth ownership in the United States, it mainly made the rich individuals richer and the poor ones more impoverished. The reconstruction era is considered an important period in the attainment of economic equality because it helped in the reconstruction of the South as directed by Congress. Similarly, the progressive era by aiming at elimination at problems brought by industrialization, urbanization, and corruption led to equal distribution of the resources of this country. The same could also be said of the civil rights movement because its aim was securing the legal rights of the citizens. The right to economic equality is another issue that the proponents of civil rights movement considered crucial to their cause.
One could argue that the reconstruction period also aimed towards the same goals. However, this might not be true because during reconstruction, the country was in the process of healing and the plight of the black Americans despite being on the agenda was not high on the list. Different from the other two, civil rights movement was purely a social movement. It did not aim at attaining any economic development. The proponents of the civil rights movement just wanted the black population treated equally as the others. They used civil disobedience and lawsuits to ensure that the government of the United States responded to their needs.
- Allerfeldt, Kristofer. 2017. The Progressive Era in the USA: 1890–1921. Abingdon, Oxon: Taylor & Francis.
- Capek, Michael. 2014. Civil Rights Movement. Minneapolis, MN: ABDO.
- Donaldson, Gary. 2000. The Second Reconstruction: A History of the Modern Civil Rights Movement. Malabar: Krieger Pub.
- Romano, Renee Christine, and Leigh Raiford. 2006. The Civil Rights Movement in American Memory. Athens: University of Georgia Press.
- Stroud, Bettye, and Virginia Schomp. 2007. The Reconstruction Era. New York: Marshall Cavendish.