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The process of Repression in 1880s and 1890s

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After the civil war, expectation of economic opportunity, saw the assimilation of Native Americans into the cultural mainstream as Christians and turned into farmers. The 1887 Dawes severalty Act broke reservations and encouraged private farms. During industrialization, raw materials, fast transport, cheap energy, capital and labor were readily available. Immigrants reached to work in America’s mines and factories.

As industrial work force grew, tensions between labor and management grew. They disagreed on wages, length of working time per day and working conditions. Labor unions were formed to protect the rights of the workers. On May 1, 1886, workers demonstrated for an eight-hour per day work. Employers declared the labor movement as a dangerous un-American force prone to violence. On a labor ticket, Harry George ran for mayor of New York in 1886. The incidents of the year 1886 suggested that the labor might be establishing itself as a permanent political force.

When the south sank into economic crisis, blacks suffered the most. Most unions excluded blacks, and the Northern employers refused to offer jobs to blacks and the poor, illiterate whites. They were also restricted from voting. In 1896, the separate facilities for blacks and whites were approved by the Supreme Court. The Populist Party that had emerged in the 1890’s made efforts to unite the black and white farmers on a common political and economic program.

Despite their efforts to fight for equal rights, the blacks continually received resistance from the whites who sought to remain the superior race. The process of repression might have begun with the treatment of Northern and Western workers and farmers, and Southern sharecroppers, along with their old ideal of free labor, as Eric Foner states in his book, “Give me liberty”. It is also likely that the scheme of repression might have started as a result of the white’s quest for power and control over politics and the economy, and also their belief that they were the superior race.


Unruh, J.D. (2003). The Plains Across: The Overland Emigrants: New York. W. W. Norton & Company

Foner, E. (2007).Give me liberty. New York. Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company

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